There are hundreds of massive multiplayer online (MMO) games available today and many more are still being developed, but none of them could ever be as popular as World of Warcraft. Even in Blizzard Entertainment’s vast portfolio of hyper-successful games, WoW stands in a league of its own.
First released in 2004, WoW gain popularity due to its intelligent level design and enthusiastic gameplay. The design of the game is such that almost anybody can pick it up and become involved with its engaging community. Plus, the amount of content the game has to offer is truly massive.
The game’s lore is unbelievably vast and complex, it’s like a history lesson on its own. WoW consists of a vast array of different characters, races, factions, and locations, so much so that it would take a whole book to describe the multitude of objects present in-game. In fact, the content is so overwhelming that telling the full story in a single game wouldn’t have been possible.
Hence, several expansions have been released which build upon the content from the original. These expansions have been patched time and again to improve user experience. The expansions have major consequences on the lore of the game and they reshape the world of Azeroth to some extent.
All World of Warcraft DLCs and Expansions
The Burning Crusade (2007)
The first official expansion for WoW was released in 2007, with new races and areas being added to the game. This made players even more enthusiastic about the game and added to its replay value. The new races, namely Blood Elves and Dranei, were added to the Horde and the Alliance factions respectively, which are the two main warring factions in the game.
With the addition of entirely new classes, players could now engage with new cultures that had now become a part of the game’s lore. Certain class-related advantages were also introduced due to the addition of new races, which added to the gameplay experience. A whole new area named Outland was added to be explored along with new raids and dungeons. The level cap was also increased to 70.
The PvP system was also modified and new additions were made. A brand new death-match battle was introduced that allowed players to fight off in teams of five each. All the hype around these new features not only strengthened the already existing community but also allowed the game to attract many new players as well.
The story of this expansion revolves around the mythical army of demons known as the ‘Burning Legion’, that’s known for attacking other worlds. The Legion attacks the in-game world of Azeroth which sets in motion the events of the DLC.
Wrath of the Lich King (2008)
Widely considered to be one of the best expansions that World of Warcraft has ever seen, Wrath of the Lich King opened up a lot of new avenues for WoW. A major difference that players noticed in the 2008 release was that the level cap had been increased yet again to 80. This allowed players to unlock more powerful abilities through training.
In this way, the player base would remain attached to the game for a longer period of time. The gameplay was also expanded to incorporate a new class known as Death Knights. The first ever hero class in the game, they allowed players to start out above level one, a feature completely novel at the time.
The Knights were available for both Horde and Alliance factions. The lore behind them was that they were raised by the alleged Lich King, adding a lot of new combat choices for players in-game. In addition to this, a new continent called Northrend was also added for the players to explore.
This DLC solidified WoW’s position as the top dog in the world of MMORPGs.
Cataclysm once again raised the level cap to 85, only a five-level increase this time around. A lot of new features were added to the gameplay and the narrative. More than 3500 new quests were added to the game as well as two new races. Certain areas on the map were redesigned which led to a number of new side-quests.
The newly added dungeons and raids strengthened the game’s multiplayer environment and co-op combat was improved. The new races, Worgen and Goblins, were added to the Alliance and Horde sides respectively. Several new areas including Kezan, the Maelstrom, and Gilneas were also added.
The DLC’s lore expanded further upon previous Warcraft games, specifically including elements from Deathwing the Destroyer’s storyline from Warcraft 2. The return of the evil dragon caused a new force, called the Cataclysm, to rise that wreaks havoc on the world of Azeroth.
Besides encountering Deathwing, players also needed to stop a race of trolls from attacking both factions by helping Voljin.
Mists of Pandaria (2012)
The Pandaren, whose origin story is often connected to a game designer’s joke, became a central part of this expansion and an integral part of the overall lore. With the Pandaren, a new class of monks was also introduced in the DLC.
New modes and challenges were also introduced in the DLC. Challenge mode required players to get through dungeons as fast as possible in order to obtain certain rewards and medals. In addition, the Pet Battle system allowed previously non-combatant in-game pets to engage in fights with each other.
A completely new class system was put in place for the pets, which allowed players to experience an even more personalized experience than before. These new game modes and features added vigor to the already dedicated player base and helped WoW carry on its legacy.
A new area known as Pandaria was added to the game. This was the home of the hermetic Pandaren, which at first are not explicitly aligned with either the Alliance or the Horde. Instead, the player is given a chance, later on, to align themselves with a faction. The Island of Pandaria had been hidden for thousands of years but was discovered after a major naval battle between the Horde and the Alliance.
Warlords of Draenor (2014)
In 2014, the level cap in World of Warcraft was finally increased to 100 with the release of Warlords of Draenor. Players could now access more abilities and strength stats than ever before. There was also more incentive to grind for levels and reputation as the game became more competitive.
A great amount of detail and graphics were also added to World of Warcraft including new animations and some facial expressions. This made the WoW experience more immersive, attracting many modern players.
When compared to some of the other expansions, Warlords of Draenor might not seem to have the most in its arsenal. But in no way does that mean that it didn’t have a significant effect on the overall WoW experience. Several additions were made including a novel raid difficulty mode being added along with customizable garrisons that the user could create.
The lore followed the story of the tainted Warchief Garrosh Hellscream, who had traveled back in time to an alternate Draenor, a new area in the game. There he leads an army of orcs, conquers the region, and ultimately invades Azeroth. He is eventually killed in battle by his former leader, Thrall, who leaves the Horde after this encounter.
These events have significant consequences on the overall lore of the game.
After the release of Legion, Blizzard stopped the game’s level cap at 110, after which they announced that they won’t charge players for previous DLCs anymore. This expansion went through a number of patches mostly to balance raid tiers, adding new dungeons and certain PvP mode abilities.
Nonetheless, probably one of the most important features this expansion brought was the Demon Hunter class. Demon hunters were hero types that hadn’t been around since Wrath of the Lich King. This opened up a completely different gameplay path in the game.
Players using the new hero class started the game at a staggering level 98 instead of level 1. This forced them to go through a different storyline which served as a prequel to the current game and events. This unorthodox gameplay option was received with a lot of praise from the player base.
Some other gameplay features were also added. The brand-new Mythic Plus dungeon difficulty proved to be quite the challenge, which only served to further motivate the players to complete it and win valuable rewards.
The story revolves around another demonic invasion when the demons use a portal opened by Guldan to invade Azeroth. Both the Horde and the Alliance take heavy losses in front of the demons. The demon hunters were released in order to combat said demons. Players would have to travel to Argus, a new area, where they’d fight and defeat the demon forces.
Battle for Azeroth (2018)
Besides the obvious increase in the level cap to 120, a number of new areas and races were also introduced in this expansion. For the first time ever, the game included Allied races, which meant races that were previously associated with one faction could now join the other.
This was done to incorporate the quest chains after which the player could ask for help from races that had defected from their previous factions. Although, this feature made the game quite interesting not everyone was impressed by the expansion. Many players criticized the DLC for its over-the-top additions to the lore.
Races such as Void Elves, Kul Tiran(humans), Nightborne, Dark Iron Dwarves, and Highmountain Tauren were included in the DLC. Areas such as Zandalar, Kul Tiras, and Nazjatar were also introduced.
The expansion takes players to Zandalar, the troll kingdom, and Kul Tiras, which is a human kingdom. The newly-introduced war fronts turned into massive PvE events. Players have to deal with blood trolls which significantly affect the game’s lore by launching a chain of events. Ultimately, the veil between Azeroth and the Shadowlands is shattered completely.
Shadowlands was the first expansion to actually reduce the level cap for the game from 120 to 60. This was done to make it easier for players to reach endgame content like raids, without having to grind and waste time in older zones.
The DLC introduces players to areas falling under the Shadowlands or Realm of the Dead. Realms such as Ardenwald, Bastion, Ravendreth, and Malodraxxus were now available to explore. Moreover, the spirits of certain characters who have been dead for quite some time, are also encountered.
The expansion adds a host of new features including an endlessly playable, infinitely-changing dungeon known as Torghast, Tower of the Damned. The story gets even more complex with the introduction of powerful beings known as ‘the First Ones’, who are older than the Titans.
The highly anticipated ninth expansion for WoW was announced in April 2022 and is expected to be released before the end of the year. Controversy and speculation are flooding web forums regarding Dragonflight. Players seem enthusiastic about the new content which has been announced.
The new DLC will include a new race, and a new class and the professions will be revamped. In addition to this, the talent system is also going to go through major changes, and it seems not everyone is happy about that. Even though longtime players seem hopeful, the overall response to Dragonflight hasn’t been as positive as expected. So, the onus lies on Blizzard to produce something that will revitalize the fanbase with newfound zest.
According to current information, the story explores the ancient history of Azeroth going to the memory of the Dragonflights. Chronologically, the events in this expansion would be the earliest point in time, even though it’s the latest expansion for the game.
World of Warcraft Classic
WoW Classic isn’t technically considered a DLC as it only added some additional servers that allowed players to relive the original WoW game. New players who wanted to see where it all began could also use these servers to get a taste of the Vanilla game. The servers allow players to go back to the game as it was just before the release of the Burning Crusades DLC.
The Classic servers were released in 2019, just before Shadowlands.
Burning Crusades Classic
Quite similar in nature to the WoW Classic, Burning Crusades is not an actual expansion pack. Rather it’s just a collection of servers that allow you to play the game as it was after the Burning Crusades DLC came out. These servers were released in June 2021, in response to player requests.