During the World of Warcraft®: What’s Next panel at BlizzCon 2023, Cinematic Narrative Director Terran Gregory, Associate Design Director Maria Hamilton, and Associate Game Director Morgan Day dove into an overview of the world, story, and features coming in the next chapter of World of Warcraft—The War Within™.
Discover what lies in the depths of Azeroth and confront the shadows below. The War Within is the tenth expansion for World of Warcraft and the first chapter in the Worldsoul Saga™ taking players on a journey into the subterranean depths of Azeroth to reveal a new world full of mystery, wonder, and darkness.
Our Story Begins
In the cinematic reveal of the expansion, we witness Thrall and Anduin having a moment together after Anduin Wrynn has wandered alone for the last few years, lost in his own thoughts, and grappling with the experience he’s been through. Throughout this trailer and the features trailer, we learn two very important developments.
Thrall spoke of a vision calling out from the heart of the world…”like a voice from a dream,” this Radiant Song will compel our heroes to investigate its origins. While at the same time, a darkness has been gathering even as the heroes adventured on the Dragon Isles. In the War Within, the mysterious Harbinger that Iridikron spoke of will reveal themselves at last— Xal’atath has returned.
Freed long ago of the black blade that once bound her, she is now the Harbinger of a new era of the Void’s dark machinations. Her message is clear. The Black Empire has fallen. The Old Gods are dead and their ancient blood runs deep within the cracks of the world. We, the heroes of Azeroth destroyed them and the Harbinger watched all along. While the Black Empire has failed, Xal’atath seeks to set in motion the rise of a new dark legacy —one that knows our strengths and will seek to test them against a terrible power, the nerubians of Azj-Kahet.
Xal’atath has conscripted the nerubian queen, Ansurek, and offered her people a new future in which they would rise from their isolation and become a mighty kingdom once again. We will not find the nerubian soldiers of the Lich King here, but a mighty stronghold of nerubians as they once were—deadly survivors of the mythic wars that have played out again and again over thousands of years.
In return for their loyalty, Xal’atath has granted the nerubians the means of a dark evolution that will turn the nerubians into a new kind of ferocious and terrifying soldiers.
Several of Azeroth’s greatest heroes will rise to the call of the Radiant Song, and many will be faced with their own unique challenges along the way.
- Anduin Wrynn: Having survived his ordeal with Domination, he will grapple with his relationship with the Holy Light that he no longer feels worthy of.
- Thrall: He is seeking a connection to the visions spreading across the world and working to find his new place within the Horde.
- Magni Bronzebeard: Long the Speaker of Azeroth, he will confront the heavy weight of that responsibility once and for all.
- Alleria Windrunner: Her journey will be central to the events and themes of the War Within. She, as a void hunter, must use all of her capabilities to hunt down Xal’atath while being torn between her own nature and the maddening call of the Void to which she is attuned. Along this adventure she will have a unique rivalry with Xal’atath whose twists and turns will come to define the nature of this new conflict.
This chapter is only the beginning of the saga.
Khaz Algar- Designated Sector AR-934
As we are called upon by dream-like visions rising from the heart of Azeroth, this summons will lead us to the subterranean continent of Khaz Algar, a place long forgotten. It’s only through recent exploration in Uldaman that we discovered a Watcher report concerning a contingent of Earthen that was dispatched to investigate a fissure in a sector.
Meet the Earthen
We’ve met Titan-forged Earthen before in Ulduar and other places, but this society of Earthen has been isolated within Khaz Algar for a long while and have developed their own manners and customs. Visually, they are a bit larger, and gem encrusted. Philosophically, they are guided by the edicts of the Titans with a set of codified orders, duties, and expectations that provide instructions for the core functions of their society. But, the Titans have been absent for eons and the Earthen are no longer united in their adherence to the edicts. They now exist as three separate groups that are estranged from one another.
- Oathsworn – As their name suggests, these Earthen still uphold the Edicts. Their charge is guarding the Coreway, the Titan passageway that leads to the core of Azeroth. They are primarily city dwellers, living conveniently near the object of their responsibility.
- Unbound – In contrast, these Earthen have abandoned the edicts. Their original responsibility was providing materials to keep the Titan installations supplied. They are primarily rural, living in and around the quarries, mines, and other places where natural resources can be acquired. They rarely interact with the city dwellers.
- Machine Speakers – These Earthen have strayed from the Edicts in practice but now with respect to their overall obligation to repair the Titan works. They have had limited contact with surface dwellers. Their homes are built around the vast industrial projects under the surface.
No longer unified in working together to solve their problems, they are weakened. A much larger problem is in their dwindling numbers.
It is up to the heroes of Azeroth to aid the Earthen and find a way to unite them once more and replenish their numbers.
Earthen as a New Allied Race
Earthen will also be unlocked as a playable race, replenishing the culture’s dwindling numbers by either joining the Horde or the Alliance. Players will be able to choose either faction to begin their journey.
There are many customizations that will be coming for these Earthen including different gem encrustations, beards for all body types, skin colorizations, and more.
Meet The Arathi
Another interesting culture that players will encounter in the War Within is the Arathi. These descendants of the original Arathorian Empire have arrived relatively recently and through some mysterious circumstances find themselves trapped here within Khaz Algar.
As a people they are worshippers and wielders of Holy Fire. They are dedicated to bringing both hope and light to the darkness. They are a tough and resilient people with every member of the society being able combatants. Some are further blessed with Paladin-like abilities through their devotion to the Light.
They’ve established a home away from home in an enormous cavern bordered by an endless underground sea from which terrifying creatures emerge to rampage and create havoc.
An even greater threat presents itself from below as a constant swarm of nerubians, which have been held back, so far, from invading Arathi lands. The assault is unrelenting and the threat is dire.
Meet the Nerubians
We will explore the nerubian’s last kingdom deep within Khaz Algar. These ancient survivors of the Black Empire who rejected their former masters have developed their own culture here in the deep darkness. Xal’atath has made a bargain with the nerubian queen, Ansurek, who seeks a new future and a renewed glory for her people. The nerubians are extremely capable and devious adversaries who have been honing their skills with their constant assault of the Arathi. Through a dark alchemical process, Xal’atath has provided the knowledge to help evolve chosen nerubians into paragons of their race and enhancing their viciousness.
Queen Ansurek has embraced these modifications with enthusiasm and eagerly offered up her army to achieve the Harbinger’s schemes. But not all of the nerubians share this enthusiasm.
The society of nerubians offers up a citizenry in a variety of forms, some of which we’ve never seen before.
The Zones of Khaz Algar
The Isle of Dorn: This zone is at the surface of Khaz Algar and is home to the Earthen surface dwellers as well as a variety of other species. It is an untouched paradise of fertile soil, flowering plant life, and generous waterways. You can find the Earthen making Cinderbrew Mead here from a volatile substance manufactured from molten honey produced by enormous fiery bees. The hearts of the trees in the grove glow with lava-like fluid. You’ll also find a large walled city in which the Oathsworn live and serve the Edicts of the Titans.
The Ringing Deeps: Beneath the surface of the Isle of Dorn is the Ringing Deeps. This is where the Earthen engage in their work, in accordance with the Edicts. Large, complicated machines, lava-heated foundries and forges, and waterworks can be found in the industrial areas of this cavernous space. Maintaining the Titan mechanisms and keeping everything running is a passion for the Machine Speakers. There is natural beauty here as well which thrives in areas in which the natural light shines down from above and water flows to support the greenery, flowers, and creatures that you wouldn’t normally find in a cavern. With the decrease in the Machinery Speaker population, there has been an increase in kobold incursions.
Hallowfall: A vast hollow area in the earth, it is bordered by an endless underground sea. A giant crystal provides bright light to the Arathi who have established docks, towers for light beacons, villages, farms and a priory. Their holy fire fueled airships allow them to reach high plateaus as well as battle the constant nerubian threats. The light from the crystal cycles randomly, taking the area from light to darkness and bringing with it new and dangerous creatures. From their capital of Mereldar, the Arathi work to keep hope alive and spread the Light while continuing their battle against the nerubians at their borders.
Azj-Kahet: In the deepest area of the descent is Azj-Kahet.
- The City of Threads: The nerubian City of Threads has been built on the ruins of itself may times over and as areas decay and crumble new districts are built on top of the ruins. This has resulted in a city that climbs ever higher. The nerubians favored by the queen, or those who have some amount of wealth live in the highest locations and have the best views.
- The Burrows: Home of the scavengers and forgotten.
- Umbral Bazaar: Operates as a trading hub of fine silks, alchemical discoveries, and other exotic and hard to find goods.
- The Skeins are the home of the lore-keepers and scholars who maintain the history of their people and research the myths and legends of Azeroth.
- There are many other districts in the City of Threads as well but in order to explore them, you’ll need to utilize pheromones and possess considerable bravery.
The use of light-filled cenotes in The Ringing Deeps, and a enormous crystal light source in Hallowfall help you experience distinctly different environments that don’t feel as though they are deep underground. The journey from the surface Isle of Dorn to the depths of Azj-Kahet is designed for a seamless descent toward the core of Azeroth. The zones have been layered and stacked upon one another and built for dynamic flight, allowing for exhilarating dives and soars within the cavernous spaces.
Similar to the launch of previous expansions, there will be 4 level-up dungeons and 4 maximum-level dungeons that can be found in each of the four new zones.
- The Rookery
- The Stonevault
- Priory of the Sacred Flame
- City of Threads
- Cinderbrew Meadery
- Darkflame Cleft
- The Dawnbreaker
- Old City
Nerub’ar Palace Raid Dungeon
The Nerub’ar Palace raid dungeon will be available with the start of The War Within Season 1, offering eight boss encounters. Located in Azj-Kahet, it will result in the culmination of the story we see play out involving the machinations of the nerubian empire and Queen Ansurek’s collaboration with Xal’atath.
In a continuation of philosophies that have been used in Dragonflight, we’ll be bringing three main pillars into The War Within.
- Focus on evergreen additions and refurbishing rather than systems that phase out from expansion to expansion.
- Provide Something for everyone, investing in World of Warcraft’s foundations to make it better.
- Continued Focus on Respecting Player Time
Delves is a new feature that is integrated into the outdoor world experience. Players will join the Dragonscale Expedition in the search for lost treasure in Khaz Algar. This is an evergreen feature similar to World Quests but with a new type of content for players to engage who enjoy outdoor exploration.
Delves will provide seasonal content and rewards and will be integrated into the Great Vault.
There will be 12 Delves at the launch of the expansion and allow groups of one to five players. It is a role-agnostic experience that can be completed either solo or with friends.
As a part of the experience of Delves, players will be able to be accompanied by an NPC companion. Brann Bronzebeard will join players for Season 1 and have a customizable abilities that you can adjust to suit your playstyle or needs.
At the end of every Delve a massive Treasure Trove awaits you, but first you’ll need to clear the way so that Brann can open the door.
Warbands are a new system we’re introducing that will be the representation of all of the characters on a player’s Battle.net account. It will be a platform that will share achievements and resources across all of those characters. We’ll share more in our World of Warcraft: Deep Dive panel, but to share just a teaser, we’ll be looking at updating transmogrification acquisition rules so that when you collect a new transmog, you won’t need to be on the class that could use it. You’ll be able to add it to your collection so that it’s there when you play that character.
We’re also introducing new types of talents known as Hero talents. There will be three Hero talent trees for each class (excepting Druid with four and Demon Hunter with two) which will provide evergreen choices and additional customization.
Hero talents will introduce new, small, self-contained talent trees resulting in players having three types of talent points: Hero Talents, Class talents, and Specialization talents. This system unlocks at level 71 and with each level through level 80, players will receive one new talent point per level, resulting in a total of 10 available points to use as you wish. Players will be able to easily switch between talents similarly to existing Talent trees.
We look forward to sharing more as we move forward in development and hope you’ve enjoyed getting to learn a little more about The War Within.
Don’t forget to check out the World of Warcraft Deep Dive panel and submit your questions for the Q&A next week!