World of Warcraft's newest expansion, Shadowlands, is just around the corner and players are looking forward to a deep dive into the cosmology of WoW while meeting back up with some of their favorite old NPCs. As players anxiously await a release date, they can look back on the game's history of expansions to figure out what to expect. Though it's hard to say exactly how Shadowlands will play out, it's got a lot of company at this point.
Below is a look a WoW's first seven expansions - and how they hold up against one another.
While plenty of WoW fans will argue about which expansion is the best, it's almost universally agreed that Warlords of Draenor was the worst. This 2014 expansion pack really seemed to have everything going for it, but a combination of poorly-implemented systems and cut content hurt it in the long run.
While many players will praise the leveling experience in Warlords, most point out the incredibly long drought between content patches as the big reason why this expansion failed. Players got stuck running errands in the Tanaan Jungle for months with no new raids or dungeons, with only the promised release of Legion to tide them over. With a lackluster conclusion to the expansion's plot and a Garrison system that discouraged player interaction, Warlords is one expansion that most want to forget.
2010's Cataclysm was the first major overhaul of World of Warcraft, radically realtering the landscape of the game's main world and getting rid of a lot of beloved content. Cataclysm also has the dubious distinction of shaking up how new players experience the time of the game, starting out with quests that felt new before being forced back into The Burning Crusade's dated system.
Most of the problems with Cataclysm had to do with Blizzard being spread a little thin, especially since they had to redesign the entire base game plus adding new content. Cataclysm's max level content wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, but there was just too little of it for hardcore players to enjoy.
2007's The Burning Crusade expansion was a huge step forward for WoW at the time, introducing two new races, a host of new zones, and the much-loved flying mechanics. Unfortunately, it's also very much an expansion pack that didn't age well - a lackluster story, some weird design choices and some really dated quests make it a chore to deal with today.
The Burning Crusade is an expansion that helped WoW grow, but it's also one that many players would prefer to skip today. It's a historical curiosity for most, even if it does feel like all the worst parts of late-2000s MMO designs when you're actually forced to play through Outland when leveling a character today.
Mists of Pandaria is probably the most divisive expansion in WoW history. Slammed at first for being the Panda expansion, players generally ended up being fond of the additions that Mists of Pandaria made to the game. Not only did it introduce a new race and class, but Mists of Pandaria also featured Scenarios, some new phasing mechanics, and some excellent mechanics for increasing character item levels.
The story is one of the more divisive points in Mists of Pandaria. It is the first game to legitimately cast one of the two sides as a villain, culminating in a raid on Ogrimmar itself. This, combined with some aesthetic choices that not every player loved, makes opinions harshly divided over Mists of Pandaria.
Battle for Azeroth is the latest of Blizzard's big changes to World of Warcraft and it's almost certainly going to end up being another divisive expansion. Though it's really tough to rank the expansion today because it's still in play, it seems that more players like the actual content of Battle for Azeroth than not.
Battle for Azeroth largely featured continuations of Legion's systems, trading out Artifact Weapons for the Heart of Azeroth and Horde/Alliance invasions for Legion invasions. The story is a bit of shaky, but the lack of major mechanical changes combined with some really fun dungeons and raids have helped to make Battle for Azeroth a fairly stable expansion. Where it lands later in comparison to Shadowlands, though, is really anyone's guess.
Legion is an expansion that feels like it had to be a hit. Not only did it come on the heels of the much-loathed Warlord of Draenor, but it was the expansion that would largely wrap up the original looming threat that had been introduced all the way back in the original Orcs and Humans. The Legion was coming to Azeroth and players would have to meet them head-on.
There was a lot to love about this expansion. The overall story was amazing, but each class had its own unique Order Hall and story to playthrough. The new World Quest system gave the expansion legs and the final path that introduced Argus allowed players to finally take the fight to the Legion. Full of great content and mechanics, Legion is the current expansion to beat for modern players.
Wrath of the Lich King is widely hailed as the best expansion for WoW, and for good reason - this is the expansion that really planted the seeds for the modern World of Warcraft. The expansion introduced Death Knights and brought players to frozen Northrend in order to fight the Lich King, but it also radically reworked quests in a way that brings them more in line with modern game design.
Wrath of the Lich King had a constant stream of content, from quests and dungeons to high-end raids. It wrapped up the plot of Warcraft III, reimagined a number of classes, and gave players a chance to dig deeper into the lore of the game's world. For most, it stands as the perfect expansion.