World of Warcraft: Dragonflight is immediately striking, thanks to the open vistas of the Dragon Isles. It’s a very open expansion, and the player gets a new ride with a set of wings almost immediately, thanks to the new dragonriding feature. The player has dragons to meet and primalists to defeat, and the Isles are a big place, so the player is granted their very own dragon. It’s a fantastic feature; I’ve been having a blast soaring around, even without pursuing all of the dragon glyphs and upgrading my dragon’s mouth and saddle.
Flying has always been a big part of World of Warcraft since its introduction in the Burning Crusade expansion, but it’s always been held back from the player until they can save enough gold or grind enough favor with the reputation of the day. Dragonflight just gives you the keys as soon as you step foot on the Dragon Isles, and it’s a very strong point in favor of the new expansion. The Isles are designed specifically for flight, and there are striking vertical cliffs and gorgeous drops past stunning scenery.
If anything, dragonriding might be too good. Going back to Azeroth and revisiting old zones, like Gilneas, feels like slogging through molasses. It’s just an objective downgrade, like going from a car to a unicycle. I also feel kind of bad at the prospect of taking all of the mounts in my stables and locking them away forever in favor of my new, better dragon. I befriended a noble steed of the light back in Legion, a creature so blessed with holy purpose that it could take to the skies ’pon hooves of pure gold. But it feels like ass to ride, so it can go to the glue factory for all I care.
While dragonriding is delightful, I also find myself concerned about how this feature will age. While it’s early days, in the past we’ve seen fun gameplay systems like Legion’s Artifact Weapons appear in an expansion, receive a couple of successive updates over the expansion’s patch cycle, and then disappear entirely in time for the next new revolutionary system.
For now, I’m taking my time and smelling the roses on the Dragon Isles. It’s also fun to tinker with the different dragon customizations, choosing between a weird little guy with funny horns or a more noble, respectable dragon to carry me around to my important diplomatic duties. But in order for dragonriding to fulfill its true potential, it’ll need to continue to grow and evolve, either with our current companions or with a revamp to the old menagerie of mounts in every player’s stable.