[Review] All WoW Expansions From Vanilla To Dragonflight

Review of all WoW releases from Vanilla to Dragonflight.
World of Warcraft has been around for many years now!

World of Warcraft is a game with extensive lore, fun gameplay, and beautiful artistry. The game goes back into the early 2000s and still continues today, which means there is a lot to unpack in the game’s expansions. Let’s take a look at each of the expansions and review just how they made the game what it is today. 

1. World of Warcraft: Vanilla (2004)


The Horde and the Alliance have been fighting for a long time. 

This is what started it all, the official game release. Following the plot after Warcraft, the initial Vanilla WoW is the classic Horde vs. Alliance story. In this expansion, you work to level up your characters and take them to war. 

Vanilla WoW had a lot of ups and downs. It was essentially the guinea pig of its day and took a lot of work. The gameplay wasn’t easy, and people had to work  hard to level up and get good at the game. The mechanics were difficult, but for people who like a challenge, that’s what made the game so fun. 

There’s of course a lot of nostalgia that goes into Vanilla WoW. People love to talk about their days of farming and how dungeons were back in the day, plus the direct storyline connection makes it nostalgic for Warcraft players as well. That being said, everyone also talks about how hard it was. 

Its intense need for attention and its hard gameplay make Vanilla WoW not a game for everyone. It’s definitely only for those who are willing to grind their teeth and get down in the dirt to play hard. 

Fun Score: 65/100


2. World of Warcraft Burning Crusade (2007)

Is Illidan your friend or foe?

As the first expansion of World of Warcraft, The Burning Crusade had a lot of updates to the game and has also received a lot of praise. With the main villain being one the game’s most favored characters, the expansion has a lot of strong points. Illidan Stormrage is the best misunderstood character in the game. 

The Outlands is a very fun area to play in, but it’s also decently challenging. While it can’t be compared to Vanilla WoW in difficulty, it still had challenging gameplay. The expansion also released one the game’s most popular races, Blood Elves. This fun new race tied into the Outlands and the chasing of Illidan made the expansion a lot of fun to play.

Illidan himself ties directly into Warcraft as well as his brother Malfurion, who was the first night elf druid. These two powerful night elf brothers now on opposing sides really makes the expansion emotional. It pulls you into the story  and makes you pay a lot of attention to the lore in order to see how everything plays out. 

The Burning Crusade is a beloved expansion. It’s fun to play through, the plot is fun,and the introduction of a fantastic new race creates a further connection to the plot. 

Fun Score: 85/100


3. World of Warcraft Wrath of the Lich King (2008)

The story of Arthas is one of the most tragic in the game. 

Wrath of the Lich King follows Athas to Northrend after he’s awoken and ready to take over Azeroth. It’s up to the players to stop him, and go to his chilly home up north to do so. There are all kinds of new zones and new people to meet. 

Northrend is an incredible place to play WoW. The quest lines and diversity throughout the land make the place super fun to play through. The plot is incredible, and Arthas is one of the game’s best villains and my personally favorite villain. There’s also an integration of the Undead and their Queen, Sylvanas, who plays a huge role in the Horde later on. 

The Death Knights are fantastic all on their own. The class is insanely fun to play, and the mechanics are interesting and unique. The storyline to go along with the Death Knights in itself is fun to play through. This is one of the best classes in the game and also one of the most popular, especially for tanks. 

There’s a huge connection from Warcraft to this expansion. This is when Arthas is returning, so you can remember the time when he first became corrupted and destroyed Lordaeron in his wake. The Scourge are an enemy we’re familiar with, but now we get to see them in a new darkness.

Wrath of the Lich King is another amazing expansion from WoW, and is loved by a lot of people. Northrend deserves all the praise, even if the farming process to get mounts can be a hassle. 

Fun Score: 90/100


4. World of Warcraft Cataclysm (2010)

Deathwing is one of the most formiddable opponents Azeroth has faced. 

Cataclysm completely turned Azeroth upside down. As Deathwing causes havoc across the world, the dragonflights must band together in order to stop him from destroying it. The players must aid them while dealing with changes across Azeroth. 

This expansion was an earthquake for players around the world. There were some major changes made to Azeroth, for better or for worse. Some of these changes were painfully annoying, and others were interesting to explore. The raids were fun yet difficult, and the dungeons were exploratory, although some of them were annoyingly large. 

A lot of the Cataclysm plot connects into Northrend and Wrath of the Lich King, which ties the two expansions together. This is honestly the best part of the whole expansion. Dragons are usually cool in any video game, but seeing the different types of flights and understanding their powers more in Cataclysm allowed us to understand Azeroth more too. 

Despite the annoyances caused by Cataclysm, the expansion with the strength of Thrall and the plot with the Maelstrom makes the expansion really fun. Plus, the Deathwing raid is pretty epic. 

Fun Score: 85/100


5. World of Warcraft Mists of Pandaria (2012)

The lesson of how dangerous hatred is can be a powerful one. 

Mists of Pandaria seemed to start out as a joke expansion, but it quickly turned into one of the game’s most beloved. With the introduction of the Pandarians and a new class, the gameplay only gets more fun. The lands are also stunning and really integrated with Asian culture. 

This expansion has a beautiful story line about negativity and how it corrupts. As you play through in either faction, you learn about the Sha and how badly the war is starting to affect Pandaria. This makes the plot really important and gives the game a real world connection. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from Pandaria. 

The plot with Anduin at the beginning of Pandaria connects both sides together really well and also makes you feel for Anduin despite your faction. You get to watch him grow as a teenager and it brings you back to the time you saw him as a child. It’s amazing how we get to watch him grow up which we don’t get with other characters in the game. 

It’s overall really fun to play and the plot is great. The plot started to fall off a little bit at the end, but for the most part it keeps it together and stays really strong. 

Fun Score: 95/100


6. World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor (2014)

The leaders of the Iron Horde are an intimidating bunch. 

Warlords of Draenor takes us into the past home of the orcs and along an alternate path of history. The Iron Horde reject the Legion’s power and instead look to conquer other worlds on their own. It’s up to the players(once again) to work to stop them from invading Azeroth. 

Both Horde and the Alliance play a vital role in the plot. Rather than other expansions that tend to have more importance to one side than the other, Warlords is arguably very balanced. It’s also a well-developed world, with fun easter eggs hidden through the lands. 

However, it is the expansion that’s the most hated for a reason. There were several problems as patches came out, lore was cut, and content stopped flowing out of the game. As someone who played it late, I loved it, but talking to so many people who played it first thing really gave way to the problems. Warlords of Draenor was Blizzard’s abandoned child. 

The nostalgia was really strong in some places for both the Horde and the Alliance. In the areas you start out in you get to meet Durotan and Draka(Horde) who’s lore goes back to the beginning of the orcs in Azeroth and they gave us one of our favorite heroes, Thrall. You also get to meet Yrel and Vindicator Maraad(Alliance), two important draenei in the past timeline and the future timeline in the fight to save their people. 

The world building is honestly the best part of the expansion. The lands are beautifully done, and getting to see Draenor before it became the Outlands is really cool. You get to see what the planet looked like before it was torn apart by the Legion, and reminisce about the Burning Crusade as you go through the world. 

All in all, Warlords of Draenor started out really strong, and if it wasn’t left on the orphanage’s doorstep, maybe it would’ve been one of WoW’s best expansions, but you can’t have everything and you can’t beat the next expansion we’ll talk about. 

Fun Score: 60/100


7. World of Warcraft Legion (2016)

The Legion corrupts all, including the home planet of the draenei. 

Legion follows the story of what happens when the Legion comes into Azeroth(yes again, if you know your Warcraft lore) to invade and conquer. The Horde and the Alliance have to unite their forces(again) to fight the Legion off and to save their homeland. 

Legion is what happens when Blizzard’s A Team gets it together and decides to make it happen. Despite its initial repetition in storyline, the plot is actually insanely good. Not only that, the gameplay is a lot of fun as well which you don’t always get unfortunately. 

The integration of artifacts into the game really made it unique to the player’s class which gave a special feeling to the game. The new area zones and the ability to play them in any order made each character have their own experience, rather than playing through the same quests over and over in order to level up each character. 

The content was overflowing throughout the expansion, and a whole planet, Argus, is pulled to Azeroth so you can take the fight to Legion themselves. Talk about epic. You also get to reminisce about The Burning Crusade through the new race, demon hunters, and the return of Illidan.

The raids were challenging, the dungeons were fun, the gameplay thrived and the players did too. The storyline was both a remembrance of what was and a shock of something new. Legion is one of WoW’s best expansions, if not their best. 

Fun Score: 100/100


8. World of Warcraft Battle for Azeroth (2018)

The Horde and the Alliance are back at it again. 

Here we come to yet another chapter where the Horde and the Alliance are fighting one another, and at this point it’s just annoying. This time, we have two new leaders of each faction, Anduin and Sylvanas. It’s time for the young king and the banshee queen to step into the ring. 

Battle for Azeroth has a lot of mixed opinions. On one hand there were a lot of cool plot points for both the Horde and the Alliance with the new areas opened up, but there were also a lot of points that lacked emphasis. I know personally I thought the giant sword in Azeroth was going to be a much bigger deal or maybe get removed somehow, but instead we focused on other things more. 

After Legion, I was expecting the Void to play a big role in what happened next, but instead the plot with Azshara and N’Zoth happened. This side is highly connected to the Alliance, and the Alliance questline plays a big role in the plot of saving Azeroth, where the Horde sits back for the first parts of the expansion and helps the Zandalari. Ultimately, the Horde is made out to be villainous once again due to Sylvanas’ corruption. 

On the Alliance side, there’s an emotional aspect to this part of the story as you reconnect Jaina with her people, and help them be freed from Lady Ashvane. You also get to witness Anduin grieve his father and see what it takes to be king, which stirs up strong emotions since we watched this boy grow up. On the Horde side, we get attached to Saurfang, one of the Horde’s greatest heroes and a close friend to Thrall. 

There are both good and bad parts of every expansion, but Battle for Azeroth’s weak points are heavily plot related, which really brings down the whole game’s impact. Not only that, there’s less zone variety than the previous zones in Legion, so there’s some aspects that really let you down. 

Fun Score: 75/100


9. World of Warcraft Shadowlands (2020)

The afterlife is a dangerous place. 

Shadowlands seems to be a continued downfall from Battle for Azeroth. There was a lot of hatred for this expansion and rightfully so. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t also some good things too, so let’s look at those first. 

We get a look into death, which makes dying in WoW more confusing than not but now we know where our favorite heroes go. The design team, as always, made beautiful landscapes in the new areas. Getting to choose in these new areas is also super fun, and you get to decide whether or not you want to play through them all again or just choose your path first, which makes the gameplay a lot less repetitive and a lot more bearable. 

However, there were several issues with the storyline. My biggest problem was when the Jailer had all of the heroes trapped and could’ve killed them in one swoop, but chose to leave them alive at the end of a raid. Personally, the whole plot with Sylvanas and the Jailer felt really rocky, especially at the end when Sylvanas ends up being uncorrupted and goes on her redemption arc. Once a villain, they should stay a villain (unless they’re Illidan). 

Speaking of villains, it was painful to let Arthas go and watch his soul vanish. There were a lot of connections to Northrend and the impact Arthas had on the world as the Lich King during Shadowlands. This was honestly the strongest part of this expansion, and also the one with the most impact for me. 

I think the best part was the friends we made along the way in the Shadowlands, and then the fun stopped. 

Fun Score: 50/100


10. World of Warcraft Dragonflight (2022)

Can Azeroth's dragons save the planet? 

The anticipation for Dragonflight got a lot of mixed feelings involved. There are people who are excited to see the home of Azeroth’s dragons, but others doubt Blizzard’s ability to deliver a strong expansion. The excitement is clouded by doubt after the previous letdown. 

I feel unable to give my full opinion on this expansion until the storyline is complete, because you really have no idea where Blizzard’s story team is going to go with it. After Shadowlands, there’s a lot that could clearly go wrong if they’re not on their A game. However, there are some good parts so far. 

The new race is a lot of fun to play and the customizations are fantastic. The new flying mechanic with the dragons is also super fun, and allows you to fly yourself without having to unlock any achievements. The land is also beautifully crafted, as Blizzard’s design team always does a magnificent job. 

The reminiscing of the Dragonflights really ties this expansion together. If you’re a dragon lover like me, you’ve missed the Dragonflights since Cataclysm and have wanted an official return. Hopefully as the story continues it stays strong as the dragons deserve. 

Azeroth is healing, as the dragons have said, and Dragonflight will hopefully heal WoW’s past mistakes with good gameplay and a fantastic storyline. However there still is a giant sword stuck in the planet so how much healing can it really be doing? 

Fun Score: 80/100


WoW has a lot of content out, and there’s plenty more to come. As expansions continue, hopefully the storyline grows stronger rather than decreases in quality and disappoints us all, even if we’ve been disappointed before. I’m looking forward to how the game progresses in the future. 


You may also be interested in: 

World of Warcraft: Legion - A Hit, or a Miss? 
World of Warcraft: 10 Things We All Love About This Epic Game 

Compilation of all World of Warcraft Trailers You Must Watch  

More on this topic:

From Azeroth since 2006 to Teyvat since 2020, I'm a PC gamer at heart and a pro-gamer enthusiast.
Gamer Since: 2006
Favorite Genre: Pro-gaming
Currently Playing: Genshin Impact
Top 3 Favorite Games:Outlast, The Sims 4: Get Together, World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor

More Top Stories