World of Warcraft: Dragonflight is immediately striking, thanks to the unobstructed views of the Dragon Islands. It’s a very open expansion, and the player gets a new mount with a set of wings almost immediately, thanks to the new dragon riding feature. The player has dragons to encounter and primalists to defeat, and the islands are a big place, so the player is granted their own dragon. This is a fantastic feature; I had fun gliding, even without chasing all 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 was always held back by the player until they could save enough gold or gain enough favor with the reputation of the day. Dragonflight just gives you the keys as soon as you set foot on the Dragon Islands, and that’s a very strong point in favor of the new expansion. The islands are designed specifically for flying, and there are striking vertical cliffs and magnificent falls in front of stunning scenery.
If anything, the ride of dragons could be too good. Coming back to Azeroth and revisiting old areas, like Gilneas, feels like dragging yourself through molasses. It’s just an objective downgrade, like going from a car to a unicycle. I also feel a little bad about taking all the mounts from my stables and locking them away forever for the benefit of my new and better dragon. I befriended a noble steed of light in Legion, a creature so blessed with sacred purpose that it could soar on hooves of pure gold. But it’s like ass to ride, so it can go to the glue factory for whatever I want.
While dragon riding is delightful, I’m also concerned about how this feature will age. Although this is just the beginning, in the past we have seen fun gaming systems like LegionArtifact weapons appear in an expansion, receive a few successive updates during the expansion’s patch cycle, and then disappear completely in time for the next revolutionary new system.
For now, I’m taking my time and smelling the roses on the Dragon Islands. It’s also fun to tinker with the different dragon customizations, choosing between a quirky little guy with fun horns or a more noble and respectable dragon to transport me to my important diplomatic duties. But for dragon riding to realize its true potential, it will need to continue to grow and evolve, either with our current companions or with a revamp of the old menagerie of mounts in every player’s stable.