You won't have to wait until Blizzcon 2019 to find out about World of Warcraft's next major update because Blizzard just went ahead and surprised everyone with an 18-minute video revealing Update 8.3, Visions of N'zoth, that will be arriving on the beta servers later today and, I expect, will launch in full sometime early next year.
Like all major updates, Visions of N'zoth will expand the world and systems of Battle for Azeroth, but the central theme of this update is fighting against the Old God N'zoth who, following the climax of update 8.2, was set free to bring chaos and destruction to Azeroth. With the recent 8.2.5 patch, the war between the Alliance and the Horde has come to its relatively peaceful conclusion, so now the battle for Azeroth is against N'zoth and his creepy cronies.
One of the biggest new features coming in 8.3 is Assaults that will happen in two new zones: Uldum and Vale of Eternal Blossoms. Lore-minded players will know that these two zones house ancient Titan facilities that are a useful bulwark against Old Gods like N'zoth, so he's sending his armies there to destroy them and with it any hope of stopping him.
These Assaults sound like they'll play out like the Demonic Invasions from Legion and the Faction Assaults from Battle for Azeroth. During set times of the day, one of those two zones might come under attack by N'zoth's Black Empire. When this happens, the zone will physically change, spawning time-sensitive quests and dynamic objectives for players to complete to help stave off the invasion. "When an Assault is active, the zone will overflow with powerful lieutenants of N'zoth, enemies to defeat, treasures to uncover, puzzles to solve, and much more," game director Ion Hazzikostas said.
Rewards from Assaults play into another major new feature called Horrific Visions, a new kind of solo experience that you "can work towards on your own without needing a group of dungeon players, or raiders, or a battleground group at your side." These Horrific Visions are future glimpses at what will happen to the main capital cities of Stormwind and Ogrimmar if N'zoth wins and act as a solo challenge comparable to Legion's Mage Tower.
It sounds a lot like a solo dungeon that you're meant to repeatedly attempt, each time getting a little bit further and further before the power of N'zoth's corruption forces you to flee. To help survive, you'll get a new Legendary cape that acts as a kind of magical shield against the eldritch horrors of N'zoth, letting you endure the Horrific Vision for longer. Each time you brave the vision, you bring back resources that empower your customizable cape, helping you venture further into the nightmare. You can also bring up to five friends along with you and the whole experience will scale seamlessly, regardless of what class you're playing as.
Of course, all of this leads up to a new raid against N'zoth himself. Set in The Waking City of Ny'alotha, this 12-boss raid "that showcases the full splendor of the Black Empire."
There's a lot more that Hazzikostas covers in the above video, too. He teased a new gear upgrade system that might replace the contentious Titanforging that sometimes randomly boosts a piece of loot to make it more powerful and the Heart of Azeroth will be expanded with more levels and customization options. Meanwhile, the Vulpera and Mechagnomes are enlisting as the two new playable races (opens in new tab) for the Horde and Alliance respectively. The Auction House is also getting a total rework.
It's a lot to cover—but that's exactly what makes updates like this so exciting. Though Visions of N'zoth doesn't have a release date, my guess is it won't arrive until early next year (though it could be sooner). Hazzikostas said it should be live on the PTR beta servers later today for players to try out.
It's exciting that so much was revealed ahead of Blizzcon 2019, which starts November 1. It's likely that we'll get a deeper look at this new update, but my hopes is that the announcement of the next expansion is imminent.