World of Warcraft's enormous 8.2 update, titled Rise of Azshara, is finally here—well, almost. If you've tried logging into WoW this morning, you'll see that the servers are currently down while Blizzard applies the update and they're expected to go live again at 4:00 pm PDT. When they do, Rise of Azshara will be live, bringing with it two entirely new zones to explore and massive changes that seek to rectify some of the biggest complaints with Battle for Azeroth so far.
The above video has an excellent breakdown of what's coming, but you can also read the complete patch notes on World of Warcraft's official website.
The good news is that returning players won't have to worry about catching up before they can jump into Rise of Azshara's new zones. As long as you're level 120 and have World Quests unlocked, you'll receive a quest upon logging in that'll get you started on the new 8.2 story.
First you'll head to the once-underwater zone of Nazjatar, the home of the new Azshara's Eternal Palace raid (that won't open for a few weeks), a bunch of new quests, and some cool new systems like the ability to craft new armor sets with zone-specific bonuses. After that you'll head to the island of Mechagon, where half-robotic gnomes are fighting a civil war. Here you can find resources to craft your own customizable trinket or create gadgets that'll help you better explore the island. Mechagon is also home to a new Mythic-difficulty mega-dungeon called Operation: Mechagon, that has a whopping eight bosses.
Some of the most exciting changes for those disgruntled by Battle for Azeroth so far will be to the Heart of Azeroth system. Effectively, the old version where you had to level your Heart of Azeroth to unlock Azerite traits on Azerite Armor is gone entirely. Now, every tier of Azerite traits on Azerite Armor will be unlocked from the start. The Heart of Azeroth now functions more like an Artifact Weapon from Legion, with its own custom skill tree that you unlock as it gains power. But what's cool is that there are several "essences" you can find from progressively more challenging activities that change exactly what that skill tree will be, so it's up to you to decide which Azerite essence best suits your playstyle.
Though Battle for Azeroth hasn't been received nearly as well as Legion, Update 8.2 could turn the tide. As someone who fell off hard sometime last year, I'm really excited by everything coming, including the ability to get mount equipment so any of your mounts can now walk on water (thank god).
Rise of Azshara will be available later today. While you wait, Wowhead has an in-depth guide to all the new features you can read. Or you can watch this really insightful video (below) from game director Ion Hazzikostas that explains the philosophy guiding this update and why Blizzard made the changes it did.