Subscribers to the still popular World of Warcraft will be aware of the so-called pre-patch to the next expansion, Battle for Azeroth, set to release on August 14, 2018. Non-players and new players alike probably felt their eyes glaze over as they read that last sentence. For those people, I present the following seven paragraphs. Read on and find out what I’m talking about and what’s in store for the next expansion of World of Warcraft, the king of MMOs.

First off, what in tarnation is a pre-patch? A patch, as I’m sure you know, is a content update. The term pre-patch is derived from this base word, with the prefix “pre-” denoting its relation to something else in the near future. WoW-historically, a pre-patch has been released for every single expansion in order to prime current players for the more radical content update in the form of the specific expansion.

Patches are always numbered according to their content and relation to previous and future states of the game. So when minor bug fixes are added, the game could be updated from version 3.0 to 3.0.1. When a patch rolls out, the game is usually updated one whole increment, so from 4.2 to 4.3. When a pre-patch is applied, the game’s base number goes up, so in this case from 7.3.5, the last state of the previous expansion, to 8.0.1, the pre-patch to the next expansion. The number in front denotes the version of the game that is used for one whole expansion, all the way from 2, the very first expansion, to 8, the next expansion.

But wait, Mr. Author-of-this-article! Does that mean I have to buy all seven expansions in order to partake in all the fun?

Why, of course not, little Billy. That would be insane, wouldn’t it? In fact, interestingly, Blizzard has updated their archaic system of buying the whole back catalogue of WoW expansions to where a new player no longer has to buy any of them, save for the latest one for obvious reasons. See, buying all of those would mean spending close to 100 dollars just to make a level one character that you would then have to level all the way to 120. That’s at least one level more than level one, perhaps even two. The current requirement to join the World (of Warcraft) is to have an active subscription, which will set you back a clean $15 instead (not counting the expansion you would still need to purchase).

Of course, Blizzard gives you one free level up-token that brings you all the way to 110 just in time for the latest expansion, as it did with Legion, the previous expansion (but only to level 100, naturally, since the level cap in Legion was 110). This allows new players to skip over the base game plus six expansions worth of leveling content in order to immediately experience the latest and greatest content. Now, removing this obscene cost reducing it to the price of a good pizza alleviates a lot of the pressure and doubt a new player would face, one would hope. It’s certainly a lot less demanding of new players, in contrast with paying over $100 only to try the new content before even deciding whether or not it’s worth their time.

So what’s Battle for Azeroth offering anyway? BfA, by all accounts, appears to be a return to form. The login screen, as well as early cinematic, reminds one of the opening cinematic to Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos (2002) where an Orc fought a Human on a battlefield. The box art mimics this return to form by exactly mirroring the box art of the very first Warcraft game, Warcraft: Orcs and Humans (1994). With that, players in game will find themselves now stripped of their overpowered artifact weapons and see their damage and healing outputs reduced to mere hundreds instead of the unwieldy hundreds of thousands. During the previous expansion, the biggest baddie of all, Sargeras, attempted to corrupt the entire planet of Azeroth. Players have had to relinquish their weapons in elaborate quest lines in order to stop the planet from biting the space dust. This comes as a comforting thought to many since they will now be able to find weapon upgrades again, but also as a bit of a drawback since these artifact weapons were very rich in lore and background; wielding them was its own reward, in many cases.

Hopefully, bittersweet is the “worst” we’ll get to experience in this transition to the seventh WoW expansion. A new “artifact” has already been devised and implemented where players will have to play similarly to in Legion where one had to collect points in order to unlock specific character traits. Many discussions about the pros and cons of this artifact have already been had since beta testing, but as always, it remains to be seen how it will play out on live servers. If you, yourself, are a new player and would like to give the game the old college try, now seems to be the very best time to do so. Both the pricing of and the setting for the expansion seem right for it; a story of “Orcs vs Humans” is simple and plain enough for anyone to follow without serious investment in the backstory, and $15 really isn’t that big a dent on anyone’s wallet.