Before Blizzard made it a whole world, Warcraft has always been about two sets of fantasy action figures fighting each other. Orcs and humans. Horde and Alliance. Although World of Warcraft has had the opposing factions team up in the past to defeat big bads, they've never been able to do so as a permanent function of the MMO's grouping systems. In next week's Shadowlands patch 9.2.5, that finally changes.
Horde and Alliance players will be able to join each other (opens in new tab) within the same party and complete dungeons and raids together, as well as team up for PvP, using the respective matchmakers or inviting each other via BattleTags. There are some restrictions: premade groups have the option to turn cross-faction play off, Guilds remain faction-locked, and a short list of legacy instances won't support it. Otherwise, the factions that have been at each other's throats narratively (and less so socially as time has gone on) are now able to collaborate on endgame content.
"At BlizzCon in 2019, when an attendee asked about cross-faction play, we responded at the time that 'Alliance and Horde separation ... is a pillar of what makes Warcraft, Warcraft'," World of Warcraft game director Ion Hazzikostas wrote in a blog post (opens in new tab). "But upon reflection, that’s an oversimplification: Alliance and Horde identity is what is fundamental to Warcraft. And while at times that identity has been one of division and open conflict, we’ve seen Alliance and Horde finding common ground and working together ever since Warcraft 3 (notably including the last time a Warcraft chapter was named Eternity’s End...), and the instances of cooperation in World of Warcraft itself are too numerous to count."
Patch 9.2.5 goes live on Tuesday, May 31. The patch also includes a list of other changes, including the introduction of a new PvP arena called the Enigma Crucible. Like the game's other arenas, it's a mostly symmetrical battlefield for groups of players to duel in the game's most competitive form of PvP.
Reddit user Grayvves (opens in new tab) points out that the update will also include a new high definition version of the classic armored hand cursor and no other high definition cursors… for some reason. I guess there's a limit on changing too many core WoW pillars in one patch.