I really dislike reviews of games before the game is actually finished. But also, at what point does one “finish” an MMO? So to find a loophole in reviewing a game before it is finished, this is more of a “first (and maybe second and third) thoughts” in progress review. I am currently level 100, and I have run several dungeons and trying to finish all the quests in Draenor. Once all those quests are done and I have seen some of the end-game content, I will write more on the topic.
With the 10th anniversary of World of Warcraft happening last week, WoW has been around for a long time. Many games have tried to emulate WoW’s success, using similar mechanics, subscription models and the like. Many have failed and yet, WoW keeps going on. So how do you breathe fresh life into such an old game?
You have come a long way. After working your way through the ranks, the quests in the barrens and the trip through the Dark Portal to fight Illidan. The journey to Northrend to fight an awakaned Lich King. Deathwing’s sundering of Azeroth and a journey to the beautiful yet deadly continent of Pandaria, where emotions are given form and nightmares ravaged the land. You were there and now, you are needed, hero. Yes, you. The mighty Khadgar and the stalwart Thrall have asked for you personally to help against this newest threat. After so many years of doing the gruntwork so that the heroes could take the glory and the titles, now it is your turn. Outnumbered in a hostile environment, you need a fortress, a stronghold to call your own. From Frostwall, (or Lunarfall if you one of those pesky Alliance types) you start to tame, to shape and conquer the world of Draenor.
Your garrison is your base of operations, a place of calm in a world bent on killing you. It will also become your home as you add new buildings, using recruited followers to help in your mine, or to go out and kill threats. Your followers will level up and, eventually, get their own gear to improve their chances in the field and, it is a pretty fun way to get new items or some cash for doing almost nothing. The most important thing about the garrison is that it is yours, meaning you finally own something in this world besides what you carry in your bags, which will make you want to spend time there. Secondly, thanks to the helping hands on your property, you don’t need mining skill, for example, to extract the ore in your mine. This makes your character a lot less dependent on the trading house, mining spawn runs or levelling an alt to get those few errant herbs or chunks of ore for your main character’s professions and needs. It fits in well and it does a lot to streamline the experience, which falls in line with a lot of what the design team mentioned at Blizzcon this year.
The streamlining is visible in other places too. Besides the talent options for level 100, my shaman did not get anything new added to his spellbook or action bars. Yes, I got a few cool passives while levelling, but I don’t have another button to do a thing or to do a thing I could already do but better or differently. While getting something new is always pretty awesome, I still have way too many buttons that I need for basic questing and dungeons.
Questing your heart out
Sometimes, the quests in an area feel disjointed. You travel the map looking for random quest hubs, hoping you didn’t overlook anything because you have no idea where to go next. While Mists of Pandaria did a lot to try improve on that by telling you how many major story arcs there are in an area, it feels like Warlords has perfected it. As you slowly fight for a beachhead in Draenor and work to tame the various regions, you will constantly receive quests to return to your stronghold for new orders or to make choices on what happens next. Other quests will end at the point which becomes your next base of operations and thus your new quest hub. Important quests can even be displayed on the large region map, to help you find where to go next. An extra sweet victory also awaits during your questing, as your quest rewards stand a small chance of upgrading to rare or epic quality, making for a nice boost to stats. The chances are low, but there is nothing better than doing a quest for a rare upgrade to have it turn into an epic item, making it a much bigger upgrade than you originally anticipated. Gear wise, the loot from quests will depend on how much raiding you did in Mists of Pandaria. A lot of raiding will mean your first real upgrades will only come at around level 96, but those in dungeon gear will start seeing options that will work for multiple specs, meaning you can clean out a lot of bag space because, for example your chest piece has agility on it for Enhancement spec, but intelligence on it for Elemental and Restoration. It makes a lot of sense to have the bag space open for looting junk to sell, and it means that quests and dungeons have a much higher chance of having an item useful to you right now, rather than for your third spec. Nothing grates more than seeing loot drop that nobody in the group can use and the chances of that are greatly reduced now.
A return to the roots
The series of RTS Warcraft games focussed on the horde invading Azeroth, an Alliance forming to fight the orcish threat. Through the games we learnt of the various clans of the horde, with their memorable warlords. Warlords of Draenor draws on these roots, allowing us to see the orcs in their prime, without demonic blood in their veins. As you arrive in Draenor for the first time, the game introduces those warlords in a mad dash quest chain as you step through the Dark Portal to meet the Iron Horde threat. It is reminiscent of the first time through the Dark Portal for Burning Crusade, where fel orcs and hellfire golems breached the gate. This time around, you get to see Draenor in its glory, before it was sundered and became Outland. The land is beautiful, but deadly and the meddling of Garrosh needs to be stopped.
You will spend a lot of time on your ground mount, exploring the rich world of Draenor, looking for bonus objectives or rare monsters to fight. There is no flying in Draenor, and the world has been designed with this in mind. Everything is accessible on foot, and there are a lot of flightpaths and inns to rest your weary bones after a long trek. A long winding path up the mountain will be a blind rise until you reach a plateau and are granted with a magnificent vista, or see a tower that was hidden from view from town as it is nestled in the shadow of a hill. It takes a bit of getting used to as instead of flying from A to B in the most efficient way possible, you will take the planned route and possibly find a treasure cache or extra quest along the way. Once you reach Arak, you will also learn more about the lords of the sky, and it makes those flights feel much more important, something more akin to Gandalf flying with the Giant Eagles rather than using your hearthstone. You will meet younger versions of characters from your World of Warcraft past. One questline has your help a young orc named Mankrik, who needs help finding his girlfriend, Olgra. It is quests like these where Blizzard pokes a bit of fun at those players who used to run around the barrens aimlessly for hours. It also, depending on your age, strums a heart chord and in this timeline, hopefully, Mankrik and Olgra will escape their fate.
Playing a game ten years later and still finding the mechanics and story interesting is a damn amazing feat, Warlords of Draenor takes the story of WoW to a place that Warcraft RTS fans will be extremely happy with. The hardest thing about reviewing Warlords of Draenor, was taking time outside of World of Warcraft to write about it. With so much to see and do still, the world is mysterious and interesting and the watching the story unfold is really an amazing sight. Between the in-game cinematics (which even go as far as lip-sync) If you want an idea of the quality, without spoiling the fun for you, here is the assault on the Dark Portal.
*Things I want to cover still: PVP, end-game PVE (instanced and quests / daily grinds for rep or gear) and anything that comes to mind that didn’t fit in these 1,500 words.