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World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor – Reactions and Impressions

/ Nov 19th, 2013 No Comments

After months of speculation and several false leads, Blizzard finally revealed the next expansion for World of Warcraft. Warlords of Draenor has a bit of a shaky story premise, but it so far looks like it will deliver on quality content that doesn’t make the mistakes of Mists of Pandaria.

The plot will kick off with Garrosh escaping from his imprisonment with the assistance of a mysterious helper and travel back in time. Having been foiled in his plans to create a “pure” orcish Horde in the present, he stop the orcs from drinking the Blood of Mannoroth and create a new timeline. Bringing this new “Iron Horde” weapons and technology from the future, Garrosh will help unify the clans under his father and plan a new invasion of Azeroth. The players must naturally put a stop to this by traveling to this alternate universe and fighting the Iron Horde on a Draenor untouched by the calamity that created Outland.

Honestly, the premise sounds a little like something out of fanfiction at first. Blizzard even said during BlizzCon that their main goal was just to get the “orc badasses” back into the story in some manner, even having toyed with the possibility of Garrosh resurrecting them. Nevertheless, the major figures of the Old Horde are quite compelling characters, and the lore surrounding them is rich for exploration. There is a certain excitement for long-time fans that comes from finally getting a chance to face-down Blackhand, Grom Hellscream, Gul’dan, and pre-Lich King Ner’zhul.

Warlords of Draenor

Warlords of Draenor

The war against the eponymous warlords will be the major focus of this expansion, and in keeping with that, the “big new feature” of this expansion is garrisons. Each player can go out into Draenor and build their own home base. It looks to have a robust upgrade and expansion system, along with followers to hire to carry out missions, mine gold, and so forth. In many ways, the garrison system is an expansion of the same basic design principles behind the Tillers farm in Valley of the Four Winds. Players can also invite a whole raid’s worth of people into their garrison, adding a social aspect missing from the farm. With the addition of some smaller features as well, such as being able to mount the head of a slain rare spawn in the town hall, the garrisons are shaping up to be quite a fun looking timesink. Player housing has been on the fan wish list for years, and this garrison system looks to deliver that and more.

As for alterations to the current gameplay, Blizzard is making some shifts to PvP and raid instances. There will be an additional new arena system that works like the arena tournament servers, with players all having gear provided to keep them on equal footing. Flex difficulty raiding will become the new normal difficulty, heroic will be in-line with the current normal difficulty, and mythic will be the new heroic level difficulty. In a move that has upset many current heroic raiders, of both the 10-man and 25-man varieties, Blizzard is designing mythic difficulty for 20-man raids. This change might help Blizzard balance the difficulty more easily, and new expansions always cause guild shake-ups anyways, but it’s still a huge change that could deal quite a blow to 10-man raiding guilds.

While the premise and new features might seem like the big stars, players really should focus on the gameplay news, which is especially encouraging. Blizzard is upping the degree of player freedom on all fronts. Questing in Draenor will have a more open-ended structure based on the Timeless Isle with some influences of the popular 5.1 Landfall quest chain as well. Dailies are practically gone as well. Blizzard is introducing a new “open-ended” dungeon in the world, and promises to go back to adding more dungeons throughout the life of the expansion, unlike in Mists of Pandaria. Blizzard is also bringing back normal difficulty for max level dungeons, saying that this move will allow them to make heroics more difficult. For PvPers, Blizzard describes the new PvP zone as “old Alterac Valley,” which should get many vanilla PvPers excited. It will be a huge battle with different objectives as the battle progresses, and players will receive rankings and rewards periodically throughout the battle, addressing the primary problem with the model of the old Alterac Valley, which could easily last anywhere from four to twenty-four hours. These changes show an important shift in Blizzard’s design philosophy away from more directed and linear gameplay to allowing the players to consume content in a more natural and self-directed manner, which can only be a good thing for an MMO.

Talador - A New Zone in Warlords of Draenor

Talador – A New Zone in Warlords of Draenor

That ability to change based on feedback is what has solidified Blizzard’s place at the head of the MMO market. Blizzard may not always make the most out-and-out brilliant games, but they do at least attempt to change things and learn from their mistakes, and thus far it looks as though Blizzard has learned a great deal from Mists of Pandaria. They admit that they pushed dailies way too hard and that the convenient features such as looking for group/raid systems have isolated players and negatively affected the social aspect of the game. While the expansion may appear to be shipping a little light on the content, the key is all of the more open-ended sandboxes it’s giving. Rather than arbitrarily extending gameplay with a never ending stream of carrots to chase, an MMO needs to setup “playgrounds” for players to create their own fun in a social environment. So far, it seems that Blizzard may have finally learned that lesson.

Ethan Smith

Ethan Smith

A perpetual over-thinker, Ethan Smith spends all of his free time playing video games like an English professor reads books, writing a secret novel, and trying to actually finish a game of Medieval II: Total War.
Ethan Smith

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