Review by Julio Torres
Warlords of Draenor, has so far been a shaky but successful expansion two weeks after its launch. After what was a plethora of server issues, Blizzard has apologized to players who were affected and rewarded active subscribers to the game five days of free game time for compensation. Going from 7.4 million subscribers back in September to now 10 million in November, Blizzard is smart enough to know some sort of compensation for players was necessary. With the outstanding amount of recent subscribers, what does Warlords of Draenor seem to have done right and what does it have to offer?
The Story (Spoiler Alert)
At the end of Mists of Pandaria, players fight and defeat the radical Horde Warchief known as Garrosh Hellscream, a war-hardened Warrior driven mad by the hidden power of the Sha. After Garrosh’s defeat, the Pandaren race incarcerate the now leaderless Orc for crimes on the decimation of what used to be the peaceful land of Pandaria. Soon before his judgment on trial, Garrosh manages to escape his captors and flees to the past via a time portal with the aid of the Infinite Dragonflight faction. From here Garrosh manages to alter history and aid his father, Grommash Hellscream, and his clan avoid consuming the corrupted fel energy that once damned the entire Orc race. This creates a separate timeline where Orcs on Draenor are united by one ultimate power known as the Iron Horde. The expansion thus begins with the players taking a portal to the lands of Draenor in pursuit of Garrosh. As the player, you soon come to find that the war created and led by Grommash Hellscream is more serious than previously anticipated. With the aid of famous heroes in the history of Warcraft, you must battle your way through the Iron Horde and restore balance to the Warcraft timeline.
Like every expansion, Warlords of Draenor introduced a significant amount of new content to the game. The first, which should come to no surprise, is the increase on the level cap from 90 to 100. This doesn’t seem to be huge for a majority of people but seeing as the last two expansions for the game had only increased the level cap by five levels gives off the idea that Blizzard is confident in the amount of content found within Draenor for ten levels. With ten levels to quest through, what makes questing different this time around?
Now when completing a quest that rewards an item, it has a chance to increase the rarity of said item. This makes it possible to gain an item that would otherwise be uncommon (green) a chance to upgrade to be rare (blue), giving the item better stats. Rewarding players for completing quests seems to have been a problem for the game’s leveling system as not giving enough useful items made questing boring and stale but giving too many useful items made items quickly feel useless. It comes to no surprise that Blizzard’s new questing system had to improve the leveling experience with the added bonus with a purchase of the expansion.
The feature added with the purchase of the expansion is a one time free boost of any character to level 90. This is a good way for new and returning players to play and experience the new content of the game immediately and together with friends. Many players have stated this to be an unusual move for new coming players as the overwhelming number of abilities for one character might stray them from playing the game for more than one session before calling it quits. To combat the overwhelming feeling, Blizzard created a system in which boosted level 90 characters slowly gain abilities for their respective class as they complete quests in the starting area of Draenor. This gives players enough time to familiarize themselves with abilities while slowly gaining and applying new abilities into their combat rotation. The questline is also not long enough to hinder veteran player from progressing with their newly acquired 90 character. Overall, this system is great for anyone who has ever felt like the game might be too time consuming to level a new character from scratch and eliminates the stress of trying to competently learn the abilities of a maxed level character on the fly.
Although added before the release of the expansion it should be noted that most old character races had an extreme model makeover where each race now looks sleek and modernized while still keeping the spirit of the old models. If you’re not a fan of the new models you do have the ability to change back to the old skins through the in-game settings.
Garrisons (This One Needed Its Own Section)
One of the new and highly anticipated features this expansion is the Garrison. The Garrison is what some would consider "player housing" but with the utility of vendors and trainers found in any major city. As you quest through Draenor you as the player create a zone dedicated to only your character where within you can create buildings dedicated to a variety of things. You can create profession buildings like Blacksmithing and Enchanting as well as other buildings dedicated to gaining more ‘Garrison resources’ or for vanity purpose like creating armor you can “transmog.” As you progress and level your character, different quests reward you with ‘Garrison resources’ that are used to create buildings and upgrade existing ones. Each building can be upgraded up to three times where each higher level obtained yields different and stronger perks like increasing the amount of work orders that can be put in at one time. ‘Work orders’ are done by each buildings NPC’s to create a beneficial final product that can be used differently. An example is a Jewelcrafter’s building where one ‘work order’ costs 5 Blackrock ore. After an hour of real time, the finished product can yield a gem, which can either be sold or used to level up the Jewelcrafting profession. There is so much to do in a Garrison and it doesn’t stop there.
Completing specific questlines also reward what is known as followers, NPC’s that can be used to do missions within your Garrison. Each mission has a percentage chance of successfully completing a mission depending on the level of the mission and the follower you use, respectively. Each mission has a different enemy with different abilities that can be countered by choosing the right follower thus increasing the percentage chance of successfully completing the mission. Missions might specifically ask to defeat one strong enemy or more than one, which you will have to use more than one follower and often the right combination of followers to counter each enemy’s ability. At the end of each successful mission you will gain a reward. Some give bonus experience for your followers to level faster and others give gold or Garrison resources. It should be noted that to start most missions you must use a minor amount of Garrison resources so sending a follower on a mission with a success percentage of 41% might not be the best use of resources.
With no new class or race to spice things up, one would think this expansion would suffer but so far has shown nothing but great results. Each new feature seems to have been thought out and polished well by the Blizzard team behind World of Warcraft and it shows. With Garrisons now stabilized and players using Garrisons to its full potential, it has succeeded and hopefully will continue to do so. Leveling from 90 to 100 was something that was needed to create a nice gap for story purposes. As you quest you obtain items and sometimes those items would upgrade to even better ones. Bonus Quest zones rewarded the player handsomely with higher than average experience points and gold. The amount of cutscenes in the game did not feel overwhelming compared to the amount seen in the last expansion and thus kept the player focused on the game. From each zone the player can feel like they are actually creating a difference in the world not just for your Garrison but for your newly allied friends as well.
With that said, each zone had a player picked building, from two options, that yielded a different use depending on your choice. Specifically in Nagrand, the player had the choice of picking from either a wolf mount in which the player could stay mounted on while doing damage or a tank/demolisher in which the player was safe from most harm and could do a continuous amount of damage until finally defeated in combat. Part of the awesomeness that came with leveling was also the different rare creatures and treasures found around the world, each yielding rare quality items or currency. With so much good to be said about this new expansion there are definitely some things that could have been done better.
Some rewards within the game seem to hold a very high bar to reach and do not seem to be worth the trouble. Specific profession items like the engineering epic goggles require a high amount of a specific reagent that can only be obtained by using the work order found in Garrisons or creating one per day (24 hour cooldown until another can be made). While the garrison is good to progress the character while not playing the game, the player seems to be strapped down and forced to count the days until he can final obtain an item which will quickly become useless once the first scheduled raid of the expansion hits. The dungeon reward system seems to have changed to be a little more random but to yield more of a chance that each player in the group receives something. Where you once defeated a boss to drop an item that only a few can use and roll to win the item, the feeling of seeing the item you want drop is now gone. Item rewards are now specific to your character and no one else. This means that there is a higher chance that most people in the group will get something from the boss. Admittedly, the loot system works when everyone in the group gets an item but theoretically would increase the progression at which players, old and new, gain upgraded armor pieces. The faster players progress, the faster they burn through endgame content. If Blizzard continues with this system then one can only hope there will be a good amount of content to keep players interested the entire lifecycle of this expansion.
In retrospect, while Warlords of Draenor’s launch was not the best, Blizzard has since paid players for their troubles. This expansion holds promise and has a lot to offer for those leveling once again to reach the level cap. With the amount of detail found in the new lands of Draenor and the Garrison system, the game has once again breathed new life to an MMO that so many have spent countless hours playing. As these player’s continue to evolve, Blizzard shows us they still know how to make World of Warcraft a fun and enjoyable game to play. Although progression seems to need some tweaking, my hope is that Blizzard has enough content for players to progress through to keep the experience new and fresh.