[Review] World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
Well, nerds, it’s 2015 and we’ve now had the World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor expansion in our hands for almost two whole months.
Now approaches a complicated question: how do we feel about it?
Fresh out of the gate, this fifth expansion was not a winner, at least for any server with an average to high population of players. 6+ hour login queue times for over a week were less than encouraging, and a lot of players decided their subscription money was not worth the frustration. I myself remember getting out of bed an hour early to get myself into the queue in the hopes I would be fully logged in by the time I returned from work.
The few times I was able to actually access the game those first few weeks, the starting quests were an absolute mess. I play on a high population server, so all quest givers and objective spawns were being camped by hundreds of people, giving me no choice but to do the same if I wished to continue my leveling.
Five days after the launch, Blizzard gave all players five days of free game time to make up for the awful queue time length they had to endure. My hat was certainly off to them for this gesture, especially since news had come out about the giant DDoS attack on Blizzard spanning those five days. We couldn’t fault them for that.
Another contribution to the overloaded servers was the fact that Blizzard had not prepared for the massive number of returning subscribers. In the period of one month, the amount of subscriptions changed from 7.4 million to over 10 million. Many of the players that cancelled theirs out of dissatisfaction with the Mists of Pandaria expansion showed renewed interest with the arrival of Warlords, as well had players who quit pre-Cataclysm.
Once Blizzard had fought past those first two weeks, the issues decreased dramatically, the game played much more smoothly, and the players leveled happily.
The lore is amazing. The decision of the writers to return us to an old, “savage” Draenor (before the utter devastation occurred that turned it into Outland) was incredibly wise, revisiting nostalgic characters and locations that older players know, and teaching these stories to newer players. It’s not an exact rehash of prior events, considering the time travel involved gives everything a fresh twist.
Though a difficult sell in the beginning, Warlords has muscled its way into a position to drive World of Warcraft subscriptions (hopefully) through to the next expansion.
Now that you have a general feel for Warlords of Draenor, the latest expansion from World of Warcraft, how’s about we dive into the specifics?
All-important is the game play itself. Blizzard clearly put enormous effort into the promised updated character models, and it shows. The animations are smoother, facial expressions more vivid, and options for the models themselves more unique.
The environment artists certainly outdid themselves as well; the game feels immersive as ever. The detail and style of the creatures and world are spectacular, and the design of every model is rich with color and story.
What about the changes announced by the devs at Blizzcon 2013? Are they working well, do players like them, or are they just a waste of code?
- Reforging: gone. Reforging was an option introduced shortly before the Cataclysm expansion, essentially allowing players to slightly tailor their stats to their class specification or desired gameplay. While a great idea in theory, it was an absolute pain in practice. For every new piece of gear, a player would have to entirely recalculate their stats and track down a reforging NPC to apply them. It added an entire extra step to theorycrafting and was frustrating for almost everyone. I believe removing it entirely was a success.
- In place of reforging, gear now has random stats and certain types can be usable for all classes with that type. For instance, a piece of mail gear can have intellect on it, but be used by both hunters and shamans (for hunters, the intellect stats are grayed out and don’t apply).
- Hit and expertise: gone. These are two stats with caps that were a headache to manage and balance (especially when it came to reforging). I am incredibly happy they are no more. What confuses me is the introduction of two new stats in their place: multistrike and versatility, both of which have to do with chances for extra damage or healing. I do not see them as useful and I think theorycrafting would have been much simpler had they been left out.
- Garrisons. They’re somewhat comparable to the concept of housing in EverQuest. Garrisons have a lot of uses and features (too numerous to detail here), but in the end, I would chalk them off as a success. They allow you to collect gear and craft supplies that you may not have had the professions to access prior.
- No flying. In the past four expansions, after reaching max level, one was allowed to learn the flying ability for the newest continent. As of yet, there are no such plans for Draenor–the only way to get from one place to another is to run on your mount or use a flight path (although some clever toys have been implemented to help travel as well). I am very much in favor of this choice because, even if it takes slightly longer to reach your destination, you have the opportunity to take advantage of the amazing artwork and fun Easter eggs throughout the world. It keeps the immersive quality of the game intact.
- The last thing I’ll touch on is the major change to raids. At the end of Pandaria, a new kind of technology for tuning the difficulty to the raid group size was introduced, called “flex”. Instead of having a concrete number of ten or twenty-five people (and being screwed for the night if you didn’t), raid difficulty is now fluid, relative to the number the group has. All I have to say is, thank the gaming gods for this tech. I can remember so many raid nights that were called off because someone didn’t show, or having to sit people when too many showed up. The max is still twenty-five, but this allows guilds so much more freedom concerning their raid group size. Flex technology has been applied to both normal and heroic difficulties.
- A new difficulty, Mythic, has been added, referred to by players as “the new heroic”. This difficulty has a set raid size of twenty, forcing many ten-man guilds to combine or twenty-five man guilds to reduce their group size. I like the fact that there is now a more challenging tier to conquer, but the downside is that it requires each raider to be at their top potential, which not every guild can manage.
That would be the jist. There is so much more about the world, the gameplay, and class mechanics I could tell you, but it would be even more worth it to experience it all for yourself. (That, and I might blow a gasket.) So if Warlords has piqued your interest, pick up a copy, put your savage face on, and I will see you in-game.