World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor

World of Warcraft. Making geologists cry since 2004.

World of Warcraft: Making geologists cry since 2004.

Draenor is Blizzard going back to World of Warcraft's roots. Bleak as it became by the end, Mists of Pandaria was something of a holiday after broken Outland, the armies of the Lich King and the cataclysmic threat of Deathwing. It was cheery. It was sunny. There were comedy pandas, in arguably the biggest joke gone too far since Boris Johnson. Warlords of Draenor means business. It's the expansion about reminding us why orcs were once Azeroth's biggest threat, and giving them one hell of an upgrade as we head back in time to see them at the height of their power.

 

This expansion takes no prisoners. If you remember being impressed by the welcome on the steps of the Dark Portal (a huge gate in space and time that sounds impressive, but has been an "Oh yeah, we have one of those..." for the last few years) back in The Burning Crusade, get ready for a welcome that multiplies it by a factor of 'goddamn'. The portal is now a terrifying, pulsing gateway big enough to send whole armies into battle, and those armies are waiting for exactly that chance—along with a tank called "The Worldbreaker" for good measure. Meet the Iron Horde, an alternate history version of the Orcs that didn't drink demon blood for power and then find it's not easy being green. Instead, they've teamed up with Garrosh "Wow Did I Screw Up Last Time" Hellscream to try and rewrite time itself.

The new character models are nice, but more 'not rubbish' than impressive.
The new character models are nice, but more 'not rubbish any more' than impressive.

Aside from that vista, the intro missions aren't as cool as some that Blizzard has made in the past, though they do set a pace that continues in at least the first zone. Mechanically, so far at least, they're business as usual. Collect 10 that, kill 20 that, take out a big boss or man a turret, or whatever happens to be worth the next squirt of XP. This time though, Blizzard is pushing two things—the scale, with whole tribes clashing as early as the first zone, and the feeling of importance that you honestly deserve. While before characters would sniff and yawn before giving you crapwork, now they call you Champion, and speak truths like "Is that Seneschal? They say she's the greatest mage that ever was!" Before, uh, giving you crapwork.

But hey, it's the thought that counts!

There's a time to fight, and a time to run. This is a time to run.
There's a time to fight, and a time to run. This is a time to run.

I'm not as far into Draenor as I was hoping to be by this point—again, this is first impressions, review in progress, not our full review, which will be coming soon. That's because of some unfortunate technical issues, from the inevitable difficulty logging in at the start of the expansion, to killer lag, to a few weirder things like ending up alone in a deserted landscape. At the moment things are playable, but still glitchy, with the usual teething problems like too many heroes not leaving enough mobs to go around.

What I've seen so far though is promising. The Horde's first zone is Frostfire Ridge, which would later become Blade's Edge Mountains for players who remember The Burning Crusade. (Time travel plots do not lend themselves to fluid sentences.) Alliance players meanwhile start over in Shadowmoon Valley, which we previously saw as the very different... uh... Shadowmoon Valley. This version of it looks a hell of a lot nicer than that green wasteland though, just as Frostfire Ridge is a far more interesting place on this visit—valleys of ice scattered with pools of lava beneath a vivid sky, dominated by cruel ogres and the weapons of war.

Feel the horror of a really chilly nipple, monster scum!
Feel the horror of a really chilly nipple, monster scum!

Draenor immediately gets started with the big, big enemies—giants like the son of Gruul, introduced being held back by about five straining orcs—and impressive fights. Before the starting mission is over you've fought through an arena where you and your team have to take out a hundred orcs, and it's not long after that before you're teaming up with Thrall and watching him blow a whole army away with his elemental powers. Where you'd normally run through a cavern to get to the first real boss, the ruler of Bladespire Fortress, now you run up a long hill with huge fiery boulders rolling down into your face. There's plenty of generic combat and encounters too, of course, but Blizzard hasn't run out of cool things to do with its template.

Well, clearly you don't need ME...
Well, clearly you don't need ME...

Something I really like about this expansion too is that it doesn't waste your time before getting to the good stuff. For starters, everyone who buys it can boost one character to Level 90, and I entirely approve of this. Draenor is where all the action is going to be for the foreseeable future, so there's no point forcing new players to work their way there through four expansions of almost entirely deserted, lonely terrain—though it's all still there if they want to experience what came before. If it's Draenor that interests new players though, then paying their entrance fee should give them Draenor. There's enough in-game tutorial now to teach everyone the nature of their class just fine, especially now many mechanics have been simplified and the basic interface upgraded with most of the information a regular player needs. There is no good reason not to get everyone battle-fit, especially at this point in WoW's life.

Mwah-ha-ha. Now it is I that issues the crapwork!
Mwah-ha-ha. Now it is I that issues the crapwork!

More importantly though, Draenor's biggest addition—the Garrison—is introduced almost immediately once past the introductory mission. I'm still pretty early on through the campaign, but so far I like this a lot. I like the little detail that it has my character's name on it. I like the new mechanics it adds, both sending followers out on missions (each one has specialities that affect their success) and what I've seen of what building it up offers in terms of unlockables. There's a lot of building blueprints to find or buy, which can both improve the base itself, and give you extra abilities and toys to play with. For building your first Barracks for instance, you get a skill called Call To Arms that magically summons some assistance in battle. 

This is particularly fun as a Frost Mage, meaning that a tough enemy can be left facing the combined force of (deep breath) myself, my Mirror Images, a Water Elemental, and a couple of archers. That's a pretty satisfying amount of firepower to bring to bear. Or should that be frostpower? Whatever.

Garrisons are however the most glitched part of the game right now, with it often not possible to even travel to them, never mind do anything inside. Hopefully Blizzard will get that and its other issues under control soon, though it seems, ah, unlikely that this weekend's inevitable population flood is going to help things. Players have also been vocal about pre-launch problems having predicted much of this in advance, though coming to it fresh, I can't say to what extent Blizzard deserves a rap on the knuckles versus this just being the usual MMO teething problems.

Aw, poor Rogg.
Aw, poor Rogg.

On a wider level though, so far I'm not feeling as invested in Horde lore as Blizzard likes to assume. The intro mission is full of the titular warlords appearing with dramatic oh-shit title cards like "BLACKHAND" and "KARGATH" and "KILROGG", and the correct response is probably not "Oh, god, I'm never going to remember all these bloody warlords." My alternate title so far remains World of Warcraft: Too Many Orcs.

It's early though, and a good chance to actually dig into the lore in more interesting ways than simply reading a Wiki. I'm very curious to know what effect the whole alternate timeline will have. It could well be just a reset, but that would be very boring given how closely linked this story is with that of the Burning Legion that's been waiting in the wings for a decade now, and how much scope there is to do something really interesting, like have the orcs on each server decide their ancestors' fate and have that ripple out into what follows. I'm not outright expecting that or anything, just pondering that it would be more interesting than just another raid boss.

Oooooh. Uh. Sorry, wrong... wrong Dark Portal. We'll be going back now.
Oooooh. Uh. Sorry, wrong... wrong Dark Portal. We'll be going back now.

So far then, Draenor is proving pleasantly surprising... when it works, at least. It's been a while since I was last in World of Warcraft, and I'm enjoying the nostalgia factor of being back with my mage and going on a fresh adventure, and so far the adventure is proving worthwhile. If you've burned out on Azeroth then the new stuff isn't likely to drag you back, but it's a good start for this new, old world. Full verdict coming as soon as possible, but needless to say, I've got a lot more questing to do before then.

 

All Rights Reserved. PCGAMER.COM

Richard Cobbett

 

 

World of Warcraft. Making geologists cry since 2004.
World of Warcraft: Making geologists cry since 2004.

Draenor is Blizzard going back to World of Warcraft's roots. Bleak as it became by the end, Mists of Pandaria was something of a holiday after broken Outland, the armies of the Lich King and the cataclysmic threat of Deathwing. It was cheery. It was sunny. There were comedy pandas, in arguably the biggest joke gone too far since Boris Johnson. Warlords of Draenor means business. It's the expansion about reminding us why orcs were once Azeroth's biggest threat, and giving them one hell of an upgrade as we head back in time to see them at the height of their power.

This expansion takes no prisoners. If you remember being impressed by the welcome on the steps of the Dark Portal (a huge gate in space and time that sounds impressive, but has been an "Oh yeah, we have one of those..." for the last few years) back in The Burning Crusade, get ready for a welcome that multiplies it by a factor of 'goddamn'. The portal is now a terrifying, pulsing gateway big enough to send whole armies into battle, and those armies are waiting for exactly that chance—along with a tank called "The Worldbreaker" for good measure. Meet the Iron Horde, an alternate history version of the Orcs that didn't drink demon blood for power and then find it's not easy being green. Instead, they've teamed up with Garrosh "Wow Did I Screw Up Last Time" Hellscream to try and rewrite time itself.

The new character models are nice, but more 'not rubbish' than impressive.
The new character models are nice, but more 'not rubbish any more' than impressive.

Aside from that vista, the intro missions aren't as cool as some that Blizzard has made in the past, though they do set a pace that continues in at least the first zone. Mechanically, so far at least, they're business as usual. Collect 10 that, kill 20 that, take out a big boss or man a turret, or whatever happens to be worth the next squirt of XP. This time though, Blizzard is pushing two things—the scale, with whole tribes clashing as early as the first zone, and the feeling of importance that you honestly deserve. While before characters would sniff and yawn before giving you crapwork, now they call you Champion, and speak truths like "Is that Seneschal? They say she's the greatest mage that ever was!" Before, uh, giving you crapwork.

But hey, it's the thought that counts!

There's a time to fight, and a time to run. This is a time to run.
There's a time to fight, and a time to run. This is a time to run.

I'm not as far into Draenor as I was hoping to be by this point—again, this is first impressions, review in progress, not our full review, which will be coming soon. That's because of some unfortunate technical issues, from the inevitable difficulty logging in at the start of the expansion, to killer lag, to a few weirder things like ending up alone in a deserted landscape. At the moment things are playable, but still glitchy, with the usual teething problems like too many heroes not leaving enough mobs to go around.

What I've seen so far though is promising. The Horde's first zone is Frostfire Ridge, which would later become Blade's Edge Mountains for players who remember The Burning Crusade. (Time travel plots do not lend themselves to fluid sentences.) Alliance players meanwhile start over in Shadowmoon Valley, which we previously saw as the very different... uh... Shadowmoon Valley. This version of it looks a hell of a lot nicer than that green wasteland though, just as Frostfire Ridge is a far more interesting place on this visit—valleys of ice scattered with pools of lava beneath a vivid sky, dominated by cruel ogres and the weapons of war.

Feel the horror of a really chilly nipple, monster scum!
Feel the horror of a really chilly nipple, monster scum!

Draenor immediately gets started with the big, big enemies—giants like the son of Gruul, introduced being held back by about five straining orcs—and impressive fights. Before the starting mission is over you've fought through an arena where you and your team have to take out a hundred orcs, and it's not long after that before you're teaming up with Thrall and watching him blow a whole army away with his elemental powers. Where you'd normally run through a cavern to get to the first real boss, the ruler of Bladespire Fortress, now you run up a long hill with huge fiery boulders rolling down into your face. There's plenty of generic combat and encounters too, of course, but Blizzard hasn't run out of cool things to do with its template.

Well, clearly you don't need ME...
Well, clearly you don't need ME...

Something I really like about this expansion too is that it doesn't waste your time before getting to the good stuff. For starters, everyone who buys it can boost one character to Level 90, and I entirely approve of this. Draenor is where all the action is going to be for the foreseeable future, so there's no point forcing new players to work their way there through four expansions of almost entirely deserted, lonely terrain—though it's all still there if they want to experience what came before. If it's Draenor that interests new players though, then paying their entrance fee should give them Draenor. There's enough in-game tutorial now to teach everyone the nature of their class just fine, especially now many mechanics have been simplified and the basic interface upgraded with most of the information a regular player needs. There is no good reason not to get everyone battle-fit, especially at this point in WoW's life.

Mwah-ha-ha. Now it is I that issues the crapwork!
Mwah-ha-ha. Now it is I that issues the crapwork!

More importantly though, Draenor's biggest addition—the Garrison—is introduced almost immediately once past the introductory mission. I'm still pretty early on through the campaign, but so far I like this a lot. I like the little detail that it has my character's name on it. I like the new mechanics it adds, both sending followers out on missions (each one has specialities that affect their success) and what I've seen of what building it up offers in terms of unlockables. There's a lot of building blueprints to find or buy, which can both improve the base itself, and give you extra abilities and toys to play with. For building your first Barracks for instance, you get a skill called Call To Arms that magically summons some assistance in battle. 

This is particularly fun as a Frost Mage, meaning that a tough enemy can be left facing the combined force of (deep breath) myself, my Mirror Images, a Water Elemental, and a couple of archers. That's a pretty satisfying amount of firepower to bring to bear. Or should that be frostpower? Whatever.

Garrisons are however the most glitched part of the game right now, with it often not possible to even travel to them, never mind do anything inside. Hopefully Blizzard will get that and its other issues under control soon, though it seems, ah, unlikely that this weekend's inevitable population flood is going to help things. Players have also been vocal about pre-launch problems having predicted much of this in advance, though coming to it fresh, I can't say to what extent Blizzard deserves a rap on the knuckles versus this just being the usual MMO teething problems.

Aw, poor Rogg.
Aw, poor Rogg.

On a wider level though, so far I'm not feeling as invested in Horde lore as Blizzard likes to assume. The intro mission is full of the titular warlords appearing with dramatic oh-shit title cards like "BLACKHAND" and "KARGATH" and "KILROGG", and the correct response is probably not "Oh, god, I'm never going to remember all these bloody warlords." My alternate title so far remains World of Warcraft: Too Many Orcs.

It's early though, and a good chance to actually dig into the lore in more interesting ways than simply reading a Wiki. I'm very curious to know what effect the whole alternate timeline will have. It could well be just a reset, but that would be very boring given how closely linked this story is with that of the Burning Legion that's been waiting in the wings for a decade now, and how much scope there is to do something really interesting, like have the orcs on each server decide their ancestors' fate and have that ripple out into what follows. I'm not outright expecting that or anything, just pondering that it would be more interesting than just another raid boss.

Oooooh. Uh. Sorry, wrong... wrong Dark Portal. We'll be going back now.
Oooooh. Uh. Sorry, wrong... wrong Dark Portal. We'll be going back now.

So far then, Draenor is proving pleasantly surprising... when it works, at least. It's been a while since I was last in World of Warcraft, and I'm enjoying the nostalgia factor of being back with my mage and going on a fresh adventure, and so far the adventure is proving worthwhile. If you've burned out on Azeroth then the new stuff isn't likely to drag you back, but it's a good start for this new, old world. Full verdict coming as soon as possible, but needless to say, I've got a lot more questing to do before then.

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