Developer: Blizzard Entertainment | Released: 2014 | Genre: MMORPG, Fantasy
It didn’t take another 6 years to play the next World of Warcraft expansion like it did last time, more like 6 months or so. It helped that the theme was more interesting, the garrisons were enticing, and again it was another free expansion because of Legion being the one the masses focused on at the moment.
And most importantly, how did Draenor compare to Outland?
To get one thing right off the bat, I liked Warlords of Draenor more than Mists of Pandaria. There really is something to be said for how the darker story lines and enemies befit the game. I thought Pandaria was an interesting departure, but at the end of the day I feel more at home fighting orcs and demons in sinister landscapes. And Draenor had some amazing looking zones too.
Ironically, the first one for the alliance in Shadowmoon Valley was probably the least interesting. About halfway through the expansion I visited the first one for the horde players in Frostfire Ridge, and it was way more atmospheric. Snowy terrain with tilted cliffs and volcanic activity. It was wonderful riding around there, finding just one lonely alliance flight point NPC telling me I was a long way from home. Some of the temples and towns were conspicuously empty, but I guess phasing had something to do with that.
Gorgrond in north was the second zone. A few majestic palm trees in the northern part of it made for a weird first-hand impression since most of the middle and southern part was rocky terrain with lots of smoking volcanoes and hotspots. This area actually reminded me a little of the Thundering Steppes zone in EverQuest II, and that is certainly praise on my part. I loved that zone back when I visited its dried-up river beds and meteor crater landscape for the first time many years ago.
To the far north west, Iron Docks was brimming with the nastiest orcs you can imagine. Level 100 and with elite giants keeping them company. I was sent there on a mission a couple of times, both for the zone story as well as for the garrison, and it was the first of a few areas in this expansion I didn’t like all that much. A bit too hardcore for my liking.
Talador in the middle had strangely twisted trees with red leaves and two large Draenor cities, Auchindoun and Shrattrath, both of which were encapsulated in force fields. Only the surrounding areas and terraces were available. There was also a small fort in the north east corner that was kind of a small garrison home away from home. It later turned out that a lot of the zones in the expansion repeated this idea of arriving as a commander to a small fort, deciding what a new building should be out of two choices, then repeatedly returning for quests and bio break.
Although Spires of Arak wasn’t always easy to navigate because of the big spike cliffs in the north, it visually became one of my favorite zones. The spiky terrain in north was replaced by a dark forest in the middle, clearly inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien. To the east was a chain of reddish ponds with sickly white trees, and in the south a mad goblin town with lights and robots. For the most part, the quests and the story was delivered by the avian bird people known as the arakkoa – another refreshing change. In most of the other zones, humans and draenor were typically handling the quests.
I expected Nagrand to still be a grassy zone just as in Outland, and I wasn’t disappointed. The decision of one out of two buildings at the fort in this zone gave a choice between mounted combat or a personal tank. I chose the latter. It was great fun riding around in a tank with bombing and flamethrowers, but I also didn’t overuse it. Sometimes I saved it for the biggest boss fights. I liked that I could still loot in it.
After doing the story line quests in Nagrand, I got the lore achievement. I thought that was about the end of this expansion but then a mission set off from my garrison harbour led to the zone in east called Tanaan Jungle, and it had another bunch of PvE quests. I thought it was just a PvP area at first, but the all-knowing internet told me it was added in patch 6.2 as sort of a counterpart to the Timeless Isle in Mists of Pandaria. The orc resistance was quite rough in places here. Being swarmed by running orcs creating a gang bang of 3-4 at the same time wasn’t uncommon.
Most of the zones in this expansion had its beach or lake areas with enormous fungus. They were no doubt inspired by those of Zangarmarsh, a zone in the Burning Crusade, although here they were often partially submerged in water. Exploring Draenor was one of the interesting things to do in this expansion; to see how different it was from the cataclysmic Outland. Most of the zones were entirely different.
There was also Ashran, a small area of alliance war buildings in the far eastern end of the continent. It was the place to go for bank and auction, but it was annoying having to fly there. I was glad when I put up my own bank building in my garrison.
Which brings me to…
After completing the initial story line about closing and destroying the gates then reaching Shadowmoon Valley in a ship, the garrison was virtually imposed on my character. A few men entered through a mage portal and the first level of the garrison was put up. It was as I expected one of those expanding homes I’m not always fond of in RPG, but it was actually interesting to check out even though it also smelled like a tablet game. It helped a lot that I didn’t have to place and rotate furniture. Sometimes a type of building had to be decided and later expanded, but it was in big steps that ended with me signing off a floating document and boom, there it was with more perks and everything.
Later, the garrison even had a small harbour with ships I could build.
I chose two buildings for alchemy and jewelcrafting to complement my own enchanting and herbalism, and later also a bank. Just outside the garrison, a field for herbs, a mine, and a fishing pond popped up. I was amazed at the activity inside the fort; it was brimming with merchants, quest givers, work orders, a flight point, quartermasters and so much more. There was even an invasion at one point, which by the way was not easy. That’s where I learned that all the garrison quests were aligned with my level. Legion went up to level 110, but that wasn’t free yet so I was stuck at level 100.
Inside the main building of the garrison, I could send followers on missions to level them up with XP or bring home gear and resources. During the expansion, I sometimes acquired more followers, typically after completing certain steps of the zone stories. Apart from missions, a few could be assigned to the crafting buildings, and I even had a bodyguard. It was a dwarf with a robotic voice, and I tried bringing him along for a while in most of Spires of Arak. I wasn’t too impressed. It was the usual crap with a disappointingly low DPS and always getting in my way of clicking on hotspots and NPC’s.
Music while running around in the garrison varied from time to time, but I especially liked one bombastic piece that sounded like the good old style back from vanilla. It was called “Wolf at the Gates” and it was composed by the original man on the job – Jason Hayes. I’ve always thought his music was part of defining the game and always been a bit sad they didn’t keep using him. I wouldn’t be surprised if that garrison tune is one they had available back in vanilla that they never found a use for.
The music “Wolf at the Gates” by Jason Hayes. It really gets going at 1:43.
Not long after I first put up my garrison, I was given a quest to try the bronze level of the proving grounds. This felt way too difficult for me in a puzzling way. My DPS was too low to kill the later placeholders within the timeout. Then I switched to healing instead, using my old healing gear and going holy with the right talent points and spells in place. I arrogantly believed that I would have no problems with this given my past as a respectable healer in raids back in vanilla and beyond.
But even this proved to be impossible. The damage dealers in my training group took too much damage and I couldn’t keep up. Even so, one of them still apologized as he died.
Then I took a look at my gear. My retribution gear was just iLevel 523 and my healing gear was even worse. That explained it. It had to be way higher for these proving grounds. Plain mathematics; my numbers just didn’t cut it. I think it’s the consequence of having left the Pandaria at level 95 and reaching level 100 so fast without the gear keeping up. I decided to press on in the zones and upgrade my gear some more.
Eventually I returned when my iLevel was 588. Now DPS was possible and I won a nice weapon.
The quests were again dominated by killing ten bear asses, fetching or activating stuff, and killing bosses. Sometimes the quest giver would move to a different location in the meantime to make the progression feel more dynamic – especially in Spires of Arak. There were surprisingly few vehicle quests, and the few I tried were for the most part okay. Except for a hot seat quest where I had to use sort of a laser that was difficult to aim correctly. I thought they had skipped the role playing quest type altogether, but eventually a few did pop up in Spires of Arak. Luckily they were easy as I was in control of Talon King Terokk which had overpowered abilities.
At least until he met Kargath Bladefist – but that defeat was scripted.
One thing I quickly decided to skip was the bonus objectives that popped up in context of specific areas I entered, perhaps inspired by hearts in Guild Wars 2. I hit the level cap of 100 quickly and didn’t need them. Well, with a few exceptions perhaps. They still rewarded a lot of gold.
Some quests had peculiar bugs. After freeing the harbour in Shadowmoon Valley it went back to friendlies only, but I could still hear battle sounds down there. There was also another quest that ended with a group of draenor NPC in a town celebrating success. Almost all of these NPC were plain white with no textures on them. The best bug, however, was while chasing the mini-boss Gardul Venomshiv after beating him down for a while. He was supposed to flee and survive for a later rematch further ahead, but because I was level 100, I managed to “kill” him just as he was fading out.
I still met him later for the rematch, though. Or perhaps it was his twin brother?
There was also a pond with elementals in Nagrand where I found a fishing pole set up as a treasure to be found. Fishing soon flung me down underwater to fight a big fish boss, but after killing it a long line was stuck to me for the rest of the entire session. It looked really silly as I ran around killing stuff.
Memorable quests this time around, outside the zone stories? Well, there was that one in Gorgrond where I put on a suit to look like one of those rolling humanoids, after which I was zipping past the entire zone in tunnels underground. That was awesome. And I was grinning at the quest in Nagrand about catching a lot of critters that were clearly inspired by the movie Gremlins. They were messing with a lot of stuff in a small camp they weren’t supposed to. When I delivered the box of critters to a dwarf in my zone fort, he accidentally opened it and had to run for his life from a dozen of angry critters.
And one of the story line quests in Nagrand ended with a cutscene fight between two big orc names, one of which actually died. I’m not going to spoil whom in case you haven’t played this expansion yet.
Odds and ends
Just as in Pandaria, star icons could be found on the minimap for rare champions dropping nice loot. It felt like they were much easier than last time. Almost all of them were decimated in seconds. I even did all the boss quests that required three players in the earlier zones with no problems, although I decided to keep my distance at level cap. One champion named Yggdrel was bugged, however. He was surrounded by vines and they somehow got me stuck inside the 3D model of the champion itself. Escaping was impossible and I had to commit suicide. Then I just gave up and left him to piss off the next player passing by.
One thing I liked about the expansion was the single zone-specific ability I was given. It differed from zone to zone and was sometimes wildly overpowered, sometimes meh. Most of the time it just called upon one or more minions – the typical kind only sticking around for a short while and with a somewhat questionable DPS. In Spires of Arak, it was just a five minutes hearthstone to the fort. The tank in Nagrand I mentioned earlier was very nice, but by far the best one was in Talador. Here I was given an ability to drop bombs from above for quite a lot of damage. It killed the champions in mere seconds which felt really satisfying. If only I could have had that in all of Draenor.
I also liked being given profession books to raise the cap, regardless of old settings.
Back in the garrison, running around mining in the caves nearby was sometimes aided by picking up a preserved mining pick or a cup of coffee from mine carts. I discovered in a later visit that at least the coffee stacked for increased speed. Just like in real life.
Going meta, I somehow got annoyed by the field of view this time. It felt like I couldn’t see enough and wished my character was further down towards the bottom of the screen. It was odd since I don’t seem to have been annoyed by this before. I also discovered that I could show a small mini map in the bottom right corner, but it was too measly to be of much help. And I noticed that Draenor didn’t have a 24 hour day rhythm like in Azeroth. It was especially apparent in the garrison. Sometimes I had a night sky while playing in the early afternoon. The music in the zones was a mix of old and new which unfortunately made the expansion feel forced at times. Is it really that hard to ensure all new music for a new expansion?
I played the entire expansion without the ability to fly. Unlike in Mists of Pandaria, where flying just had a great cost in gold, an achievement of achievements have to be completed here to get this ability. It involves exploring all zones, doing all lore quests, getting revered with three factions and a whole lot more. I decided that it wasn’t worth the trouble pursuing this, knowing how I play World of Warcraft these days. As soon as I have completed the last bit in Tanaan Jungle, I don’t expect to return again anyway.
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World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
2014 Blizzard EntertainmentMMORPG 23