I know it’s been a while since I promised this, but like I said, I wanted to make sure I am as objective as I can be while looking at all the available information. Some others, including people who stumble upon my blog while searching for “meta gems warlords of draenor” or just by looking through Warcraft tag on WordPress, might think quite the opposite – that I’m jumping the gun, that I don’t know enough about the expansion to honestly review it. And they may be right, but that’s why I make it clear I’m reviewing the information as announced on BlizzCon (plus certain additional information revealed around the same time).
I first wanted to do this review because on the first day of BlizzCon I was livid. The expansion announcement was such a big disappointment to me, for one evening I descended into raging more akin to my internet friend Quirnheim (hi, if you’re reading this) than the more elaborate criticism I try to be known for. There were many reasons I was disappointed, including no playable Arakkoa despite the perfect chance to do it, but there were reasons that made me just plain angry at how incompetent they seem to be, releasing an expansion with next to nothing new to play. I may have calmed down and will no longer proclaim “This will be a disaster! This will be worse than Cataclysm!” but I still think the prospects are looking pretty bad. Want to know why? Then read on.
Disclaimer: If you can’t handle criticism of your “favourite game” and “this amazing expansion”, do not read on. I do not want people in my comment section just calling me whiny or childish or other personal attacks because I dared criticize your game. If you have feedback, do it constructively, or I will delete the comment and (depending on severity of your aggressiveness) may then ban you. You have been warned.
I don’t want to jump straight to the negativity. I want to first talk about things I like in Warlords of Draenor, so that any person that bothered to read the post will not proclaim me a “whiner” or “rager”. There are things I like about the expansion, just not enough to find it a good one.
Garrisons: This is by far the best feature they announced. Probably big enough to replace a new profession, it actually sounds good and may alone be the reason to buy the expansion. I’m not sure how much actual gameplay will it suck out of me, but I know for sure I will try, just for this thing.
It’s pretty much player housing, and almost exactly in the way I always wanted it. Plus followers! Followers are great. I can see collecting followers becoming as addictive as collecting mounts or pets. Especially if there are multiple ways of acquiring them – the inn, rare drops, auction house, etc. Building my base and collecting various humanoids to serve me – this is actually great!
Stat changes: That is another great change. With Reforge and all the small, annoying stats being gone, I might try to get into some real end game dungeons again. Now when I get that heroic 5-man piece, I won’t have to worry about googling the right enchant, the right gems, the right stats to reforge, etc. Many pieces I will be able to just pick up and put on. Some of them will have pretty straightforward choices for enchants and gems.
And some of the new minor stats? Movement speed! Items immune to durability damage! AVOIDANCE! These are actually fun. I mean, I still don’t really know what hit and expertise do, I just knew I had to hit a certain cap for both of them to begin having fun (read: to stop asshole tanks from harassing me throughout the dungeon run).
The new group finder: Apparently that’s something already done by an addon called oQueue, which I never used, but having a less automated “character browser” will be nice if I ever decide to do the content that you can’t just queue for. Maybe I could even use it to find some in-game friends that could help me get better at actually playing the game, because the toxic LFD environment is not doing it.
UI improvements: I will not complain about those. Giving heirlooms and toys their own collection tabs is what they should have done long ago, and the exact solution I always said they should do for a while. It’s not something I care about deeply, but relieving some of my bag space will certainly be a nice thing. And the new quest log appears to be some really good (albeit minor) convenience.
Level 100 cap: That’s mostly good. I could be worried how long would it take to get to level 100, but they assured me they no longer want levelling to be a long grind, so I’m gonna believe them. For now.
Item Squish: I don’t really care about it either way. I don’t mind the large numbers flying – when I’m in that part of combat, all those numbers blur into one giant yellow-white mess that I won’t recall five seconds later; regardless of those numbers saying 10,000 or 10,000,000. I agree the game might have needed it for the sake of other people’s enjoyment, so I won’t complain. (But as you can see, we’re starting to go downhill)
PvP changes: Trial of the Gladiator, Ashran, etc. – I don’t give a single damn about these. I never did PvP, and I’m not going to start now. It’s just not the kind of thing I enjoy. Having next to no experience with PvP, I also won’t state any judgement on this. Maybe it’s good, maybe it isn’t.
Raid format changes: I’m mostly neutral about these things, because I don’t know much about top-end raiding. I kind of like the idea of flexible tech in most raid difficulties… but then there is 20 man “mythic”.
First thing, changing the names will only cause confusion. Second thing, didn’t they stay they never want to go through changing numbers of people in raids again to avoid the drama that happened with switch to 25 and the introduction of 10s? Let me tell you what’s going to happen when the expansion releases. The 25 guilds will drop five people each. Five people that had about 3 (not 3,000; 3) dps less in the beta. The 10-man guilds will scramble desperately to find new recruits. Many won’t find any good ones and will fall apart. Those that do survive the change, will not be the same again. All this drama is not worth just more convenient number scaling.
Updated character models: I know people have been waiting for this for a long time, so many are probably happy about it. But let me tell you something: the new models will be in regardless of you buying the expansion or not, so Blizzard earns $0 by implementing them. You know what including them causes? No new playable races, which are a BIG selling point for new expansions. New character models add NO new gameplay. They bring NO profits. Although wanted by many players, they are ultimately a waste of resources and damaging to game’s replayability in the long run.
Seven new dungeons, two new raids: Seven. Only FOUR for levelling. FOUR dungeons for entire ten levels. And then only three new ones at level cap. And raids? TWO. This is less than Mists of Pandaria, which had less than Cataclysm, which had less than… etc. etc. This is a troubling trend. With every expansion, we get less and less dungeons and raids. I could almost explain it in Cataclysm, with all the revamps of low-level content it had, but Mists of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor do not have that luxury. What is happening up there?
No flying on Draenor until 6.1: I made up my mind yesterday, among much controversy, that I won’t be buying the expansion until 6.1 because of this particular “feature”. One reason is that this shows a troubling trend to delay flying more than last expansion. Last time we were told “no flying until level cap”. If this trend continues, one day we’ll be told “no flying this expansion at all”. So to stop them from trying to “ease me” into the thought of losing flying, I decided that every time they delay flying I will delay buying the expansion for the same time, even if it means not buying a certain expansion at all.
Why do I feel so strongly about this particular feature? Because flying at level 70 in the Burning Crusade was a godsend. Getting flying at 60 later on and being able to skip annoying packs of mobs was an amazing feeling. Many quests in Hellfire Peninsula expected you to mow through literally hundreds of mobs, tightly packed and quickly respawning, to get to one objective. Then mow through them again on your way out. And then surprise, you’re getting another objective in the same place. WoW hasn’t been getting better in this regard. End game zones are only tolerable when you can skip past all the arbitrary obstacles and unintentional gauntlets. I refuse to go through endgame as it is shaping now without flying.
Does that somehow make me “childish” as some people suggested yesterday? Only if adults force themselves to play games they don’t find fun. WoW’s end game zone design is not fun at all when you can’t fly, and I’m not going to force myself through hours of grinding teeth on these frustrating experiences.
Free level 90 character: WHAT? Who thought this is a good idea? I know they’re trying to get people to “real endgame” faster. I know they’re trying to make WoD a “reboot” for the game, so you can play pretty much with just it. But this? This is a bad idea.
Oh, you’ll get a special starting experience, similar to Death Knight starting zone? I don’t think that helps the idea at all. Sure, DK starting zone was fun to play but it didn’t teach me anything. After leaving it, I just spammed the abilities on my action bar in a fairly random order. I had no idea about diseases or how to manage runic power because the zone told me nothing about actual gameplay. And should I remind you all about the level 58 DK tanks in Upper Blackrock Spire who don’t even have their tanking abilities, or even if they had them, have no idea how to use them properly?
No new classes and no new races: Well, this is terrible. There’s no new characters to play. Everything that Warlords of Draenor delivers is at level 90+. The only incentive to buy the expansion for a new player is that free level 90, which as I already said will produce tons of clueless people (more clueless than I). But that’s ONE free level 90. After they’re done with that one character and start thinking of alts, they will discover they have to go through the entire grind this time. What do you think will this do? Encourage them to try it? Cause them to shell out cash for an additional free 90? No, they’ll just drop the alt and when they get bored with their main, they leave the game.
And for me personally, it’s even worse. One of the things that I do most in WoW is just levelling alt after alt. I would love nothing more than new races or classes to play, even if they weren’t Arakkoa or Ogres. All I’ll have left in WoD will be finishing levelling the already existing alts, and then… I guess I leave again?
“Boo-hoo, little whiny kid. Would you rather have new character models, which are practically 10 new races, or just two completely new races?” I would rather have two completely new races. First, models =/= races. New character models bring NO new gameplay. I could already play all those races and classes, making them have a couple more polygons won’t make me suddenly want to play a disgusting male undead with his blood-curdling screams. Essentially, Blizzard spent resources worth the gameplay of 10 new races on 0 new races.
Retcons: This is the single worst part about Warlords of Draenor. The one thing that almost out-weighs the Garrisons and makes me want to spend not a single penny on it. Unnecessary retcons that bring absolutely nothing to the game. I don’t mind adding new background to old clans, like Shattered Hand being rebel slaves of an Ogre Empire. The geographic retcons are far more striking.
For start, we were told on BlizzCon that Zangarmarsh hasn’t formed yet. How? The draenei were hiding in it from the Horde right about this time period. What about the Sporelings? Are they retconned out or are we supposed to believe they only evolved in the past 30 years? What about the draenei ruins that predate the rise of the Horde?
We also learn that Blade’s Edge Mountains have formed when, during Draenor’s cataclysmic explosion, Frostfire Ridge collapsed into Gorgrond, creating the spiky, mountainous area of the current Outland zone. Wait, what? Blade’s Edge already existed, and was spiky, back in the Second War, as this is where the Alliance, with Gruul’s help, confronted Deathwing.
Terokkar Forest somehow became Talador, the “heart of draenei civilization”. TEROKKar Forest. The entire zone that used to be the core territory of the Arakkoa was turned into draenei playground, despite past references to the contrary. That one stings me personally – Arakkoa are getting shoved into a single zone on the edge of the world (which ironically bears striking resemblance to Darksworn Weald from my own fan map).
There are more, but I think I already made my point.
This is looking pretty bad overall. There are some redeeming factors, one which might be enough for some people to enjoy this expansion, but there are enough to cause serious problems for various people from all walks of Warcraft life. I still firmly believe that once the initial shininess of “cool! new stuff!” wears off, the expansion will slowly bleed out and when the next one is announced, we will yet again hear “Yeah, sorry guys, we goofed up again.”