Warlords of Draenor: Key Features and Opinions
Well in case all the news about the new consoles has blinded you to all the other gaming news in the last couple of weeks, I thought I might point out the very obvious fact that yet another World of Warcraft expansion – Warlords of Draenor – was announced at Blizzcon earlier this month.
I mean, yes, I know everyone hates WoW now and its so old and overdone and why won’t we let it die already and I am never going back this time for real and so on and so on – but I have to say I enjoy my infrequent excursions back to the game at the start of each expansion. It’s a revitalizing time where everyone gets to begin anew (to some extent) and I can usually deceive myself for a month or two before the monotony of the semi-different but largely more of the same gameplay prompts me to head back out the door.
So how are we deceiving ourselves this time around?
Well basically, in a very strategic move lore wise but a less than subtle move story wise, we are revisiting the home planet of the orcs, Draenor, during an alternate timeline which allows our own timeline to remain intact and unaffected by our actions in the past of the alternate timeline while still letting us experience all the characters from legend that we have become familiar with over the course of the Warcraft series.
Sound confusing? Well it kind of is. But putting it all aside, we are basically going to a whole new world with a much bigger focus on story (wait wasn’t Mists focused on story?) that actually matters (burn). And I thought I’d share a few of my opinions on the main features with you.
Draenor and Time Traveling
Well I basically covered this above, but it’s very clear to me that the whole back in time trip is more about getting to reuse set storylines and characters which already popular and less about intricate storytelling. It lets us go to some revamped (or “built from scratch”) Outland areas and a few whole new areas in an intact but separate world – something never experienced before in the series – and whether or not the storyline is strong enough to support the premise, I think I’ll enjoy the change of scenery enough not to worry too deeply about thin plots or potential holes in the space time continuum.
This is a no-brainer really. We have been waiting for new models (with facial features that actually work!) for years now and the new models, while a step more in the cartoony direction, look perfectly acceptable for an upgrade. I mean, there will always be some people who bitch and moan about how they loved the way that they looked – but this is a large minority at best.
This isn’t being heavily advertised (as in you have to do a bit of forum reading to find it) but this expansion also brings in the long-awaited item squish. Essentially Blizzard is reducing the numbers displayed by spells and abilities (as well as health and mana bars) to a fraction of what they are now, counteracting the inflation of these numbers over the last decade or so. So instead of your Fireball hitting for 500,000 damage – it will hit for 3000. Instead of your warrior having 800,000 health – he will have 5000. Power levels are unaffected so this is basically a cosmetic change, and definitely one for the better. My hope is that it will bring back a bit of that Vanilla WoW vibe that everyone has been craving for the last five years or so.
New and Removed Stats
So we are losing some stats and gaining some new ones. Hit, Expertise, Dodge and Parry are gone. Instead we have Lifesteal, Speed, Cleave, Avoidance and Sturdiness. Basically we lose the stacking stats for tank characters (which were often more like checklists) and instead get Avoidance (which reduces area of effect damage) Cleave (for spread damage across targets) Speed (movement speed increase) and Lifesteal (which… steals life). I’m all for the changes, having been a tank who used a Haste build before – the old tanking stats were boring and led to uninspired play. Having new stats means all kinds of new combinations and really freshens up the feeling of getting new gear, although the balance is easily upset in the metagame so I’m interested to see the impact these will have.
This is a controversial one. By allowing a free and instantly leveled 90 character just buy purchasing an account, not only has Blizzard basically condoned buying semi-max level characters – but they have opened the floodgates for anyone to get into the endgame with little to no prior knowledge of the game. Luckily the pool is pretty dry for players at the moment, so I don’t actually think this will affect us all as much as we think. Sure a few noobs will get a free 90, but equally a lot more old players are likely to come back because they know they can skip right to where their friends are up to and jump right into the action. I’m all for it.
Last but not least we have Garrisons. Now these customizeable (although instanced) towns are under your control and basically allow you to put a little more Warcraft into your World of Warcraft. By offering useful rewards to players who upgrade and customize their towns, building up your own little simcity is both engaging and handy for end game play – although I’m already worried about the level of freedom in the activities and customization. To be honest, I’m on the fence about this feature – it has the capacity to be really interesting, but equally I think it’s something I’ll probably overlook until I really need to get something out of it. I’m hoping that’s not the case but we’ll have to see.