World of Warcraft Warlords of Draenor: Review

World of Warcraft has never stopped being relevant, it’s just easy to be a cynical naysayer about the world’s best-selling MMO. After all, it always felt on some level like Blizzard was poaching the best features of competing games, releasing them in updates or expansions, and in a lot of ways Warlords of Draenor continues this tradition.

There’s the garrison: player housing is hardly new, Lord of The Rings Online has had this for years. Players can now acquire followers which they can send on quests, not unlike the systems we’ve already seen in Star Wars: The Old Republic and Neverwinter.  There’s an approximation of active combat systems, as seen previously in Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World… you get the idea.

The result however, is not a rambling Frankensteinian creation of parts stitched together and brought to life at the jolt of a broadband connection. It is measured, and tried, developed with the finesse we’ve come to expect from Blizzard, and dare we say it, great.

The new character models, for one, are stunning. Not in the scheme of recent competitors on a technical level, to be sure, but within the Warcrafty style they’re perfect, managing somehow to enhance the visual appeal of the entire world. Probably the second most important feature is a character boost. While WOD raises the level cap to 100, players may choose one character (existing or newly created) to launch immediately to the lofty heights of level 90. While this is undoubtedly confusing to both new players and those returning from hibernation, there’s a tutorial which serves as an introduction for everyone equally, dealing out concepts and abilities in a progressive and effective fashion.

In battle, it's very much the same old story: press hotkeys, wait for cooldowns. It does seem that more mobs use variously telegraphed area of attack abilities, necessitating the player stays mobile to avoid the worst of it. Where this works for Guild Wars 2, with its dodging, abilities, and skills usable on the move, so much of WOW’s offense requires standing still, it makes for a bizarre dance of cast, run away, face the enemy, cast again. It’s more challenging and interesting, but also more clumsy and annoying.
It is measured, and tried, developed with the finesse we've come to expect from Blizzard
The central element to WOD though, woven neatly into the narrative, is its garrison. Players establish a forward base on Draenor, which over time can be expanded and upgraded, the types of buildings chosen at the player's whim to best complement their class and skills.

It’s from here that the story really kicks off, as the main characters fight their battles, leading players on a tour of this new land. There are some impressive set-pieces and plot developments in what we’ve seen so far. WOD marks the first time in all the game’s history this reviewer can remember wanting to quest purely to see where the story would lead next.

It is probably the best written narrative since Warcraft 3’s Frozen Throne, with expositional cutscenes peppered throughout, and there’s also substantial voicework delivered en route to quest locations by NPCs, which adds depth and character to the world.

The chatter is a welcome respite from the still too frequent text-boxes of collect and kill-x quests, though rewards offered frequently tie back into the garrison, providing supplies required to expand, and followers with whom to quest.

Yes WOW finally has a companion mechanic, and similar to its implementation in Neverwinter, these guys can be sent on quests, gaining experience, resources, and items for the player. In a twist, to have the greatest chance of success quests frequently require a specific type of follower (or multiple followers for the tougher quests) who is able to counter the abilities of their opponent. Sending someone ill equipped may result in failure, wasting the small amount of resources required to send them, as well as the loss of the quest reward.

Followers can also be used to augment the functions of buildings in the garrison, though it would have been nice if they could have replaced player interaction here entirely. The down side of the garrison is that it adds to the daily activities required. To be efficient, players need to mine mines, harvest herbs, trap animals, and generally execute a bunch of work orders at each structure. It’s compulsive, time-consuming, and not appreciated.

New zones bring new unique garrison outposts which directly affect the type of abilities or buffs the player has at their disposal. For example, in Gorgrond building a Lumber Yard allows the possession of a Mechashredder 5000 vehicle, which delivers massive DPS, whereas choosing to instead build a Sparring Arena gives players an Arena Champion to fight alongside them and buff their damage abilities.

It’s a near flawless circle: game mechanics feeding story, feeding mechanics, and so on. There’s certainly no question: Warlord of Draenor is the best World of Warcraft has ever been. And with the low pings of Oceanic servers now located here in Oceania, the initial server overload issues resolved, and of course the character boost to level 90, there’s never been a better time to leap through a portal to Azeroth/Draenor.


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