World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor Review
When will then be now?
Damn, it feels good to be back in Azeroth -- so far. World of Warcraft's fifth and latest expansion, Warlords of Draenor, has officially launched as of last night, and it's brought back the little rogue on my shoulder that says "Why are you going to bed? Just one more quest...Don't go to work either!!"
The perks of being on a low population server are limited to the release of expansions, while there were reports of queues to log on to WoW five hours before launch -- I didn't suffer from a single queue or lag. That isn't to say that the launch of Warlords of Draenor was smooth; half of Europe's servers went down and North America didn't fare all that well either, but my experiences with server issues were limited.
The biggest gripe I have is the bottlenecking. You'd think that after so many years of expansions Blizzard would know better than to push everyone into one area, but for lack of better reasoning, it happened yet again. At times, it was a battle to grab my quest under the mammoths, drakes and AFK individuals.
Warlords of Draenor starts off by bringing you into the Blasted Lands and through the Dark Portal. There's no dilly-dallying; it's straight to business. The business is stopping the Iron Horde from taking Azeroth with a band of about seven or eight heroes (Thrall included) against thousands of hell-bent Orcs. Blizzard brings you right into the story in a way says, "See, this isn't Mists of Pandaria. This isn't Cataclysm. This is Warlords of Draenor." Somewhere between the mix of the crunched numbers (smaller health pool on everything, smaller damage/heal numbers) and the way Blizzard approached the expansion brings you to a pre-Cata state -- which is nice.
The opening quests are pretty much the typical no-brainer, kill eight of that, collect nine of those -- the NPC's you're fighting don't always put up that much of a fight. My Death Knight's crits could knock a peon out in two hits, and I wasn't even in raid-worthy armor (I raided on my Priest prior to this expansion). The bigger targets can be a little trickier, but again the opening area is pretty easy (this might change later on in the quest line).
The environment in Draenor is beautifully done and feels exactly like a Warcraft game. I might only be speaking for myself, but Mists of Pandaria (while incredibly detailed) somehow felt less like Warcraft than its predecessors. Warlords of Draenor brings World of Warcraft back to itself solely in the design. There is some recycling when it comes to some barracks or huts, although recycling in these areas is to be expected -- I mean we are in a re-imagined Outlands after all (here's a comparison of Shattrath City and Black Temple from Outlands to Draenor and a map comparison between the two).
The character design for the NPC's is a mix of something new and something old. The Orcs themselves are familiar, the ogres are looking better than ever, and there are some new critters in Draenor (once I noticed them I knew I needed them as pets). I mentioned earlier that there was a pre-Cata feel -- the armor echoes that feeling. It's definitely not as flamboyant as previous armor, and the tier 17 armor only further proves it. It's much more simple, while retaining the feel of each class.
Draenor is painfully easy to traverse, so there's no chance of getting lost (as though you could ever get lost with the quest marker). I will note that I'm an explorer and I don't like being limited to specific areas. Once you leave the Dark Portal area to the very next quest hub, you cannot return to the Dark Portal. You will be ported back to quest hub and be told not to stray far. I see World of Warcraft as a game that allows me unlimited exploration. I can swim until I die of fatigue. I damn well expect to be able to walk back to the Dark Portal.
Garrisons, dungeons and raids...
I've been around WoW for a couple expansions, I am a Wrath baby - I have no shame in stating that.
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