The Drums Of War
Funny little story to start things off: years ago during the second year of The Burning Crusade expansion for World of Warcraft I began playing as the result of a bet gone south. My friends who raved about this game at the time kept trying to get me to play it, and I finally said that I would try it and bet that it wouldn't be as good as they thought it was. So almost 7 years later, I think it's safe to say that the bet backfired. For almost seven years I've been with World of Warcraft, I've seen it through great highs and great lows, and all along the way I've found things that I've loved and hated. So where does the latest installment to the MMORPG stand? Let me tell you.
Quests, Quests, Quests!
The first two days of the expansion were very rough, though not due to the fault of the expansion itself thankfully. Once past that speed bump, I was to embark on one of the greatest adventures in World of Warcraft yet from a leveling standpoint, as players are now treated to the most narrative driven experience yet in the game. While avoiding major spoilers for this expansion for those who may be interested, it's still necessary to backtrack somewhat to establish why and where we're at.
At the end of the previous expansion pack, Garrosh Hellscream was to be put on trial for war crimes. As this played out over the course of the book War Crimes to bridge the gap between the expansions, there came a point where Garrosh escaped through not just time, but also space. That is what brings us to Draenor, one of a different timeline and not the past of 'our' Draenor. Confused yet? You may be, but it makes more sense playing it than trying to explain it in a few short major-spoiler avoiding sentences.
As an Alliance player, my road to level 100 took me from the war torn Tanaan Jungle to the oddly serene Shadowmoon Valley, far north to a land of giants and jungles in Gorgrond, then south I went through Talador and the Spires of Arak before finally my journey took me to Nagrand. Along the way while I still dealt with many of the 'Kill 'A' Amount Of 'B' almost all of the quests had something unique and drawing to them, including most of the kill farming quests. There are even quite a few side-story quests, the one that stood out the most being those that give insight on the mysterious Arrakoa, a race of avian beings that first premiered during the Burning Crusade expansion. Overall, leveling to 100 took just short of 15 hours which to me seemed a little fast considering it was about the same amount of time to get from 85 to 90 in the previous expansion.
Dungeons and Ogres
But of course, questing and leveling isn't all players have to look forward to. With every new expansion also come new dungeons. With every new expansion also come the complaints of them being either too hard or too easy. This time around, I feel Blizzard got the dungeons exactly right on the difficulty. In both normal and heroic difficulties, there's finally been a return to the good old days of "DO NOT STAND IN THE FIRE". While many of the bosses are still a matter of tanking and spanking, at least now they pose a threat to the groups.
So just how many new dungeons are we getting this time around? Seven, and one remake of a dungeon. All of them but one are visually appealing and exciting, but the starting dungeon for the expansion quickly becomes a boring experience. Luckily, the other dungeons do not suffer from this, offering unique mechanics and encounters to keep things interesting. Heroic difficulty as usual doesn't change much in the dungeons other than how hard the enemies hit, so there's not much to mention about that. Raid content doesn't start unlocking until December so I cannot comment on how good or bad the raids are this time around.
So, What's New?
Every World of Warcraft expansion adds on something to go along with the new quest content, dungeons and loot. That's the same case here, however, it comes in the polarizing form of Garrisons. Garrisons basically serve as a base of operations for your character as you level, and the more work you put into it the more you get out of it. I was worried prior to release that this was mostly going to be a useless gold sink, but I admit I was wrong.
Garrisons themselves operate on a simple structure of upgrading. You pick a building you want to build on a plot of land, you go through the time and effort to make sure you have both the resources and the gold, and then you build. Each building has three level tiers, with the third and final offering the most in return. As you progress through the expansion, you'll watch your base grow from a small hovel to a large castle. It's not quite the player housing that people have asked for over the years, but it's certainly more useful.
A Bright Future
There is a lot of vanity to the process. I admit I like it when my layout looks good, but there's a lot of strategy to it as well. The perfect set up of buildings for your character can help ensure prosperity throughout the expansion. There are also followers this time around, which you can dispatch out on missions for rewards such as gold, experience or even more resources to build with. Will Garrisons affect the in-game economy? To an extent I imagine it will, but only time will tell. In the meantime, the Garrisons themselves seem like something everyone level 90 and above can enjoy.
In my time with World of Warcraft, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Warlords of Draenor is the best expansion yet to the game. In a matter of trial and error over the last few expansions, it seems like they've taken the best traits of them all and disposed of most of the negative ones. Designed in such a way that it appeals to both the most hardcore players and the casual now-and-then players, Warlords of Draenor is the much needed breath of fresh air that the game has been needing for some time now. Hopefully the soon to be released raids and content patches match the rest of the expansion in quality..
New Zones are amazing, Quests are more story driven and varied, Dungeons are at just about the right level of difficulty now, Garrisons are an interesting addition to the gameplay.
Garrisons may have negative impact on in game economy, leveling experience over a little quickly.