We sit down with Blizzard to discuss the return of the Old Gods in Hearthstone, the fascinating new PvP mode Duels, and the spooky carnival that is Warcraft’s Darkmoon Faire.
Hearthstone Interview - Darkmoon Faire, Old Gods, and Duels!
DualSensing a Seismic Shift in How we Play and Develop Games
In Conversation With Sony - Astro's Playroom and the PS5
We sit down with Xbox Game Studios’ World’s Edge and Melbourne developer Tantalus to discuss the creation of Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition.
The Making of Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition
Where we fall in love with the turn-based RPG combat and new protagonist Ichiban Kasuga.
Yakuza Goes Full RPG In The Brilliant Yakuza: Like a Dragon
World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor
World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor

PC
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment Official Site: http://www.worldofwarcraft.com
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date:
13th November 2014
World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor Review
Review By @ 02:55pm 19/01/15
PC
Nostalgia can be a very potent sensation, and one that many developers like to capitalise on. Like any long-lived MMO, World of Warcraft utilises an expansion as a breath of fresh air, offering a comforting mix of old and new. And it’s this power of nostalgia that fuels much of the fun in WoW's fifth expansion, Warlords of Draenor. While its additions don't reinvent the loot-chasing wheel that we are all addicted to, a blend of old experiences and new adventures is enough to get any player - both old or new - hooked all over again, and I’m testament to that.

AT A GLANCE
⇢ An exciting mix of both familiar and fresh experiences
⇢ New character models give a breath of fresh air
⇢ Garrisons are amazing…
⇢ …but feel like timesinks and not as significant
⇢ The same for Followers
I will admit that much of this expansion does feel like something I’ve already done before, be it in WoW or another MMO, but I feel like the key here is that Blizzard is striving to do it better. Take Draenor itself, the setting of your journey from level 90 to 100. Through a series of plot twists and turns that are best not thought about for too long (time travel hurts the head), the Alliance and Horde have wound up in an alternate universe on the other side of the iconic Dark Portal. Instead of stumbling into the shattered continent of Outland, you're suddenly a part of the orcs' rewritten history in the realm of Draenor. It's a convoluted plot device with an interesting purpose: it puts you in places you feel like you've been to before, even though they're barely recognisable.



Of course, any form of nostalgic feeling will always depend on your past experiences with WoW and its now 10 year life span. For those unfamiliar of the past history Draenor is a call back to the Burning Crusade expansion of 2007, though altered thanks to a headache inducing timeline swap that will make Back to the Future seem like child’s play. Not only are the lands of Outlands now changed back to their former times, but various key characters also see a resurgence before their time of the Burning Legion. Beyond the standard quest structure, optional objectives and rare mobs with guaranteed loot drops pepper the landscape, encouraging you to explore well beyond the beaten path, a change much needed from its past.

For those who didn't experience Outland back in the day - or decide to skip it entirely using the complimentary instant-level-90 character boost included with WoD - the environments are no less varied or attractively colourful. But there's a certain magic to revisiting an alternate version of those places you explored years ago, noticing all these subtle and extravagant changes to a new but old timeline. And over the course of five expansions, Blizzard has absolutely mastered its phasing technology, creating quest chains that make you the hero at the centre of your own story (which just so happens to include random players cavorting around the backdrop). The plot progression within zones has actual payoff in the form of awesome cutscenes, and lore hounds will love the nods to characters from Warcraft's history as far back as the original RTS.

Nostalgia once again plays a factor in recapturing the feeling of the game’s first expansion with some smart design tweaks, including a game-wide itemisation squish on stats, damage and health values. In reducing these numbers across the board from big and ludicrous to small and comprehensible, WoD has done away with the stat escalation of the past. Another clever move is the reduction of ability count across all classes, making your options clearer without fundamentally changing your playstyle. It's a move that feels less like an insult to your intelligence and/or competency, and more like a much-needed refocusing that cuts away at useless skills cluttering your rotation.



Character models have also been refreshed in this expansion (Blood Elves pending), bringing a breath of fresh air to a game now reaching its 10th year. Your characters probably won't look exactly as you remember them, but their new faces and animations are undeniably better once you've adjusted. It's also mind-bogglingly easy to group up with friends, now that you can join parties across all servers.

And party up you will, because WoD's dungeon designs are excellent. With the tweaks to class abilities, your role in group content is much more engaging this time around, whatever your role. Healers in particular have to be smarter about the timings of their spell-casting, while tanks and damage-dealers need to be much more aware of crucial boss mechanics instead of mindlessly spamming their attacks. Yes, the end-game still boils down to repeatedly running the same instances ad nauseum in anticipation of more content, but what MMO doesn’t these days? With a high-quality dungeon design you won’t feel as burnt out by what the end-game offers.

Fashion Kills
With 10 years now under Blizzard’s behemoth of an MMO, WoW continues to show diversity in player armour. WoD’s design is probably one of, if not the best I’ve seen so far, and it definitely helps in cementing player attachment.
Headlining the expansion is of course Garrisons, Blizzard’s personal take on player-constructed homes seen throughout the genre. Rather than giving players mundane houses on dinky plots of land, WoD puts you in charge of a Garrison, your very own fortress which you build from the ground up to your preferred specifications. By constructing barracks, stables, forges, and much more on a pre-set grid, you'll gain access to crafting resources and unique bonuses. And while you quest through Draenor, customizable outposts filled with loyal grunts give you a real sense of presence and lasting impact in the world. In saying that though, I couldn’t help but shake off the feeling that while I have this mighty stronghold the general purpose of it was to act like a hangout area and complete the various micromanagement needs.



And this is where I have a problem with Garrisons. Yes, I feel compelled to log back into WoW each day, but only because of this pre-constructed task that begs for my attention in assigning followers to quests or crafting plots. This feeling is one I would get from a well-crafted mobile game: the compulsive desire to efficiently chain together a series of activities that are inherently uninteresting. On the outside this monstrosity looks like something I should feel needs protecting and management, but on the inside it is just a glorified, spike-covered candy dispenser that churns out randomised rewards for clicking a button.

Followers, the various NPCs that you can use in your Garrison to either complete quests or assign to crafting tables for bonuses, also feel lacklustre. In theory, it should be this incredible group of personal heroes helping you progress your Draenor storyline, but in reality it is far from that. The problem is that your Followers - and the missions you send them on - suffer from a serious lack of personality.

The thing is, Blizzard have the minutiae details in place: distinct traits for each Follower, their own level progression, and a large pool of possible missions to choose from, each with their own little backstory. Despite all those little nuggets of information, Followers end up feeling like interchangeable minions with no real personal gain. Garrison missions suffer from repetition and you’ll soon view Followers as nothing more than a checklist that needs to be handled every time you log in. A select few Followers can be recruited as tag-alongs, but they're more akin to text-spouting assistants (which grows old rather quickly) than, say, the charismatic companions of Star Wars: The Old Republic, all of whom felt like they had very personal motivations and concerns that demanded your attention. WoD's Followers just kind of…exist.



In saying all this, Warlords of Draenor as a whole is definitely Blizzard’s best WoW expansion to date. Having come back from a variety of MMO’s including WildStar and The Elder Scrolls Online, I was worried that there would be this dated feeling hovering over my head. Quite the opposite in fact, and after playing Warlords of Draenor I’ve found that WoW is still the number one MMO to play thanks to Blizzard’s strategy of refining itself and adding polish over and over again until old flaws feel like ancient history. Though I won’t ever forget those incredible vanilla days, but that’s for another story.

Warlords of Draenor will remind you just why World of Warcraft is still on top after 10 years of service, even with its architectural problems that the Garrison feature holds. And for many players, simply getting back in touch with that nostalgic sense will be more than enough.
What we liked
  • An exciting addition to an already extensive world
  • Dungeon design is amazing once again
  • Encouragement to go off the beaten path is much appreciated
  • Garrisons are well designed…
What we didn't like
  • ...but lack any real significance and ultimately feel like a time sink
  • Quest design isn’t entirely new and gets old quickly after first few zones
More
We gave it:
9.0
OUT OF 10
Latest Comments
Jeffro
Posted 05:11pm 19/1/15
Played through the beta 90-100 but haven't touched my toons on live yet despite buying the expansions on two accounts. Sure I will get round to playing at least my rogue main sooner or later though. Preferably when all the hype has died down and I have the levelling zones to myself.
TicMan
Posted 05:11pm 19/1/15
Link no workie
Eorl
Posted 05:20pm 19/1/15
Should be working now tic, cheers. HTML is hard.
Reverend Evil
Posted 05:26pm 19/1/15
I've had fun. At first I wasn't real happy with the trades, and I'm still not. Garrison's have sucked the soul out of WoW I think for better or for worse.

There is good and bad but I think Blizzard have swinged the axe too far one way and have forgotten about the other side.
Enska
Posted 05:33pm 19/1/15
I t's not really possible to have the zones to yourself with the connected realms jeffro, you'll usually find a fair bit of activity wherever you go from 90-100. The hype has mostly dropped off but obviously there's a bazillion alts going through the process now.
Enska
Posted 05:37pm 19/1/15
I prefer the garrisons over having to sit in org/ warspear to get my banking, auctions etc done. It's way more peaceful and that poof riding around annoying people on his Ashes is nowhere to be seen
Khel
Posted 05:39pm 19/1/15
Yeah, I'm really enjoying it so far. Ashran seems like a massively failed experiment though.
Jeffro
Posted 05:45pm 19/1/15
I t's not really possible to have the zones to yourself with the connected realms jeffro, you'll usually find a fair bit of activity wherever you go from 90-100. The hype has mostly dropped off but obviously there's a bazillion alts going through the process now.


Yea guess I'm just use to the small communities we had before faction/realm transfers and everyone had 100s of alts. Think they want to bring the 'mmo' feel back into the game though.
Enska
Posted 06:22pm 19/1/15
WoW pvp in general has always been pretty s***. there were times where Blizz had the classes balanced pretty well for it but all that went out the window with the big overhauls to talents and s*** back in cata.
Rukh
Posted 07:15pm 19/1/15
Not that I raid with them anymore (I'm just a casual in the guild now) but my guild has certainly shown the advantages of local oceanic servers compared to the 10 years of having to play on American servers...

My guild, Ascension, is currently the #1 "US" guild and 5th in the world in PvE. While their rise to #1 (or #5) wasn't only attributable to oceanic servers (they put in an insane amount of preparation and hours raiding too just like other top guilds) it definitely played a large role in it.
Eorl
Posted 09:41am 20/1/15
The oceanic servers have definitely changed the playing field, not just in the actual game itself but also in terms of how Oceanic players approach the MMO genre. Why bother playing WildStar, ESO or any others when they suffer the dreaded 200ms+ while WoW has a nice 40ms ping?
Khel
Posted 10:54am 20/1/15
Yeah, I've already been spoilt by the local servers. Sometimes I've noticed, the Garrison instance must get spawned on a US server instead of a local server (maybe its a load balancing thing?) so I have a 200 - 250ms ping while in my garrison, and it feels soooooooooo laggy now. Hard to think a few months ago that was the ping I was playing with full time.
Enska
Posted 05:59pm 20/1/15
I still get a random us server for raids sometimes and lfg. Its s*** but I guess years of practice at it means I don't often notice until I start spamming cd's on bosses.
carson
Posted 07:37am 21/1/15
I disagree and feel the dungeon design is poor. Some of them are terrible. To be honest, I miss the older dungeon designs were you had to interact with more things when doing them. Now you just walk through and kill s***.

However, I really enjoyed the story and some of the characters. The music is fantastic and probably the best thing. I enjoy garrisons and feel the ability to get mats in your garrison without the skills makes it easier to have fun professions and not farming ones.

It's a good expansion, probably the best since WOTLK. It's far easier to gear up and participate in end game content, which is good imo.
Khel
Posted 11:35am 21/1/15
I don't think the dungeon designs themselves are really any better or worse than MoP, but theres definitely some much cooler bosses in them.

Honorable mention does go to Grimrail Depot though, cos fighting on the back of a train as its travelling is a pretty cool idea for a dungeon.
Commenting has been locked for this item.
15 Comments
Show