We’re at the end of our review of Warlords of Draenor, WoW’s newest and shiniest expansion. We touched upon aspect after aspect, but perhaps the most anticipated element of all would be raiding. It so happens that the first raid, Highmaul, was opened in the past month, giving players their first taste of Warlords’ progression. It might be a tad bit strange to review how the first raid is, but we’ll take more of a look at how Blizzard decides to treat this first tier when considering that they’ve had a decade to perfect the art of releasing content.
Orcs and Ogres
Let’s start off with simpler things – as usual, Blizzard does a fantastic job at laying out a setting. Highmaul looks great, looking lavishly beautiful with the ruined structures, decadent battlegrounds, and sparse greenery that most never notice. It’s a farcry better than how raids and dungeons were back in vanilla, especially pronounced and exemplified due to the availability of the 10th Anniversary Molten Core. It draws much closer to the standard Warcraft artwork we see floating around on promotional art and older expansions, as well as investing more in the much-needed sound effects department, though the latter is far from perfect, but the music is, like always, great. It simply has a level of detail that surpasses those in the past.
In the same vein as previous expansions, Highmaul, being the first raid, sports only but a few bosses; a meager seven. However, Blizzard has learned quite well from their past experiences and have tuned these encounters to be both of a moderate challenge to experienced players and easy enough to manage for players new to the game. It isn’t terribly difficult, though the last boss, Imperator Mar’gok, is reasonably hard, it is to be expected due to it being the first tier of progression.
But as opposed to the environment, boss models aren’t all entirely great. Sure, they are to the extent as one would recognized in comparison to previous raids, but a lot of them use the same rehashed models and animations that we’ve all seen before, save for a few instances. One would imagine that there would be more special care towards the uniqueness of a raid boss, apart from mechanics, that would completely set it apart from the rest of the world of Azeroth. Then again, as was stated earlier, it is still just the first raid of the expansion and I’m hoping we haven’t really seen anything yet.
In terms of actual fight mechanics, for a first raid, Highmaul is quite exceptional. It is inevitable that certain concepts from earlier raid bosses would be reused and repurposed, but the way they are modified make them brand-spankin’ new. Take for example the Butcher fight, where a big portion of the encounter revolves around an aoe debuff that requires stacks of people. It might be something that most of us have seen and done before, but the twists and turns about it in its entirety are different in every sense, as the encounter itself has its own uniquely Butcher mechanic. I don’t want to continue on further as it is something that should be personally experienced.
All in all, Highmaul is a great starting raid for everyone to get a feel of what to expect from the future of Warlords of Draenor. It is enjoyable as well as highly streamlined through linear pathing, but not enough to make it seem like a long corridor, thankfully, and also due to the simplicity of each encounter but manages to be fun and interesting at the same time. It’s a great preliminary raid to get the Draenor train going.
The Good, The Bad, And The Grindy
With everything in place, let’s take a quick rundown on all the new things Warlords of Draenor has to offer us. First up: The Personal Garrison. These places are intertwined with each aspect of the game that can be tailored to better suit the focus of each player. Garrisons can focus on crafting through the use of newly introduced profession work orders that can create a profession’s daily mat that isn’t encumbered by the crafting lockout. Players may also choose them only to be a place to gather resources through the mines, herb garden, and the optional barn for skins. Some would like to make it more personal through PvE by receiving quests and rewards through the Inn building, while some find open world PvP to be the highlight of Warlords of Draenor and make use of the garrison by building the Gearworks/Workshop to give them the cutting edge against the opposing faction. In short, the garrison can be used by anyone for any reason or purpose without as much hampering their style.
The new follower system in place is an amazing addition that adds a greater depth to playing the game. They are able to be sent off on missions to acquire experience for themselves, for the player, as well as gold and gear. And these pieces of gear aren’t the run-of-the-mill quality items, but they are awesome, though it takes some time to get because of their spawn chances and leveling and gearing followers.
Questing has been largely streamlined to make leveling woes seem like a thing of the past. It can still be a bit tedious, but not as horrifying as how it used to be. Coupled along with a more personal, yet still lacking, decent storyline and fantastic cinematics, leveling has never been more fun. Draenor is also host to far more secrets and surprises if one ever dares to tread off the beaten path or if one just made use of HandyNotes, but regardless, there is just so much to find.
Ashran is an iffy component that is also one of the things that Warlords of Draenor boasts much about, however, open world PvP is just something that can never be reviewed with all fairness. It’s simply something one will either love or hate and is but a purely optional facet of the game that can be completely focused on or ignored. The tug of war is epic and the honor points plentiful; just be prepared to embrace the lag. Loot in PvP has become crazily simple with the introduction of loot caches in battlegrounds similar to how PvE raiding works that have a chance for random pieces of gear, and the PvE aspect improved much more with the introduction of personal looting in instances and the open world.
Reputation, on the other hand, has taken a step back. Ever since the Burning Crusade, rep grinding has slowly become easier, but in Warlords of Draenor, it took an odd turn. With no daily quests to boost reputation, players who are into that aspect of the game are forced to kill an endless stream of mobs just to hit exalted in their faction of choice, making for a very lengthy, tedious, and boring grind. Titans know that Arakkoa Outcast rep isn’t the best thing out right now. We can only hope that they remedy this in the future and are only keeping it this way at the time being just to bottleneck players from completing everything too fast in so little time.
Last that we would like to relay, something that was not mentioned in the previous articles, is the way seals, or loot rerolls, are acquired. Pandaria’s was fairly simple; get 50 charms and exchange them for 3 seals. In Warlords of Draenor, there is still a limit to acquiring 3 seals per week, but they must be obtained individually. They can be bought with either gold, garrison resources, apexis crystals (the valor points equivalent), or honor points. Another option is presented at a player’s garrison by building a Dwarven Bunker/War Mill that provides one seal every week. This very simple change is immediately a game changer. It influences completely how players treat the game as a whole as this new system encourages them to try all the aspects of PvE, for those who dislike that spectrum, and encourages others to PvP, for those who do not like that.
Disregarding the extremely wealthy, older players who can simply buy all three seals with gold despite it doubling in price each time the option is chosen, it adds this new focus on everything within the game. Warlords of Draenor seems intent on bringing the idea of flexibility and the true choice to every player, and this little change is a step in the right direction. It’s a good and strong decision on Blizzard’s part, and they will hopefully continue on, evolving from their past mistakes, but staying true to how WoW actually is.
Blood and Honor!
This marks the end of our review on Warlords of Draenor and it’s been one hell of a ride doing it too. This new expansion certainly lives up to the hype despite with its own ups and downs, but what is any newly released game without any of those? Only time will tell if Blizzard will be able to keep up the hype and strong performance Warlords of Draenor is giving us right now.