Warlords of Draenor is World of Warcraft’s first expansion that offers no new class or race to players but it has managed to reinvigorate older players and instill a sense of wonder for new players despite that. Why is that? Surely some updated graphics and fancy garrisons can’t be the only reasons that created such a spark within MMO gamers everywhere. There’s a little bit of something else at work here and it’s something that many of us have forgotten despite being long-time WoW players – the story and lore. Now, I’m not going to criticize the story for it’s plot twists, cliches, pacing, or other topics of literary merit, but I will only be focusing on how it is presented because, as I said, is Blizzard’s Flagship’s selling point. Well, I guess I’ll throw in my thoughts on a thing or two about the actual story too.
Warning! The rest of the article may contain spoilers! Of course, I’ll try to avoid it as much as possible. After all, we all have different thresholds for these.
A few years ago, voice acting in MMOs were so rare, that if I found one with at least some extended pieces of speech with such, I’d instantly go mad about it. However, it wasn’t needed; just a bonus of sorts for a game you like playing, as most people would regard it. But as the proverbial bar for the MMO continues to be raised every season, voice acting work has become almost a must in games these days. It doesn’t have to be a complete work on every single NPC like what SWTOR brought to the table, but just enough to keep the game a bit more lively.
Warlords of Draenor did not at all slack off in this regard. While not teeming with voice acting goodness, it’s made more of an effort to have most, if not all, significant story quests replete with character and personality, delivering what has been missing from most of WoW in the past decade. Hell, even some seemingly insignificant quests hold some degree of voice acting that make the world far more colorful than its predecessors. Right from the explosive entry into the Dark Portal, players are immediately greeted by a variety of top-notch voice work that immerses you into the happenings of Draenor, whether you want to or not. The voices used for characters are spot on, especially in regard to the orcs of Draenor as they truly express brutish might and/or cunning tenacity.
Even though I said earlier that I wouldn’t be touching those of too literary in nature, the lines used for most of the voice work are just fantastic. They aren’t any sort of the run-of-the-mill sorts, but can be rife with imagery and gravitas that they’re hard to ignore, and when paired up with the great cast of voice actors, it simply delivers even more. Just hearing the conversations between story characters are enough to drive to the heart. RPers have it great in this expansion. But, of course, it’s not all perfect and there are still times of awkwardness in the lines they pick, but, hey, I’ll take what I can get. You can definitely see how Blizzard has matured through the years just by listening in on the dialogue alone.
Seamless Scenarios – The Hero
For quite a while now, other than questing, scenarios have been Blizzard’s preferred method of delivering the significant plot points in the story through these small doses that do not take away from the action. WoD has taken it to the next level. Through better use of their world instancing technology, which was not as prevalent in the past WoW expansions, WoD seamlessly integrate scenarios into the landscapes of Draenor to make for an undisturbed experience. No queues, no pops, no need for allies. It’s just you and how important you are in the story.
Even if you are at some point in the map where hundreds of players are roaming around in, you’ll simply be ported into your own version of the instance as not to break whatever immersion has pleased you up to that point, so we don’t have to see incessantly respawning Blackhands over and over again, or some player ruining your immersion by blathering on about in /say and talking trash to an NPC (for some reason). Though this smooth transitioning into your own instance is applied to certain key quests in which there is no scenario involved, some have act as normally as they would in older WoW. It’s an odd choice to leave it out on certain quests that require lengthy interactions with Gul’dan or Teron’gor, and even the introductory mission falls prey to that, despite it being so amazingly awesome. But perhaps it was a decision made to keep servers stable, and if so, can be quite understandable on their part.
It’s a farcry from how it used to be, especially compared to vanilla, because if there was ever one gripe I ever had with this game, it is because I, as a player, felt like a grunt, fighting a war I know nothing of or have no stake in. And, let’s face it, no matter how humble of a person you might be, we all want to be the heroes in our stories, and that simply wasn’t happening in the past, at least, not as direct in WoD. A congratulatory thanks at the very end of everything aren’t the only things we should expect as direct interaction with the storyline characters, but mostly, in my opinion, we have become closer to the focus of the story than anything else in the past through many of the scenarios available for both Horde and Alliance. These events mostly give, even if just illusionary, a sense that our decisions and involvement in the war against the Iron Horde are actually important in the grand scheme of things.
Cinemacraft – Cutscenes
Didn’t you ever wish that Blizzard, with all their expertise in creating one of the most spectacular cutscenes the gaming industry in general has ever seen, would put just a wee bit more in WoW as they did in Warcraft III or simply apart from the openings? Well, Warlords of Draenor has surely delivered.as it comes well-stocked witht these visual vanities, creating such epic scenes and displays of awesome. Seriously, there is no way that anyone would find any of these to be exacerbatingly horrible, but only that it adds more flair to what is already an excellent expansion. These cutscenes, in my opinion, completely capture the kind of fantasy the Warcraft universe is acclaimed to be and, again, reminds us of why we like the franchise in the first place.
However, there still is this teeny tiny downside to it. It may just be me nitpicking, but the cutscenes go against the attempt of Blizzard to bring more importance to our characters. Garrisons, quests, scenarios, and all the like prove to us that there more and more of a focus shifted towards us. However, possibly due to the limitations of WoW’s decade-old engine, they couldn’t do more, and these lavish scenes with other NPCs had to do. The shift then goes back to those NPCs and away from the player, pretty much negating what had already been established, or in the process of being established, that the Player Character is the hero in all of this. Seriously, I’m starting to hate Green Jesus almost as much as the seemingly rushed character development of random goat girl heroine because of all the screentime they’re getting and the sometimes clumsy lines of awkward contusions.
These scenes breathe a whole new life into the game and are a remarkable level up, if you will, that tries to match the competency and strength of the other newcomer titles. It becomes especially more effective due to the coming back to the grittier side of conflict with orcs that WoW has been known for. With amazing battle scenes and flashy gimmicks, these tremendously well made cutscenes will not only succeed to keep the eager gamer playing, but I believe will not fail to attract new players due to its awesome veneer of visceral, virulent violence.
Orcs – Enough Said
World of Warcraft’s greatest strength is in its setting and story for, without it, I believe it would have been impossible for it to reach the heights of the industry. WoD literally throws us players back to a time where the amazing awesomeness of Warcraft’s lore was in full blast, having us cross up against the likes of Gul’dan, Ner’zhul, and Grommash Hellscream, and even hints of some classic characters like the possible existence of Alleria and Turalyon through little snippets of story through side questing. WoD focuses on what had made Warcraft strong in the first place, exploring pieces of their lore with a bigger lens rather than examining something new. This, by itself, scores major brownie points for the expansion’s delivery of what we really love about the World of Warcraft.
Aside from a few odd decisions in Blizzard’s writing department, we give this portion of the review an awesome 8/10.Blizzard Entertainment, Column, Expansion, Review, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday