Warlords Of Draenor Impressions – Better Gnomes And Garrisons

by Daniel Tack on Dec 17, 2014 at 08:43 AM

World of Warcraft’s latest expansion falls on the ten year anniversary of the MMORPG, and distinguishes itself by being both immediately accessible for newcomers while providing plenty of depth and content for grizzled veterans. Warlords of Draenor succeeds at offering a slew of content options on the way to level 100 and beyond, and could be the best expansion we’ve seen since the Burning Crusade.

In Warlords of Draenor, we explore an alternative universe, essentially a reimagining of Outland, the zones associated with the Burning Crusade expansion. Because we’re dealing with dimensional rifts and alternative history, we’re able to see and interact with tons of high profile characters in the Warcraft universe in both the overworld and dungeons – Khadgar, Ner’zul, Gul’dan, Cho’gall, Orgrim Doomhammer and Grom Hellscream himself. The Iron Horde serves as the primary antagonist as you explore reimagined zones from Outland, from a siege of Shattrath City to a deep dive into the origins of Skettis. Yes, you might even have a chance to create a better future for Barrens favorite Mankrik in this weird take on the world.

If you’ve never played WoW or haven’t played in years, Warlords of Draenor has you covered. Each copy of the expansion comes with a level 90 character boost complete with a full set of gear and a brief tutorial to get you working with your core abilities. The introductory zone Tanaan Jungle will get you caught up to speed with where we’re at in the story, introducing critical characters and major players in a 30-minute segment. If you weren’t a fan of Cataclysm or the punchy pandas of Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor is an absolute return to form, tapping into Warcraft’s most powerful personalities and exploring the darker side.

Once you complete your warm welcome to Warlords, you’re off constructing the Garrison, your new home. This structure contains many of the new elements in the expansion, allowing you to recruit and gear up a roster of followers ranging from Arms warriors to Hearthstone players, fend off invasions for rewards, augment or supercharge your crafting abilities, and give you new options for travel. You’ll have to make choices along the way as you’re only allotted a certain amount of building space and it’s up to the player to determine how much they want to engage with the mini-game driven Garrison, but it’s far and away the most enticing feature of the expansion. While you’re free to ignore it completely after getting it set up, almost all of the classic systems in WoW get new incentives and fun by being linked into Garrison structures and systems, from picking up dungeon quests and followers at the tavern to hording materials and picking up perks from crafting buildings.

Many Garrison functions operate in the background, so when you’re coming back from the field after completing a set of quests or a dungeon you can take a quick stroll to pick up new goodies and send your army out on missions for experience, gold, and even high-level loot as your legions level up and acquire gear. There’s a special feeling as you complete quest blocks in various zones and come home to see new things at your garrison based on your travels, from vendors to new quest options. These continually unlocking options should have players knocking out quests even after level cap. The Garrison is an incredibly compelling option that gets more interesting as you progress, working as a persuasive side-game to the main show.

As far as questing goes, it’s mostly standard fare: completing zones and moving ahead with the story, complete with cool cutscenes  and cinematics at major points. A small feature that actually has a big impact is the “random upgrade” system involved with quest rewards. That green pair of boots might be randomly propelled to epic status when you turn it in (this chance can be upgraded with the War Mill building as well) and it keeps questing feeling fresh and addictive. Looping into this system is a huge supply of “rare” silver monsters and secret treasures all over Draenor. Keep an eye on your minimap at all times to tap these creatures for special loot – these are shared taps so you don’t need to worry about fighting over them with other players. You can only get the rewards once, so there’s no incentive to sit there and farm them. Your careful eye will be rewarded if you’re the curious type; from special keys to burgeoning coffers of gold located deep under the sea, hundreds of special treasures wait for inquisitive players to find them.

These systems combined with the garrison and solid questing make the leveling from 90-100 one of the best World of Warcraft experiences yet, a continually interesting path of loot and lore that never feels dull.

Warlords of Draenor handles a difficult task with style and success, allowing new and returning players to come back and dive immediately into the swing of things while providing satisfying content loops for level-capped players. While servers were plagued with issues during the first few launch days leaving some players unable to even log on to play, these problems seem to be resolved.  There’s a lot to do already, and the possibilities for moving forward with the Garrison backdrop are intriguing as we look ahead to content patches and raids. If you’ve never played World of Warcraft, this is probably the best entry point one could ask for. If you haven’t played in a few years it’s an awesome time to come back.

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World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor

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