- Top Notch Content (World, Quests, etc.)
- Garrisons & Followers
- Ambiance and Immersion
- Bugs... So many Bugs...
- Dated Mechanics and Gameplay
I have never written a review of World of Warcraft before and had not played the game for a number of years prior to the Warlords of Draenor (WoD) expansion. I played WoW in BETA and through Burning Crusade, but lost interest as Wrath of the Lich King came out, and focused on other games. During this time, I watched my wife play Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria. I saw the evolution of the game during this time, but was never enticed to come back and play it again as I focused on other MMOGs including Everquest 2, Lineage 2, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, Aion, Star Trek Online, RIFT, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guild Wars 2 and Wildstar. I did return to WoW for a short period of time during Wrath, but it only lasted a month or so. I just couldn’t get back into the game. Some of the reasons included the graphics, antiquated quest system, slow and boring progression, redundant raiding, and imbalanced PvP.
Two weeks before the release of WoD my wife was expressing how excited she was with the new features (namely Garrisons) and hinted at how excited she would be if I came back and played with her. A happy wife is a happy life, so I decided to dive in. I pre-ordered WoD, she power-leveled one of my 60 characters to 90, and we were online and ready Thursday November 13th at 11:45pm PST. The below video is an excellent parody of exactly what happened.
Needless to say the launch went smoothly on our low population server (Muradin) until everyone encountered the garrison quest bug. At that point, we went to bed (around 1:30am PST). When we got up, the problem had been resolved and we were able to continue.
So what do I think now that I’ve experienced most of the content, reached level 100 and re-immersed myself into the game? I am very impressed. And it’s not just me. WoW has jumped back up beyond the 10M subscriber mark (which was 7.5M prior to WoD).
Warlords of Draenor is probably the best work Blizzard has done for WoW. However, there have been serious technical issues that have prevented players from being able to experience this content, one reason the Amazon reviews are either 1 star or 5 stars. Those who have were able to play the first week loved the expansion, and those who could not hated it. I have yet to talk to anyone who has actually played the expansion that doesn’t think it’s one of (if not the) best expansion yet. However, it is also the buggiest MMOG I’ve ever played; but taking that into account, Warlords of Draenor has brought me back, and that is saying a lot. This review dives into why.
WoW has evolved numerous ways over the past ten years with four prior expansions released every two years. Below is a quick recap of the expansions and patches.
2004-2006 | Initial Release: Epic Quests, Battlegrounds, the Blizzard Launcher and Weather Effects.
2006-2008 | Patch 2.0 (Burning Crusade) to Patch 2.4 (Fury of the Sunwell): Arena Battles, Dark Portal Event, Voice Chat Implementation and Guild Banks.
2008-2010 | Patch 3.0 (Wrath of the Lich King) to Patch 3.3 (Fall of the Lich King): Guild Calendar, Inscription Profession, Barbershops, Dual Talent Specialization, and the Equipment Manager.
2010-2012 | Patch 4.0 (Cataclysm) to Patch 4.3 (Hour of Twilight): Reforging, Dungeon Journal, Cross-realm Raids, 64-bit Client, Transmogrification, and Void Storage.
2012-2014 | Patch 5.0 (Mists of Pandaria) to Patch 5.4 (Siege of Orgrimmar): Pet Battles, Item Level Upgrades, New World PvP, Heroic Scenarios, Cross-realm Mail, In-game shop, Proving grounds, Connected realms, Timeless Isle, and Flexible Raid difficulty.
Beyond features and mechanics, Kotaku posted a great overview showing the graphical differences for World of Warcraft over the years. PCWorld also published a list of the 10 most unforgettable moments in WoW’s first decade including Leeroy Jenkins, the Corrupted Blood Plague, and the South Park WoW episode.
Warlords of Draenor (Patch 6.0)
This expansion is about going back in time through the dark portal in pursuit of Garrosh, who has prevented Hellscream from drinking the Blood of Mannoroth, which is what doomed the Orc people to slavery. Since they are no longer slaves in this new timeline, the Orcs grew in strength and moved to conquer both Draenor and present day Azeroth. You get to stop them. It’s much more exciting and complicated than that, but I wanted to keep it simple for spoiler purposes. The core story revolves around fighting and teaming with different orc clans and leaders. This expanded world brings players back in time to new zones mixed with two already familiar places: Nagrand and Shadowmoon Valley.
The storytelling, quests, cut-scenes and overall experience of WoD is hands down the best I’ve seen for a MMO expansion, and players are already stating WoD is the best thing to happen to the game since “Vanilla WOW”. I agree with them.
The expansion not only provides new content in the form of quests, dungeons, zones, monsters, toys, mounts, pets and items, it enhances the overall experience by adding bonus objectives, lootable world items (sometimes accessible only through jumping puzzles), numerous rares with useful drops, and the Garrison system (which is WoW’s unique answer to player housing).
The music of WoD is also some of the best I’ve heard.
The World of Draenor
There are seven new zones in WoD and they are extremely diverse and well-designed. Frostfire Ridge (90-93) is the starting zone for the Horde, and Shadowmoon Valley (90-93) is the starting zone for the Alliance; but both sides have quests (including daily quests) which regularly take each faction to the opposing zones. Gorgrond (92-94) has a combination of jungle and high desert regions. Talador (94-96) is a forest area, home of Auchindoun and Shattrath City. The Spires of Arak (96-98) is a dark mountainous area filled with bird-people. Nagrand (98-100) is similar in nature to the previous iteration (or future version) of “old” Negrand, full of rolling plains packed with animals. Tanaan Jungle (100) is not open yet, and Highmaul (100) (a section of Nagrand) just opened this week. There is also an large island to the northeast of the continent that is unmarked, and another to the south of Nagrand.
WoD features 8 new dungeons: Auchindoun, Bloodmail Slag Mines, The Everbloom, Grimrail Depot, Iron Docks, Shadowmoon Burial Grounds, Skyreach, and Upper Blackrock Spire. The normal difficulty dungeons are fun and well-balanced to be rewarding while not too frustrating. They require a gear score of 600 to enter and seem to be designed for 15-30 minute runs, which is also a plus.
The Heroic versions are much more difficult and while they can be rewarding, they can also turn into a frustrating experience if you join a pick-up group and are unable to drop the final boss. When this happens, the result is an hour or more of wasted game time rewarding you only with a repair bill that costs much more than the gold dropped.
Here is an excellent guide to the dungeons: 5 Minute Crash Course on all 8 new WoD Heroic Dungeons
Garrisons, Followers, Missions & Companions
Garrisons are the greatest addition of any WoW expansion. They are essentially a town to call your own where you can build structures, level the structures up, manage your resources, obtain quests, process work orders and more. It’s your new home. These hubs feel alive as they grow with followers you encounter, creatures you befriend, and structures you enhance. A new type of currency called resources serve as the staple for nearly all actions that can be taken within a Garrison, including sending your followers on missions. Garrisons become available shortly after a level 90 character begins exploring the new WoD content.
Depending on the level of your great hall, you can build a number of structures on your Garrison. A Garrison and its structures can be either level 1, 2 or 3. Structures come in 3 sizes: small, medium and large. A level 1 Garrison has one small and one large plot. A level 2 has two small, one medium, and one large; and a level 3 has three small, two medium and two large.
Small plots focus on profession-related structures (Alchemy, Enchanting, Engineering, Jewelcrafting, Salvage, Inscription, Storage, Tailoring and Blacksmithing). Medium plots focus on enhancement structures (Barn, Inn, Lumber Mill, Gladiator’s Sanctum, Trading Post), and large plots focus on additional enhancements (Armory, Barracks, Mage Tower, Stables, Workshop).
Every Garrison map also has a Fishing Hut, Herb Garden, Menagerie and a Mine.
Once a schematic is purchased, it costs a combination of gold and resources to build a structure, and in order to purchased a level 3 schematic, one must have completed a required achievement (which is shown on the schematic).
One of the most important large structures you should build before anything else is the War Mill. The reason is because it provides a bonus to the chance of getting a rare or epic item upgrade from WoD quests. Once a character has completed the WoD quests, they usually replace the War Mill with another structure.
Garrison Quests & Daily Maintenance
One of the greatest benefits of a Garrison are the abundant quests and activities offered through the structures. Many of the quests are daily, and some are storyline (or one-time quests). Once you upgrade your Great Hall to level 3, you can start doing Daily Assault quests which reward between 800-1000 Apexis Crystals (which I talk about in more detail below).
A player also gets one Garrison Campaign quest per week. There are a total of 12 quests, and each one is different, with some offering valuable rewards sent in the mail after the campaign is complete.
Daily routines usually involve making sure all followers are on missions, clearing out the mine, harvesting herbs, engaging in pet battles, and ensuring all work orders are active with the resources gathered throughout the world.
Followers & Missions
A character can now collect followers throughout Draenor to join their garrison for running missions, bolstering structure production, and act as a bodyguard. Followers also wander around the garrison as well, so as you find more, your garrison becomes more lively. Missions are the new bread and butter for passive treasure hunting. They require followers to complete and have a number of requirements that need to be matched in order to obtain success. Some missions can be completed quickly (30 minutes) while others can take 10 hours. The good news is mission progression takes place even when you’re offline, so you can set up a number of 6-10 hour missions while you’re sleeping. While most starter missions only require one follower, more advanced missions can require multiple followers (I believe the max is 4), have a number of dangers and offer a wide variety of rewards including resources, gold, and items. Top tier missions can even run raids for you and return raid-level gear (item level 655+).
You can have an unlimited number of followers, but only 20 can be active (you can increase this to 25 with a level 3 barracks). When you deactivate a follower, it costs 250 gold to re-activate them and only one follower can be re-activated per day.
When a follower reaches level 100, the experience goes towards upgrading that follower to a rare and unique (which gives the follower an additional random attribute). Once a level 100 follower reaches unique status (purple) experience no longer impacts their growth.
Gearing your Followers
Once your followers hit level 100 you can start raising their item level by “gearing” their weapons and armor. Each level 100 follower automatically has an iLvl of 600. You don’t put specific items on them, instead you upgrade the respective item level by applying enhancements. So you may have a iLvl 600 follower, apply a blue armor enhancement that raises it 15 and that follower’s iLvl is now 607 (because weapon is still 600). If you raised the weapon to 615 as well, that follower’s iLvl would be 615.
Once your barracks reach level 2, you can use bodyguards. These are followers who will join your on your adventures while in Dreanor and fight by your side. They help with damage and many give additional perks once your friendship value (discussed below) is maxed such as healing, providing mailboxes, providing repair services, open mage portals, and complete/start follower missions from anywhere in Dreanor. Unfortunately they will not follow you into instances, scenarios or battlegrounds. When they die (and they can), they respawn back in your Garrison.
Followers also have a “friendship” value that’s one of three levels. It grows as you adventure and fight with them. At level 2 they unlock a new spell, and at level 3 they unlock a special trait (such as summoning a mailbox).
As the player progresses through the different zone quests of WoD they are given the option to build an outpost. Once chosen, special benefits are provided to the player which they can call upon when in that zone. Gorgrond has Sparring Arena (more DPS) and Lumber Yard (Garrison Mats). Talador has Arcane Sanctum (DPS, long CD) and Arsenal (DPS short CD). Spires of Arak has Smuggling Run (summons a smuggler who sells you random things including a toy and follower) and Brewery (20% more exp). Nagrand has Tankworks (Melee DPS boost) and Corral (range speed boost). This is a nice feature, and some of the zone enhancements are extremely useful with my personal favorite being Corral, which also allows the player to engage in mounted combat.
Character and Class Changes
Every class in WoW received a complete overhaul, including changes to skills, talents and glyphs. The first phase of class-based changes were included a few weeks before the launch of WoD (the pre-patch). At the core of these changes was simplification to the play style of each class. Blizzard wanted to lower the number of skills a player had to manage in order to play (such as buffs, which are now often handled through a single cast).
I personally think the core changes gearing towards simplification were a very good choice. The changes allow classes to focus more on playing rather than managing.
The changes are far too numerous to go over here, but there is definitely a lot of “talk” about the impact of these changes. Some classes seem to be top tier for things like Damage (Hunter) while others are held as “broken” (Shaman). My first level 100 was a Destruction Warlock, and the Nov 25 patch that included the change to Rain of Fire removing the generated Embers impacted the fun factor of the build much more than I would have anticipated. But this is the status quo for WoW, constantly changing the classes in small ways that often have a great impact on play style. Sometimes it’s for the better, and sometimes it’s not.
A detailed overview of the class changes can be found here.
WoD has added a new tier of crafting (Draenor Patterns) that is really separated from the original crafting system (which is now referred to as the “Antique Pattern” system). With this new tier, a player with any skill level can craft the end-game items as long as they have the materials. Each profession has daily item crafting it can execute to create additional materials beyond the work orders, and the results of those daily productions are based on skill level. So a 400 tailor will receive 4 pieces of Hexweave Cloth whereas a 700 tailor will receive 10. This new system ensures a controlled market based on daily cooldowns. Some of the end-game items can also be “upgraded” (for a total of 3 levels) by purchasing upgrade patterns and applying them.
While it’s unfortunate WoW does not have any end-game character progression (i.e. alternate advancement), there are a number of things one can do which revolve around acquiring better gear, mounts, pets and achievements. Here’s a quick overview of what a level 100 character can do:
- Building & Managing your Garrison. If you plan on raiding, there’s a certain way you should build out your garrison for maximum support. Keeping your work orders going is also very important. This requires farming world materials such as timber and sumptuous fur.
- Leveling and gearing up Followers (raising their item level) and Running Missions.
- Gearing up by running dungeons, completing missions, and doing the legendary ring quest.
- Finish all world quests.
- Obtain Apexis Crystals to purchase end-game gear. The Crystals come from dailies in your garrison, work orders, and killing rares around Draenor.
- PvP (and Brawler’s Guild).
- Harvesting & Crafting.
- Treasure and Rare hunting. Make sure you install the Silverdragon and HandyNotes (including Handynotes Draenor Treasures) addons!
- Playing the auction house.
- Reputation farming for access to reputation-specific items.
- Solo old content to get achievements and mounts.
- Hunt for transmog items to refine your character’s appearance.
The social aspect of WoW for end-game players is also a key part of the game where many will engage in world group activities (such as camping a rare spawn), and helping out lower level characters.
The number of issues in WoW is staggering. While the expansion is a work of art, I am stunned at the volume and nature of the problems that exist in the game (there are more bugs and “problems” in WoW than I have seen in any other commercial MMOG). While I will freely admit the WoW team deserves a big congratulations for WoD, they should truly be ashamed of many problems that plague the game, some of which there are absolutely no excuses for.
WoW is constantly plagued with camera occlusion that prevents the player from properly seeing the world. This becomes even more annoying when one is trying to complete the jumping puzzles in WoD.
When in an active group, one also regularly receives the delaying object is busy message when attempting to loot.
The game still constantly gets stuck in combat, which prohibits mounting, opening objects (such as chests) and resting. Even with the WoD, I’ve been stuck in combat for ~1 minute long after the battle (or aggro) concluded.
Phasing is completely broken in WoW and ensures following party members is nothing but a headache. They will disappear right before your eyes. That paired with the minimap not updating their location in a usable fashion, follow failing to be useful (and only working within a 10 foot range or so), and extremely poor visuals on the minmap to even see where your other party members are all add up to a tedious and unforgivable “social” design for WoW.
There is also an issue where you will get dismounted in random places in the world. It seems to happen the most with large land objects (such as stones) relative to cave entrances.
When I first installed WoW, even though it was playable, the client would hang multiple times as I tried playing while continuing to download the content. The hangs stopped when the content download completed.
There are numerous issues with the older dungeons including bugged quests, confusing progression (giving you completion quests to go back to the beginning of the dungeon you just completed), boss mobs running through the floor and more.
There was also a problem with some characters where flying between world flight points is ultra slow. If you logged out while on the flight and back in, it went back to normal speed. There was also a nasty bug where you sometimes got stuck mid-flight ping ponging back and forth between two invisible walls, ensuring the character is stuck and unplayable. The only remedy I’m was aware of was to queue for a dungeon or PvP. This happened to me, so I can confirm the problem and solution. Additionally, many times when I logged out to correct the slow flight speed issue, I would log right back in to find my flying world mount had disappeared and fell to my death. While it was funny the first or second time, it’s made flying quite tedious as ~25% of the time I ended up dead, and this was more than a week after the expansion was released. NOTE: This has been fixed, but it took Blizzard more than two weeks to correct the problem.
The biggest problem WoW has faced with the launch of WoD on high populated servers were the queue wait times (2-8 hours) just to get in and play the game. This was a tough one because the servers were simply overloaded far beyond what Blizzard projected. This is reaffirmed by the fact WoW re-acquired 2.5M subscribers over the past few weeks and the servers can only handle so many people. Note: This appears to have been “fixed” for the most part, but the scars of those who wanted to play the first week but were unable to will linger for some time.
One of the core old-school issues with WoW is that of mob tagging; only allowing the first person to get a hit a mob to be able to loot it. This design is counterproductive to the social aspect of a MMO and generally only found in legacy MMOGs that are old school. Newer games endorce collaborative “taking down” of targets complete with rewards for all who participated. Now I will give credit to WoD where they have allowed rare mobs to be multi-tagged (i.e. anyone who gets a hit has a chance to get loot), but it appears to only work for the rares and other quest-specific mobs. This feature also makes people not want to help others because they won’t get anything out of it.
A related issue is the resetting of mobs that remain grey so nobody can benefit from killing them. Pair this with mobs that can get stuck in evade mode and we’re back to dealing with old-school problems.
Another key issue is one cannot visually distinguish NPCs from players/opposing side guards. There are no icons over their heads (which would make sense), and many people accidentally run into encampments of the opposing side only to be cut down by the guards. It would be so easy for Blizzard to add Horde or Alliance icons above the nameplates of the guards.
There is no indicator on the UI showing the health of your bodyguard. Since they can die and you can heal them, this is a big oversight on Blizzard’s part. A bodyguard’s health should show somewhere on the UI (similar to a pet) without having to click on them.
There is no visual indicator over a mailbox showing when you have mail. This often makes it hard to find the mailboxes (since they come in all different shapes and sizes) and is a poor system. Blizzard needs to add a floating animated mail icon over all mailboxes when there is mail to be had.
One of the greatest facepalms I have with WoW is the fact they implemented marking grey items, but failed to put a “sell all grey items” button in the game, forcing the players to click on them individually. Granted you can use an add-on for this, the WoW team seems disconnected with common sense on this one. Players shouldn’t need to get an add-on to do this.
There is no visual indicator on the main screen when a character takes damage and is about to die. This is very frustrating as the game should flash some sort of red and do an edge-fade of red or black with a heartbeat sound (or something) when the character is close to death.
WoW also fails to distinguish friendly AoE from enemy AoE by not painting any sort of color on the ground that can be used to determine incoming attacks. As a returning player unfamiliar with many of the AoE attacks by other classes, I cannot visually distinguish what my party (or raid) members are casting vs. what the boss is doing.
Water walk doesn’t work a lot of the time, making things frustrating for those who are attempting to run across the water to a specific goal. I’ve had water walk, no aggro, and failed to “jump” on top of the water for a good 10 seconds. Then suddenly, it works; and this happens all the time.
You can’t draw waypoints on your map, making it so you’re constantly bringing it up to make sure your bearings are correct (if you’re not following a quest arrow).
Dismounting to loot is a royal pain, and in my opinion should be changed. Granted you can choose an outpost in Nagrand which allows you to engage in mounted combat and looting, standard looting should not require a dismount, and it just wastes a player’s time.
The Collector’s edition of WoD gives you an uber flying mount, and WoD doesn’t allow flying. Granted it’s cool and works everywhere else, the simple fact is most folks will be running WoD content, and the mount is so large it often blocks items and bodies from being clicked on. The collectors edition should have included the Dread Raven and some sort of unique, smaller land-only mount.
It’s been more than 10 years now, and you still can’t replace the main bag.
Transmogs are a big problem in WoW because you have to have the physical item to change the look. This creates a monumental inventory nightmare for those who like to collect multiple gear sets. This system is really an embarrassment for WoW as the design is amateurish and could easily be fixed with a separate transmog-specific inventory system (like Diablo 3 and other MMOGs).
The level 90 Boost has a number of problems. First, it doesn’t give your character all of its skills (or talents); they must be earned through the entry WoD quest line, and second it puts you right in front of the portal to WoD when the game really expects you to run back and do the Blasted Lands quests that lead up to the portal. This is confusing and forcing the limitation of skills for a fresh L90 is irritating to most veteran players. The workaround? Respec. You can skip the quests and jump right into WoD with all skills.
Rewardless dungeons are a big problem. I’ve done heroics PUGs (pick-up groups) and not received a single drop from any boss, and then been unable to kill the final boss (due to group issues, bad healer, etc). The dungeon ends up being a complete wash that not only fails to provide any form of reward, it ends up costing you repair fees ensuring you go out with less money than you went in with.
WoW has no class chat channels, so you cannot collaborate with other members of your class. Sure you can do a /who <class>, but then you have to send individual tells.
There are numerous little items spread throughout the world the character constantly gets stuck on. These collisions are irritating and could easily be fixed with a little QC.
Lack of end-game “alternate” advancement: Almost every MMOG on the market has some sort of end-game “alternate advancement” system. Even Blizzard’s Diablo 3 has the Paragon system. The fact that your monster kills at level 100 have no impact on the growth of your character is a poor design. While WoW is a complex game and the “right” AA solution needs to be thoroughly thought out, the lack of such a system keeps WoW in the legacy state of MMOGs.
While the pet battle system can be “fun”, it provides no reward that transfers to your character (i.e. gold and items) other than achievements (titles, etc). As such, I believe the pet battle system is something many (if not a majority) of players simply have no interest in playing. If Blizzard would implement some sort of system that provided rewards to the character and/or account (beyond achievements) there would be more interest in playing. But as it stands, pet battles are just disconnected fun, providing no real reward beyond the battle itself.
There’s no doubt WoW is one of the most visually diverse MMOGs on the market with in-depth lore and immersion evolved through a decade of creative design. The different races, class representations (and play styles) paired with more than 300 mounts of all different shapes, sizes and types, presents an exceptionally vivid and interesting world. Add gear sets, a gigantic world, quests of all sorts, challenging instances, a variety of pets and toys (that range from the strange to the comical), and there’s always something new to see. This generates a fun and interactive world that everyone can enjoy, and I believe serves as the foundation of what makes WoW the “special” game it is; even with the numerous issues one regularly encounters.
WoD has “brought WoW back” for many gamers, not only presenting the 90-100 content in a fashion that takes the best of what WoW had to offer and building upon it, but also generating an extremely memorable experience with numerous cutscenes, in-depth storylines, and the best music sound track of any expansion, adding excellent ambiance to an already vibrant and diverse world.
WoD is hands down the best expansion Blizzard has released for WoW.
For those of you who are considering jumping back into WoW, WoD makes it worthwhile (and will provide an automatic level 90 boost so you can experience the content right off the bat). For those of you who have never played and are looking for a game world to immerse yourself in, you can pick up WoW and every expansion prior to WoD for a special sale price of $4.99 (which includes 30 days of play time). If you like what you see, you can purchase WoD at a later time, or just buy WoD right off the bat and start playing a level 90 character in the new content. Either way, it’s a win for dedicated gamers throughout the world.