Warlords of Draenor Review

Warlords of Draenor is the fifth expansion pack for the acclaimed MMO World of Warcraft.  It was released on November 13, 2014 by Blizzard Entertainment, and is exclusively for the PC.

Before the review, a bit of backstory.  For those familiar with WoW lore, Draenor is the name of the planet from the first WoW expansion, The Burning Crusade.  However, in TBC, we were dealing with a broken world, a planet absolutely destroyed by the influence of the Burning Legion, a horde of demons hellbent on destroying everything in their path.  TBC was when I started my first true character - my *first* character was on a friend's account so it didn't count - a Blood Elf Paladin named Viriatus.  As I leveled through Outland (the new name for Draenor in TBC) I fell in love with the lore, with the models, and everything about WoW; a love that still goes strong today, despite all the bad press WoW seems to get.  So, when I heard we were going back to Draenor, before it was destroyed, I was at once excited and reticent.  On the one hand, I feared for my memories: what if, in going back to areas I remember from TBC, the lustre from there disappeared and I realised I hated the game?  On the other hand, what if everything they did with the expansion was what I dreamed of and more: A new history for the planet I had so much love for?

Luckily for me and my memories, I absolutely loved the new take on the planet I held dear.  Indeed, my favorite new area has to be Nagrand, which was also my favorite area in Outland.  It nicely wraps up the story that we were given going in, and leaves enough questions to make us wonder what we were going to be doing next.   Going through the opening zones, I felt confused.  After all, we entered the new Dark Portal in pursuit of Garrosh Hellscream, son of Grommash Hellscream, and the final boss within Mists of Pandaria.  The story given was that Garrosh was saved from trial by a renegade bronze dragon, who sent him back in time to Draenor pre-destruction, where the Iron Horde was built and turned loose against Azeroth.  

However, when we enter Draenor for the first time, not only do you not see Garrosh until the absolute end of the instanced Tanaan Jungle, you barely encounter the Iron Horde in the zones following.  All the lore we were getting in the leveling zones was great, but I wanted to see the culmination of the story I saw unfold in the Siege of Orgrimmar.  We met the Frostwolves, the Laughing Coffin, the Arakkoa and even helped drive the Iron Horde out of Shattrath, but I managed to level to 100 before ever encountering Garrosh again.  Luckily, the story had quite the satisfactory ending, one I will not spoil so early in the expansion cycle, since I believe it's something everyone needs to see for themselves.

Following that, the game returns to what we've grown accustomed to.  We grind for gear to get into heroics for better gear, which we then have to grind for more gear to be able to get into raiding, et cetera.  The monotony is broken by the addition of level 100 rare elites that drop gear that can help you bypass a bit of grinding, and by the Garrison.  The Garrison is, I feel, one of the best additions to the game in a long time.  Not only is your character finally being recognized for all the work he or she has done for their respective faction, but you finally get to feel like you're actively changing the world around you.  Garrisons effectively put you in the driver's seat of your own thriving base of operations in the opening zone for your faction.  Your choices on outposts within your garrison are limited, even at max garrison level, but even with that limitation, I start and finish every game session in my garrison.

The graphical upgrade of the character models seem quite unnoticeable, but that may be because I play a Blood Elf primarily, one of the few races to not get an update at this point in time.  I've read Blood Elves will get their upgrade in the first major content patch, but we'll see when that day comes.  What was noticeable, however, were the zones.  The zones in WoD are some of the best crafted zones in the history of WoW.  From the beginning, in Frostfire Ridge, to the end in Nagrand, I was in awe by my surroundings.  Especially in Nagrand, you can certainly see the depth Blizzard went to making this expansion look amazing.

One last bit before I wrap up: dungeons and raids.  As a healer, I feel the changes made to dungeons and raids negatively impact us - it's far too easy at the time of writing for idiot DPS to die to stupid avoidable things (My main is a Discipline Priest, with Shadow as my off-spec.  I did dungeons as Shadow to figure things out, see where the damage spikes are, etc; I found myself dying to things that didn't have as big a 'tell' as previous expansions) that I feel if you are not an amazing healer, you are simply going to hate your life.  Also, tying Heroic queues to the 'Proving Grounds' is a laudable goal - teaching people their role is great in theory - but as a healer that specializes in single-target healing, getting through the proving grounds had to wait until I got to higher levels of gear before I managed to even queue for Heroics (Despite having healed respectably as tank healer in Highmaul not hours before).  I will say, however, that dungeons and raids are far and away more interesting than previous games.  Grimrail Depot is fun, despite having much avoidable damage that people cannot seem to figure out how to avoid.

My final verdict: as stated previously, I love World of Warcraft.  I'm in for the long haul, even though I may lose interest and disappear for periods of time.  Warlords of Draenor is one of my favorite expansions, and I'm hoping that my guild manages to complete Highmaul before Blackrock Foundry opens up - it's definitely very exciting to actually be able to do content when it is relevant, even if you're not the first ones to drop bosses.  I'd definitely recommend WoD for anyone who feels able to justify the subscription.