Warlords of Draenor is coming out in 3 months time and at the time of release we’ll have had 14 months of Siege of Orgrimmar, 2 pvp seasons, the timeless isle and countless heroic scenario runs. While usually I look at something game design/philosophy-wise with the Mezzy Talks series, instead I’ll review Warlords of Draenor as an expansion. Keep in mind that it’s still in Beta, so anything that might be a concern could very well change before release.
Anyone who has been lucky enough to get a beta invite will probably agree that it’s a breath of fresh air: Back to leveling, building a base for the first time in WoW, building up your own personal army and a lot of story integrated in the leveling experience.
Before we get into a zone by zone analysis, the general feeling: While questing in Draenor it really does feel like you’re back in Outland, playing The Burning Crusade expansion, except even better. The difference is that the story is much more cohesive and the graphics blow it out of the water.
It’s hard to get everything across so let’s go zone by zone what makes it good or bad. After that, in part 2, we’ll take a look at the features/changes to game mechanics that come along in WoD.
When questing in Shadowmoon Valley as an alliance player you really feel like you are on a strange outlandish planet. The draenei have their own problems they have to deal with and you have to prove yourself to them as an ally. The flaura and fauna are beautiful and are not quite what you would find on azeroth. You’re just as foreign to the locals as they are to you. There is one thing you might get annoyed by though, and that’s the amount of hills you have to get around while questing. Although in most zones I did not miss my flying mount, at some points I did on SMV. If you read quests or pay attention to what happens during the RP this zone certainly brings some shocking story progression, which you would not expect from just questing. As an alliance player this is a good zone to start Draenor with and you’ll certainly enjoy it.
Whereas Shadowmoon is the re-envisioning of a zone in outland, Frostfire Ridge is a brand new zone. You get the same type of feeling in Frostfire Ridge, except you’re helping Thrall’s ancestor’s clan. FRR (Frostfire Ridge) is a cold desolate vast plain, a similar feeling to Hellfire Peninsula, except much much grander. The Bladespire Fortress alone is a testament to how the environment team has continued to grow after Mists of Pandaria. Most of the zone is quite fluid when it comes to questing here. There is one particular quest that comes to mind though that you can’t pick up until level 92, which rewards a follower, but you’ll come across it at level 91. Meaning that if you forget to come back after leveling up again you’ll miss out on a follower. Between the two starting zones it’s hard to pick a favorite, both are quite enjoyable to play through and I certainly won’t regret using my lvl 90 character boost to get a lvl 90 horde character.
Gorgrond is a mixed bag of feelings for me, the start of the zone is hard to get in to, the story did not really feel engaging. On the other hand you build your first outpost which is your garrison away from your garrison. You’ll get to choose between the lumber mill and sparring arena for your outpost. Each gives a different garrison ability for you to use in the zone. The LM gives you the ability to use a shredder which has 2 dps abilities and can fly for a short while. The SA gives you the ability to summon a gladiator. It’ll be a different one each time on rotation. When the gladiator leaves you’ll have a buff for a short while. By far the worst was the chance on hit reduced damage taken and the best was the chance to stun your target. So the usefulness of this ability will vary each time you use it. This is also the first zone where you’ll get different followers depending on which outpost building you choose.
Once you get past the initial quests it will start to feel more fluid. There is a lot of traveling here so prepare yourself for it. It’s not a bad thing however, as while exploring (or using this guide) you can come across 2 events which give you unique looking followers to add to your personal army. Another perk is that there are bonus objectives everywhere. These are quests on location that give A LOT of experience compared to regular quests (3 to 5 times as much), which make them very much worth doing. You’ll have already come across bonus objectives in your starter zone, but this is where you’ll want to do as many as possible if you haven’t yet, and that’s because of the next zone.
Oh Talador, how you remind me of Terrokkar forest. While the nature of the zone is for the most part nice, the quests are scattered. It doesn’t feel coherent and it’s just a lot of traveling that makes you long for your flying mount. I’m painting a bleak picture here, but it is compared to the other dreanor zones because they are just that good. Once you get to the main questline for Talador things turn around and things actually get quite epic as you get your first big series of encounters with the burning legion. The story is engaging, the quest flow is good and you get a good follower out of it at the end.
When it comes to your outpost building choice, I feel that the artillery tower/ armory is by far the best choice. It gives a cooldown with 3 charges that bombards an area for roughly 300k damage and each bombardment stuns those hit.
The mage tower gives you a 5 minute cooldown that summons an arcane orb for 30 seconds. Although it looks cool as it reminds you of Algalon and titan technology, it has a pretty weak AoE for the duration as it follows you around.
Overall this zone will feel rather slow for a while but once you get to Auchindoun you’ll enjoy yourself when kicking some demon butt.
Spires of Arak
The spires of arak is another completely new zone where you’ll encounter the Arrakoa, both with the old and new models. If you’re into lore then you’ll want to pay attention here as you get into Terokk’s past.
A fun addition to this zone are the archeaology treasures that you can loot through the completion of jumping puzzles that you’ll encounter here. As of right now the treasures show up on your mini map, so you’ll come across these naturally if you just quest. They’re particularly good because of the amount of fragments they give. Allowing for a quick headstart on solves while questing, and if you’re lucky enough (like I was on the beta, meaning I won’t on live) you might even already get a rare solve.
Your outpost choices consist of the inn and the trading post. The inn gives you a extra hearthstome which brings you back to your Spires outpost and a passive 20% experience bonus. Which is nice if you want to level quickly. There’s a price you pay for this choice though, as you can not currently switch outpost buildings. The trading post allows you to summon a trader who sells rare goods, including a follower with a sun guardian model. Choosing the inn currently means sacrificing the chance to get him.
Due to the arrakoa pressence this zone continues your feeling of being in another world and the meaningful outpost choice and archeaology jumping puzzles make this a meaningful zone.
Nagrand is the last of the leveling zones and it feels just like the original one, except that it’s so much bigger. It has not only expanded on the ground level, it has also expanded towards the sky giving you a lot to explore. The latest beta build added new flightmasters, making it easier to get from one side of the zone to the other.
You continue the Iron Horde story and encounter Highmaul, the ogre raid. You also get to tie up some loose ends in a questline. For the outpost you get to choose between the siegeworks and the stables. The siegeworks gives you a siegetank which does plenty of damage and is definitely the way to go if you’re a hunter. The stables gives you a talbuk mount that you can ride in battle. You’ll be able to cast while moving at a 100% movement increase.
The pacing of the zone feels good, there’s a lot to see and you’ll feel good being back in Nagrand. Again with exploring (or with our guide) you’ll be able to find some interesting followers to add to your garrison. Exploring is highly recommended for Nagrand just because of it’s grand scale and it feels like a good last leveling zone.
The leveling in Warlords is a lot more fun compared to previous expansions, the zones and quests are more interesting and the many rares and garrison interactions give it a breath of fresh air. In part 2 we’ll take a look at the features/changes to game mechanics that come along in WoD.