World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor has come to an end, at least in the sense of main storyline and with the announcement of World of Warcraft: Legion at Gamescom it’s time to take a look at what the most recent expansion for Blizzard’s flagship MMO did for the game.

First of all it’s important to address the fluctuating subscriber base. After Warlords of Draenor launched the game leapt up to an all time record number of paying players, well over the 11 million mark, but since then it has continued to decline to an all time low. While this in no means signals the end for the game, as illustrated in a previous post you can find here, it outlines two key points. The first point being that expansions bring players back. Pure and simple. Every time Blizzard launch new content for World of Warcraft the subscriber base spikes and this is a point taken on board by the company who have now pledged to release more expansions more quickly. The second point, and the more negative of the two, is that the content in the Warlords wasn’t enough to keep people playing week in and week out until the next batch of content. So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the content.

One of the biggest points of contention was the player garrisons. On the surface, and certainly at Blizzcon 2014, the garrisons seemed to be a hit and the idea behind your own customizable plot on the landscape was met with a great deal of excitement. But after actually getting into the game and exploring them, it became apparent that the majority of the content surrounding the garrisons was click and collect based with not a huge amount of player interaction. Many likened the experience to mobile and tablet games like Farmville. Whilst I, for one, enjoyed the fact that I had my own little home on the map the main thing I noticed throughout was the lack of a major hub city which completely limited interaction with other players in the game and made it feel very lonely at times. Alongside this was the fact that players could construct buildings to help them with professions that their characters hadn’t learned, again professions were another reason we as players were forced too interact with others for mutual gain and when that interaction is removed from the game it begins to lose the identity that it has taken so many years to obtain.

One of the main things Blizzard achieved with Warlords of Draenor, in my opinion, was a new level of story telling for the game. The plot that began with the invasion of Tanaan Jungle, which went on to establishing various bases throughout Draenor, hunting down Garrosh and ultimately assaulting Hellfire Citadel was delivered in such a way that it remained the focus of progressing through the quest lines. In previous expansions the quest lines have seemed cumbersome at times and it has felt like they were purely there to pad out the game and fill up the experience bar. But with Warlords the overall story arc remained at the forefront throughout and gave players more reason to read through quest descriptions and all together get involved more with the story. The cinematic cutscenes were a great success as well, adding the right amount of “epic-ness” to different parts of the story and serving as a just reward for following quests through to the end.

Five player dungeons have always played a massive role in the expansion packs over the years, yet it felt like they were a little neglected in Warlords. Previous criticisms in earlier expansions have been that they can be too focused on grinding and a little monotonous a times but in the latest installment it felt like they were only there to help players gain a little boost to experience earned. Whilst some of the mechanics in some of the boss fights were unique and interesting, the fact that once you hit level cap they weren’t really relevant felt like the dungeons that were developed were ultimately under used.

The world of World of Warcraft gets more beautiful each time we see a new expansion. I was blown away when I first rode through the Jade Forest in the Mists of Pandaria expansion and wondered if the game could indeed get any better, a similar feeling to when I first saw Crystalsong Forest in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Well it does get better. Blizzard’s new idea to start of expansions without flying mounts (a point that I won’t go into here because it’s a sore subject) is a great choice as it forces players to see the worlds and environments that the team have so painstakingly developed for us. The world itself was definitely a major character in this expansion and a fantastic canvas to play out the story on. The rolling hills of Nagrand were a wonderful contrast to the harsh dry, desert areas of Gorgrond and the permanent night-time in Shadowmoon gave a wonderful aura whilst playing through the content there. All together it was a fantastic looking expansion.

The story itself was great. Although it was a little confusing when it was first announced, Blizzard were keen to enforce the idea that this was not the “time travel expansion” so much as time travel was just the vehicle to get us to a point in time where we can witness great stories and meet legendary characters from the history of the Warcraft canon.

So in summary, Blizzard have made an expansion in Warlords of Draenor that has had both huge successes and it’s fair share of downfalls. Rather than stick to a tried and tested formula for making people happy and getting their subscription money they dared to try some new ideas out and I think we should commend them on that. Some ideas have worked and some haven’t and following discussions on the forums and definitely from the information given at the announcement of Legion, it seems that the team have listened avidly to the criticisms it has received and made some good steps towards rectifying them going forward into new content.

If you’ve got any opinions you’d like to share on World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor, please feel free to share them in the comments section below!

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