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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

[WoW] So Warlords of Draenor...

Blizzcon has come and gone, with the most major news being Blizzard's new foray into the MOBA genre, which I'll save for another post, and the next WoW expansion; Wailords of Crymore "Warlords of Draenor". I find my feelings about it could not be more mixed. Throwing us back to, on the somewhat flimsy story excuse of Garrosh going back and messing with the timeline (and apparently forgetting about the Time Traveler's paradox)...

Shiny New Models with more Graphics

I understand the decision not to add a new race or class; with 11 classes and 13 races they are already running a risk of getting saturated. I am the kind of player who loves having a lot of races/classes so the status quo satisfies me, but I also understand the balancing nightmare that it presents.

I am glad to see the new models, and from what they've shown us they look fantastic. I'm sure some of the changes will ruffle feathers for people who have grown very accustomed and attached to their models, but I think keeping a 10 year old game relevant may require some graphic polish now and then; an expansion is the prime time to do so. At this point WoW is starting to show its age when set aside it's competitors, and with graphically impressive games like Wildstar, Elder Scrolls, and Everquest Next on the way, it needed a make-over.

The added expressiveness is a welcome update
Some of the tweets I have seen have given the impression that we'll see new models for all the races up to Goblin and Worgen, though I am not sure if that means Draenei and Blood Elf are coming later or with the initial expansion. For now, I'd only expect to see the original 8 races remade.

That said I was disappointed to see the Dev Q&A basically shoot down the idea of sub-races. Yes they said "eventually" but lets remember that they started talking about model updates in Wrath, and here we are years later. Given that the Dwarves are not the "Council of Three Hammers" with Dark Irons and Wildhammers seemingly firmly integrated into Dwarf society, it is sad that we can't play them (especially since Dark Irons basically brought back Dwarf Mages/Warlocks). The same could be said of Draenor Orcs since they have basically joined the horde post-Mag'har, or the Taunka post-Wrath.

Free 90's!

Disclaimer: You get one level 90 character per account per copy of Warlords purchased. That kind of dulls the fun of it. I think it was a wise decision by Blizzard to let people jump ahead in levels. I have friends who loathe the leveling process and want to jump right into final content. At least letting them skip to 90 means they don't need to go through Northrend or old Outland AGAIN. At this point I have done it 11 times and frankly I want nothing less than to do it again, which dampens my desire to make alts. Plus, by the time Warlords comes out I will likely have mostly every class at 90 on my home server, so this bonus will do little for me.

Making heirlooms account bound is a nice touch and will at least allow me to enjoy the benefits cross-server, but it still means leveling. What I would love to see is an account-bound Valor/Justice point item that just gives experience or levels to characters up to 90. That way I can play my "main" or max level characters and benefit my alts. I don't care if it's relatively small, 1000 Points per level seems fair. There are of course reasons they want people out in the world, but I don't think having the option (and an inefficient one) would once more turn the world into dead zones.

Lore Hijinks

I know this expansion is meant in part as a throw-back to Warcraft 1 & 2 lore, filling in some of the gaps the orcs have experienced. I am sure there are orc players out there who wonder when they went from "FOR THE HORDE!" to the pacifist ideals of Thrall and Cairne. I imagine Thrall will be in for a rude awakening when he gets to Draenor and finds himself the proverbial "nerd" of the orc class given that most of the "warlords" are likely going to find his ideals hilarious at best, outright stupid at worst.

It would be nice if we get to see some depth to the orc hordes beyond, "A bunch of people that fight and stuff." Blizzard is capable of creating interesting cultures if they put their mind to it, and I hope the orc clans reflect that.

And who knows, we might get that Draenei/Blood-Elf love we were promised!

"Some people think there ARE no orc women..."

Warcraft 2 did come out in the 90's, and some of its writing is not exactly at the level of quality or awareness that a modern audience might be expecting. But that doesn't excuse that the marketing line-up of Warlords reminds us rather emphatically that for a long time people didn't think female orcs existed. We aren't in 1995 anymore. Even now they are struggling to find a place in the storyline. I can think of three (Garona, Aggra, & Zaela) off the top of my head, all of which have been relegated to subordinate roles in the story.

Pretty sure this image is the first one in Samwise's portfolio
This might have been a perfect opportunity to do a little retconning for the lesser known warlords with a little gender swapping to broaden representation. Now it is very possible that there will be better representation once we get into the game, but it still means the highlight characters thus far have an over abundance of Y chromosomes. Plus I'm a little concerned that the story is going to be a bit heavily focused on, "Manly men doing manly things like fightin' n' stuff."

Minority Depictions

There is another problematic element, given that the story as far as we know thus far summarizes up nicely as, "Hey, lets grab our White, Western-inspired culture and head far away to another continent that happens to be filled with brown-skinned, tribal 'Savages' in a preemptive strike." Surely that might not strike any cords, especially if we get a serious "noble savage" vibe from the Draenor orcs because it's not like they draw cultural elements from Native American, African, or Asian stereotypes (/sarcasm). I doubt it was intended to offend, but I easily could see it doing so.


Blizzard's choice of how to implement player housing is interesting but I don't feel as though I can adequately comment on this without seeing a bit more about how it pans out. We know you'll recruit followers and upgrade what is basically a little town, but my opinion will hinge on just how much customization that allows. Getting to choose its zone is a VERY nice touch, though I doubt they'll let me be Garrosh's neighbor just so I can build spite-fences...


This is more a change of necessity than desire methinks; WoW's scaling has just gotten to a point where it is going out of control. Provided I can still solo old content at max-level this change is of no consequence to me; I'm happy to see smaller numbers return. The squish also presents the welcome opportunity to adjust how items work, but I am curious to see how the "smart" items pan out. Will gems or enchantments also be "smart?" I am inclined to think that item enhancements will be spec specific, thus swapping specs also swaps enhancements. At least that seems like the best case scenario. The new stats such as "Cleave" and "Avoidance" on gear seem like they are going to create more problems than they solve though. Despite Blizzard's fist-shake at Ask Mr. Robot during Blizzcon, it is their own fault that the service is needed. Removing a few uninteresting stats and adding more that are just going to reinforce the need for sites like Mr. Robot is not necessarily a positive step.


There is plenty more I could talk about, such as the changes to raiding, the return of max-level 5-mans, the dropping of daily quests; but alas I can only write so many text walls at once. Still, the expansion looks promising, but I think my issue with it is that it doesn't do anything "new;" it just polishes the old to a shine. This particular expansion feels more like it is geared towards the existing player base than it is intended to attract new ones. There is nothing wrong with that, especially as the subscriber loss is starting to plane out.

1 comment:

  1. of course it is based towards the old rather then the new. Wow is already the most well known/played game in the world updating and polishing everything about it is all they need to do. I for one have played this game since "vanilla" and I'm beyond excited for this expansion to come out, and i think there will be a lot of returning subscribers because of it. There is yet to be a game that beats wow in game play it has been basically the fact that it was old looking that I think has turned a lot of players off it. I know your trying to be a critic but seriously STFU and just enjoy the awesomeness for once.