WoW: Warlords of Draenor Hands-On Preview – Old Tricks, Darker Tone

The desire to explore led me to venture farther than Blizzard likely intended. Run too far beyond Karabor in its current state, and you’ll stumble across blocky mountains that look scarcely more realistic than those found in Minecraft, complete with rivers where the water has yet to be filled in. The usual trappings of a true beta, of course, but such emptiness suggests that Warlords of Draenor’s release date could be months upon months into the future. Shadowmoon Valley gives me hope for the final product, but I worry that too long a wait could chase off players in the event of a long content draught during Mists of Pandaria. Expansion ennui is already here, in fact; as you might recall, 600,000 subscribers have already left.

I’d hoped that the five-man dungeon available for play, the Bloodmaul Slag Mines, would fill me with the same sense of hope. It didn’t. I had the “pleasure” of running it with four random fools from the BlizzCon floor who’d jumped into a dungeon while playing classes they’d never leveled before, and I also ran it with four guildies who know their class abilities about as instinctively as they know breathing. Thus I probably saw the happy medium Blizzard’s likely aiming for first hand. The first group couldn’t get past the first boss; the second plowed through the content as though they’d be doing it for years.

In fact, it was that sense of familiarity that bothered me more than anything else. It’s a grim place, stuffed with orcish slaves and ogre overlords, but at times the familiar pattern of cavern and oafish ogres triggered the sensation that I was running outdated content from 2006 rather than making baby steps into a new adventure. Gone was the awe I felt when I first ran into the library of Mists of Pandaria’s Temple of the Jade Serpent, and I felt none of the wonder I’d known from trading blows with giant Vikings in Wrath of the Lich King’s Utgarde Pinnacle. Blizzard has spoken about how the instanced nature of dungeons lets them “go wild” with textures that might kill framerates in the crowded outer world, but for all that, this was just a cave with ogres. I’d seen enough of that while grinding Kurenai rep in Nagrand years before.

Mind you, at least the boss mechanics posed some threat. First there was Slave Watcher Crushto, who sent weak slaves after us while randomly focusing his blows on particular players. Forge Master Gog’duh was tougher, partly because victory hinged on downing him and his two powerful adds before unlocking the true boss, Magmolatus. Fire rains down at almost every moment during the latter stages, which could have been a worthy challenge if failed attempts didn’t leave the encounter at Magmolatus after a wipe. At that point, the encounter becomes little more than a tank-and-spank. As for the final boss, a brooding Bloodmaul named Guf’rokk? Scoring victory involves little more than staying out of the fire.

Considering that there are only four dungeons available on the long road to level 100, my disappointing experience in the Slag Mines doesn’t bode well for other dungeons to come. That’s a shame, especially since I’ve long believed that Blizzard does small five-man dungeons better than anyone else. As it is, my fondest memory of my time in there springs not from combat, but in the happy realization that Blizzard finally replaced the hunter’s gun sound with a far less annoying file.

Hope still lies in the world beyond, as I found myself drawn to the world outside one more time. That was even true when I sampled the Horde starting zone, which takes place a world away in Frostfire Ridge’s Bladespire Fortress. Not only was I drawn to the wintry aesthetic, but I even found myself surprised by some of the darkness of it.

Under the orders of Thrall (who’s still wearing the same hippie Shaman garb he picked up for Cataclysm), I passed an ogre whom the orcs had pinned to the wall with axes buried in all four limbs, rounded off with a Frostwolf banner shoved down his throat. Still another was impaled in the ceiling with an array of spears protruding graphically from its guts. I stop to gawk at the sight for mere seconds, but in retrospect, I realized that I may have caught a glimpse of what’s to come as Blizzard opens more of Draenor to exploration. Warlords of Draenor looks to live up to the implications of its name, such sights suggest, and the brutality almost seems aimed at countering criticisms that Blizzard had grown too soft with the Zen musings and beer-chugging pandas. Warcraft should be about war, the dead ogres seem to say, and it left part of me wondering if that philosophy might be just enough to bring some of the disenchanted faithful back into the fold.

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2 Comments on WoW: Warlords of Draenor Hands-On Preview – Old Tricks, Darker Tone


On November 11, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Unless they bring back the challenge that was lost within a couple months of TBC shipping, no, this will do nothing to lure people back. What was needed was a full reboot, a retconning of massive proportions if necessary. Amazingly there are kids who have NOT played WoW at all, opting for newer MMOs as their first experience..typically FTP ones. Lure them in with very limited free options in a revamped WoW (or “WoW II” as the case may be). This time around do it right. There would be transitional zones – no more jumping straight from a marsh to a snowy tundra. No “good” worgen completely contradicting the lore. No April Fools jokes come to life. Horde goblins? Yeah, that’s fine – in fact the prevalence of neutral goblins always kind of bugged me, but I understood the need to save development resources by replicating quests between factions. A total do-over with less cartoony artwork would be a nice start. The giant human ancestors in WOTLK look like actual humans..why not go with that as a base? Why did we have to visit “Outland” first when the plague was already upon the land? The Lich King should’ve been the first major foe and everyone knows it. “WoW II” would have the Cataclysm arriving a few months after his defeat. We could witness the reclaiming of the altered Plaguelands, with an expanded Forsaken presence contesting the alliance’s efforts. Perhaps the night elf lands could be so devastated that their forced to seek refuge with the Draenei, whose new homelands seemingly escaped the cataclysm (making the the least populated alliance city somewhat active again). Dalaran returns from the north with all that might entail. During the cataclysm the Black Gate is buried – all contact with Outland is sundered save for one-way limited exchanges via teleportation. The post-Cata backstory has the gate being unearthed by a joint Alliance-Horde task force. On both sides of the gate are neutral outposts charged with defending and securing the gate at all costs (overseen by goblins, no doubt). It never made any sense that while Shat was neutral and both sides were fighting the Legion at the gate their camps were still hostile. TBC should have been the third expansion instead of the don’t play the “alternate world” card when your original one has barely been tapped. This time around it could have its proper place. Outland would be the only place flying mounts would work thanks to the remnants of Draenorian magic or whatever. And there would be a significant number of flying hostiles, insuring that air travel wasn’t as much of shortcut. If we got a re-imagined WoW that looked more like Guild Wars II and less like Loony Tunes, and that required partying more often than not, I’d be all over it.


On November 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm

With all the new updates like new models just by itself will bring back old players. The game really needed a visual overhaul. The game was rebooted in Cataclysm but lacked story for each race which is really needed. I noticed that alot of ideas were taken from other MMO’s like Star war Old Republic’s follower recruitment. They went with a new direction with this which is now you can send your followers to a 10 man raid to get gear for you. So now you don’t earn gear anymore: the game earns it for you and your followers. Everquest Next was another game which has a visual overhaul so blizzard had to counter this before that game is released. Plus the housing option which is like Wildstar. We can expect paying for carpets and couches soon.

Now to the content. My biggest problem with this expansion is the story. The races of Azeroth were never on Draenor befor the dark Portal. The Dark Portal was opened by Mediev which then the orcs came through. Lore wise it does not make sense. Another thing that does not make sense is putting present day outlands in the caverns of time instead of the expansion which is definitely a time travel expansion. I believe that they really wasted resources in this expansion and should have just have turned this idea into dungeons and raids like the rest of the time traveling ones. They should have focused on the emerald dream or the dark below. Well I wish it does not disappoint in the long run but I feel its going to be another boring orc story plot. We need more story and content with the rest of the other races who has of yet not have there chance.