World of Warcraft has hit a lull recently and it’s not hard to figure out why. Over the 10 years now that WoW has been active it feels like the love has fallen out of the relationship and it’s left many players wondering why they’re still sticking around. What was it that attracted us to World of Warcraft in the first place? Graphics? Plot? Play style and controls? While all of these options were good, World of Warcraft was all about mixing in the silly, the pop culture, and the light-hearted with storylines that will leave you a sobbing mess in your chair. It was wonderful to see all the characters and places we knew from the Warcraft universe realized in a third-person MMO and for the first few years we rode that new and exciting wave but somewhere along the way something changed. Ridiculous outfits were exchanged for more ‘realistic’ armor and weapons. Storylines were serious and favored brevity over comedy. Players that h ad fallen so hard in love with this brightly colored, impractical game were left feeling more than a little confused. Sure, the environments were still nice and the music was good, but that’s not why we loved the game. I mean, just take a look at this Paladin Tier 1 armor…
Lovingly called “banana shoulders,” they were perhaps the most outrageous example of impractical armor and a good reason we loved the game. The Burning Crusade offered us some still crazy armor and a few fun quest lines but something was missing. It felt a lot like just a rehash of what we’d already been playing with nothing really new to grab at you unless you liked raiding. It wasn’t until Wrath of the Lich King that I could finally put into words why I wasn’t excited about WoW anymore. Simply put, they got lazy. Now, I don’t mean that the developers and Blizzard’s team wasn’t working really hard – Lord knows I don’t have the skills to make more than a simple fillable form – but the imagination seemed lacking. The previously colorful palette was replaced with muted blacks, blues and reds. Maybe Blizzard was unhappy at the idea of being colorful and lighthearted and wanted to use Wrath of the Lich King to show us their more serious side. Given the subject of the expansion it’s not surprising that it would be more somber, but the wild variety of outfits and armor offered to us in Vanilla left us all feeling a little…slighted. I shelved my hunter for the entirety of the expansion because any armor she could have gotten just looked horrible.
Cataclysm brought more of the same, and WoW‘s subscriber base was beginning to feel the effects. Nothing was new and exciting anymore, the sparkle was gone and we were left with mediocrity and a fear of change. Many of us were still playing the game, whether that was out of enjoyment or simply because we had invested so much time we couldn’t bear to give it up is still a matter for debate. I still think that the declining numbers is what finally prompted this slow but much needed overhaul of the game. Mists of Pandaria brought back in full force the bright colors and liveliness, offering instanced quest lines to make you feel more immersed in the story and cheerful characters who weren’t afraid to be goofy (see the Stormstout Brewery instance for that. PEPPERS!) For the first time Blizzard seemed to hear us. They gave us rares to hunt down, a farm to manage, plenty of neat trinkets to gather through archaeology, and, of course, plenty more pets for the BattlePet system. In spite of that, MoP‘s end game was the same end game we’d played through for years – raiding and PVP, with very little for the PVE players to do. Players began abandoning the game for places like Wildstar, Everquest, Neverwinter, and Archeage; pulled in by the lure of player housing and plenty of solo content. In the months leading up to Warlords of Draenor, the atmosphere seemed to change. Cautious optimism and excitement were flooding the forums and groups. There were talks of new models for our grossly outdated characters and garrisons offered a type of personalized housing with plenty to do. The new models hit before Draenor released and they were amazing. Granted, my Night-Elf did have a serious case of man-face, but that was easily fixed at the barber shop.
When release day hit, fans were so excited for the new content it that reminded me of when we first started playing together. We didn’t know what to expect but we were excited. Meeting up with Khadgar (who, by the way, went from grizzled old Wizard to hot silver haired Hugh Hefner wannabe) was awesome in its own right, but playing through the story-line to try and thwart the Iron Horde just to get to Alternate-Universe Draenor was a blast. I met characters that offered some depth and helped rescue captured Draenei, including a woman who becomes very instrumental in the game later! When you eventually escape from the Iron Horde and stop them flooding into Azeroth, you get to meet up with the Prophet Velen and finally establish your garrison. Even though you start out really small, as just a little outpost, it’s not hard to see the potential for growth right away. The quests walk you through setting up your barracks and finding your first follower. Followers are amazing, they do garrison missions for you while you’re offline to get you anything from gear, to money, to garrison resources. In fact, I rushed my level 90s to this point just to sit them there and do garrison missions while I leveled my main to see the rest that Draenor had to offer. As you level up your garrison, you’ll unlock profession buildings, a mine, an herb garden, and a fishing hole. You can also build an Inn which will give you the ability to recruit a new follower once a week and get daily dungeon quests for some pretty neat rewards. You won’t get a lot from them until the later tiers, but for someone who has two crafting professions and no gathering ones, it’s a lifesaver. My wallet is immensely grateful.
As expected, there are your typical linear questlines and of course you can rush through the game and get to 100 as quick as you can but you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you did. Take your time in this one, read the quest text and wander off the beaten path. Unlike previous expansions, Draenor will reward you for trying to climb impossible hills or walking along ropes. Finding caves that aren’t really marked on the map might find you a ‘rare’ monster to battle for some neat loot. You could even stumble across an NPC who asks for your help and end up with a new follower! Nothing in the game will tell you about these things, they’re just stuff you can stumble upon while out exploring the world. And of course, the humor has certainly come back in force with this expansion.
It’s not all fun though, and the main storyline is almost guaranteed to give you feels. I’ve cried at least twice now. I don’t want to offer up any more spoilers than I already have, but do yourself a favor and finish the quests in each zone before you move on. Trust me, if you value story at all you want to follow the quests to completion. Plus, a great deal of it is instanced due to your effect on the environment and people around you, so it’s worth it for that too. We’re still suffering with more ‘realistic’ armor but with the transmogrification system that was added during Cataclysm it’s easier to deal with in the face of all the amazing things Draenor has to offer. If you’ve been missing WoW and are facing the temptation to come back, now is certainly the time to do so. Blizzard has reinvested in us as a community and they’ve done very right by their player base. I still have some issues and a lot of things I’d like to see made better (like being able to pick the style of garrison buildings instead of being stuck with human or orc), but this is a huge step in the right direction for the gaming giant.
Have you tried Warlords of Draenor yet? How do you feel about the changes they’ve made? We’d love to know your feelings below!