Warlords of Draenor Preview, Part 1

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Be warned! This article contains minor spoilers regarding the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion: Warlords of Draenor.  Proceed with caution!

Note: This is Part I of my Warlords of Draenor Preview. Part II is here!

Last week I was one of the lucky Azerothians to receive a beta key for the upcoming expansion to World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor. The game’s release isn’t until November 13, but this weekend and next I’d like to present my Warlords of Draenor Preview–first impressions and opinions about the new expansion so far. This week, I’ll be talking about the gameplay in general as well as the storyline for the Horde (don’t worry Allies, you’re next week!).

Living Color

The first thing I noticed when I logged in, before I even got around to messing with my spellbook or doing quests, was how colorful everything was. Blizzard updated most character models to look…well, better, and more up to par with their most recent additions, the Pandaren. I thought the changes would be subtle, barely noticeable in game. But when I got to Tanaan Jungle and saw all the updated NPCs and fellow players against the backdrop, it was like night and day.

Tanaan Jungle and Frostfire Ridge, the two zones I visited, are beautiful. Tanaan is full of color–lush jungles when you first enter, but as you make a loop around the back of the dark portal, full of fire and iron. Frostfire is reminiscent of Northrend with all the snow, but the terrain has a more natural flow to it. I never felt as though developers put mountains in my way to deliberately block my path, but rather filled the world with mountains and hills and valleys everywhere for me to explore and enjoy.

The lack of flight in Draenor meant that I was constantly sightseeing. Blizzard did not let me get bored–every time I got lost, there was some new thing to discover–a monster in a cave, an old orc veteran trying to save his home…Draenor feels alive in a way that Blizzard hasn’t quite captured before. It also helps that the distances between places are sensible. Northrend was spaciously designed for flying. Draenor is smaller in size, but (potentially) larger in scope.

I don’t intend to give it its own section, but I also want to point out here that the music is phenomenal so far. A bit repetitive in Frostfire Ridge, but it’s enjoyable and fits the theme of the zone (just wait til it hits 1:20!)

Little Bits

Along with overhauling the graphics and adding, there were a few other convenient or just awesome changes I noticed as I quested through the introduction to Draenor.

As an elemental shaman, I love feeling like the four elements are at my command. At least for my class, Blizzard has added some awesome animations and upgrades to what we already have. Lava Burst looks like actual lava instead of just a red glow. I have a new ability that shoots lava rock spikes, ala Frost Mages, at my enemy as I fight. I glow different colors as abilities proc, and receive notifications around my character on more of them. Though I can’t speak for other classes yet, I love the little touches Blizzard gave to my character and to NPCs as they fight by my side.

Remember those quests that required you to use a certain item on a certain piece of scenery or in a certain location? And remember how you couldn’t always figure out where you were meant to go, but kept hearing your character spout “It’s too far away” or similar? No more! Blizzard now brings the button to front and center when you are in range. Small, but insanely convenient.

One of the most successful aspects of Mists of Pandaria was the Timeless Isle. On Timeless, enemies scaled difficulty depending on how many people were fighting them at once, and anyone who participated got loot. There were also platforming puzzles for treasure scattered across the island. Blizzard took the best parts of this and added them to the overworld of Draenor. As I explored, I found a few platforming areas where I had to jump around properly to gain treasure. I joined several groups of people to fight rare monsters, and all participants were rewarded. Finding little gems like those encouraged me to wander off the beaten path and explore everything for the secrets of Draenor.

Finally, quest areas also now overlap on your minimap, so while doing two or three quests in the same area you can see where they all want you to go at the same time.

Continued on the next page, where I talk a little bit about the questlines, and garrisons!