Warlords of Draenor Preview, Part II

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Be warned! This article contains minor spoilers for the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion: Warlords of Draenor. Read at your own risk!

This is Part II of my Warlords of Draenor Preview, which I began a few weeks ago. You can find Part I here. In these previews I discuss my experience as a beta tester for World of Warcraft’s upcoming expansion, Warlords of Draenor. Warlords of Draenor will be released on November 14, with patch 6.0 (including a massive army of orcs pouring through the Dark Portal) showing up sometime in the next few weeks to prep us for the expansions.

In Part I of this Warlords of Draenor Preview, I discussed the introduction to Draenor, Horde questlines and Frostfire Ridge, a little bit about garrisons, and some of the changes I noticed going from Pandaria to Draenor. In this article, I’ll talk about my impressions of the Alliance quests and experience in Shadowmoon Valley, more about garrisons and followers, dungeons, and more little bits I’ve noticed as I’ve played.

For the Alliance!

While the Horde is tromping through the snowy wastes of Frostfire Ridge, the Alliance is sent from Tanaan Jungle into the dark, glowing beauty of Shadowmoon Valley. The two regions are night and day, quite literally. Frostfire Ridge is sparse, snowy, and beautiful in its scarcity; Shadowmoon Valley is gorgeously full. Where Frostfire Ridge is all snow, fire, and stone, Shadowmoon contains dense forests, broad plains, ancient ruins, towering underwater mushrooms, rolling hills, and corrupted swamps. No two Shadowmoon areas are the same.

Like its visuals, Shadowmoon Valley also stands out because of its music. Blizzard’s amazing team of composers has combined old Outland and Draenei themes and created a soundtrack for the zone that sounds like a mix of Azuremyst Isle, Ashenvale, and Stormwind. While in Frostfire, I tended to hear the same track played over and over, but in Shadowmoon, the themes change with the mood. Dangerous areas sport a huge chorus singing dramatic hymns while the plains and hill areas use quiet, mysterious string melodies and solo female voices to create the atmosphere. Want to listen? Here’s a sample–my favorite stuff starts around 7:32 or so.

Questing in Shadowmoon is also  an entirely different animal from the Horde zone. While Frostfire Ridge follows a linear path revolving around a few very important leaders, Shadowmoon is more like a typical WoW zone in that it offers you many options of where to go and who to help. Unlike in Frostfire, I did not feel I was going to miss some important plot point while skipping a quest here or there. Yet I still made an effort to finish everything, because in Shadowmoon Valley your goals are to help the locals, securing their place and their safety in Draenor. The characters are endearing and believable, though their presence in the plot is sometimes short-lived.

Where Frostfire Ridge was like reading an epic novel, Shadowmoon was more like a book of short stories. Though tensions may be high between the two factions, I highly recommend playing both sides and both zones if you get the chance. I didn’t feel either side lost out by not having the qualities of the other–they were just two different methods of storytelling. My only concern is that the Alliance still hasn’t gotten a lot in the way of major interesting plot points, something which I hope Blizzard improves upon as the expansion continues (and Khadgar looks to be a major player in Draenor!)

Further Up and Further In

If you think Draenor is just another carbon copy of Outland and you’ve seen it all, you’re grossly mistaken. Along with Frostfire and Shadowmoon, I was also able to complete Gorgrond and get my first glimpse into Talador, the past version of Terrokar Forest. It’s still a forest, but in Draenor it’s drenched in autumn colors and resembles a wilder version of the Blood Elf starting zone. Gorgrond is a region of dry, bone-covered wasteland that gives way to a lush jungle full of dangerous plant-life and oozing swamps. There’s even a forest of giant, red, mind-controlling mushrooms. In Gorgrond, the linear plotline of the Horde finally branches out and gives players freedom to explore without feeling confined to a storyline, though if you finish everything in the region there’s a pretty epic battle at the end. Also, both factions have tons of cutscenes, big and small, and they’re well done and add power to the story each side is telling. Though the trained Outlander can examine a zone and detect what each section will eventually become, Warlords of Draenor is definitely its own distinct expansion.

Each region allows players to set up their own outpost. The outpost itself is not like your garrison–it doesn’t contain all the features, customizable buildings and buffs, profession houses, and other perks. What the outpost does is give you access to your command table to send followers out on missions without having to return to your garrison. You also will be given the option to choose one of two buildings for inclusion at each outpost. The buildings will give different buffs and perks as you explore the region, such as the ability to summon followers to help you fight. And each outpost isn’t full of strangers–unnamed NPCs that you don’t care about. The longer you play the more you’ll get to know the quirks of your soldiers and supporters, whether it’s from questlines, or the numerous bits of dialogue they exchange with one another as you traverse your garrison.

Stormin’ the Castle

It’s a bit difficult to find a dungeon group in beta, but I was able to complete the Bloodmaul Slag Mines, and the Iron Docks, which are the two lowest level dungeons in Warlords of Draenor. Normal Bloodmaul is available through the dungeon finder immediately at level 90, and the Iron Docks open up at lv. 93.

Bloodmaul Slag Mines is standard dungeon fare. It takes place in Frostfire Ridge, in a mine and forge operated by ogres and full of fire elementals. There are four bosses, and none of them presented any new or extraordinary challenges to our group. If you know how to kill adds and avoid standing in bad things, then you can clear Bloodmaul easily. The most interesting moment was in the screenshot above, during the fight with Roltall. The fight takes place on a short, wide bridge with barriers of fire at the front and back and lava on either side. Roltall spewed fire to cover half the bridge, and then heaved humongous boulders at the group, leaving very little room to maneuver.

Iron Docks was a little trickier. Taking place in northern Gorgrond, the Iron Docks are run by…you guessed it, the Iron Horde, who are trying to stop you from taking the ship. As we progressed through the numerous trash mobs and the dungeon’s four bosses, we frequently wiped from the continuous gunfire from distant NPCs onto our party. Groups trying to clear the Iron Docks have to intermittently hide behind crates and barriers to escape the gunfire as they travel, along with defeating the mobs of enemies and dealing with whatever aoes or attacks they drop. The final boss fight involves being shot to the back of the room and having to make your way back to the front, hiding behind crates whenever fired upon. It’s not drastically new or innovative, but it’s fun. And these were just the first two dungeons: hopefully we can expect more surprises in later ones, or as we progress into Heroic Mode.

Besides, in a wonderful act of revenge on Garrosh, you get to mow down a huge mob of enemies in an Iron Star.