Reviews: Worldof Warcraft
A Retrospective on Warlords of Draenor
I will start by saying that I mostly enjoyed Warlords of Draenor for idiosyncratic reasons. The biggest was flexible raids and the Group Finder tool, introduced at the end of Pandaria. I have an irregular playing schedule that prevents me from being in a raiding guild, and these two made it far easier to run raids with pick-up groups than at any earlier time. But there are other things I liked with Warlords, despite the wonky alternate-timeline story. The Iron Horde is a wonderful mix of the aesthetics of barbarian hordes and the first world war. The world of Draenor is big and inventive, full of hidden treasures, and at times I really felt lost in a mysterious world with monsters all around. Mythic mode finally made dungeons relevant past the first few months. The area-objective quests offered various tricks and tactics and encouraged grouping up, but were far too difficult at launch; later versions were better. Also, new character models. Yet three things let down the expansion. Firstly the garrisons; intended to add a strategy element, they simply did not meld with open-world gameplay. I liked at first having professions advance while offline, but it became tedious and repetitive keeping it up on each character. Even the followers had little identity. Second, the legendary ring, the most powerful item in the game, was locked behind a quest chain that required running specific raids over and over. For someone like me who started a little behind, it meant being stuck in obsolete raids when I wanted to move ahead. These two features pushed me to focus on one or two characters and leave aside the rest. Finally, the "content drought", a lack of new development compared to earlier expansions, seemingly the consequence of a hurried redesign during early alpha that cut out several planned features like Farahlon and the railway in Gorgrond. What I missed most was that the classes and their gameplay, the true core of the game, remained largely static from Pandaria; Combat rogues and Shadow priests badly needed innovations. I rate Warlords above Cataclysm but below Wrath and Pandaria (my favourite so far). But with Legion now started, I can see that lessons have been learned from it. The Class Halls take the best features of the garrison (followers and missions) and improve on them, with none of the tedious resource management; they have more flavour, engage with the wider world more and the variety actually encourages playing on different characters. Legendary questlines and valor (which I never liked as item-upgrade currency) are replaced by Artifact weapons, obtained early on and using fungible upgrades from any source. Scaling promises to make dungeons relevant from start to finish, and allow players of all levels to group up. Above all, major effort and innovation went into the classes and their gameplay, animations and identity. So I think Warlords is best seen as test for ideas that have come to fruition in Legion.
Mists of Pandaria in Retrospective:
Mists of Pandaria was a controversial expansion pack at the time, and it had many flaws, but in hindsight, it's easier to appreciate what it did well. The plot takes place in the eponymous Pandaria, which involves an entirely new setting and a fair amount of worldbuilding. Some say that it doesn't feel very much like WarCraft, but it's well written and thought out. The story develops well from patch to patch, and nicely makes the players feel as though their efforts mean something. The legendary quest, while grindy at times, and having some odd rewards (for example, a very powerful gem you can only use with a few weapons)is an interesting way to develop it, which makes it worth pursuing. The dailies are worth noting. Essentially, in order to be able to purchase raid-quality gear, you need to grind rep, and the dailies were long and monotonous, making them difficult for casuals. Over time, however, as alternative avenues of getting gear opened up, and some of the requirements were alleviated, it significantly improved. One could imagine that Blizzard learned from their mistakes this time. The Timeless Isle was a good area, as while some ways of getting what you needed were easier than others (i.e. farming frogs), you were never forced to do things a certain way. The raids are generally high quality with a good variety of bosses, although, as usual, some bosses can be roadblocks. Unfortunately, the 5 man dungeons were somewhat uninspired and easy, particularly in that the Heroic modes do not have new mechanics, making them less than challenging. However, by the end of the expansion, I could blaze through them easily, killing some bosses in 10-20 seconds, making them more bearable. Scenarios were quite entertaining and diverse, albeit significantly easier for DPS than healers or tanks. Heroic scenarios were good challenges, paticularly the timed objectives. The new talent system (6 choices between 3 talents each) ostensibly allows for more player customization choices, but don't entirely live up to that goal. Guides still stress that there's often only one viable choice. I preferred Cataclysm, which gave players some guidance, but also retained flexibility. All in all, Mists had some rough spots, but with each patch, it took great steps toward finding its way. It's no Wrath, but it's better than Warlords.
Wrath Of The Lich King
Not a review of the core game, just of the most recent expansion pack. The latest expansion pack does a lot of things -right-. The villain is much more 'hands on' than the previous one, who you really had no reason to go ought and fight, other than the prospect of phat loots. Thanks to the phasing system, he player actually has an effect on the game-world, if only for his own version. This expansion pack is very story driven, and the player follows it through, and gets very involved in the events, rather than just "Go here because the monsters are three levels higher." Perhaps most importantly, the endgame content is being made more accessible— Rather than force players to raid four nights a week just to get strong enough to attempt to do ANY of the harder raids, the endgame gear is being made accessible via tokens dropped in the heroic versions of the 5-man dungeons which can be done daily. That said, a few things are done wrong. In making the villain have a bigger role in the game and the quests, he seems less powerful and scary- Every time you see him, he doesn't just kill you on the spot, instead letting you live "this time." In addition, a lot of the Northrend gear looks... well, there's no two ways around it, the Northrend gear looks like bondage gear. Lots of masks and leather and spikes. Finally, in making the endgame raids more accessible, more players who didn't work their way through the easier raids have the gear to jump straight to the harder ones, but not the skill. Of course, whether you like it or not, you're not really playing World Of Warcraft if you're not playing the most current version, so if you already have the game, you may as well buy the expansion packs anyway.
The next step for MMORP Gs
World of Warcraft, as an MMORPG, is in many ways a more accessible and less tedious experience than its predecessors, enabling it to be a more popular and ultimately more fun game. The story is relatively standard fantasy fare, with two factions that have a long history of bloodshed against one another facing mutual threats which, for the most part, do not motivate them to work together. The conflict is fueled by several zealous members on each side, and it's likely that you'll end up hating at least a few of the characters depending on where you stand. Despite this, the story has powerful moments, is interesting enough to drag you in more than the standard Excuse Plot and has well-done side plots. There is no shortage of things to do in Azeroth, from quests to dungeons to fighting players to even special events at certain times of the year. Almost 2,000 achievements exist, and it will take even diligent players years to even get close to unlocking them all. World of Warcraft is more forgiving in many regards than older MMMORPGs. Dying costs a relatively small amount of money rather than experience, aggressive monsters strong enough to slaughter players are the exception rather than the norm, and it's relatively easy to find groups. The gameís difficulty, however, is a bit odd when you compare it to most single-player games. While people contend it is easier than it used to be, which is likely true, raiding requires players to conform to specific rotations and gear sets for acceptable results, and reading guides, rather than being seen as a crutch, is seen as a requirement to even begin. Depending on your group and gear level, you can often raid for weeks without seeing any progress. Many people will claim that itís easy, which unfortunately serves to trivialize your accomplishments if you succeed and makes you feel incompetent if you fail. The player base varies in quality; while many people are obnoxious or incompetent, there are many others who are skilled, helpful and friendly. With the right guild, you can get a consistently good group for PVP or raids, and also make friends. World of Warcraft has highs and lows, and involves quite a bit of hard work, but it is overall a very enjoyable experience.