Well, with Legion just around the corner and the movie all abuzz across the internets (Good and bad), I figured it was time to take a look back at the latest expansion of the World of Warcraft and share my thoughts on what it did right and what it did wrong.
Garrisons: Garrisons were one of those features I was dreading being utterly disappointed in. The whole idea had been trimmed, cut down, slashed and burned from the original pitch way back at Blizzcon. From a customizable fortress that could be established in any zone and would have room for trophies and what not to… well, what we ended up getting. A static spot in your faction’s starting zone with the only customization being from a fairly limited number of building types into certain spots, the ability to change the race of the guards and a couple of the flags, and the trophies really just being spots for your pristine archaeology finds and “monuments” that are unlocked by doing super specific expansion long goals. It was a shadow of the cool feature that we were told about. And yet, I still love my garrison. Granted, I love my Alliance garrison more than my snowpile in Frostfire. But I do actually love my garrison. I love being the commander of my own forces, ordering them out to complete tasks and then seeing them off as they march around. I like seeing my followers and other characters I’ve met on my journey wandering around. I enjoy setting my music and saluting my gnome guards. I like building it up and fortifying my base. I even liked defending it from attackers the few times I was able to get it to happen. So much so that I actually kind of hope that my garrison hearthstone sticks around with me after the expansion is over so I can go back and visit my little corner of the world.
Past & Present Collide: One of the more interesting things I liked in the expansion was to see where the things in Outland came from. I am still stumbling upon connections and putting together things when I’m out doing stuff. It was only just recently that it hit me that the Podlings would eventually become the Sporelings of Zangarmarsh. Or what was in this area before the world got ripped up. The only real sad part to this was the fact that Farahlon was passed over and forgotten along with several other smaller islands that are clearly shown on the map but never added in game.
The Story: Oh, the story. What a mangled tale it did weave. So much excitement, so many threats, and all of it – entirely – was for absolutely nothing. Seriously, what were the lasting repercussions of this plotline? Garrosh is dead. Maraad is dead. Gul’dan was thrown into the Nether so he can reach other universes. Those are the three things that were actually accomplished in terms of the overall narrative of Warcraft. Everything else? Those epic battles? Those heart warming reunions and soul crushing sacrifices? All take place in an Alternate Universe that has zero effect on anything once we go home. Talk about a dissapointment. Heck, the Iron Horde never posed any risk after 30 minutes in Tanaan Jungle. You blow up the Dark Portal in the intro mission. The Iron Horde now has zero threat to the real world from their weirdo elseworld. But now we’re stuck right? Nope. We can just open a mage portal across dimensions back home. lol. WHY ARE WE BOTHERING TRYING TO SAVE ALTERNATE UNIVERSE DRAENOR? Nothing that happens can affect us beyond people from our universe dying (which they do).
How about this instead – it IS our Draenor. The Timewalkers and the Bronze Dragons have temporarily locked it off in time so that we – the heroes – can go back, track down Garrosh and his accomplice and set things right before it has a chance to permanently destroy our universe. Then there is an actual risk to us failing to stop the Iron Horde. There’s a reason for us staying once you broke the Dark Portal and stopped the Invasion. Heck, it doesn’t even have to end up being the same. As long as the important plot pieces remain (Nerzhul becomes the Lich King, Gromm lives long enough to free the Orcs from the Blood Curse, Thrall ends up being raised by humans) you could pull a comic style reboot and brought the Movie plotline into canon with the games. Maybe not flawlessly, but that would have at least been something. Instead we are left with a lackluster resolution with minimal lasting effects. This whole expansion should have been a novel.
The Ending: Speaking of lackluster… WHY DOES GROMM GET OFF SCOTT FREE? After using the Iron Horde to complete destroy Draenor, wage war on the Draenei and other citizens of the world, and murder and pillage as they see fit – he suddenly gets welcomed with open arms by those he and his chieftans have wronged just because Gul’dan is the bigger asshole? I hate to go Godwin on this, but that’s kind of like the Allies welcoming Hitler into their ranks, saying let bygones be bygones, all because some space aliens attacked in the last few years of World War II. You don’t get a Get Out of Jail Free card just because there is someone worse than you. And yet, here we are. With that being the exact note the expansion ends on. Gromm is the big damn hero that will help rebuild Draenor with the Draenei and there will be peace and butterflies. I don’t even have words for how BAD that ending was. Oh, but at least Gromm didn’t killsteal Archimonde. That makes it alright then, right? God that ending pissed me off and the fact that more people weren’t pissed off also pisses me off. You could have at least made it Durotan that extends the hand of peace! He was willing to join forces to fight the Iron Horde. All frickin’ Gromm did was get tied to a rock for not drinking EctoCooler.
The Legendary Ring: Weirdly enough, the Ring quest actually did feel Legendary. Even though the whole thing didn’t even result in an item that you will ever be able to display to others. The story behind the Ring was really what made it strong. Joining Khadgar in his elaborate chess game with Gul’dan. Khadgar who is old enough to actually be aware of the threat that Gul’dan poses (Having encounter him through Gul’dan’s dealing with Medivh in the First War and using the Skull of Gul’dan to close the Dark Portal in the Second War). Khadgar dances back and forth on his morality quite a bit – stooping to torture, dealing in dark magic, and ultimately getting his bodyguard and confidante to be swayed over by Gul’Dan’s power. It’s clear that this was the intended ‘real story’ behind the expansion given what we know about Gul’dan’s eventual take over of the Iron Horde and being thrown across realities to help instigate Legion. A shame that once the expansion comes out, no one will ever be able to see it as they are burying the questline.
Getting Out in the World: When Blizzard first spoke about the leveling experience of Draenor being less questing and more Timeless Isle, I was filled with dread. That didn’t sound fun at all. Racing with others to grab spawns and fighting for kills to grind. Luckily, the traditional questing method did make it in but traces of the Timeless Isle are felt everyone. From the treasures to the rare mobs to the tedious rep grinding of 2 rep per mob, it was everywhere. Luckily, there were improvements made. The Rares spawned pretty quickly outside of the endgame areas, the chests were all account specific so you never had to fight for them, and it was kind of fun seeking things out. However I did miss my dailies (Shut up, I like them) and was glad to see them return in Tanaan along with the option of grinding for the Saberstalkers. However, I guess this just didn’t get that many people out in the world since all I’ve heard from the general player base was “We just sit in our garrisons”.
The Flying Achievement: I liked it. I liked the idea of once you have mastered the outdoor PvE elements of the expansion that you unlocked flying account wide. So all of your alts will have it as soon as they enter Draenor. I like that a lot better than paying 2000 gold per character at least. Plus as an achievement fan, it gives me something big to work toward.
I guess what it boils down to was the fact that while the gameplay in Warlords of Draenor really succeeded for me, the story felt like it was a complete after thought and didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved. The whole expansion kind of felt like just something to tide players over and test out some new ideas while Legion was being worked on. I came in without a ton of excitement, but I found some fun and a lot of angry ranting. Which is… good? I dunno. Certainly looking forward to Legion though.