Welcome to my review in progress for World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor, Blizzard’s nostalgic return to Warcraft’s roots. For the next two weeks I’ll be exploring Draenor, writing down my adventures and impressions on a daily basis. I’ll also be streaming my entire playthrough on our Twitch channel too, which is embedded below.
Be sure to check back regularly for my latest thoughts, and don’t be afraid to ask any questions in the comments section.
I’ve updated the review in progress with my level 100 endgame antics, and what there’s to do in Draenor at max level.
Levels 98-100: the beginning of the endgame
So I’ve just dinged level 100. Thanks to augmenting of Garrison missions and dungeons throughout my time in Warlords of Draenor, I’ve actually hit max level in the middle of the second to last leveling zone. Usually when this occurs – and it has many a times in other expansions – I drop what I’m doing and head straight for the max level zone, and focus on upgrading my gear.
I won’t be doing that this time around.
Why? Well for a start, I still have to finish the main quest line that’s been holding my hand throughout Draenor’s zones. I’m truly invested in it, more so than any other expansion; even beating out Wrath of the Lich King’s teasing relationship with Arthas and his multiple appearances throughout the questline.
Blizzard’s narrative this time around has been exceptional; I’ve been completely absorbed by Draenor’s story. It’s been a rollercoaster ride – we’ve beaten the odds, lost dear friends and uncovered more threats to all life on Azeroth (and Draenor for that matter) than just Grommash and his Iron Horde. What this will hopefully translate to is unique and exciting content patches between now and the next expansion; it won’t be just “Deal with the Iron Horde” over and over.
So I’ll be hanging around and finishing up the areas still before me, even if they’re largely irrelevant to further my gear progression.
Well, that’s actually not entirely true, and you can blame Garrisons, again.
Thanks to the War Mill building, which doubles your chances at rolling quest rewards to rare, and even epic quality, I can hopefully gain a head start when it comes to gearing up for heroic dungeons and raids. The area of Nagrand, which I’m still yet to visit, is filled with level 98-100 quest rewards. If I can get lucky and roll some of them to epic quality, I’ll have a much easier time kiting myself out and increasing my item level.
Here’s something cool too: your Garrison followers can go on raids for you. I’m serious – and you can get actual raid tier gear if they’re successful. Naturally, these missions are quite rare and difficult; you’ll need not only a crew of level 100 followers, but they’ll need their own gear too. Thankfully, yet again, the War Mill provides a way to obtain follower weapons and armour at the cost of some precious Garrison resources.
This won’t replace raiding completely either – instead it’ll augment your progress, and help folks who are behind catch up.
So apart from completing the main questline, what else is on my endgame itinerary?
This is the map for Nagrand, the zone I mentioned earlier. Every single icon represents either hidden treasure, rare elites or Garrison resources to find and collect. It’s like this in every zone – there’s a lot to do; the blue skulls in particular denote level 100 rare elite enemies that will drop rare-epic items.
While I’m going around hunting those, I’ll be queuing up for dungeons and their heroic brethren. There are eight in total, offering a variety of different enemies and environments to battle through; Grimrail Depot takes place upon a moving Iron Horde train, while The Everbloom lies in the heart of the Goregond jungle. I’ve only attempted these two heroic dungeons – my assumptions that they’d be difficult were also 100% true; you need to bring your A-game to these fights and communication is a must.
And if I ever get tired of doing dungeons, there’s Ashran: a level 100 instanced-cross-realm world PVP zone. It’s similar to Wintergrasp in Wrath of the Lich King – 100 players on both Horde and Alliance sides, duke it out over control of the zone. It’s interesting because there’s not really a “win” state where the PVP halts for a few hours. Instead when one faction depletes the enemies reinforcements to zero, there’s only a brief break until the next battle begins.
Players who like controlled but open world PVP can eat their heart out.
This will be my final entry in this review in progress. I’ll be playing for a couple more days as I explore any last morsels, before writing up my final review and verdict. Since a lot of the content I’ve still yet to experience requires grouping up, I invite you to team up with me. If you’re on an EU realm and are a member of the horde, add my battletag, Archernick#2970, and let me know you came from the website. We can do dungeons, heroics, world content, the lot!
Be sure to follow us on ourTwitch channel, where you’ll be notified when I go live with some more Warlords of Draenor; which will continue on past the reviews conclusion.
Levels 94-98: dungeons, bosses and their loot
Dungeons are probably the best they’ve ever been in Warlords of Draenor; Blizzard have hit the sweet spot. Each dungeon feels wholly unique with its own narrative, enemies and rewards.
The first one you try for the Horde is the Iron Docks. It’s a Iron Horde infested base of operations, guarding some of the most dangerous war machines they own; including a cannon-strapped Gron. Whilst it was still a vastly linear affair, the open plan of a dungeon with no walls was refreshing. As I progressed through it, I never lost sight of the end-boss and his endless taunts. The ratio of trash mobs to bosses was pretty much perfect too; I never found myself bored between fights, or overwhelmed at a rapid onslaught.
Measuring the difficulty of these dungeons was rather, well, difficult. I came into Warlords of Draenor with some shiny loot from raiding Mists of Pandaria; everything dropped within seconds. But as I progressed through the levels, and my enemies became much stronger, it became quite apparent.
Dungeons, especially heroics, are bloody hard.
Gone are the days where you would just /faceroll them for easy loot. When I got to Skyreach, an temple of the sun-worshipping-bird-men, Arakkoa, the aforementioned ease at dispatching my enemies stopped; made apparent by our tank pulling way more groups that he could eventually handle.
This, from what I’ve heard, extends all the way into heroic dungeons too. After talking with people in my guild, it seems that heroic dungeons often require a pre-made group to conquer, if only for the ease of communication. As an advocate of difficult content, I’m looking forward to it.
Loot on the other hand, was less exciting. Dungeons in Warlords of Draenor found via the instance finder used a “personal loot system” – every player has a small chance per boss to receive an item appropriate for their class and spec. This system was great when used for Looking For Raids, where the sheer number of bosses usually left you with two or three new pieces of gear. Dungeons however, less so.
It took me three dungeon to see my first piece of loot – even though I wasn’t going to use it due to my Mists of Pandaria raid gear being superior – and that just felt really unrewarding. All I was left with the majority of the time was an anticlimactic three gold.
This was apparently the view of many players, and so as of last night, Blizzard changed the default loot rules back to “Need before Greed” – which drops random pieces of loot per boss, which can be either useful or not even useable by the group.
But a new change to how loot works in Warlords of Draenor resulted in this system being equally as flawed. The majority of loot now has dual stats that will change at will depending on the spec you’re in. An example being a piece of mail armour that both has agility and intellect on it, and changes which stat is used depending on the player wearing it.
While its intentions were honourable, this system changed dungeons found via the instance finder into a rabid frenzy. More players were rolling need on just about everything as they clamoured to get loot, sometimes when it wasn’t even appropriate for their class. This often resulted in dungeons not even being completed as players fought between themselves over who rolled on which piece of gear.
Thankfully, I have some news that should turn that growing frown of yours upside-down.
As of less than an hour ago,Blizzard have not only reverted the loot systemback to “Personal Loot”, but made some improvements. Now, players using the personal loot system will always receive loot from the final boss, regardless of previous rewards. Also, pre-made groups who’d rather use the “Need Before Greed” system will receive three items from the final boss, instead of two.
What does this all mean? Well for players who queue up for dungeons using the instance finder, they can safely know that they’ll have something to show when they complete their dungeon. They also don’t have to worry about pretty drama over loot distribution destroying the group. On the flipside, groups that have been pre-made beforehand might opt for the old “Need Before Greed” system and distribute it as they see fit.
I’ll be sprinting my way through the final stretch to level 100, and the beginning of the endgame, tonight live on our Twitch channel. Feel free to pop in and say hi If you have any questions for Warlords of Draenor via the live chat. If you want to know when I go live, you can make it easy by hitting the follow button, which will notify you whenever the channel is up and running.
Levels 91-94: exploring Draenor and all its riches
After not being able to play at all over the weekend, I’m finally glad to be able to say that Blizzard have largely fixed the issues plaguing the Warlords of Draenor launch. Theserver population capshave been removed, disconnects happen much less frequently, and more importantly – I’m no longer stuck in my Garrison.
There’s some good news too – anyone that had an active subscription before November 15th will findfive days of free game timein their pockets. Whilst this has easily been a very frustrating launch, more so than any WoW expansion I’ve been a part of, I’m happy to put it behind me and continue playing the good stuff.
And good stuff it was. Like an old man experiencing a resurgence of youthful vigor, I smashed through the rest of Frostfire Ridge, leaving no stone unturned. It paid off too, and by the time I reached the flora infested jungle of Gorgrond, I was already level 94.
The thing is, Draenor is jam-packed with hidden away goodies. If Mists of Pandaria turned the number of rare elite mobs up to eleven, then Warlords of Draenor has broken the bloody knob off. Rare elites are everywhere, and they offer substantial rewards: experience, rare items, toys and Garrison Resources. At first, I feared that this would overload my endorphins to a point where I wouldn’t care about rare mobs anymore, but each and every one of them has so many unique properties, I’ve never felt disheartened.
Blizzard have also adopted a much more friendly approach when it comes to the rarest of monsters. A few dotted around Draenor will drop mounts as a reward for slaying them, but there’s a twist. As long as you participate in the kill, you’ll be guaranteed a drop. Of course, this might make them less of an achievement, but for the people who just want that sweet looking rideable Gronnling, they can just go get it. For those that crave that sort of achievement, you can go and fight a level 103 Wolf in Frostfire Ridge. It’ll take a good 40 man raid of low level 90s to take down, and drops an epic wolf mount, but only one.
Good luck beating the loot ninjas though.
But rare mobs aren’t the only thing; there’s plenty of treasure too. Some of them are marked on your map when you get close to them, but others require your keen senses to decipher. I’ve easily made over 4,000 gold from just vendoring their loot – most of which I didn’t need thanks to high ilvl gear from MoP raids.
Exploration is the most fun it’s ever been, and just as rewarding too.
Just because I’d left Frostfire Ridge, the home of my Garrison, doesn’t mean it stopped being relevant either. Once I got to Gorgond, I had the option to build a Garrison outpost. These smaller settlements offer access to some key NPCs and services so you don’t need to continuously travel back and forth from your Garrison.
They also provide a unique service depending on one of two options you can choose from. In Gorgond, I could choose between a Lumber Yard and a Savage Fight Club. The former allows you to harvest trees and convert them into Garrison resources, while the latter gives you more lucrative training missions for your followers. They both also come with a unique Garrison ability that you can use within the zone the outpost is built in.
I’ve also upgraded my Garrison to level two. This allows me to have an extra small plot, and one new medium plot. I decided to go with the Inn for the daily dungeon missions, and the opportunity to recruit new followers with specific traits later on. For the small plot, I built a Storehouse for access to my bank, which is currently lacking on Draenor.
I’ll be aiming to run a few of the new dungeons in Warlords of Draenor in the coming levels. If you want to check them out, be sure to follow us on ourTwitch channel, where you’ll be notified when I go live with some more WoD action.
And after the weekend hiatus, there’s a lot to catch up on.
Levels 91-91: server issues and Blizzard’s response
My small little roleplaying server of Steamwheedle Cartel, for the first time in my life with WoW, has a queue. It may not be a long one compared to some of the higher population servers, but it’s certainly surprising to see for the first time after being a part of many WoW expansion launches.
The reason for all of this? Server instability.
I’ve not been able to play for over 24 hours right now; instead I’m stuck in the confinements of an limbo-esque version of my Garrison, with a hundreds of other players. We can’t leave – trying only teleports us back to the Garrison; not that it would matter anyway since no mobs or NPC populate the zone while we’re in this limbo. We also can’t interact with any NPCs inside the Garrison, because they’re simply not there.
Although my initial experience with the launch was rather successful, I was apparently lucky. Many players reported not being able to complete certain quests, resulting in a bottleneck of players with no way to progress. When some of these were fixed, a large flood of players constructed their Garrisons all at the same time; the resulting influx of players creating their own phased instances, quite simply, broke it.
Here’s the interesting thing: Warlords of Draenor is a very unique expansion for World of Warcraft, and probably not for the reason you’re thinking of. There’s no new races, or classes to splinter off a good chunk of the playerbase. On the flip side there’s also a torrent of new level 90 players, who used the free boost that came with the expansion, all ready and eager to step foot in Draenor.
When you have the entire servers population converging on any single point, things will break.
Blizzard have launched a counter offensive against the lag, disconnections and Garrison issues, which are currently hampering a lot of players right now. Nearly every server has had its maximum population reduced to handle the buckling load right now; which has been further exacerbated by a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attackagainst Battle.net.
Players like myself who are stuck inside their Garrison, or for any other reason are directed to put in aticket with customer support, who will “move the character to a safe location”; but it’s still unclear whether players should try and interact with their Garrisons at all in fear they’ll be inflicted with the same problem again.
[NA/EU] Extended maintenance scheduled for November 15. Check your launcher for specifics. Details on our continued efforts are forthcoming.
— World of Warcraft (@Warcraft) November 14, 2014
On the horizon is a glimmer of hope that this will be resolved, soon. A region wide realm maintenance and restart is occurring in the early hours of tomorrow morning, during which will hopefully include some permanent fixes for these issues, and maybe lift the population cap too.
As for the review in progress, I’m afraid it’ll be on hold until I can leave my prison of a Garrison. If the maintenance tomorrow proves to be effective, you can expect my normal update posts to resume at 18:00 GMT each day, and you can also catch me over on ourTwitch channelto follow my adventures.
Update: I recieved the following message from Blizzard’s customer service in response to being stuck in my Garrison:
“Thank you for contacting us. We understand the frustration these problems can cause, and our development teams continue to work toward greater realm stability, which we believe will address your issue. Fixes are being tested and applied on a regular basis, and we sincerely apologise for any distruptions.”
My fingers are crossed.
Levels 90-91: stepping through the Dark Portal
It was a tedious wait, but eventually clock struck 23:00 GMT and Blizzard pushed that big red launch button. Then everything froze – we all got disconnected! Thankfully, it was only to the character select screen, so after mashing the enter key, I – and the rest of my server – found myself at the Shrine of the Two Moons.
Time to book it back to the Dark Portal.
The scene was mix of chaos and madness as mass katamari ball of players made a beeline through the portal to Orgrimmar, then to the Blasted Lands, and finally to the mouth of our next adventure. It may of seemed like the Iron Horde was invading us, but this time, we were invading them by the hundreds
And it was glorious.
A cutscene played to show us our two leaders smashing headlong into Draenor, Thrall and Khadgar (with Thrall being presumably replaced by King Varian if you’re Alliance). Blizzard have come a long way with their in-game cutscenes; I was in similar awe to when I first saw the scene depicting the battle outside Icecrown in Wrath of the Lich King. Responsible is the delightfully pretty character models, which has easily given World of Warcraft a much needed, new lease of life.
Back to business. It was clear that we’d underestimated the strength of the enemy that lay it wait for us. Our first mission was to destroy the Dark Portal and prevent any further insurgences into Azeroth.
This also meant we’d be trapped in Draenor, at least for the foreseeable future.
What followed was a very stylish and slick introduction to all the big bad warchiefs of the Iron Horde as we ran around Tannan Jungle. We freed the infamous Orc warlock, Gul’dan, to destroy the portal. The one-eyed Kilrogg made an appearance was performing blood rituals, to create super berserker Orcs. One-armed Kargath forced us to endure his gladiator arena and a hundred of his Orcs. Blackhand showed us the power of the Iron Horde’s warmachines, and finally we have Grommash, the iron-willed leader of the Iron clad Horde itself.
Our incursion ended as the Iron Horde called upon an endless amount of reinforcements, driving us to the docks. We didn’t leave empty handed though – a garrison of freshly freed, and vengeful Frostwolf Orcs accompanied us back to the land known as the Frostfire Ridge.
Frostfire Ridge is the first zone for members of the Horde; the home of the Frostwolf Clan. Here, warchief Durotan works tirelessly to ensure his people’s survival in the cold and hostile environment; even more so now that the Iron Horde has slowly encroached onto his lands.
All that being said, Frostfire Ridge is gushingly beautiful.
The smooth snow-covered landscape has a brief sense serenity – which is accompanied by a chill-including piano piece in the background – only to be interrupted by jagged and violent mountains and volcanoes. The disparity is enough to shake me from my dreamy eyed state, and remember I’ve got an Iron Horde to stop.
The Frostwolf Clan is kind and friendly, especially since we saved a bunch of their kin from the plights of Grommash and his Iron Horde. Since you’ll be staying in Draenor for the foreseeable future, you’re given your own plot of land to fashion yourself a new home: your Garrison.
Garrisons are a new feature in Warlords of Draenor, and they’re spectacular. They act as a forward base that you’ll conduct various missions around Draenor, recruit new followers and gather important resources.
A Garrison has multiple plots in which you can build a slew of different buildings, all offering something unique. An Alchemy lab will provide you with materials for making potions, elixirs and flasks, whereas an Enchanter’s Study will give you a method of disenchanting gear, and making new weapon enchantments for your gear. The best bit is that you don’t even need to have the profession of any one building to make use of it, but those who do have the matching skill will be able to do extra stuff.
There’s a ton more buildings, but I’ve not unlocked them yet. Keep an eye on the site for an upcoming and detailed explanation of what each one does, and what you’ll want in your Garrison.
Recruiting followers is an important part of running a Garrison. You’ll find them by a myriad of means: quests, Garrison missions, rare drops and achievements. Most followers start out at an “uncommon” quality, but when you pick them up, they have a small chance of immediately upgrading to either rare or epic. This usually isn’t the case, but I’ve been super lucky and scored to epic followers in my foray into Frostfire Ridge. The higher quality the follower, the more traits and abilities they possess, which is important when assigning them to do Garrison missions.
These missions are passive tasks in which you send your follower(s) out to do a task. It usually involves killing an enemy foe, which has its own powerful abilities and weaknesses. Exploiting those weaknesses with followers who counter them increases your chances of success. Missions take real-time to complete – anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. What you’ll earn is just as varied: follower experience, gold, Garrison resources, items and experience for your character, and even more new followers.
It’s a really fun feature, one that often distracted me from making any real headway with my leveling and questing. That’ll be fixed tonight however, as I aim to finish Frostfire Ridge and enter the lands of Goregond. You can join me over on ourTwitch channelat 20:00 GMT tonight, if you’d like. Be sure to pop into the chat and say hello!
I’ll be doing something new with my review in progress pieces – streaming the entire playthrough on ourTwitch channel. You can watch me as I conduct my review live, and follow me as I progress through the game. This gives you a great opportunity to see what the game is all about, and also ask any questions via the live chat. At the end of each day’s stream, I’ll post the day’s experience as a written post so you won’t miss a thing.
Launch is only a few more hours away: 11PM GMT to be precise. I’ll be doing an all-night stream – beginning at 8PM GMT tonight – as I take my first steps into Draenor if you want to tag along. Be sure to pop into the chat and say hello!