World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor in the test - back to old strength

Author: Christopher Reimers
Date: 2014-11-13 16:37:00
Shortly before the tenth birthday of the genre-defining MMO, the fifth major WoW expansion Warlords of Draenor appears for testing. For the first time there are no new races or classes, but many players suspect this is the best addon of all. But is that true?

Let's not kid ourselves. Each and every one of us sometimes cheers for an ambitious goal, celebrates an achievement and dreamily looks back on the beginnings. But then it hits us like a bolt from the blue: “What? Was that ten years ago? Impossible! «Even we computer gamers are not spared this fate, on the contrary! After all the stories, dramas and triumphs, the next adventure will fly by again.

Undoubtedly, this is especially true for the online role players among us, who invest hundreds, even thousands of hours in a single game. Even at the beginning of the millennium, some gamers ridiculed them as crazy, but the MMO genre quickly grew into a mass phenomenon - and as the Internet turned from a trend to a matter of course, online role-playing games hit the heart of our pop culture.

There is basically a single game responsible for this beautiful mess. The. Game. World of Warcraft . A name like Donnerhall. Loved by millions, mostly viewed critically by the rest or even prematurely pronounced dead - several times, but always wrongly. But in view of the number of subscribers, which has been falling from twelve to under seven million since 2011, the prophets of doom are sharpening their knives with growing enthusiasm.

The good old time

With the fifth expansion Warlords of Draenor , WoW is celebrating its tenth anniversary. Above all, the latest addon is intended to attract as many WoW veterans as possible and bring back the "good old days".

This applies to both the large community, for whom everything in Azeroth was new and exciting back then, as well as the Warcraft world, in which legendary warriors like Grom Hellscream once made history. Such historical figures can be found on every corner in Draenor, the new game world from WoW - a dream for every Warcraft fan.

Warlords of Draenor is the first addon with no new races or classes. Nevertheless, it appeals to many players more than the last expansion simply because of the reunion with familiar characters from Warcraft lore. Objectively speaking, Mists of Pandaria improved the game with numerous useful innovations, but not every WoW player was warm to the Far Eastern-themed pandaren setting.

Horde against horde

In the past, World of Warcraft was particularly fascinating because of its coherent universe. The atmospheric world with epic stories, self-sacrificing heroes and merciless villains - it all looked like a single piece in 2004. And that's exactly what Warlords of Draenor hits; After the realignment in Pandaria, we're now back to basics. And this journey is getting pretty complicated, at least as far as the story goes.

Rewind: So after the ruthless orc warchief Garrosh dug up the heart of an "old god" in Pandaria, he gained terrible power and finally went mad. Only an alliance of the Alliance and the Horde defeated him in the battle for Orgrimmar, but before his conviction Garrosh managed to escape with the help of a bronze dragon.

The latter even enabled him to step back in time, and so Garrosh traveled to the planet Draenor - a time when his people were on the verge of enslavement by the demons. In the original homeland of the orcs, Garrosh met his father Grom. Together with the other warlords they formed the "Iron Horde", fought back the demons and finally started the invasion of today's Azeroth.

The well-known horde around Thrall and Vol'jin as well as the alliance under King Varian Wrynn faced the Iron Horde at the "Dark Portal" and now start the counterattack on Draenor in the new expansion. In this alternate timeline, the planet does not split into the Outland known from The Burning Crusade . Nevertheless, some areas are a pleasant reminder of the adventures of the past or the future.

Golden era

Despite this complicated time travel story, the WoW community reacted extremely euphorically to the announcement of Warlords of Draenor, after Mists of Pandaria it is based more on the classic Warcraft realms. Although Blizzard enriched its MMO with more content and mechanics in every new addon, many players still wished for the original World of Warcraft and the times of The Burning Crusade.

The longing for this “golden era” may also result from the romantic, sometimes idealized memories of many fans. However, over the years WoW has changed from a new online role-playing game with various initial hurdles and great challenges to a well-known, beginner-friendly MMO for everyone. As understandable as this development may be, a large part of the long-established community didn't like it at all.

In terms of gameplay, Warlords of Draenor wants to go back to the origins, with challenging instances for veterans - and at the same time a lot of comfort for newcomers. WoW should feel as exciting and unadulterated as "back then". The Draenor of the past is perfect for this, after all, the orc warlords of the old horde are extremely deeply anchored in Warcraft history - characters such as Ner'zhul, Durotan or Gul'dan are only known as players from the first three Warcraft Strategy games.

A touch of housing

The planet itself again resembles the Outland from the first WoW add-on - a not inconsiderable nostalgia bonus for millions of players. Completely new, however, is the garrison, a fresh play element that provides plenty of long-term motivation even without new races or classes. "Garrison? Finally the long promised housing? «A definite yes and no!

Because shortly after the start of our Draenor expedition, we lay the foundation stone for our personal fortress, which we are allowed to expand gradually in three stages. With sufficient resources, we create various buildings of our choice, such as barracks, magicians' towers or taverns, on given spaces. Such objects grant us more and more advantages as the game progresses, such as crafting materials or character bonuses.

As a passionate furrier, we are allowed to regularly retrieve ores from our mine or pick plants in the herb garden. In addition, we send AI followers on missions in our base and receive further rewards if they are successful - Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood sends its regards. Since we in no way equip a home with an interior in the garrison, we are not dealing with real housing here. Nevertheless, we finally get a personal fortress that motivates us in the long term - and reminds us pleasantly of Warcraft 3 .

WoW goes Hollywood

Despite this new game element, the focus of Warlords of Draenor is more than ever on story and game world. Okay, a big, coherent world - WoW has always been able to do that, but in terms of presentation it shone above all with the fantastic intro cinematics. In the actual game, on the other hand, it was often quite static and wooden, which was mainly due to the aged Warcraft 3 engine. And it was precisely this Warcraft 3 that succeeded - thanks to in-game cutscenes and many dubbed dialogues - in places still the better staging.

Sure, a continuous story is much easier to tell with a single-player game than with a full-blown MMO, but the role-playing competition also demonstrated that there is a lot more to staging. And this is where World of Warcraft is finally taking a big step forward. Because with Warlords of Draenor the game is now a little more cinematic. The new quests are now accompanied by more in-game cutscenes and audio dialogues - the strong soundtrack does the rest.

Amazingly, even the game graphics provide some goose bumps here - so it doesn't always have to be cinematics! When well-known Warcraft personalities sacrifice themselves for their people and thus forfeit their own lives, it runs down our spines as ice, that's how great the event is staged. Here WoW presents itself in top form and finally uses more of the potential of its large and unique universe.

I am beautiful!

The strong staging carries the plot of Warlords of Draenor much better than the now somewhat static presentation of an outdated The Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King . This is also due to the more dynamic feel of the game, because through many quests we gradually change our environment - for example when we expand our garrison in several stages or advance our troops. This phasing technology introduced with Wrath of the Lich King is now being used more generously by Blizzard.

Fortunately, the designers also modified their engine in favor of prettier graphics. Even before the release of Warlords of Draenor, the preparatory patch 6.0.2 made for significantly more stylish character models with significantly more polygons, sharper textures and new animations - in direct comparison a difference like day and night.

This welcome and long overdue visual revision affects all eight classic player races as well as the draenei. Blood elves have to wait a few more weeks, while the more contemporary worgen, goblin and pandaren models retain their familiar appearance for the time being. Incidentally, this also applies to all NPCs, not just to the character models of the players.

The song of style and color

The new game world is also a whole lot more attractive than the well-known areas. The seven diverse regions of Draenor offer crisper textures, denser vegetation, and more sophisticated objects. The landscapes, together with the increased level of detail and the usual great lighting mood, create some really beautiful panoramas.

Of course, World of Warcraft is still not a graphically outstanding game - texture resolution, number of polygons and effects are still not up to date. But the attention to detail, unparalleled sense of style and the splendid color scheme create an unmistakable role-play idyll even more than before. The bottom line is that the look remains a matter of taste despite all the objectively perceptible improvement.

Increased demands

From the atmospheric Shadowmoon Valley to the Frostfire Ridge to the paradisiacal Nagrand, Draenor can be seen throughout. The flight ban prevents careless exploration, which is why we always experience the game world up close.

The dungeons of Draenor are as varied as the open regions: In addition to mysterious vaults such as Auchindoun, we explore the wonderfully beautiful evergreen pile in the open air or even fight our way through a moving train in the Grimmgleisdepot instance.

The eight new dungeons are already considerably more crisp on the normal level of difficulty than the instances of the last expansion, without teamwork and full concentration many players will reach their limits here. The new raids are even more demanding. Two large raid instances and a total of 20 raid bosses await the start of Warlords of Draenor.

Here the level of difficulty is redistributed: All groups of ten to 30 players can choose between normal, heroic and the raid finder. On the other hand, tried-and-tested teams of 20 face the ultimate challenge in the mythical raids - the reward for the effort is the most valuable loot.

Something for everyone

The new maximum level and thus the entry ticket for all raids in Warlords of Draenor is now level 100. On the way there, we also do some unusual tasks, but there are no earth-shattering innovations in the quest design. Somewhat surprising for WoW: The addon comes with a free level boost to level 90 for any character. This gives newbies and returning players instant access to the latest content.

Incidentally, there is also a clever story tutorial waiting here that gradually unlocks more skills and offers a fair learning curve. Great for all quest lovers: each new task offers a chance for more powerful extra rewards. Passionate PvP players, on the other hand, are happy about Ashran, the new, open battlefield of Draenor. Since group players benefit from the flexible level of difficulty of the instance, the add-on is suitable for almost every type of player.

More convenience in menus and pockets, trimmed character values and some useful changes to the talent system round off the latest addon. Warlords of Draenor expands the game in every nook and cranny, but the great revolution does not happen. For WoW's tenth birthday, Blizzard delivers exactly what millions of fans want: pure Warcraft DNA with new content, optimized technology and a focus on story and game world. The next few months will show whether the great World of Warcraft staging will return to its old strength.