Another Blizzcon has come and gone and, as usual, details have been released about what is next for the major Blizzard properties. Today we will be looking at the most significant reveal; the next World of Warcraft expansion Warlords of Draenor. The story of the coming expansion will carry on from the current one, so anyone who has not yet watched the cinematic after defeating Garrosh Hellscream may want to skip the next paragraph.
As the title suggests, the next expansion takes place on Draenor, home world of the Orcs, and surrogate home of the Draenei. After his his defeat in Orgrimmar, Garrosh is taken away to stand trial for his crimes. With the help of a Bronze Dragonflight ally (the faction of dragons who look after time), he escapes to the Dark Portal which is now linked to Draenor of thirty-five years ago. This is before the planet was destroyed, and the Orc clans have not yet been united. Garrosh attempts to united the clans into a new, stronger horde that utilises technology from the present day. Despite how it looks, events will spiral out of his control and Garrosh will not be the major villain this time around, though he may get the ‘it was just a setback’ moment that Blizzard loves to use in every expansion.
So, Warlords is set on Draenor of the past. This means that the hellish landscapes found in Outland are much more pleasant to behold. Yes, a few locations share their names with areas used in The Burning Crusade, but the experiences will be completely different. For example, the Black Temple was a raid used in Crusade. This used to be the city of Karabor, a location that will become the home the Alliance for the expansion. There are eight zones planned for the expansion, one of which will be a world PvP zone. Other islands appear on the map, but will be used for content in later patches.
As with every expansion, there will be tons of new content. First on many players list will be the ability to build a garrison on Draenor. This not only gives the player an instanced area to call their own, but will also form player housing that has often been requested. The base can be built in any of the seven questing zones and features many different buildings. The layout is decided upon by the player, allowing for plenty of customization. Each building has a unique function and can be upgraded twice. The prime example of this is the Inn, a structure that allows the player to hire NPC followers.
Followers can be equipped with gear and sent on missions (quests, dungeons and even raids!) from an interface that is very much like the pets and mounts. They even have a rarity like pet collecting, allowing rarer followers to have access to powerful abilities or skils, such as the ability to use a profession that the player would not normally have access to. Like the farm in Mists, a garrison could be tooled for producing materials and end game epics, or running missions for rewards. Trophies gained from achievements could even be put on display for when the player decides to invite their friends over.
New player models will be coming with Warlords as well. Blizzard have been working or this feature for a long time, and have decided to roll it out with the expansion rather than one race at a time. The designs are not radically new, instead the old hair and facial styles have been used so that players feel the soul of their character is still the same. Players will also find their bags are a little lighter, as toys, tabards, and heirloom items now have their own UI. This also solves the problem of moving heirloom items to a character on a different server, as once bought, are accessible on any character.
The new level cap for Warlords is 100, and there will be plenty of content to explore over the ten new levels. At launch the expansion will feature seven dungeons and two raids. The most controversial change of the expansion comes in the new raiding structure that will be introduced. Flex mode will be gone. Instead, Raid Finder, Normal, and Heroic difficulties will have a flexible raid size from ten to twenty-five. At the bleeding edge will be a new Mythic difficulty that lets groups of twenty take on the most difficult challenges the game has to offer.
Warlords is unlikely to be the last expansion for Warcraft, but could be the one that destroys it. Many guilds are setup to tackle one of the existing raid sizes, and may be put off that the hardest difficulty requires a different amount of players. The game has gone through a change in raid size before, but that was when it was still gaining players. With dwindling subscribers, a new change many not help. Looking past that though, player housing and followers will do wonders to keep more casual players around and, if done right, could keep veterans sweet as well.
What are your thoughts on the new raid structure? Does managing a town in Warcraft appeal to you? Can Warcraft gain subscribers with this expansion? Let me know in the comments!