Brace yourselves. This is going to be the unpopular WoD review.
I have loved Azeroth for years. I revelled in the frozen wastes of Northrend and I embraced the cataclysm, game changing as it was, with open arms. I staunchly defended the Pandaren’s place in the world, even if I never properly played one, and I rejoiced when the tired old character models got that much needed upgrade.
But the textures themselves build towards my main source of criticism for the game as it stands now. It’s a new paint job on an old car – the car in question being one that has ambled along happily for years, having so many parts replaced along the way that it barely qualifies as the same car any more. And in comparison to some of the newer, shinier models out there, it just doesn’t feel quite as good as it did before. Some new textures don’t change how dead inside WoW feels now. It’s impressive just how big the game world is, sure, and the first time I logged into an old character and saw it with a fully animated face, the childish glee that bubbled up inside of me was beyond compare, but, as it is with the journey from 90-100, woefully short lived.
Blizzard have recently stated that they think Warcraft has ten more years left in it. Not the franchise. Not WoW 2. This game, with a bunch more expansion packs tacked on for good measure, at a frequency which is certain to be nothing short of unnerving. Nothing’s really changed – the overall quest structure remains almost entirely similar, and life as as one of the level capped is the same process of grind, raid, loot, repeat. The journey from 90-100, whilst full of some genuinely compelling and impressive moments, just isn’t substantial enough. Dinging 100 just happens way too quickly and as such, WoD feels rather inconsequential. I had full blown fantasies about the moment I’d hit 100, but when it happened, it felt like a hollow victory – especially with the instant level 90 boost offered to those who preordered Draenor.
I could fill an entire article with just how fundamentally wrong that boost is but here I’ll just outline the basics. 1) The journey from 1-90 is filled with awesome moments, classic dungeons, and most importantly, a subtle learning structure that should have you fairly well acquainted with your class by the time you hit the level cap and start clearing end game content. With the instant jump to WoD that I would bet hundreds on the majority of new players using before they actually leveled a toon from scratch, that learning process is scrapped, and you have end game content usually tackled by experienced players full of people who might have been playing for a week at best. These boosts can be bought multiple times, too – which just seems dirty any way you look at it. Can’t be bothered to play the game properly? Just buy your way to the top. That’s not going to fill the game with lazy, clueless players at all. It’s a sign of the game’s transition into full bullshit monetization. We can buy high level characters now for the same price as a current-gen game – how long is it going to be before we can buy gear too? I’ve been playing a retribution paladin for years but put me behind the wheel of a healer and I’ll be clueless.
2) It basically invalidates all of the content Blizzard have put out thus far. New players now have an easy, accessible way to skip right to the end. In any other game, would you take the option to skip right to the end and spend a few (several) bucks in the process? You’d call that a rip off. If you’re thinking about joining the massively bloated player base, do yourself a favour – don’t skip right to the end. There’s so much importance held in that journey, in that trek, that the idea of missing out on all that experience (literally) is something anathema to the WoW experience. Blizzard are cheapening the game. Yes, it’s a grind. Yes, you need to put a lot of time into it. But it’s all shared, and it’s epic. Warlords isn’t skipping to the good bit. It’s skipping the good bit.
For the first week, it seemed like my review was going to be exceptionally short. Because I couldn’t even play the game – queues for my server promised waits upwards of entire days. And when I did manage to push my way into the nostalgia packed, dysfunctional theme park that is Warlords, the garrisons were all too packed to be any fun. Once I got a decent look in – after a frankly heinous week of waiting and slowdown, the pay off wasn’t even that great. I just felt, well, cheated. After getting to level 100 and cursing my Blood Elf’s lack of shiny new textures (it’s beyond weird seeing all the other races look all polished and lovely when yours looks like a bit of makeup fired at a flat surface.)
Every time Blizzard release an expansion it has these problems at launch. You’d expect them to be at least somewhat prepared after a decade of Warcraft. Sure, they threw some free game time at the playerbase to make up for it, but that just doesn’t make the game being utterly useless for over a week remotely accessible. Those that could play were locked in a glitchy, laggy mess. People who didn’t buy into the expansion obviously suffered too, and that’s just not good enough.
There are good parts. The quests are fun, and the core of the content is expanded. It’s both a good and a bad thing that all Warlords really offers is more of the same with a sexy new coat of paint. I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, but then again – I am still playing it. Not quite as intensely as I played previous expansions, but there’s still the lingering draw back to Azeroth. There’s just that niggling voice left – why are we all still playing? You’ve probably made up your mind about Draenor. But I think we can all agree that Blizzard are fast running out of ways to expand upon their fat, greedy prodigal son – and it’s going to take a lot more than some new textures to keep it full of life in the years to come.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.