Blizzard have used their annual Blizzcon convention to officially announce and give details on upcoming World of Warcraft expansion Warlords of Draenor.
The fifth expansion for the prodigious MMO will take place 30 game years back, before Draenor was destroyed at the end of Warcraft II: Beyond The Dark Portal, and will see former orc warchief Garrosh Hellscream using time travel to create an alternate timeline beyond the portal where the orcs were never corrupted by the Burning Legion, and are instead now united into a new “Iron Horde”...
So, plot-wise pretty extreme; taking the franchise back to its origins could be pretty revolutionary. Blizzard were good enough to elaborate on how it was that Garrosh has managed to escape his trial at the hands of the Alliance in Pandaria and, it seems, possibly fundamentally alter Azeroth's chronology.
Awaiting trial, the expansion will see Garrosh helped by Bronze Dragonflight, and be able to return to Draenor before its destruction. He there prevents the orcish “Warlords of Draenor” from being corrupted into a pact with the evil Burning Legion. The expansion, then, will bring characters and settings from right back in Warcraft: Orcs and Humans to the present day.
Level Cap And New Character Models
In terms of practical changes to the gameplay, the level cap has been lifted from Mists of Pandaria’s 90 to 100. Notably, players will have the opportunity to boost one character to level 90 as soon as they purchase Warlords of Draenor, entirely skipping the normal necessary grinding. This level skip can be applied to any character at any level, even a brand new alt.
In a move that will be a relief to anyone tired of some of Warcraft's aged visuals, the races themselves will be receiving a much overdue aesthetic overhaul with the expansion's accompanying patch. This - Blizzard assures us - wont mean that your character will have changed beyond recognition, just that it will have, you know, more definable facial features, and won't look its full nine years old. Bonus.
Blizzard have updated their site with visuals of the new models for several races, with more to be announced soon. You can check out the updated Dwarf below:
Draenor Map And "Garrisons"
Draenor itself will consist of seven zones, some of which are entirely original, whilst others are more reminiscent of their current Outland equivalents; the only surviving part of Draenor in the present WoW universe. For the first time in a WoW expansion, the Alliance and Horde will also have separate starting zones, with the Horde starting in the northern Frostfire Ridge, and the Alliance beginning on the far other side of the map in Shadowmoon Valley.
Blizzard have also announced the inclusion of "Garrisons" in their new expansions. These "enduring home base[s] integrated seamlessly with the world", as Blizzard has described them, allow you to build a base that will act as your own personal fortress. It can be customized with "specialized structures like farms, stables, armories [and] workshops", and players will be able to recruit followers to the garrison who can man your base and go out to fulfill missions and loot dungeons on their behalf. It's not quite clear exactly what this will entail, since it currently sounds like a way of recruiting NPCs to, well, avoid actually playing the game yourself. However, it could also possibly be used to introduce an RTS element to the expansion; again, heading back to the origins of the Warcraft franchise.
With World of Warcraft subscriptions having been in decline for some time now, Warlords of Draenor looks to be Blizzard’s attempt at injecting some enthusiasm into the franchise from fans of older iterations of the Warcraft world. Blizzard were pretty explicit at Blizzcon regarding the fact that they currently have no intentions to make the game free to play as many have suggested they might, instead believing that the way forward for the still-vast MMO is through keeping the content “fresh and new”, providing an easy, accessible “onramp to the game” for new players and keeping familiarity for older players who want to come back to the game.
With the new expansion looking like it could both be both a nostalgia trip for long-term Warcraft fans whilst still adding a lot more to the game, Warlords of Draenor could just be what Blizzard need help reverse the slow subscription decline. We could have a while to wait, however; the expansion does not have a slated release date as of yet. You can see the announcement trailer below.
What do you think of the details of World of Warcraft’s newest expansion? Do you think it will be enough to keep subscribers paying their monthly fee? Could it tempt Warcraft veterans back into the fold?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.