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World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor Preview

Alex_Osborn By:
T What do these ratings mean?

Returning to Warcraft's roots.

Hardcore Blizzard fans are well aware that the Warcraft franchise expands far beyond the massive multiplayer online experience that has rocked the world ever since it launched back in 2004. The series had its humble beginnings as a real-time strategy game, not completely unlike its sci-fi inspired peer, Starcraft. However, a lot has changed since the early days of Warcraft, as the IP has gone on to spawn a living, breathing world that millions have dedicated hours, days, and even months worth of game time into. World of Warcraft has become a beast of its own and, in doing so, has strayed from its real-time strategy roots.

The fine folks over at Blizzard hope to change that with its upcoming expansion, Warlords of Draenor, which includes new areas to explore, completely redesigned character models, and a whole host of fresh gameplay mechanics that will knock even the most dedicated WoW players back on their heels. 

Warlords of Draenor allows players to formulate their own Garrison, a stronghold within which fans will be able to recruit and level up NPCs to aid in accomplishing various quests, crafting resources, and a host of other tasks. It really is like Blizzard has found a way to build a real-time strategy experience within the confines of an MMO. Each player will have a piece of territory to call their own and build out as they see fit. It's a first for the franchise, and something that will undoubtedly add an exciting wrinkle into the mix for longstanding fans.

But before gamers are plunged into the world of Draenor, they'll be introduced to the expansion's narrative in a one-hour prologue that sets up the events of WoD. The Red Orcs have invaded Azeroth and plan to wreak havoc upon the world. Fans of the original RTS game will recognize these iconic villains, as Blizzard has made it a priority to pay tribute to the series' roots in more than just mechanics. Players will get the chance to learn more about the origins of Warcraft as they peel back and discover the history of the deep and rich lore embedded within the world. 

And that's not all MMO-goers will be getting out of Warlords of Draenor, as Blizzard has gone back and redesigned the character models for a number of the original races. The studio has added more detail to the faces, created individual, freely-moving fingers on the characters' hands, and a wide array of lifelike expressions that really bring some much-needed personality to each race. Believe it or not, the female characters (especially the Orcs) actually look a bit more feminine thanks to the improved visuals.

In an effort to get new gamers into the experience, as well as players who've been absent for a spell, Blizzard is allowing folks to boost to level 90. When players boost, the game will ease them back into the experience, parcing out abilities on the action bar in a slow and digestible manner, so as not to overwhelm returning or new players. In this way, they'll be able to learn the ropes quickly, so they can jump into the new content and work on leveling their character to 100 as soon as possible. Yep, the level cap has now hit triple digits!

Changes have been made to the quest system as well, as streamlining the experience was of utmost importance for the studio. Now, gamers will be able to clearly see which quests are pivotal to the story should they wish to push through the narrative without being inundated with trivial fetch quests. Don't worry, though. The more medial tasks are still here, they just pop up as bonus objectives rather than separate quests of their own. In addition, Raids now allow cross-server play in the normal and heroic modes. There's also a new mythic difficulty for those looking for a steeper challenge.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg of content that Warlords of Draenor will offer gamers when it launches later this year for PC and Mac. I could go on about how Blizzard has streamlined the inventory system to make bag management less of a pain and how the exploration seen in the "vanilla" experience is coming back in a big way, but instead, I'll leave you with this: World of Warcraft fans have every reason to be excited for this new expansion, as the world's most popular MMO raises the bar yet again, proving that isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

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