Ten years and still going strong.
World of Warcraft is truly an anomaly. It's hard to believe Blizzard's massively multiplayer online game launched all the way back in 2004. Heck, I was still in high school! Over the years, Blizzard has been incredibly smart in the way it has handled the franchise, consistently supporting it through updates and expansions that have help shape and evolve WoW into the experience so many gamers know and love today.
As such, it gives me great joy to report to all you World of Warcraft fans out there that it doesn't look like Blizzard's MMO is going anywhere anytime soon, as Warlords of Draenor, the game's fifth proper expansion, delivers on all fronts, providing endless hours of content that will please gamers who've been with the series for years and quite possibly even rope in some newcomers as well.
The first thing that jumped out at me when I dove into the expansion (after waiting in a nice, long queue—but more on that later) were the visuals. All of the older character models have received a significant bump in fidelity, and as such, look far more lifelike and animated. It's a change that's been long overdue, and one I'm sure those with a rig powerful enough to run the game on its highest settings will no doubt appreciate.
It's also clear Blizzard went to great lengths to make the narrative more interesting this time around, with plenty of cut-scenes to set up the backstory and introduce players to the expansion's cast of colorful orcs. I've never been one to care all that much about World of Warcraft's lore, but the added bits of story did have me feeling a bit more invested in the actions I was making and the quests I was completing. The game also has an incredible introduction that not only eases you back into the experience, but also provides the perfect environment for those who opt to boost a character to level 90 to acclimate themselves to their new character.
Since it bears repeating: Yes, Warlords of Draenor gets you a free level 90 character boost. Blizzard's thrown it in there for good measure, making it incredibly easy for newcomers to hop in and experience the latest and greatest content without having to start from square one. The way in which the skills and abilities are rolled out to you as you acclimate yourself to your class and the game's systems is incredibly intuitive and speaks to Blizzard's ability to cater to a wide array of gamers. (To read more about my initial experience with the expansion, check out my early impressions here.)
Speaking of quests, I'm happy to say Warlords of Draenor delivers some of the most varied and interesting quests the series has seen. You'll engage in epic set piece moments against hordes of foes, set fire to base camps, and so much more. Gone are the days of killing ten boars, only to return the quest, and then be told to go out and kill ten of something else. While there are still some of those monotonous quests thrown in for filler, more exciting adventures are peppered into your laundry list of to-dos, ensuring you never get bored. I oftentimes found myself getting that "one more quest" itch when I had already played the game for several hours on end, only to realize it was well past midnight. Be careful, this game will steal many hours away from your life.
There's no doubt in my mind Warlords of Draenor will have players invested in WoW right up until the release of the next expansion, thanks to the insane amount of content crammed in here. Even after you reach the new level cap of 100, there's so much to do, including new max-level dungeons, raids, and improved PVP. As another highlight, Garrisons provide you with your own base of operations, where you can amass followers and send them out on various missions for you to collect rewards.
Within your Garrison, just like in classic Warcraft, you can construct new buildings, upgrade them as you see fit, and reap the rewards while you're out roaming the world and hunting down new gear. It's an incredible addition that not only feels like a fully-featured game in and unto itself, but also one that allows you to further personalize and customize your experience, providing a sense of ownership to the world that is completely and uniquely yours.
The reason World of Warcraft has proven to stand the test of time has everything to do with its ability to cater to a wide array of different types of gamers, and Warlords of Draenor only pushes the envelope even further. I'm the type of player who just loves to go exploring the world, accomplishing quests, and customizing my character. Meanwhile, there's plenty out there who are a bit more competitive-minded and would prefer to hop into PVP and kick some butt in battlegrounds. It's all there, and dangerously addictive.
I will note, however, that the game's launch did suffer thanks to server issues. During the first few days following release, I found myself waiting in queues that were several hours long. It was quite frustrating, and I can totally sympathize with those who were eager to hop and get playing on day one. Blizzard has since remedied the issues and made amends with consumers, so if you're looking to get lost in Blizzard's amazing open word, I highly encourage you to do so, just as long as you don't mind sacrificing your social life.