New Mage Spell Graphics – WoD Alpha

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Recently I had the fortune to check out some of the new Mage talents and abilities on the Warlords of Draenor Alpha, and whilst not actively playing a mage as a progressional character, I did find the changes to be obvious from the outset, regardless of my play style and previously stated distance from the class itself. Filling my screen with fire and ice is something I will never complain about, so let the lag-inducing experience begin!

The graphical fidelity of World of Warcraft has been somewhat of a backseat in recent years some could argue, with many graphical changes in recent expansions being more akin to literal patches applied on an old leather coat, rather than a new coat entirely. This is not a bad thing, as much of what makes that coat unique and interesting is shared with World of Warcraft for me personally. With many changes, including those to the actual races and characters we play comes wonderful revamps and opportunities to implement visually stunning effects for various abilities. Mages are considerably livelier than most classes with their abilities, often filling the screen with fire or frost based explosions, so it makes sense to up the graphical quality of those effects primarily as to not make other changes look alien in a relatively old game. The character models themselves are owed this attention to detail, especially after how ridiculously good they look in comparison to the older models, on that im sure we can all agree.

The first Mage ability I looked at was called Supernova; an interesting talented replacement for the spell Frost Nova. Specifically for mages of an Arcane disposition, Supernova allows the caster to place a pulse of energy around either another player or the enemy, which then pulses for 112% of the casters spell power as arcane damage to all enemies within 8 yards of the target. This ability also causes the target to be knocked upwards, if the target is an enemy that you originally placed the ability on, then that enemy will take 100% extra damage whilst the effect is in place. The ability itself seems rather useful and adds extra utility to the level 75 talent choice. Im not a mage on the live game servers, as I have mentioned before, however I would feel that this seems to be a rather exciting and powerful choice that will likely be extremely useful in both PvP and the PvE situations with a large amount of additional creatures. Graphically the spell does exactly what you would expect, as it says on the tin. A large purple explosion of energy protrudes from the targets I placed it on, circling out in waves of pink tipped fire. Nothing short of extraordinary and certainly a pleasant selection of colours from what I would say usually remains, in my opinion very samey for many mage abilities.

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Secondly I looked at ‘Evanesce’, despite my first time reading the ability as ‘Evanescence’ and unfortunately expecting Amy Lee to pop out and serenade me to sleep; I was still pleasantly surprised when presented with another visually appealing, if not slightly ‘over-pink’ palette. I shrugged this off as possibly a theme suited to mages and read that it replaces ‘Ice Block’, immunity ability, which is extremely useful in PvE and PvP. What this talent choice (available at level 15 on the first tier of talents) does then is actually replace it with a shorter duration immunity lasting 3 seconds, only this allows the mage to actually continue moving AND can be used as an immunity WHILST casting other spells. Situational events where a full duration immunity do exist, however I still feel that the majority of the time, at least in PvE the choice may remain fundamentally towards Ice Block, rather than a heavily time sensitive replacement.

Thirdly, and lastly I got my hands on the level 75 talent choice, this time for Frost Mages only. Again replacing Frost Nova, this ability, dubbed ‘Ice Nova’ places a whirl of ice and snow around the targeted friendly / non friendly player or enemy monster and deals 95% of the mages spell power as frost damage, again if the primary target is an enemy, then that enemy takes 100% additional damage whilst the effect is in place. As stated before, I know little to practically nothing about mages anymore; however it seems like a particularly strong choice for the level 75 tier talent and actually looks the best out of the spell effects ive seen thus far. Unfortunately the place I tested this ability out in the video you will see below was predominantly the same colours of the actual spell, i.e. ice, however rest assured the visual fidelity and quality of the effect is sublime.

As much as the abilities which I have talked about today are interesting, it would seem there are even more mage abilities available only to level 100 mages which I hear are sublime and put these three to shame. I wait with baited breath then to be able to test out those potentially lag-inducing morsels of entertainment. I honestly want to see Blizzard address more spells for more classes, especially other magic users, as I find that if you increase quality in one place and not all, sometimes you can end up with obvious old versus new side by side comparisons. Warlocks are set to possibly get the same treatment, and my mind can only dream of what explosive options Blizz has up their sleeves.

Until then enjoy the various other changes to World of Warcraft, that honestly are making Warlords of Draenor look to be the most promising advancement the game has ever undertaken, a worthwhile leap forward in a sea of competitors, which are honestly put to shame by this aging, yet beautifully designed and evolving videogame. We intend to cover as much as possible over here on WoW.Stratics and personally in video form over on www.youtube.com/acegamestv.

If you have enjoyed my article, please feel free to continue the discussion over on our forums or leave a comment below. What are your favourite changes so far? What do you want to see from our Alpha coverage? Let us know!

 

Flying, Garrisons & WoD News. 13 March 2014.

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Today marks the release of more information via social media, that Warlords of Draenor will NOT be using flight throughout the world of Draenor at launch, and has not been confirmed to be used at level 100, despite the likelihood obviously that it would be. Alex Afrasiabi, lead world designer for World of Warcraft at Blizzard Entertainment go’s on to say that perhaps players would perhaps learn to enjoy the world without flying, and that they are waiting to see how players react to this limitation.

Personally I would say that I’d have to agree with the idea that the world we play in each expansion would benefit more from players having to explore more, allowing for much of the hard work that go’s unseen in the world more noticeable. If you look at fellow writer; Samkos recent post about Easter eggs in World of Warcraft, it could be argued that many of those aspects of the game would be more seen if flying did not exist in Azeroth. That being said, I would have to then counter that by saying flying is purely a convenience tool, and allows for players who have their daily routines in game to do that content easier and less laborious than it would be without. Either way, it’s interesting to see the approach to flying they are taking with Warlords of Draenor, and I share the curiosity of Mr Afrasiabi on how people will react.

Other information today, also through social media was that the starting event leading up to Warlords of Draenor’s release will be set in and around the Dark Portal in Blasted Lands. It has been said that the initial quests and events will take 40-45 minutes and will feature the player defending the world from invading Iron Horde through the Dark Portal. The event will see players attempt to shut down the portal itself, presumably leading to the events where Garrosh steps through the portal. Alex Afrasiabi is keen to emphasise the realisation of how bad the Iron Horde are, and mentions that we will see how important it is for us to address the problem immediately, or encounter a full invasion comparable to the first war.

Yesterday saw the launch of Hearthstone, and indeed the Hearthsteed mount (which you can read the article further to learn how to get your own). Speculation on what came to the original red version of the same mount was answered by Blizzard Employee; Corey Stockton, who confirmed that the model will infact be used in the future and that they have plans for it’s implementation. This comes as players wondered if the original designs were faction specific colour variants, only now it seems that this could be a future reward for WoW from Hearthstone. The release of Hearthstone itself did not avoid the usual issues with a new launch release, and some players reported difficulty redeeming their mounts in game. Blizzard addressed this by asking players to log out of their accounts and back in, which seems to be a fix for the issue.

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Finally we got more information, or rather confirmation on the possible scale of Garrisons; the player housing / instanced area in Warlords of Draenor from Jeremy Feasel, an employee of Blizzard who works on Garrisons, pet battles, the Timeless Isle and more features of the game. Upon joining he shared this screenshot, which features the Alliance player buildings present in the Garrison feature. The screenshot itself supplies the realisation on both scale and progressive features unlocked through achievements and progress in the game. The fountain in the centre for example, that would be built over time and presumably from a reward, achievement, or time related unlock process. What can be said is that personally I think the whole thing looks fantastic. The implementation of this feature alone to World of Warcraft will bring more addictive and enjoyable elements for players to be involved with outside of raiding or pvp. The original scale of the buildings I saw at an early stage of last years Blizzcon were tiny in comparison to what can only be a more progressed and advanced Garrison. This is fundamentally one of the most anticipated implementation for WoW, and with many other games doing it arguably less well planned than they could of, it will be interesting to see how this affects daily WoW life.

With WoD just around the corner now, and Beta invites expected very shortly, be sure to bookmark WoW.Stratics today, the only place you need to be for everything

Patch 5.4.7 Out this week!

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That’s right! Long awaited news of anything progressing us one step closer to Warlords of Draenor came earlier today, featuring information data mined from plans to deploy the patch this week.

So what does this patch contain? :

This patch brings with it the end of PvP season 14, preparing the game for season 15, which is said to contain similar modelled gear to 14, but with slight recolours. If you want to do some last minute achievement hunting for this season, you need to get it done now! For those of you more concerned with Blizzard’s recent announced feature of the level 90 boost service, those elements are indeed contained within this patch, weather or not the option to actually use the service on patch day or not, still remains a mystery, however it’s very likely that many of the features of the patch simply lay the groundwork for more well announced releases of this and other features prior to the pre-order stage of Warlords of Draenor, expected within the next few weeks.

Old players, now is your time to come back to the game! Following the planned addition of the ability to boost characters via the in-game store, Blizzard are taking out Scroll of Ressurection. SoR was a valuable tool, used for returning old players who haven’t played since the older expansions back to the game with rewards such as a free boost to level 80 for a character of theirs and a mount. The service will be defunct with the new boosting service and so is the last chance to possibly get the spectral Gryphon and Spectral Windrider mounts, faction based respectively. This follows the pressure on account trading issues which also unfortunately came with SoR, and the removal and improved replacement of these services only go’s to clean up the game for everyone a little bit more.

Lastly, but hardly least on the glorious additions data mined from this patch is confirmation that the pre-order of Warlords of Draenor and subsequent proof that the pre-order will be very, very soon. The Collector’s edition mount, and pet are within the patch files, which means that we could see beta access within the next month at the very latest!

Featured here are images of both the ‘Dread Raven’ CE Mount for WoD, and the CE Pet based on the same model. Both of which you aquire via the purchase of the Collectors edition version of WoD:

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Again all of the main features of the patch are subsequent to announcements from Blizzard themselves, but with the patch definitely coming out this week with the weekly maintenance, you can be sure that the WoD news here on Stratics has just begun!

Warlords of Draenor, Through The Dark Portal

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Thinking back to previous expansion launches for World of Warcraft gives you an idea of the progressing expectations of the player base. Technological restrictions are lifting within the game engine every year, leading to some extremely exciting and engaging prospects of just what is possible in a starting zone and entrance to new content.

The Burning Crusade had a small series of quests that lead up to the Dark Portal, but nothing major, yet the initial venture through to portal was enough to make the average player skip said quests just to get through the portal as fast as possible, especially with the graphical uniquity and beauty that lay the other side of the gateway. The initial feeling of stepping through that portal was a grand affair, filled with united gasps of awe and sheer excitement in the zone, but it was controversially flawed in just how many people they expected to be in one place at exactly the same time, with server down times and questing areas filled with dead monsters, camped by hundreds of people trying to get the initial quests done on their adventure towards the level 70 cap.

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Wrath of the Lich King approached this problem with two starting zones, one for each faction and phased questing which put players in separate instance servers the further down a quest line they progressed. This technology which we have previously mentioned in articles on WoW Stratics has had its ups and downs, and in many ways it’s always been a subject for argument as to what it adds and what it takes away from the MMO world the game is set within, Sometimes isolating the player from other elements of the game such as world PvP. Fortunately the effects on the end game post level 90 content are minimal in MoP with much of the world allowing for simultaneous cohesion between players present in any one area.

These problems were approached again in the next expansion; Cataclysm, bringing a level of polish that very literally re-invented how questing within zones should be approached, even making Burning Crusade and Wrath areas feel less immersive once you finish that content in the levelling process. A process even further elaborated and perfected in Mists of Pandaria with the addition of advanced questing methods and ways to engage the player further in the storyline. Voice acting increased tenfold in MoP, with every major character voiced in and outside of visually impressive pre-rendered cutscenes. Mists added new levels of immersion in the storyline of Warcraft universe, adding more in-engine cutscenes and events, including well written antagonists present within the first zone, something they learnt worked in WoTLK with Arthas involvement in the players levelling experience.

So then, Warlord’s of Draenor, a world untainted by the events of our own timeline, where Orc warchief’s and clans were at their strongest in the lore. What can be expected from this initial leap into the content? Well, what we do know is that WoD has some truly impressive zones, what does come to mind is comparisons between Hellfire Peninsula and the Tanaan Jungle, the exact same zone, just before and after Ner’Zhul’s cataclysmic involvement to the world.

wod_zone_tanaanjungle_01_hdThe Tanaan Jungle is exactly that, a lush, wild rainforest filled with bizarre flora and fauna not found on Azeroth. Wild beasts were seen in the concept art for Warlords at Blizzcon 2013, terrible Wasp like flying monsters and Predecessors of the frankly terrifying Razor-toothed Ravagers, the ones found in current time in Outlands border zones. Orcs will be present in the zone, as the Bleeding Hollow clan calls this area their home, led by a shamanistic attitude in an inhospitable, monstrous living jungle, very literally under their control. Other concept art supports the return of Burning Crusade favourites the Gron; Giant formidable opponents that truly demanded respect in the zones they were present. These creatures are in a state of near extinction during the time of The Burning Crusade, yet artwork-15-fullin the time of Warlords, the Gron are a powerful race, forged into powerful clans of their own and allied with certain orcish clans. Water fills the surrounding area around the perimeter of the zone, instead of the void like Twisting Nether, ever making the world of Draenor more World-Like than its later incarnation in time. Fishing and water questing will be present, boats will be floating about busily in the world due to a working port at Shattrath, within the province of Talador. The world will be as alive as Pandaria, if not more so.wodpets3

 

 

Will this zone be the staging area for the player entrance to Warlords of Draenor? Will the portal open here and will players of both factions be in the same zone again from the offset more akin to TBC’s Hellfire, or will the start zone be Shadowmoon and Frostfire, differentiating by faction respectively?

This question has been on my mind for some time, and after asking other people in various circles it feels as though the portal opening to the same location and both factions heading through would be a good hark back to old times, and in many ways the problems that made this a downside of Burning Crusade, could be avoided with the new and refined technologies and Blizzard has implemented over the years making these issues nearly non-existent. Only time will tell, and obviously anything we talk about here should be seen as pure speculation, but either way the points I have mentioned will inevitably lead to some extremely involving and immersive storyline whilst you make your way to level 100, and in fact should improve on Mist’s of Pandaria with the lore present being more widely known than MoP’s relatively original and new storyline. Reading into these zones and thinking about how events will unfold only go’s further into my anticipation of the Beta process, where many questions will be answered and I for one cannot wait to cover the process in full.

If you have found this article interesting and would like to continue the discussion with your own ideas and feelings towards Warlords of Draenor, please go along to the forums where we have room to talk further. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time!