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.
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.
The 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 in 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.
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!