Gaming

The Iron Horde has arrived

It is not often a pre-patch to an up and coming World of Warcraft expansion gets reviewed. However, due to the extent of changes that Blizzard have achieved with the new pre-patch for Warlords of Draenor, I thought that it might be a good idea to go through some of the more important changes that they have undertaken.  This is not a comprehensive list of the changes that have occurred by any means.  This is a list of changes that I have thoroughly taken advantage of.

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Before pre-patch

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After Pre-patch

I have played World of Warcraft since the Expansion Wrath of the Lich King. I have beta tested both Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria expansions and was not terribly excited at either prospect when they hit the public domain.  The changes in these expansions just did not reflect what World of Warcraft is to players like myself.  This was proven by the drop in subscriber base of this long standing MMORPG.

I am excited though, for this new expansion for a number of reasons. It may not be “vanilla” WoW but it is certainly on the way to fast becoming one of the best expansions since The Wrath of the Lich King.  Blizzard has listened to its subscriber base and I am delighted by the changes.  I have mostly played the new pre-patch on my Night Elf Druid, Death Knight and Warrior.  I have also only played the Alliance side, so to give fair warning this is biased towards the Alliance experience.

To give you an idea of what to expect, and the story arc, I highly recommend you watch the cinematic trailers that can be viewed on You Tube.  The Lords of War cinematic trailer artwork is spectacular and does give you a good feel for the story angle.  I also highly recommend reading the Blizzard forums regarding the comprehensive changes.  There are also other websites available such as Wowhead and Icyveins which will give you a good overall picture of the changes to combat and what to expect in Warlords of Draenor.

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Burning Horde Ship, Lions Landing (World of Warcraft, Mists of Pandaria)

First and foremost, the graphics. My PC is mid-range 4th gen Intel i5 with a 760 GTX Nvidia graphics card with 8 gig of 1600 mhz DDR 3 RAM. I have everything set high/ultra to render the best graphics from my mid ranged machine.  Blizzard have finally added in a day/night cycle.  They have improved the beauty of the “older” worlds, making the character models more organic and realistic. (As an addendum to this, gnomes now scare me).  The barber shop can now do plastic surgery on your character.  They have made your character solid, so the grass parts when you run through it capes flap when you run, trees move with the new weather effects (even if only a little), it rains heavy and light, and storms roll in complete with lightning (although thunder is missing). The water effects are outstanding for an MMORPG. The overhaul of the WoW graphics has made it a simply beautiful world to play in.

They have improved the combat system, making it fairer, easier (in some cases) and certainly more enjoyable, particularly for a feral druid. The day/night cycle affects crit (night) and haste (day). The main change for feral druids is that we no longer have the facing requirement so we can face an enemy straight on and have the same hit ratio than having to be behind.  Another great feature is that combo points are now on the enemy.  This is an absolute blessing as AOE’s are now very effective on feral druid.  The improved combat system (and yes it involved pruning of talents, glyphs and abilities) has made the choice of what to play fairer.  No longer are Mages overpowered or Hunters given added pet advantage or Paladins and Death Knights the best and only tanks.  It has given players a better choice.  Also the statistics squish has made hit points look more reasonable than the millions of hit points per character that occurred in Mists of Pandaria (this change has applied to NPCs as well).   NPCs are now highlighted to stop you from accidentally hitting a neutral NPC (yellow), red for enemy and green for friendly.

The loss of reforging is brilliant and the individual boss loot in dungeons and raids has made loot fights a thing of the past. The ability to self-heal on all characters is fantastic as well.  The sound has been updated, so a satisfying thud can be visibly heard when an ogre hits the ground.

Other nice feature included is the toy box. This places all the toy collectables into one area, so you can collect them and not have them take up much required bag space.  They have also increased the stacks of reagents from 20 to 200 so collect as much cloth, ore and herbs as you like. They have increased void storage, which, as a transmogrifier tragic, (fashionista of the WoW world)  is a blessing.  They have integrated the quest and map system, making finding and handing in quests much easier.

Blizzard have added the functionality that the pet collection has to the mounts. It shows all mounts, where and how to get them (if they are not retired) that you need, both on the horde and alliance side.  They have also given you advanced warning on new achievements and have introduced a new raid finder system called pre-made group.   Blizzard has also bought back the 40 man raid with Molten Core being overhauled and presented to players on the day of Warlords of Draenor release.  The new pets and mounts are too numerous to add to this quick list.

The bag system has had an overhaul with clean up options now available. Quest items are now highlighted so you don’t accidentally delete those and any junk has a money symbol beside it when you go to a vendor.  The Auction houses for both horde and alliance are now combined making it easier for both sides to find what they need.

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“Urrgggh THUD”. Satisfying.

Unfortunately, I cannot explain the story of Warlords of Draenor or how it fits into the grand scheme of the WoW gaming world mainly because in its present pre-patch state, certain events would not have taken place. I am not up on WoW lore (I don’t read the books, I just play the game). It shows in the cinematics that the Warlords of Draenor is set 35 years in the past (I think) before the Mists of Pandaria were lifted.  This means that Burning Crusade (Outland) would not have happened yet, or Cataclysm (the last flight of Deathwing) or the fact that the Lich King became a genuine threat in Northrend.  Confused yet?  I certainly am.  We meet the Iron Horde for the first time in the Blasted Lands in present day WoW.  How?  I don’t know.  I am hoping that this gets explained.

Aside from the confusing story arc, there are sadly, some negatives to this pre-patch. A few things are still broken such as the toybox.  Also another negative to the toybox is that toys you collected but had to remove or delete due to bag space will need to be collected again.  Some toys will be hard to get if you don’t level up another character and this is highly irritating.  Also, some toys do not delete out of your bags, which I believe that is why the toybox was set up in the first place.  If you are a completionist, I believe having to purchase a mount for its hitching post a negative for your toybox collectables.  A few minor glitches such as the shared achievements system having issues and  the retirement of pets and mounts is always a sad thing, particularly when you don’t belong to a large raiding or pvp guild which means that players can and do miss out on being able to work through content post patch.

However, these are minor compared to the biggest news to come out of Blizzard Head Quarters. It was announced this week that the Oceanic regions will be getting its own servers based in Australia.  The thought of having latency less than 40 milliseconds is exciting.

Overall, this pre-patch has ushered in a new age for World of Warcraft and has revitalised my interest in the game.  I am looking forward to the release on the 13th of November 2014 (which is WoW’s 10th anniversary) and invite you to once again take up arms against the horde, or the alliance or the world.

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