‘World of Warcraft’ expansion is a nostalgic trip

By Chris Mudd, Staff Writer

Blizzard’s latest expansion in the “World of Warcraft” has brought the franchise back to its roots of blood, battle and brutality.

“Warlords of Draenor” is a revitalizing nostalgia trip to what brought many players into the “Warcraft” universe in the first place: War.

After the lackluster “Mists of Panderia” expansion, the subscriber base of “Warcraft” plummeted to just under seven million but, at the moment of “Draenor’s” release on Nov. 13, shot immediately up to 10 million. Players respond well to excellent content, and that’s exactly what this expansion brought.

The entire game engine has undergone a complete overhaul, creating an altogether smoother and more free-flowing gameplay experience. This overhaul comes complete with changes to the user interface that enhance the leveling and questing experience, but perhaps more important is the complete remastering of player character models.

As this December marks the 10th year anniversary of “World of Warcraft’s” initial release, it seems appropriate that the characters’ gamers have spent so long playing that it should receive a visual upgrade. Every race in the game has (or will be receiving) a graphical facelift, and it’s apparent in the every frame of every animation that the art team behind the project is at the top of their game. Characters feel heavy and powerful, more so than they ever have.

The art team also excelled in the world design, as the new Draenor zones are perhaps the most beautiful zones to ever be introduced to the “World of Warcraft.” From the frozen volcanic hills of Frostfire Ridge to the gorgeous foliage of Tanaan Jungle, every moment spent in the world feels more alive than ever before.

While most players tend to play with the music off, I found myself blasting the volume as the new soundtrack played. I quested through several of the zones and found myself completely enthralled in epic moment after epic moment as the music and sounds guided me from one action set piece to another.

The storyline of the expansion is heavily based on the mythical Orcish culture, exploring the themes of brutality and honor in an increasingly hostile environment. This is easily the coolest story Blizzard has told in “Warcraft,” implementing expertly crafted cinematic cutscenes in pivotal moments that defy what I thought possible with in-game models.

Blizzard has finally included a player-housing system in the garrison feature. Each character has their own base of operations that is completely customizable, and followers from all corners of the world flock to you to obey your every command. At a certain point, the garrison experience started to feel like some free-to-play iPhone game in the sense that it felt repetitive and somewhat contrived, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying it.

“Warlords of Draenor” is a culmination of 10 years of MMO gaming experience, and Blizzard has once again proven why “World of Warcraft” is so monumental in the PC gaming community. If you’ve played before and found yourself curious to pick it up again, now is the perfect time.