When Blizzard announced last year that they wanted to release an expansion to World of Warcraft every year, I didn't really care because it never seemed to be a possibility. They've wanted to do this for a very long time now. However, it seems they may be finally arrived at the ability to do an expansion roughly once every year, seeing as players are already at the end of the final content patch for Warlords of Draenor a mere eight months after its release. Warlords of Draenor evidences a lot of issues, some caused by the rush for content, making me worry about the game's future.
Warning: There will be spoilers below.
I played for the first couple months or so Warlords of Draenor was out and haven't since, but I do keep tabs on what is going on with the game as the lore/story has been with me since childhood. This brings me to my first issue: that of Archimonde. For those of you unfamiliar with WoW, no that is not the big orc that has been on all of Warlords of Draenor's advertising. Archimonde is a lore character that players have dealt with twice already in the Warcraft story, which Blizzard felt it necessary to bring him back for a third time. (Though, to be fair, the first two times were sort of the same thing.)
Before getting into the lore side of things, what irks me most about Archimonde is how seemingly out of nowhere it must have felt for many fans that do not pay close attention to the lore. Everything in the expansion was building up to fighting Grom, whether you liked it or not, and it felt like it had been removed at the last second.
Kinda like how many fans may have felt with Illidan and The Burning Crusade with Kil'jaeden. Many fans who didn't pay close enough attention were under the impression that Illidan was the big bad dude at the end only to have Kil'jaeden and the Sunwell content come out of nowehere. Of course, that was definitely not the case.
Seems like Blizzard may be doing the same thing here. For The Burning Crusade, Illidan was much more marketable, particularly to those that had played Warcraft III. He was the sort of badass guy with a cool design to show off on covers, posters, ads, etc.
Kil'jaeden and Archimonde are basically the same thing with only slight differences. They look so alien and out there it was probably Blizzard's decision to go with different characters to market, rather than emphasize the big bad lore boss. That is exactly why they picked Grom. Grom has a design and a beloved nature, akin to Illidan's, by those that played Warcraft III. He has that same badass look and story easy to market.
It is probably too much to call it deceitful, but it definitely feels as though Blizzard's choice to communicate certain things was done poorly. Blizzard's poor communication/saying things when they shouldn't/saying things they should where nobody will see it is a recurring theme throughout Blizzard's history.
It is not all that big a deal that Illidan or Grom didn't turn out to be the big bad guy at the end, it just sure does feel a bit manipulative on there part. Doesn't help that they were being deliberately confusing with WoD this time around (that after they said, possibly jokingly, that Grom would be the last boss at Blizzcon). Oh, and then there was this where Tom Chilton explicitly said Grom would be the last boss. I suppose you can say this was all for the sake of surprising players at the end, but it does feel as though they are playing with expectations here.
There are plenty of Lore issues to talk about, many of which most fans will complain about until the end of time, but the biggest issue seems to be how shoehorned the Iron Horde is into the Warcraft story. Blizzard can never convince me otherwise that this was nothing else than a way to get back the cool orcs Metzen and others missed having around. That and the theories this expansion was to build up hype for the movie next year, featuring many of the same characters. And it is quite possible the next expansion will have something big for Durotan and company as well, hinted at at the end of this one, which we may hear about before Blizzcon this year in November.
Not only shoehorning orcs back in, but why not reuse an enemy that has been reused once already? Archimonde is not all that interesting and to see him again in such a way is mindboggingly stupid. Blizzard's justifications for why he makes a return, how he and Kil'jaeden transcend time, make no sense. Why then, since they seem to transcend time, would Kil'jaeden come back and try the EXACT SAME thing he did in the previous story? Going through Gul'dan, Mannoroth blood, etc.? Cause that totally worked last time.
Archimonde of course is new to the story, but why does he justify interceding now? Kil'jaeden did fail more spectacularly this time around—not getting the orcs to drink the blood of Mannoroth and all—so maybe that's why it is Archimonde instead? The same opportunity Archimonde seems to be seizing from Kil'jaeden existed the first time around and would have been a whole lot easier.
I will give Blizzard a bit of credit on not letting Thrall, aka Green Jesus, get all the credit again though this expansion. There were just so many missed opportunities lorewise though (oh how optimistic I was ... A return of the burning legion is cool and all, but not like this).
This just seems to show the emphasis that Blizzard has now put on cutting corners, which seems to be the case with Warlords of Draenor.
The biggest thing, aside from raids, instances etc., added in Warlords of Draenor were the garrisons. At first, to me at least, they were quite fun to see build up around you. Then they just became another thing to sit in and farm. Garrisons were Blizzards versions of those terribly unfun apps where you have to wait for twelve hours while someone built something or you sent something out on a mission/quest.
Then there is the lack of/cutting of content. There are only a few dungeons and raids. Warlords of Draenor has 8 dungeons and 3raids (30 bosses). Mists of Pandaria had 7.5 (the scaled ones like Scholomance I counted as .5, though there were plenty of Scenarios) dungeons and 5 raids (30 bosses). Cataclysm had 14 dungeons and 6 raids (31 bosses). Wrath of the Lich King had 16 dungeons and 9 raids (54 bosses, though feel free to subtract 16 for Naxx and Onyxia). The Burning Crusade had 16 dungeons and 8 raids (44 bosses).
At first you might be thinking, hey, Warlords is doing okay, particularly on the raid bosses count. But there are other considerations to take into account. For example, The Burning Crusade brought Outlands, flying, Draenei, Blood Elves, and jewelcrafting. Wrath of the Lich King brought in Northrend, Death Knights, and Inscription. Cataclysm redid a bunch of the starting zones, redid a lot of zones with entirely new storylines and improved quests, Worgens, Goblins, Archaeology, and things like guild leveling. Mists of Pandaria brought Monks, Pandaria, Pandaren, pet battling, Scenarios, and the Brawler's Guild. Warlords of Draenor added garrisons, Draenor, and new character models, while taking away guild leveling and flying mounts—not to mention that absolutely terrible city hubs with Ashran compared to every other expansion. To be fair, flying is still available everywhere other than Draenor.
Of course, all of the above only includes the major additions, please let me know if there is anything I forgot.
All of this when apparently Warlords of Draenor was already being planned before Mists of Pandaria was even released. That is all Warlords brought when there was 14 months separating the last content patch in Mists of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor's release. That gap is sort of similar to recent expansions. There was an 11 month gap between Cataclysm and Mists, 12 month gap between WoTLK and Cataclysm, 8 month gap between TBC and WoTLK, and about a 7 month gap between Vanilla and TBC.
This is not an indication that Warlords took more time to make, but that Blizzard was terrible in their planning. For all we know, the other expansions could have taken as long or longer to develop, but the fact remains that there was a 14 month content gap for World of Warcraft between Mists of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor. For a subscription based game, that is completely unacceptable.
So now you may be thinking that this expansion a year thing is pretty great. More content on a more regular basis? Possibly. But do we want one Warlords after another? One that recycles and removes rather than innovates and adds? Maybe they will keep on pushing out raid content at a decent pace, but everything else around it seems to be hurting. The "World" in World of Warcraft seems to have been forgotten for set pieces, streamlining, and accessibility.
So maybe "more" content on a yearly basis, but it doesn't seem to be of all that much quality and includes much of what we are familiar with already.
There is also the fact that it will just now be another instance for players to shell out some cash. World of Warcraft players already pay more than $10 a month just to have access to the game (and a lot of them probably do the full $15). Now every year Blizzard wants them to spend ~$40 more? For something like Warlords of Draenor? They are either really oblivious or don't care.
What is their justification? New expansions bring back players. It may bring back players for a small fraction of time, but it will not hold their attention. It will not hold their attention for the same reason expansions like Warlords of Draenor and Blizzard's plans moving forward do nothing more than take advantage of its loyal fanbase.
And Blizzard's fanbase is extremely loyal. They are being manipulated and forced to pay more for less content at a faster pace. More raids and zones do not mean more content. Those are just parts of the World of Warcraft experience. Blizzard seems to forget all the camaraderie that goes on outside of raids and other areas. In many ways, zones only become a chore after you experience them for the first time. Raids? Raids can be extremely fun with the people you have around you, but just become gear grinds (particularly now with the flex raiding) for a lot of people in a fairly short period.
I spent a good time raiding with my time in WoW, but I spent a whole lot more screwing around in the many ways that WoW let me. Blizzard needs less focus on the "Warcraft" bit of World of Warcraft and a whole lot more on the "World." Fostering something for people to come back to will do a lot more than shoveling the sameness content we have come to expect throughout the years. What is more surprising and/or exciting, a new race or new raids? New class or new zones?
None of this is of course mentioning how more and more expansions will just create barriers to new players looking into the game. They will need the base set and then whatever expansions won't be included in the initial price at the time. Though, they seem to at least be making it base game + newest expansion at this point, meaning it should only ever cost about $60 to get the game started. That being before the subscription of course.
Warlords of Draenor shows a future of World of Warcraft I really don't want to see. I haven't played it a ton in recent years, but I do acknowledge both the good and bad in the previous expansions. All of them hold some sort of omen on WoW's direction, but Warlords of Draenor seems to have a lot more warning signs than anything we've seen in the past.
What do you think about Blizzard's decisions with Warlords of Draenor? Do you like the idea of an expansion a year? What sort of content would you like to see Blizzard spend more time on?