Warlords of Draenor sends you back in time to Draenor — home planet to the orcs and draenei — to fight with and against the game's legendary heroes.
World of Warcraft is gearing up to release its fifth expansion, following on from The Burning Crusade in January 2007, Wrath of the Lich King in November 2008, Cataclysm in December 2010 and Mists of Pandaria in September 2012. Warlords of Draenor focuses on the orcs and the draenei in the deep, dark past. Horde leader Garrosh Hellscream has time travelled to build up a new "Iron Horde" and create an alternate timeline.
Of course, this means a new world to explore, along with a new level cap — 100 — and new world events in which to participate; but, as with any expansion, there are a few really neat features to sweeten the pot.
Possibly the most exciting of these is player housing, a feature tested with the player-run farms in Mists of Pandaria. Instead of a single house, though, players will have access to their own garrisons, where you can build a multi-building base of operations — and recruit non-player character (NPC) followers to send on missions. Buildings include a town hall, barracks (to house followers), mine, stable (for pets and mounts) and profession-based buildings, such as alchemy labs or an engineering works. All buildings can be upgraded using blueprints that are found in the rest of the game's world, which can increase their capacity and output.
Followers can be recruited to send out to gather crafting materials or loot and can also be levelled up. A follower will take longer about this business than the player character, but using them can cut down significantly on time spent fishing, for example, or looking for ore deposits. You can also assign followers to buildings to perform tasks associated with those buildings.
The garrison will be instanced (but without having to travel through an instance portal), and you can invite other players to visit and hang out in your garrison.
The game will also have some significant UI improvements. We really like that you can craft or enchant using materials from your bank without having to physically visit the bank in game, and most items will stack up to 100. How bags are handled is changing significantly as well. Quest items will no longer take up bag space, instead being sent to the quest UI, and items can be auto sorted into the bags you assign them to.
Hit, expertise, dodge and parry will all be eradicated (tanks will still have dodge and parry but not as gear stats), and tertiary stats are being added to appear on gear. These include lifesteal, which gives you back health for every hit you land; avoidance, which reduces area of effect (AoE) damage; sturdiness, which means that a specific piece of gear doesn't lose durability; speed, which moves you faster; and cleave, which offers a chance of AoE on your attacks.
Gear will no longer be class specific, either. An item's stats (with the exception of jewellery, trinkets, cloaks and weapons) will change based on the class wearing it, even when you respec, which will mean that almost any raid loot drop should still be applicable to your character. This means no more carrying two lots of gear for dual-spec characters.
Some character models are getting an overhaul. On the Alliance side, humans (much needed), dwarfs, night elves and gnomes will be upgraded, and for the Horde, orcs, undead, tauren and trolls. There are no new playable races, which is a bummer — we've been wanting to play as the ethereals for years now.
Finally, each player will be able to level one character to 90 to start playing immediately, whether it's a new character or one previously rolled. It's an excellent opportunity to get to Draenor straight away without having to level up from the beginning, although one does feel apprehensive about the potential influx of high-level noobs.
Warlords of Draenor doesn't have an official release date yet, although the fact that you can sign up for the beta indicates it's not too far away — we estimate sometime around Q2-Q3 of next year. You can read more about the changes on the World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor official website.
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