In comparison to past expansions, there’s no denying the fact that World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor is rather light in regards to new content and features. It’s something many of us questioned back during the initial BlizzCon announcement two years ago. It’s something many of us questioned even further as the details for the garrison system became known and expansion hype started to build. It’s even something we questioned as the expansion was released and early endgame presented itself.
Now, we’re just past the release of 6.1—the first major content patch of WoD. Except that, well, there isn’t a lot of new content to speak of after its implementation. The expansion, overall, still seems rather light on new content and features. Sure, we have a fairly rich tier of raiding to explore at the moment, but for non-raiders, there just isn’t a lot to do. Achievement hounds, pet enthusiasts, and self-admitted Twitter/selfie fanatics have a few new activities to contend with, but for the average player who isn’t inherently interested in those activities or raiding, one question remains. What’s left?
The garrison feature was touted as the expansion’s major, new feature, and garrisons fit that bill nicely—except for the fact that, on average, players only need to spend roughly half an hour (if that) managing their garrison every day. Garrisons have a few quests associated with them since 6.1, but still nothing like the amount of quests a new area—like the proposed Iron Docks area—would add. The Apexis dailies are too supplementary in nature, too quick to complete, and don’t provide enough benefits. Even running Heroic dungeons, which seriously lack the benefits, are not worth the playthrough.
Players looking for alternatives to endgame don’t have as much to choose from as they could, either. Without a new race or new class to enjoy, the desire to level new characters feels a bit lackluster in WoD, especially given the frustration that sometimes goes hand in hand with alt garrisons. Soloing old raids can be fun, but frankly, it doesn’t seem like we should want to play through content from past expansions this early into a new one.
What we’re currently missing in WoW is additional endgame alternatives that solo players/small groups can participate in that require combat, exploration, and provide players with immersion. Garrison content doesn’t fulfill this objective since most garrison quests don’t require leaving the garrison. Those that do are gated behind random NPCs that may or may not have the quests you’re looking for (cue Jedi hand-waving). Players can certainly group together to grab and share those quests, but for solo players, that isn’t always a desirable or feasible option.
Even the new crafting NPCs are gated behind random number generation (RNG). Everything in WoD seems to be going the way of RNG. RNG can work to your benefit, especially when it grants you a shiny, new piece of loot, but it can also be overdone as a gaming concept.
When RNG is overdone, it becomes an artificial way to extend the lifeline of content. This is part of the reason why raid bosses have large loot tables. If players take a while to complete their gear sets, they’ll feel the need to do the content for a longer period of time. With WoD’s new random drop system, random seal system, random Warforged/socket/secondary stat system, random mission system, random garrison NPC appearances, and random daily lineup, it’s hard to ignore this expansion’s over-reliance on the concept.
RNG is also problematic when it comes to immersion. When a player logs on daily to check for an ore vendor, they’re not immersed in the crafting system. When overdone, RNG simply becomes a chore. How much of a chore it is will depend entirely on each player’s individual luck. Even grinding can be more immersive than pure RNG when implemented within reason.
Immersion is essential to a great expansion experience. It’s what makes us want to explore every nook and cranny and spend more time in the game world. It’s what made us go bonkers chasing after treasures while leveling in WoD. Warlords of Draenor has one of the most immersion-filled leveling experiences WoW has arguably seen in a while, but it’s vital for that immersion to continue into endgame.
While doing a quest for Harrison Jones the other day, I realized that except for my garrison, Stormshield, and the area right outside Blackrock Foundry, my Paladin hadn’t set foot in most of the Draenor zones in a couple of weeks. At this point of the expansion, that’s just disappointing.
Hope is not all lost, however. The only way forward is for Blizzard to provide players with solid, new open world content. Content that’s immersive and that causes all players—raiders, PvPers, and solo players alike—to go out into Draenor and take on new tasks. With 6.2 we will be receiving the aforementioned Iron Docks daily area, but unfortunately this may be a little late for some players—especially if it’ll be a while before 6.2 releases.
The changes made in 6.1 were all solid (except for the RNG issue), but often I feel that ore and herbs are simply far too plentiful within the garrison. I also think it’s a good time to think about adding optional missions that consolidate rewards and let players choose to send followers out for 3+ days or even a week. This would let us manage alts better. Placing more NPCs outside of the garrisons would also give us reasons to leave now and then.
The new content in 6.2 will need to provide structured, daily options as well as progression-based options that give players something to strive for that isn’t as cosmetic as the current reputation rewards. Cosmetic rewards and practical rewards need to both be in place.
Frankly, the same can be said about the current method for rewarding players for completing Heroic dungeons. 6.2 should allow players to earn Apexis crystals or some other form of reward for completing dungeons. The lure of garrison resources isn’t enough. Another option is to give last bosses a chance to drop Savage Bloods.
As far as new instanced content is concerned, I feel one of Mists of Pandaria’s major weaknesses was the lack of new 5-man dungeons. With any luck, maybe we’ll actually see some in WoD. I won’t hold my breath, but a smaller raid instance with a wholly different theme would also be welcome. I totally wouldn’t say no to a revamp of Karazhan or a new outdoor raid. Newer players need to feel the magic that was Karazhan back in the day.
Tanaan Jungle and the promise of flying again in Draenor are also things to look forward to in 6.2. While Blizzard seems to be internally struggling over the debate of whether or not to add the ability to fly, it would be rather large player disservice to not re-allow flying for at least most of the WoD zones within the next major patch or two (besides, our poor flying mounts have to be bored by now).
The no-flying ruleset for Timeless Isle worked well. Why not disallow flying in Tanaan Jungle while allowing it elsewhere in Draenor zones? To me, this seems the simplest way to solve the debate, and with some garrison changes, perhaps we’d have a reason to mosey around the zones again.
With any luck, WoW’s future patches will be immersive than 6.1 and the current state of the game. Warlords of Draenor is not a flop. In fact, I’d argue for the opposite, all things considered. But players need real, immersive open world content—and soon.