PAX Prime 2014: Hands-on with Warlords of Draenor

If you've played World of Warcraft once, have you played it for all time? I was wondering this as I slipped back into Azeroth for a look at the upcoming Warlords of Draenor expansion at PAX Prime. After all, it had been three years and two expansions since I've really played this MMO, but as I learned, even new shinies don't make this game feel any more or less like the good ol' WoW that I remember.

The floor demo allowed us to create instant level 90 characters and jump into the second zone, Shadowmoon Valley. I selected a character at random and naturally ended up with a Shadow Priest, a class that I've never played. Figures. I spent a minute selecting a specialization, random talents, and outfitting my hotbar with enough of a skill rotation that I wouldn't be laughed out of the next Priest conclave. Then it was off to check out this brand-new zone.

As familiar as the gameplay felt, let me say that Blizzard's artists are once again at the top of their game with the landscape. The new Shadowmoon Valley is something out of a wonderful dream or perhaps a lushly illustrated storybook. I was oohing and ahhing, thankful that testers around me had earphones on and couldn't tell what a big dork I was being. I especially liked the updated character models and increased use of voice overs. The game still looks good, even 10 years after launch.

After going through a few rote quests (kill birds, mark trees, laugh at the peasants saying "Ready to work" with those Warcraft III voices), I was granted my very own instanced garrison. Now, I understand that garrisons aren't housing as I know it elsewhere, but I couldn't really warm up to this very structured, very limited feature. I wanted to be able to build and make my own mark, not use a mini-town as some sort of visual progress meter for side quests. Still, I could concede that collecting more NPCs and constructing more buildings could give a nice visceral reward that WoW doesn't always offer.

Unfortunately, my time with the demo was cut short and I had to leave my garrison woefully understaffed. Hopefully one of you will be able to pick up where I left off when the expansion goes live in November and make a home good enough for a king.

Massively's on the ground in Seattle during the weekend of August 29th to September 1st, bringing you all the best news from PAX Prime 2014. Whether you're dying to know more about Warlords of Draenor, The Elder Scrolls Online, Landmark, or any MMO in between, you can bet we'll have it covered!
This article was originally published on Massively.