Warlords of Draenor: Letters From the Alpha

What it's like to play through Frostfire Ridge in the Warlords of Draenor alpha.

It's been three weeks since the Warlords of Draenor Alpha went live, and for three weeks I've been exploring every nook and cranny of Frostfire Ridge, the Horde starting zone in World of Warcraft's next expansion. Now, as we wait impatiently for Blizzard to release the next zone for testing, the time has come for me to share my findings.

Allow me to sum up my experience right now, in a single word. Breathtaking. Allow me now to explain why.

For me, the environment is everything. As a long-term player that doesn't particularly enjoy questing – or hasn't for the past two WoW expansions, at least – I found myself lapping up every quest and savouring every completion. I asked myself why, and realized that the zone itself was not only well designed in terms of quest progression, with a core, linear questline complimented by quest hubs and bonus objectives found through exploring, but also that the more traditional, 'mature' theme of the zone appealed to me on a scale I had not felt for some time. 

I have never hidden the fact that I disliked Mist of Pandaria's younger theme. I'd started playing WoW during The Burning Crusade, an expansion filled with demons, dark magic and devastation. Wrath of the Lich King introduced armies of undead and an antagonist that I couldn't help but feel sorry for. Prince Arthas, corrupted by his lust for revenge and wayward protection of his people, made for a great story, while his home in Northrend, Icecrown Citadel, WotLK's final raid tier, remains one of my favorite raids of all time.

Cataclysm was a different beast, where developers focused on improving the old world of Azeroth. Rather than implementing another new continent, they added zones directly to the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor. For many, it didn't feel like a full expansion, and so it was that I watched my friends depart the game with a view to returning for the next installment. Only the next installment was a continent filled with Pandaren (pandas), Hozen (monkeys) and Virmen (rats). Needless to say, I watched as more of my friends retired their characters, no longer feeling like they were part of the game's target audience. 

Then, Siege of Orgrimmar happened. Patch 5.4 was a welcome relief and suddenly formed a connection between player and story. Garrosh Hellscream, the Horde Warchief, was corrupted by Sha and needed to be taken down. Players got to raid the Horde capital, killing orcs once more in what was a deadly, incredible raid tier. I saw friends return to the game. People cheered; serious, adult content once more! The only downside now is the length at which this content has been current.

Let's go back to Warlords of Draenor. We've seen one zone so far and I can honestly say that if the entire continent is as well designed as Frostfire Ridge, then the next expansion holds huge promise. Orcs, ogres, gronn, elementals, chimera and more fill the zone with hostility. Level 100 elite Giants wander the 90-92 zone like the Fel Reavers of Hellfire Peninsula. Lava pools and erupting volcanoes meet frozen glaciers under constant, starry night. And what's this? Gul'dan tainting a corner of the map with fel magic? Yes! 

With zones like Frostfire Ridge, players aren't going to miss flying, believe me. There are many rares to be found, quest lines to enjoy (yes, enjoy!) and secrets to uncover; it's been an absolute joy to explore and play through. The zone's dungeon, Bloodmaul Slag Mines, is an instance filled with ogres, gronnlings and fire elementals. While numbers are still being tuned, it's a delightful introduction to 5-man content on Draenor.

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Frostfire Ridge
# Jul 02 2014 at 6:25 AM Rating: Decent
1 post
So only Frostfire Ridge has been available for now? Wow, if the others are as good as I imagine that place is, then... it'll be so exciting playing and discovering everything.
By the way, would Frostfire Ridge be liked to people who like a lot of travelling and revealing the new areas - explorers? I hope you or somebody else will answer me.
Taking the time to explore
# Jun 28 2014 at 2:11 AM Rating: Decent
1 post
Taking the time to explore is something I will probably focus on when I'm leveling my second character to 100. There seems to be this unwritten rule in a PVE focused guild that the goal is a) get to max b) gear c) be raid ready, and the sooner the better.

I don't think a single one of my characters has completed the questlines in a single MoP zone. Right now I'm going back and filling in - because I haven't even gotten the mount at the end of the shado pan questline yet!

I love my raiding, but I also love this game inside and out, so I will definitely take the time earlier on in this expansion to fully explore and complete questlines for the sheer joy of it!
Great Article
# Jun 20 2014 at 9:16 AM Rating: Good
2 posts
I would agree with most of people, because i enjoyed both, solo questing, and raiding. I Explored questing for both sides Horde and Alliance, regards environmental designs, my favourite are BC shadowmoon Valley, and Lich king's frozen Northrend. And of course there is the matter of mature content which seemed to disappear after Cataclysm. Anyhow, a great article, i'm definitely looking forward to new content.
# Jun 20 2014 at 6:16 AM Rating: Good
1 post
Not only is this article well written, but I completely agree on Qelric's feelings towards each expansion.
For me, nothing has ever quite matched the experience of exploring a completely new area like 'Vanilla WoW' did. Burning Crusade was absolutely the best expac, with WoTLK coming close. Sadly, the game has gone down hill since then.

I am hoping that WoD will be the exciting, thrilling, "wow factor" expansion that this game needs.
I have just received my Alpha invite, so I will be exploring the new zone for myself and finding out what's going on. If it is as epic as any of Q's streams and description on this article; I'll be a very happy player.

Another great write up Q. Keep them coming ^_^
# Jun 19 2014 at 5:43 PM Rating: Good
15 posts
Have to say, if I'm enjoying watching the gameplay being streamed then heaven knows how much I'm going to enjoy playing it. It's shaping up to be what MoP should've/could've been. Challenging quests, engaging storylines, fresh ideas.....Cata and MoP felt very......bleh to me to be honest. Though I preferred Mists to Cata, and I still can't quite put my finger on why. I've played Wrath, Cata and MoP and in my opinion, Wrath is still the best expansion to date out the series. But that's my opinion as I wasn't around for Vanilla. The icing on the cake for Wrath being ICC. To this day, it is still the best instance in the entire game.

The only problem I'm having right now is trying to not watch all the streaming going on, as I won't be surprised by what's in store. It's just so incredibly hard to not see-because what I've seen so far, just looks awesome.

Bring on WoD.

My body is ready.
Frostfire ridge
# Jun 19 2014 at 5:10 PM Rating: Good
2 posts
I also agree with you, as I have had a few days to discover frostfire and my reaction was the same as yours. I loved Questing through the zone and enjoyed every minute of it. As soon as I created my pre made character and started the zone I could not stop playing. I was gob smacked by how pretty and mature it was! At the moment warlords of draenor is shaping up to be a great expansion bringing back old players and peaking interest in newer ones! Good job blizzard you are doing great! :D
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