So I had Friday off and decided to install Wrath and give it a go. My impressions so far are limited but positive. I started in the Borean Tundra, and wow. What a difference between stepping out of the Hold and stepping through the portal into Hellfire.
The Hold captures what Hellfire failed to capture, which is the sense of "the fight" being at one's door. Much of WoW's questing/lore hinges on a sense of urgency that "the enemy" is right there, ready to strike, yet that's never really captured successfully because, let's face it, the enemy is a two/three-minute ride North East over some rocks and across a lake. But this time, the battle is literally right outside the Hold, and it took me a moment to really take it all in and figure out that, shit, there are a fucking lot of bad guys running around. That's smart design. It makes the game world feel more alive and less plotted out.
Once finished with cleaning up the Hold, I rode around looking at all the detail placed into the rest of the zone. The amount of variation is stunning without feeling like patchwork, which could well have been the effect of a zone filled with so much differing geography.
The questing is easy and efficient. The way that the hubs are laid out makes sense and there's a logical progression from one part of the continent to the next. I never felt like I was being rushed to go quest up in the North when I still had stuff to do in the South. This is another important point-- pacing. Sure, in the end you are always playing at your own pace, but design has the potential to make you feel like you're lagging behind. Borean Tundra''s quests never once push you to leave for a new part of the zone just because X NPC tells you to, and part of this has to do with the sheer amount of questing available all over the map-- you could go to the hubs up North, or you could just hang out with the Walrus Dudes in the South some more. The game feels a lot more relaxed.
I did quest enough that I wound up getting taken to Dragonblight, which I felt obliged to look at because hey, why not. Dragonblight similarly feels very well laid out, though I think the sheer distance between the two major quest hubs is slightly more daunting. I have one major peeve and that's that Alliance quest hubs are really, really poorly marked, so I had the misfortune of running through the one near Angmar's Hammer and nearly dying. What can I say? It's good to be a Druid.
That's about as much as I have to say about Dragonblight because I barely scratched the surface there, but I did have a friend smuggle me into Dalaran, and again, I can only say wow. Just as the Hold is what Hellfire should have been, Dalarn is what Shattrath should have been. The city feels alive, and I again spent a good deal of time just sort of running around on my Bear mount (what, getting ported into Dalaran just to buy a Bear isn't important?) and taking in the design. It looks very, very handsome, and there's a lot of stuff to interact with, which I appreciate.
Overall, my impression of the game is that everything is relaxed, which makes sense. With the overhaul of raid content (e.g. 10-man versions of each 25-man zone) to cater to the needs of the casual player base, it naturally follows that the rest of the game is going to feel equally relaxed. I dig this; I like my WoW time to be short and sweet, and the "YOU HAVE DO THIS NOW!" philosophy of older installments of the game really made me hate it. It's why I froze my account for a while. I don't play video games to be pressured into chaining myself to my keyboard/controller. I feel like Wrath lets play go at the pace the player chooses, as opposed to the game choosing the pace for the player.
I also feel like there's a lot to do (a lot that I can choose to do), which is always true when leveling. That said there are way more quests and way more options this go-round, and from what I understand this is just as true at 80 as it is in the levels leading up to the cap.
Summing up to filter out the nerd-gushing-- great expansion, this is what WoW should have been at release, and I can finally feel okay with saying I occasionally play WoW.