World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft was without a doubt the most hyped and anticipated MMORPG in the history of pc gaming. Thanks to the many excellent predecessors in the RTS genre (Warcraft) and the promise of beautiful worlds, accessible gameplay and an uncountable amounts of quests Blizzard couldn’t only count on the attention of the classic online role-players but of almost every gamer worth that name. Whether the publisher managed to live up to its reputation and the expectations is known by now but we wanted to check it out for ourselves.
Just after the launch, Blizzard got quite some problems. Due to the overwhelming success (240.000 units sold on day 1!) the servers couldn’t cope with the amount of players. Also after the European launch similar problems were noted. Luckily the publisher acted quick and well by amongst others giving away free gametime, adding new servers and releasing patches. Most of the biggest issues by now seem to have gone away but there are still some problems now and then to log in and also the lag hasn’t disappeared. However, this isn’t a problem that can’t be overcome and in fact it’s common with MMORPG’s. The makers were probably surprised by the huge amount of subscriptions (after the first month you need to pay €12,99 on a monthly basis to keep playing) but with the hype that was surrounding this game, they could have thought of that beforehand.
But let’s put aside the technical aspects and look at the game itself. World of Warcraft is the first MMORPG that really appealed to me. After having been bored to death with Everquest 2 after a couple of hours, I wasn’t too hopefull that I would appreciate WoW longer than a few days. On the contrary however! Thanks to the many, often fun quests, the background story, the fantastic atmosphere (graphics and sound) and the ton of variation I got sucked into the game for a while. For me that’s quite exceptional as most of the time I’ve got a small stack of games that is waiting for me to finish or review them.
What first gets noticed are of course the graphics and design of the setting and models. Although I wasn’t really impressed on the technical side, the design and loving finishing of everything appeared so well that after a couple of hours you don’t care anymore about technicalities. Each location, each character model, each enemy, each house, tree and garden is made with such a sense for detail and craftmanship that you immediately feel like wandering around in a believeable and atsmospheric world. That Warcraft-feeling even gets enhanced by the story that is omnipresent and continues where Frozen Throne stopped. Also the sound perfectly supports everything very well. Although I did miss the speech of Everquest 2, the subtle soundtrack makes up for a lot, especially since it does tend to emphasise tense moments or even your own astonishment when you enter a big city for the first time.
The game of course starts with the creation of your character. First you need to choose between the Horde and Alliance, which both have four races to pick from. Once that choice is made you can take another decision on your “class”. This latter will influence the way you need to play a lot more than your race. You can start working as Priest, Druid, Shaman, Mage, Warrior, Hunter, Warlock, Rogue and Paladin. As with each RPG there are stats with your character but you won’t need to upgrade these yourself, that gets done automatically during the course of the game. Don’t fear however as you get plenty of other options to customise your character to your liking. Through investing Talent points (gotten by levelling) you can excplore a lot of things within a class. Nice is the fact that when paying quite a ton of gold, you can unlearn certain talents to build your avatar another way. Very handy if after a couple of weeks playing you suddenly realise you need other talents than the ones you chose.
And if that isn’t enough: you’ll need to make a choice concerning profession. By practising and training these you can become a miner or for example clothmaker or enchanter. This is very handy to make items for yourself, get commodities for other players or just to make things that afterwards you sell to earn money. By now you should realise that you’re never finished with this game. Even when reaching the level cap of 60 you can just start all over again with another race of class.
What also might have become clear is that Blizzard has done as much as possible to make the game as accessible as possible. Dying isn’t too bad: you spawn as a spirit in a pool that isn’t too far away from your corpse. The only thing you loose is time to repossess your body. Another example: if you haven’t logged in for a while you’ll be extremely rested and earn double your experience points (which give you your level). Very handy for softcore players who can’t be online for hours each day to catch up a bit.
Lowering the threshold for non-hardcore RPG players is very refreshing and allows everyone to immediately start with a MMORPG. Don’t be mistaken however, you’ll need to invest quite a lot of time in this game if you want to enjoy everything. Amongst other things you’ll need to go through forums to discover how you can spend your Talent Points best, which profession to choose, where and how to solve certain quests, etc. On top of that you’ll need to play about an hour per session if you want to be able to do something, especially a bit further in the game when you start with instances, raids and bigger quests.
Blizzard states that you can play the game just aswell along as in group but that seems a bit overdone in my opinion. I agree that from all MMORPG’s, WoW is best suited for loners but even then it’s clear that you miss a lot of fun and content if you don’t work in group from time to time. On top of that, certain quests are impossible to do on your own. Of course, this remains a sidenote as MMORPG’s are very social games. That’s also why I strongly recommend you start looking for a guild to join asap. The advantages are big and make the whole a lot more fun. But those that don’t want that will probably find like-minded souls wandering around who don’t mind finishing some quests in a couple of hours together. I for one had found Drakar after a couple of minutes and with him I worked together on the Shattered Hand server to get rid of the first opponents. It remains a fact that this type of games offer a social experience you’ll find nowhere else and also here WoW excells as Blizzard also here offers help to make things easier.
Next to the PvP-part of the game (you can choose to play on a server where people of The Horde can attack The Alliance and the other way around), instances and raids exist for the most part out of quests and everything that go along with them. It’s here that WoW really shines. All quests you start are kept and it’s easy to see what you need to do, who to contact or how to successfully end the quest. Also the sharing of quests with group members is easy and makes it easier to finish them. On top of that you get a lot of experience by doing them, which is handy for the loners, you can earn strong items with them and on top of that the adventures are always beautifully integrated in the world and the overall storyline. Most of them of course come down to looking for and/or killing something but there’s enough variation to make sure you never get bored.
If you are fed with with adventuring, then you can occupy yourself with your professions. A main profession (you can choose 2) is either a crafting or gathering one. With the first you make things, with the second you go look for commodities. You can choose as many secondary professions as you want: fishing, cooking and first aid. This part of the game may be somwhat simple and sadly enough linked to your overall level, it does offer some nice options and even on lower levels you can make yourself handy or make money which you need to buy food and drinks or heal and replenish your mana. Of course you can also use it for cooler items like weapons, clothing, potions, etc… To learn spells or to pay for your combat training you’ll also need money, and the same can be said about perfectioning your professions.
Don’t forget that from level 40 you can buy a mount! A mount (like a horse, eagle or tiger) will make you travel faster but does cost a lot of money (too much to my liking) which results in a lot of gamers really being concentrated on earning as much gold as possible and raising their level as fast as they can, just to be able to buy that uber-cool mount as soon as possible. I something had the impression I was playing World of Mountscraft instead of World of Warcraft. Luckily not everyone is so much obsessed by this!
I briefly mentioned the PvP-part already and honesty demands me to say that this is the weakest part of the game. There are a lot of frustrating options, not to mention the corpse-camping that gets you killed the moment you re-enter your body. Future patches are supposed to fix this and therefore I’m relatively sure this part will be ok soon.
World of Warcraft is simply the best MMORPG I got to play up until now! Although the downpoints of the genre are most certainly still present (time investment, grinding, etc) Blizzard does succeed to lower the threshold and manages to limit the frustrations to a minimum.
Despite some technical problems this is a game that easily makes you addicted. The beautiful setting and excellent graphical design, the polished finishing and gameplay, the accessibility, the quest-system and almost endless amount of possibilities make WoW a definite must-have for every RPG-lover and each gamer in fact. Even sceptic, hardcore MMORPG’ers will have to set aside their prejudices and acknowledge that the somewhat more simple role-playing part does offer its advantages. While you reach for a higher level, the depth of the game increases so that even on that part there are no problems.
If you love the genre, then get that credit card ready. If you hate the genre, the give the astonishing world of Azeroth the benefit of the doubt because who knows, you may find the big, online adventure really worth the trouble this time!