The Most Epic Online Adventure of Our Time!!!
World of Warcraft (WOW) is Blizzard Entertainment’s Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) that has been nothing short of a runaway success. After spending some time with it, it’s pretty easy to see why and how this monstrosity has ensnared over nine million gamers and growing. What separates WOW from other online games such as Diablo 2 and Guild Wars is its massively multiplayer nature. What this means is that unlike other online games, when you log into WOW and pick a server to play on, you are playing in the same game world as all the other players currently connected to that server. You can see all of these other players and interact with them in real time, which is pretty cool to say the least the first time you experience it. There is no need to go back to a lobby, or town, or anything like that to get people to play with since everyone is in the same field pretty much all the time.
Players do need to pay a monthly fee in order to play the game beyond the first month. The standard fee is fifteen dollars a month, but there are also three month and six month bulk packages available as well. With these plans you pay a larger sum up front every three or six months respectively, but the overall cost to play per month is cheaper than the standard month to month plan, which is nice since it saves you money in the long run. There is a lot of speculation regarding games with monthly fees, and MMORPG’s in particular. The reason players have to pay an additional fee after they have purchased the game is that because MMORPG’s are living breathing digital worlds. They require constant maintenance and continually need to be watched over so things don’t get out of hand, kind of like a group of small children. In order to do this people have to be employed to watch over, monitor, and fix any problems that may come up around the clock. Plus, in order to keep the game world a dynamic seemingly living place, new content has to constantly be created for it and implemented. Not to mention the servers and networks the game is running on require time and money in order to maintain in addition to the game. All of this stuff is what your subscription pays for. Is it worth it? The short answer is yes. It is most definitely worth it. Please, continue reading to find out why.
Players can choose to play either side of the fictional war raging in the World of Warcraft. These two sides are the Alliance (composed of Humans, Night Elves, Gnomes, and Dwarves) and The Horde (made up of savage Orcs, the mighty Minotaur like Tauren, Trolls who speak with a Jamaican accent, and the creepy Undead). Players can have several characters per server, and can have characters in both the Alliance and Horde if they aren’t playing on a PVP server. Characters can be male or female, and there is a variety of different things to choose from to make your character aesthetically pleasing and unique. When creating a character, players also choose their characters class from the handful the game offers. Players can be a backstabbing rogue, light wielding paladin, bloodthirsty warrior, power hungry warlock, totem and element manipulating shaman, divine priest, nature powered druid, pet assisted hunter, or magic flinging mage. Some classes are race specific, such as the druid class that is confined to the Tauren and Night Elves. Other classes, such as the paladin and shaman, are faction specific if you don’t have The Burning Crusade, which is WOW’s first expansion pack. After players have gone through all of this they must name their character. If you are having difficulty with this, or are just lazy, Blizzard has included a random name generator in the game. It’s located under the box you type your characters name into, and simply clicking on it will generate random fantasy Warcraft names for your character.
Upon entering the World of Warcraft for the first time players are treated to a race specific cinematic that sets up their story and places players in their appropriate race specified starting area. From this point forward there is no waiting around. Players simply play by exploring the world around them, killing monsters, and completing quests. By default, movement is controlled by the WASD keys much like a first person shooter. However, if you prefer to point and click your way to victory fear not, because the controls can be turned over to the old point and click method in the options. There’s really no need to switch back to point and click controls though, since the WASD controls are quite fluid and provide for a much more hands on feel, further drawing players into the game. The default interface is a bit standard, but is clean, clear, and provides players with good visibility, and never really gets in the way. Players start with a dozen hot keys for their attacks and items, and if for some reason this isn’t enough, there are four additional hot key bars that can be made visible through the options. These run along the bottom and right side of the screen, which can make things feel a bit cluttered if you don’t like to keep the camera zoomed out. This is nothing game breaking though, and is only a minor annoyance at best. Players start with a backpack to keep their loot in, and can equip up to four additional bags or backpacks to increase inventory space. Between the hotkey bar and inventory bar on the bottom of the screen is a small section that contains all your characters vitals, as well as a bar that shows your latency. Here players can open their character screen, talent tree once they reach level 10, friends list, and so on, which is very handy. If for some reason you don’t like the default interface for WOW, have no worries, because the interface is totally customizable. Blizzard has mod kit available for download of the World of Warcraft website that allows you to make the interface however you want it to be.
Graphically WOW is nothing to write home about. It has a cartoon look and feel, but that is no reason for the game to look as ugly as it does, especially when games like Guild Wars can run on much less powerful systems than WOW can, and sport better graphics. On the default settings WOW is simplistic, bland, and a bit grainy in appearance. If you can run the game on max settings, you will be treated to much more smooth and detailed environments and character models. However, this doesn’t relieve WOW of the problem that it graphically looks and feels quite dated. This is a problem that is only becoming more prevalent as time moves on. It’s surprising that after being out for almost three years with one expansion already available and another on the way that Blizzard hasn’t announced any plans to deal with this issue, or done anything to address it already. In terms of appearance, WOW was tolerable when it launched, but desperately needs a face lift today.
WOW’s audio is top notch. Each NPC in the game has a fully voiced greeting that plays when you click on them, much like your units did in Starcraft and the old Warcraft real time strategy games. There isn’t a whole lot of variety in these greetings, as it becomes very apparent early on that the game just cycles through the same pool of some thirty sound bits. However, these greetings never get old, and it’s always entertaining to see what comes up when you click on the NPC’s too many times and make them angry. WOW supports a fully orchestrated sound track that plays on and off in the background always keeping the mood, and never ruining it. During battle players will be treated to the boom of magic, whap of maces, and clatter of steel as they fight over life and death. It’s worth noting here that some of the original sound effects for things such as the rogue’s backstab ability have been replaced. Sadly, the replacements are less than stellar in comparison to the originals. The end result is that while these attacks can certainly pack a punch, because of their weak sound, they feel underpowered. It’s also worth noting here that if you die in combat there is no loss of experience points or items. Likewise, players won’t have to worry about other players looting their corpses. Players can resurrect at the spirit healer in the graveyard and will suffer from resurrection sickness, which grossly lowers your stats for a short time. Resurrection sickness also deals a 20% durability loss to all of a player’s equipment, which requires a trip to the blacksmith to fix. If players don’t wish to resurrect in the graveyard they can have a friend revive them, or travel back to their corpse and resurrect where they fell at no penalty. This is a drastic change from the older style of MMORPG’s and veterans may argue that it makes the game too easy. However, Blizzard made it this way because they felt that such features would turn more people off to their product than on to it, and they wanted to create a game that everyone can play and enjoy, and that is what they did.
In terms of overall content for an MMORPG, WOW has a lot to offer and certainly justifies the monthly fee. Free content updates arrive to give players new features and things to do every couple of months or so. Players seeking to battle other players can duke it out in either global free for all PVP, or one of the many battlegrounds. There are countless quests to undertake and places to explore for players interested in that sort of thing. There is a wide variety of professions for players to choose from, master, and switch between at their leisure. With nine base classes and eight different races split between two sides of a war without end, it’s easy to say that this is a game you can easily invest thousands of hours into.
Despite all the positive things, WOW isn’t without its flaws. The dated graphics aside, WOW’s biggest problem is that it is shallow in the sense that the game never evolves beyond doing quests, killing things, and hunting for treasure, which usually involves the first two things just mentioned. Players looking for something beyond this will most likely not be too fond of WOW, since they will see it as a shallow grind-fest, which is ultimately all the game is. Also, WOW lacks several basic and key features found in practically every MMO that has come before it, which doesn’t help matters any. For instance, you can not customize the appearance of your character after you have made him or her. You can not change your characters class after you have made the character. If you want to play another class you have to make a new character in that class. There is no player housing, no guild halls for guilds, and no guild bank for guilds. When a player chooses to pick up a new profession their old one is abandoned, which reduces their level in that profession back to zero. This is both an annoyance and doesn’t make a whole of sense if their character ever wanted to go back and pick up that profession again. Another major problem with WOW is its end game content. For whatever reason, Blizzard hasn’t been able to move this part of the game beyond the same shallow, dungeon running, item hunting raiding, rep grind that it was in when WOW launched. There is a ton of different fun things to do as you climb the ranks to the top, which keeps the game interesting, but once you reach the end game the game falls flat and looses its appeal. At the end game players are left with two options, they can either dungeon run/raid for hours on end for new equipment, or they can PVP for honor and PVP equipment. Both of these things require you to be in a fairly well coordinated guild in order to get anywhere. Also, unless players are playing on a new or low population server, they will find that if they aren’t already in a guild like this by this point in the game then they are out of luck, and will have nothing left to do. This is because most people have settled into regular groups they play with by this point in the game. This makes getting into a group, or picked up for a raid or PVP battle a challenge, because people usually aren’t looking to add more members to their group.
All that said, WOW is a great game, and is still the best all around MMORPG on the market. It is casual so you don’t need to dedicate hundreds of hours to it in order to advance. The controls are fluid and very simple to just pick up and play, and it’s fun to play, which is the most important thing. There is enough content here to justify the monthly fee. WOW will keep you occupied for hundreds if not thousands of hours without end. Also, given the dynamic nature of the game, it will keep you coming back for more, or just to see how it’s changed, after you think you have seen it all, and then you’ll fall in love with it all over again. Blizzard has a free 10 day trial available for those who aren’t sold on the game yet. It is free and will allow you to check out WOW and find what the hubbub is about. If you like RPG’s, or you like online games, or are a fan of Blizzard Entertainment, or are just looking for a good time, you owe it to yourself to check out WOW. If you don’t fit into any of the categories just mentioned, you still owe it to yourself to check out WOW, because this game is a true masterpiece and deserves at least a looking into.