grumbel's World of Warcraft (Collector's Edition) (PC) review

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World of BoreCraft

A week ago I decided it was time to look into what all those 10 million gamers are doing in the World of Warcraft. So I did create a 10 day trial account to try it out. One of the nice things about WoW is that it runs almost flawless in Linux, it doesn't provide native binaries, but Wine pretty much just works with it. No need to go hunt for cracks or anything, since it works out of the box, which is a pretty care thing these days, where even game demos are often boggled down by copy protection which Wine can't handle.

So first thing one notices is that the game doesn't really have a proper way to create custom characters, while one can change hairstyle and color, one has no control over the body shape, which makes all possible characters look very much alike. Later in the game you don't really have much control over your clothing either, since at any given level there really isn't much to choice from.

Next step then of course was to actually enter the world with my newly created human female warlock. The world itself looks good. It's technically a little out of date, but on the other side that is why I can play it in the first place on my not-so-brand-new PC, so I won't complain about that. One thing that however looks a little weird is the size of everything in that world, building, doorways and such all look way to huge compared to the character size, like everything was scaled up by factor two or so. Another thing that is a little annoying, is that the whole world is heightmap based. While this is nothing unusual, it looks rather simplistic compared to a game like Gothic for example which features real 3D terrain. A heightmap can't handle vertical walls, so all the mountains looks very much smoothed and unrealistic. This also has some annoying sideeffects for movement, since every now and then you bounce along a mountain only to be stopped by a tile with a too high elevation, it becomes an invisible wall. WoW is by no means the only game that suffers from this, plenty do, but it is just as annoying today as it was 10 years ago. Real 3D terrain is just so much better then a simple 2D heightmap.

So graphics asside, what else does the game have to offer? Quests, plenty of quests. The annoying part here is that they are all rather repetative. You have those quests in which you have to kill five wild boar and then those in which you have to kill ten wild boar and sometimes even those where you have to collect the remains of boars you killed. But that is basically all you ever do, at least up to level 20, which is how far I have played. Every now and then you also get a quest that involves a little travel from point A to point B, but its also extremely streight forward, there is no thinking involved or searching or anything. You just wander around and kill stuff, the quest text itself can be completly ignored, since it doesn't really matter. Sometimes quests involved not killing a random animal, but some specific animal. In those quests another big issue of the game pops up, the complete utter lack of persistence. If you kill that big evil animal it will respawn a minute later. If the place is just a bit busy and somebody else already killed it, you basically have to just sit there and wait for it to respawn. This respawning which happens with all quests I have played is really annoying, since it takes any meaning of what you do away. Not only that, in some mission it also wreaks the gameplay a bit. From time to time the thing you have to kill is deep down in a mine, so you go down there, kill creatures along the way and then when you are down, everything has already respawned and on your way up you have to rekill all the same enemies over again. That is pretty annoying and just looks really stupid. If somebody else cleaned up the place befor you, it can also happens that you are suddenly surrounded by enemies, since they will respawn right behind you.

With all that killing you of course collect a bunch of loot, while I can understand while a wild boar would give you meat, I have a hard time to understand why it would give you a piece of armor or gold. It just seems rather arbitary and not very meaningful. Couldn't they have left the gold and armor away and instead let it to the player to sell the meat and other animal parts instead? You of course can already do that, but you still get much more armor and weapons from animals then you buy at a shop. And speaking about items, its also a little annoying that you can't drop items, if you try to drop them they get destroyed. So you never will find items lying on the ground, but always just in a killed enemy and very seldomly also in a treasure cheast.

A few other random annoyancies are the day/night cycles which happen in real time, instead of accelerated game time, so if you always play at the same time you will never see a sunrise in the game world. It also means that quests and NPCs aren't based on day/night cycles, night simply gives everything a blueish color instead of having an impact on the game world. Another issue is that you get very little explanation why you can't use a piece of armor or a weapon. In the shops the items that you can't use are marked red, but thats basically it. You don't get a "You need this ability" or a "Warlocks can't wear that", but just a "I can't wear that" without explanation. Also voice acting is very limited in the game, in the intro you hear a few worlds, you character says some, but none of the NPCs talk. The lack of ability to easily transfer a character to another server is also not something pretty.

Anyway, so all that down what do I think of the game? Well, not much. The game is relativly easy to get into, but its also a little boring and pointless, because there is no real challange in all the leveling up and quest solving. If you are the right level for a quest you won't have much problem and if you are the wrong one you won't stand a chance. The whole experience gets very linear by this, since you never can leave your predefined areas. You of course can walk everywhere, but if some "level ??" character can kill you with a single hit that trip won't be a long one. You also won't really get much story to hear, because there really isn't one and how can there in a world without progress. When it comes to quest your gui automatically takes care of how many boars you have to kill befor completion, so you can just skip the text. The game really gets the most interesting if you try to bent the rules, when you join a few high level characters in a fight that is way over your level or such, but then the game also is pretty good at destroying that fun, because you really don't stand a chance against a high level enemy, if he hits you, you are dead.

I have only played up to level 20 with my character, so I haven't seen everything, but on the other side I think I have seen enough. World of Warcraft is pretty much MMORPG cliche in perfection. There are no suprises or unexpected events, the whole game just flows along in an easy consumable and but also pointless repetitive way. I think for me the whole lack of persistant and linearity was the biggest annoyancy. Killing five boars is stupid, but when they stay dead it at least feels like you have accomplished something, here it doesn't. The game world size is also issue here, while it does look big and gives you long ways to travel, it really is rather empty. I have seen only two major cities so far and the rest is just a bunch houses and farmland. There simply isn't much to explore, rather soon you have seen everything and then are stuck with leveling up. That you can freely travel around as a ghost of course makes exploration also rather easy. And speaking about the long ways to travel, having a something heavy to place on your "W" key really helps to make long travels a little more endurable. One thing I haven't yet understood is why there are no Orcs, sure I have seen NPC Orcs, but so far I haven't seen any player controlled Orcs or other members of the horde. Not sure what is up with that, but there really doesn't seem to be much if any overlap between those two fractions, likely there will be stuff higher levels, but it still annoys to not actually having seen a member of a non alliance-race with my character.

I still have two days on that trial account, maybe I'll use them for a bit more sideseeing as a ghost, but on the other side I think its really time to go back to some good games, since World of Warcraft starts to get really boring and repetative.

2 Comments Refresh
Edited by DaveSF

I appreciate that many people may not enjoy the game, but I'd really like to see some more detail about what you didn't like, perhaps by comparing with games you feel have done better.  As far as I can tell your critiques are: 
1. limited character customization - what game do you feel does character customization well? For example, Aion's system is technically more customizable, but since it only has one race, I find the world looks much more homogenous than wow. 
2. world size - Do you think the world being 3x bigger than your character might have something to do with playing a tiny gnome? If you play a taller character, such as a night-elf, you'll find yourself barly fitting through doorways.  That said, the game does have a 'comic' interpretation of scale instead of realistic. This world well in the game setting, but is obviously different than games which strive for realism.  
3. simple quests - the quests and experiences in the game become more interesting once you've played more than one half of one percent of it on a trial, which leads to my closing comment on this review...
This review is representing a rather shallow experience with the game. Playing to level 20 tends to take about 8-20 hours, depending on the player. This is only a tiny fraction of the play experience in the game. The pace of wow is very different from quick linear story games, as those typically last 25-70 hours, while wow is good for thousands and thousands of hours. If you're not in for a very long play experience, then you won't enjoy wow. It's often also said that 'the game starts at <max level>", for whatever the maximum level is at the time. While I don't think this is true, it is true that there is as much playtime available after you reach maxlevel than before you get there.  There are more varied quests as you progress past the overly basic lvl 20, there are group instances, and there is pvp. Each of these could be critiqued independently, but without playing any of them, the only think I could take away from your review is that.... 
World of Warcraft is too long a game for you to become interested in playing. I respect that. 

Posted by Grumbel

1. From all the character customization I have seen, the Nintendo Mii stuff is probably the best. It is very simplistic, but it is extremely flexible and allows a wide variety of different looking and even recognizable characters. WoW on the other side doesn't even try, two characters of the same race and with the same gender look extremely similar, as there just isn't much to customize them aside from gear.
2. I played a human female, not a tiny gnome and yet everything still looked super-sized. Its not really much of an issue, but it felt a bit as if the world was artificially enlarged to make the walking take longer. Might of course also have to do with making the controls easier, as a tiny doorway would be harder to fit in and easier to block when there are lots of people hanging around.
3. Back when I played it, it took me around 40 hours to reach level 20, I heard that they have shortened that a good bit in recent updates, but as I haven't played those, I can't comment on that. 
Anyway, I don't mind that WoW is long, what I do mind is that it doesn't really present much meaningful content in that time. Having a dozens "Kill 5 things" quests might keep you busy for quite a few hours, but I simply don't consider that an interesting gaming experience. It is way to transparent that those quests are just filler to keep you busy till the next monthly fee. And the other thing is simply the lack of persistence, if I have to get in line and wait for my turn to kill an ever respawning boar in a quest that just spoils any suspense of disbelieve I might have had and it also spoils any accomplishments, as no matter what I do, the world will just stay exactly the same.
My critique is of course not only valid for WoW, but could be repeated for many other MMORPGs, as those games are simply designed to keep you addicted and not to keep you entertained, and I just don't like that way of game design.

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