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SummaryWelcome to World of Grindcraft!
The GoodI've been an adventure and role-playing game player for nearly three decades. I witnessed the pioneering of graphical gaming and every leap and bound of technology ever since. And almost every great adventure game or RPG in the history of PC gaming has a place of reverence on my shelf. But until June of 2006, I had never played an MMORPG.
When I logged onto World of Warcraft for the first time, I was awed and enthralled. The universe that unfurled before me was overwhelming - a real virtual reality, with 24 hour days, sunrises and sunsets, a calendar with celebrations and events that occur only on certain days of the year... I was convinced I had seen the undeniable future of role-playing gaming as we knew it.
However, mine was a novelty that was soon to fade, and when it did, it faded hard and fast...
The BadAs I played on over the months, small bothersome things began to come to my attention. Individually, or even in small numbers, these could be seen as the small quirks every game has - no game is ever 100% perfect in every player's eyes, of course. But these flaws began to multiply, and rapidly. And they were issues not just with the game itself, but with the very concept of the game. Too numerous to mention all of them, these little problems ranged from droll terrains, to poor character class balance, to ridiculously unrealistic area transitions. But worse, was the side of humanity that World of Warcraft not only attracted, but amplified and gloried in. Truly, my years in chat rooms, IRC channels, and weblogs never prepared me for the level of pure human stupidity that gravitates to WoW like iron filings to a magnet. Soon enough, 'phrases' like "cn i hav sum gold plz???", "rofl omg u sux0r!!!!1", and the inevitable "cn sum1 plz run me thru rfc PLZZZZ???" soon took their toll on my sanity, to the point where some days, I truly wanted to go on a postal rampage, killing all members of the same species who could manifest that mentality.
But, alas, perhaps that's simply the nature of online gaming. With World of Warcraft being the only MMORPG I had ever played (and because of it, now likely ever will!), I can't say with certainty that this is a failure of this game, or just this genre. But by contrast, the flaw which I found to be the worst failing of World of Warcraft, can most certainly not be blamed on the pathetic mental acuity of its players.
World of Warcraft is - and I state this with great vehemence - the dullest, most boring, most unimaginative, repetitive excuse for a "role playing game" I have experienced in nearly three decades of gaming.
When you play an RPG, one expects there to be puzzles, or quests, and solutions to these. In RPGs like Eye of the Beholder, Baldur's Gate, Fallout, Neverwinter Nights, and so on, one is prompted to use one's creative and logical mind to solve each quest. Some are simple, some are challenging, some are downright complex, some are even funny or clever or ironic.
But in World of Warcraft, though there are literally thousands upon thousands of quests to be completed in the world of Azeroth, there is ultimately only one solution to them all: Kill X monsters, and/or collect Y loot from their corpses.
I need to emphasize this again for clarity - the ENTIRE GAME is comprised of people telling you go somewhere, kill a predetermined number of things, and often bring back a number of things, usually dismembered body parts or items they may be carrying, to the questgiver.
For example: Kill 12 gray bears, and collect 12 bear hearts. Or, collect 15 tail feathers from slain swoop birds. Or, collect 8 tiger's claws, 6 bird's eggs, and 15 spider's legs.
And this is how THE ENTIRE GAME goes on...
To make things even worse, often, the percentage chance that you will find one of the required items on the corpse of your enemy (aka. the "drop rate") is unrealistically and infinitesimally low. And, the further you get into the game, the lower these drop rates get. In the very beginning, you may only have to slay six tigers to get six tiger's claws. But by level 30 or 40, you'll find yourself having to spend three straight hours killing dozens upon dozens of raptors just to make your quota of the 8 lousy raptor eyes you need for the quest. Not only does this repetitive and mind-mushing grinding eventually wear one's soul down to a longing for blessed death, but the lack of realism is vile to witness. I mean, let's face it - granted, in the fury and carnage of battle, it's fair to assume that not every creature that meets your sword, axe, or gun, is going to come away with it's carcass intact. Things like paws or eyes, perhaps even hearts, may just be unsalvageable. But when the quest calls for you to return with the creature's entire head, or even, in several cases, a sample of its blood, and yet still only one in every fifteen kills yields you the rewards, well, that just starts to make me angry.
And that's only the half of it. As you progress to the highest echelons of the character levels, the need for mindless grinding becomes positively unimaginable. For some quests, you have to collect around three thousand pieces of unrefined metal ore to improve your reputation with a particular faction just so that they'll allow to shop in their stores. In others, you have to collect several hundred of a crystal that is only dropped by the end boss of a dungeon, or "instance" - and even then, only dropped sometimes!! - in a dungeon which can only be completed by a 40 man "raid group", which is essentially 40 players working as a team to complete the dungeon. So, IF you and 39 of your friends clear the instance, and IF you kill the boss, and IF he drops the item, and IF, by group consensus or a fair dice roll, you are the one allowed to have it as opposed to the other 39 people who might want it, then you have ONE. Then you only need several dozen more before you can complete the first part of that quest!!
Personally, I would rather be forced at gunpoint to remove my own genitals with a rusty spoon without anesthesia than to even attempt a grind of that magnitude.
The more I played World of Warcraft, the more I felt my will to live slipping away. When I heard on the news about the teenager who committed suicide as a result of the game, I couldn't even muster a glimmer of surprise. Every day, faced with the constant spamming of utterly illiterate children shouting "WTF LOL NO U R TEH NOOB STFU!!!!!" at eachother, while I trudged out the city gates to spend another hour hacking at animals for another few lousy pieces of silver and a small dose of experience, I wondered to myself, "Why am I paying $15 a month to torture myself with what is the equivalent of working in a sweat shop while being forced to watch 40 straight hours of reality television?".
When I discovered no answer to that question, after weeks of soul searching, I canceled my World of Warcraft account.
The Bottom LineWhen I came to MobyGames today to post this bleak review of the worst game I've played in over a quarter of a century, I read first a glowing review posted by Corey Cole, a man whom I once positively idolized as the co-creative legend, with wife Lori-Ann Cole, behind the Quest for Glory series, which was the pinnacle of role playing adventure games of its time. When I read that this man, whose inspirational work on computer game development shaped a large part of my life, was now a self-confessed WoW addict, I honestly nearly wept. The notion that he and Lori, the hearts and minds behind Erasmus's Mage's Maze, the shimmering sands of the lands of Shapeir, the mentally and emotionally charging land of Tarna, and so much more, are now grinding day and night in this tiresome game hurts me to my soul. The blurb on the back of the box for Quest for Glory III: Wages of War says, "And if you succeed, it will be because you cut to the core of the mystery with your mind, not because you managed to sort through a series of stats or slashed through a thousand mindless monsters.". But that is precisely how you succeed in World of Warcraft. You slash through some monsters. And then you slash through a thousand more. And then, when you've done that, you move to another region, and slash through a few thousand more. Rinse, repeat.
Oh, and don't forget to pick up their heads, on the off-chance that they drop them. Remember, you'll need to take a few dozen of those back to your questgiver to "solve" the "quest".
I'd rather just withdraw $15 from my bank account each month, and set fire to it.