Written by  :  Matt Neuteboom (989)
Written on  :  Oct 03, 2007
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars

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Amazingly simple yet amazingly addictive

The Good

In my opinion, World or Warcraft (more simply abbreviated WoW for the rest of this review) does not do anything so amazingly revolutionary or new from the rest of its counterparts in the MMORPG genre. It doesn’t do anything totally or completely unexpected from many other MMO’s out there. Most elements can be seen borrowed from other RPG franchises, and as a whole one could possibly label it “generic”. But what WoW so brilliantly does is that it takes what its other brethren have created and made it easier and more fun to play. It has taken its content and made it a perfect form as to create a perfect gaming environment that is both easy and fun to play in, is not vague or confusing, and is addictive as Hell. And that, my friends, makes all the difference.

WoW has a lot of elements borrowed from every other genre. It has a talent system, and two professions from which you can choose. You’ve got a wide variety of classes from rogues to warriors to mages to warlocks. All around, WoW is just plain fun. You can do instances (dungeons and such) with your friends, or enjoy some relaxing fishing alone. You can explore the land or do quests. You can join a group for some amazing PvP, or go to a role-playing server to immerse yourself within the World of Warcraft (I have tried an RP server and the role-players for the game are very enthusiastic). WoW even has one of the biggest maps I have ever seen. To explore the entire map easily takes weeks just walking from place to place. I am still debating which game’s map is bigger, WoW or Guild Wars, and I have yet to come to a conclusion. To tell you what WoW holds in store would take pages upon pages more of a review. However, this is not how WoW differentiates itself among other RPG’s. You can get all of this stuff on other MMO’s, so what’s so special about this one?

What WoW does is it takes the simplicity of console RPG’s and mixes it with expansive environment, controls, character customization, and social abilities of the MMO world. In simpler terms: WoW is easy, it eliminates the frustrations of other MMO’s, and simply makes the game just plain fun. I was once a player of another MMORPG. That was the game Dark Age of Camelot. While I was playing it, I thought it was an okay experience. However, I now realize what a terrible experience it truly was. While games like those are far too hard and required hours of work, WoW is simple, clean, and so easy to use that casual gamers can easily be on the same level as hardcore addicts.

WoW appeals to casual and hardcore gamers alike. New players can begin enjoying the full experience as soon as they start, and it’s a huge and welcoming change for the RPG franchise. It makes it feel like you aren’t too low of a level to get the games full potential. Quests and monsters are just the right level of difficulty, making it easy for a person to just jump right into combat. Epic quests do not require hours of time devoted to playing the game. Even as early players, noobs can enjoy the same features as many players who are 50 levels above them. The fun begins as soon as you log in.

Casual players are rewarded heavily in this game, because soloing is possible, easy, and rewarding. Players who don’t play as often, will become “well-rested” while they are logged out, allowing them to gain double the experience as players who play all the time. It is this welcoming incentive that continues to draw me into WoW, and finally I am no longer penalized for enjoying doing the quests alone and sporadically.

Even early in the game players can enjoy a slew of highly entertaining skills and abilities, and each level you gain significantly adds a number of new abilities at your disposal. This makes combat throughput the game fun and different, as you have tons of skills at your disposal to toy around with. Both items that new players can use and higher experienced ones are distributed pretty much perfectly throughout the game, making finding a weapon perfectly suited for you as easy as walking down to a shop or slaying a beast. Early players have the ability to choose the same professions as later players, which makes getting to the higher levels easier for new players. The game makes noobs feel welcome. As I said before, new and casual players can begin enjoying the full experience as soon as they start, and it’s a huge and welcoming change for me.

I think one of the reasons WoW is so welcoming to casual and new players its how it practically eliminates all of the frustrations of other MMO’s. One of these things that comes to mind for me is grinding. WoW utilizes the simple system that has been a requisite for console RPG’s for years: it allows the player to gain levels while they are adventuring. Simply put: no grinding. Read that again. Eventually it hits you in this game that you never have to stop what you’re doing to bolster your stats. It is easy to gain a level once or even twice per day, even between on and off adventuring and exploring. You may even be able to achieve more levels that, if you really play it that much every day, only trying to level. Most of the time, the leveling is done while your adventuring and on quests, making repetitive monster-slaying trials and experience quests almost non-existent in WoW. Doing simple tasks such as gathering ingredients for a recipe do not require hours of work. Developing skills can be easily done by the most casual or newest of players. These reasons and many more are good reasons to get WoW. It has so many elements that are nice and user-friendly that makes it fun to play without making it a complete chore.

Another one of these features that comes to mind is that death brings no toll to those unfortunate to have to go through it. Your only punishment is that you must bring your dead spirit from a nearby graveyard (there is usually one or two in every region) to your corpse, which is a trivial walk. It does not require you to lose points or skills, or require you to pray at some alter to get your stats to full potential. I cannot being to explain how great this makes the game, being able to actually “play” without having to worry about taking risk. I could sit here for hours iterating stories of how I’ve lost days of experience (from grinding no less) simply by accidentally aggroing some monster that is a couple levels higher than me. This feature is a god-send, and you will praise Blizzard for making such an amazing decision in the game design.

One of the fundamental reasons of the underlying simplified gameplay I mentioned before is the clean character and item management. WoW is not as ambiguous as many other MMO’s. The system of professions, talents, pets, classes and other sorts are semi-self contained. Its easy to use interface contains just a few menus and an action bar, and each menu serves major purposes. All your professions, stats, pets, and other things are all tabbed in one menu for your character, while everything pertaining to social (guilds, friends) are all tabbed under another. It keeps the screen clean of anything that gets in the way and makes it easy to find what you are looking for. Looting is simple, even in massive groups. You can easily discern which professions go with which, and character class limitations are well-defined. Items aren’t vague as to what they are used for or what they add to your stats. Many games I have played include strange numbers and stats that I have no idea what they do. In WoW, almost every item is useful, so if you find something on an item, its usually used for something pertaining to a quest and will tell you so. If its armor, a quest item, and weapon, or just food, it will tell you, which makes item handling much easier, as you feel like your not throwing away something very important when you clean out your inventory. In WoW, what things do are so clearly defined it will make you wonder how the Hell other MMO’s didn’t think of doing this sooner.

And as mentioned before, WoW is incredibly user friendly. All around, WoW makes it easy for new users to gain ranks and earn experience, and still keeps everyone challenged. Socially, the people you meet in game are some of the kindest people on the internet. The role-playing servers can be lots of fun for those looking for a Dungeons and Dragons type of game, while the regular servers have people who are always willing to help out new players or go on raids or quests. The Blizzard Support must also be duly noted. If you seem to have an annoyance within the game, it’s as if Blizzard reads your mind and fixes it the next day. It almost seems as if the Blizzard staff plays the game themselves, and sees what annoys them that must be fixed. Blizzard constantly releases automatic updates that fix small bugs and glitches to make for a better gaming experience. Server crashes are fixed within minutes, and problems with servers are usually fixed within hours to get the servers back up and running. It’s simply amazing how well they treat their players. Blizzard definitely goes to great lengths to make sure you are completely satisfied with your gaming, and you can surely tell.

Aside, the game’s great atmosphere also perks you up. The graphics of the game are astounding and pleasing to the eye. The graphics almost remind me of a fairy-tale: colorful and beautiful landscapes with exaggerated features and rounded textures. The trees in the game can be a host of colors like blue or purple, and the cities are magnificent. The gates of cities are stories tall, and the streets are curvy, twisted, and almost cartoon-like. The cheery yet atmospheric music adds greatly to this. Above all, the atmosphere does something for your brain. When you look out upon a bouncy forest of bright trees that are the size of skyscrapers, it makes you feel warm inside. Even some of the more “evil” environments have vivid palettes and continue to have bouncy textures and exaggerated landscapes that make them feel more alive. Other MMO’s, for some reason, like to include some desolate wasteland with destroyed cities, hopeless people, and an atmosphere that makes everyone seem dead. WoW, however, does just the opposite. The bright, cheery characters and environments do more to bring up your spirits. Instead of drawing on dark, desolate feelings, they inspire feelings of warmth, happiness, and liveliness, almost as if the very air itself is alive. Because of this, WoW is a game that will drawn you in and keep your there for hours on end.

They call this game the “World” of Warcraft for a reason. All around, this game feels like a living, breathing thing. If you let it, WoW can become your second home. The colorful characters and world, the uncountable number of things to do, and the infinite character and profession combos will ensure that WoW has near endless replay value. Hell, all I do is questing and instances, and that still manages to take up all of my day. I’ve barely touched PvP, raids, and end-game quests, and yet I still fill my day with fun-filled questing in the world of Azeroth. Let WoW charm you to death as you discover all of the games little quirks, interesting characters, fun story arcs. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, there are always other people on, doing other things, and there is always something going on. And as you play, you will become part of that rich tapestry which has practically evolved into its own society. Invite yourself into the World of Warcraft, and you may never want to leave.

The Bad

And ADDICT was his name-O!

More and more these days video game addiction is a major problem. People have reported to leave work, school, relationships, and even families over video games. Some have even reportedly committed suicide. The idea of a video game worse than drugs is scary, but it today’s world I find that it is honestly a very real entity. This game does not seem to erode this idea. World or Warcraft is addicting, with a capital ‘A’. For some, it’s because you feel that you have to keep playing hours to get “just one more level”, or you feel that you may miss something. But also, it’s because World of Warcraft is utterly and uncontrollably fun to play. Between quests, raids, dungeon runs and profession training, time slips away at a mind-boggling pace. The first two days after I got this seem nothing but a blur. Yes, the sad truth is that I spent a two full days, over 10 hours each day, playing the game from the time I got up until about midnight. What’s weirder is that I did not actually realize that this time was slipping away. When I emerged from my basement, I wondered where the time had all gotten to. At that point I realized that time consumption was a factor I needed to seriously consider while playing WoW. That’s something very new for me, a person who generally plays video games and socializes in moderation. WoW, however, affects ALL gamers. It has been called names like “World or Warcrack.” It’s something to deeply consider when buying or playing this game. Don’t put a video game in front of family. Consider how much time you have before buying this. Hell, make sure you consider how much time you have when you’re in the middle of playing it! As my friend Pete (a dedicated WoW player and someone I actually played the game with) says, “WoW destroys lives”. And it’s true. Consider what you are going to give up for this game. Many gamers may find it easy to play in moderation, but even those who don’t normally have addictive personalities can exhibit WoW addictions and late-night sessions. People with addictive personalities should avoid the game altogether.

As the game drifts on you may notice that the quests are very much uninspired. Unlike traditional one-player console RPG’s, the quests are pretty mindless. Quests are almost always a “kill-quest”, where you either have to kill a certain number of monsters or a specific one. Occasionally you will get an item collecting quest, which invariably leads to having to kill a number of monsters just to get those items. Traveling quests are a nice and easy change but hardly offer anything fun or interesting. If the game did not make up for itself with good combat, quests would be a nightmare. Perhaps that’s why the game gets so much better when playing with a friend. Related to this is the fact that the game can be very repetitive when played alone or “solo”. Quests are almost always alike, and seem to be big repetitions of each other. As a result, restarting characters is a nightmare since you will invariable be replaying dull missions that you had to do with other characters. Quests are easily the least entertaining part of the game, and while they offer plenty of experience, are only bearable up to about level 30, where they become a terrible pain. An unfortunate factor that must also be taken into account is that all of the game’s story is driven by quests, and that the game really lacks direction without them. Bummer.

The patches are also one of the most major problems. Blizzard frequently releases patches for this game. All around it does much more good than it does bad, however the downloads are incredibly annoying. Of course, for your convenience you do not have to keep track of versions or go to download sites. It’s all done automatically by the in-game updater. However, patches can be released almost once every two weeks. And while the small ones are pretty much an annoyance rather than a pain (15 minutes isn’t all too bad), the larger ones are a nightmare, with up to an hour (or more!) or download times. This only makes it worse for players installing and playing the game for the first time. All of the patches created before that point must be downloaded, meaning 4 or 5 patch downloads (sometimes to avoid lengthy downloads they take older patches and incorporate them into the new ones so they don’t have to be downloaded). Usually one or two of these is the nightmare patch mentioned above. And while load times are swift and painless, prepare for a monstrous install time, and even more waiting just to get the game patched up running…

The Bottom Line

World of Warcraft is a landmark in MMO design. In my honest opinion, MMO’s have too long been bogged down by boring grinding, terrible adventuring, and annoying features and controls. WoW eliminates all of these things, keeping what makes the game fun, and this is what appeals to me and 7 million other gamers so much. It’s the fun a video game should give you, without all the tiresome work that come along with other MMO’s. It’s incredibly friendly, incredibly fun, incredibly imaginative, and incredibly addicting.

And even to mention all of the great content that WoW offers would take a lifetime. Things like professions, talents, all of the classes, a HUGE world to explore and tons of social interactivity make WoW my choice MMORPG. But I could never tell you about everything, so let’s just leave it at that. It’s up to you to discover all the amazing possibilities and the rich gameplay that the World of Warcraft is just waiting to offer.