The forest was lush, and vividly dressed in an
array of colors. The tiny night elf hunter was not fooled though – danger lurked
ahead. He checked the young night saber bounding beside him, the creature loyal
to a fault. This was his protection, his extended attacking arm. If trouble came
up suddenly behind him, the cat would respond.
He looked back to the unseen path he followed.
A fallen tree loomed in front of him, and the night elf ran up to it, and
executed a perfect forward flip over the obstacle. There was a long ways yet to
go, monsters to fight, and glory to achieve. And the road was new.
When World of Warcraft launched, it shattered
sales records for massively multiplayer online games. There are close to 90
servers available across the United States and because several still are full,
likely more are on the way. Blizzard is happy, and Universal Vivendi is likely
tickled by the success of the game. But is World of Warcraft all that it was
promised to be? In a word – yes. But at its core, WoW is a dichotomy in the
world of MMOs, a contradiction within the core of gameplay that is at once a
head-scratcher and appealing.
The game is addictive and enjoyable.
Everything is laid out before you and you can easily customize the playing
experience you have. But here is where the contradiction comes into play: Don’t
have much time to play it, don’t worry. You are rewarded for resting and the
casual player will not have much trouble keeping pace with someone who plays
constantly. Why? Because you are rewarded with 200 percent experience points if
you are well rested, something a player who is on constantly will not get. This
means that while a hardcore game may earn 75 experience points (or xp) from
killing a mob, a player who is well rested (as in away from the game for a
certain amount of hours, resting their account in an inn) will get 150 xp for
the same mob. Ok, you won’t keep pace with the hardcore gamer that wants plays
constantly, but you will make up ground in big chunks.
The game is virtually lag-free, the mobs are
plentiful and the developers have eliminated downtime (where you kill a bunch of
mobs and then have to wait while your hit points and mana/power regenerates) by
giving faster reset rates or allowing players to eat or drink to restore needed
points in a hurry.
This is a game that is incredibly accessible,
presents challenge along the way, and can guide players who may never have
played an MMO before from the ranks of newcomer to veteran in short order.
Design-wise, not many chances were taken in
the creation of WoW – unless you call streamlining the grind a risk. But while
WoW feels like an amalgam of the best ideas from other MMOs, it maintains its
own personality – one that is rife with charm and style.
The game is broken down into two main factions
– horde and alliance. Each faction has four playable races, male and female. The
races are human, night elf, gnome and dwarf for the alliance, and undead, troll,
orc and tauren for the horde. Some of the available classes
include druid, warlock, mage, warrior, priest, shaman, rogues, paladin and
As you progress through the game, you acquire
items and coins. The coins are vital because they can be used to purchase skills
as you level. New skills become available from trainers are every even level. At
level 10, you get talent points, which can be used to customize your class.
For example, the hunter class has trees in
three general areas – beast mastery, marksmanship and survival. As you move
through the game, you begin to define you class and skills. The skills are
linked to level, as are weapons and armor.
Some movements are peculiar to the race you
play, and starting points are race specific – for the most part. Moving from one
location to the next is done in a couple of ways. You can run (and yes, there is
a lot of running distances for most players), you can take a flying mount or a
boat ride. For some flights, you have to unlock the areas between the flights
initially before you can use the mounts to move quicker. Most of the areas are
level specific in design. You can travel to many of them, but since the mobs are
geared for certain levels, traveling there when considerably lower is a big
risk, while moving through at a higher level yields no xp for an encounter –
unless you are doing a quest. And speaking of which, when you first arrive in
the world, you can tell which avatars have quests by the exclamation mark above
their heads. Some of the avatars have voices, others are merely scribed quest
Combat and quests and death …
World of Warcraft is overflowing with quests.
The game easily rivals the quest availability of EverQuest II, but unlike EQ II,
in WoW players can only carry up to 20 quests at any one time. A lot of the
quests are linked threads, which can reveal story points.
Each quest yields rewards in terms of items,
coins and xp. You can actually gain more xp through questing than through open
The combat is handled with max/min ranges in
mind. A bow has a maximum range and a minimum distance in which it cannot be
used. Spells take time to wind up and can be interrupted. Moving between one
attack skill and another is effortless. You can hotbar skills and trigger them
by pressing the appropriate key.
Blizzard has done an outstanding job with the
interface in most regards. Some of the keys are not universal to other games,
but the learning curve is tiny. Unfortunately, the game employs magic missiles.
If a target moves behind a hill or around a tree, when in the process of
attacking, your attack will go through the hill or tree and hit the target. Each
skill has reset times, and some skills require that you acquire a certain amount
of a trait to fire them. For example, the warrior does not have mana, or power,
but during the course of an attack, the warrior will build rage, which is
necessary for some attacks.
World of Warcraft has some of the best death
animation ever seen in an MMO, and there is no consequence for dying if you
recover your shard. When you die, you are resurrected as a spirit orb in the
nearest graveyard. The world goes from glorious color to grayscaled, and you can
travel, without consequence, back to where you died and recover your shard. You
resurrect with half stats, but that quickly heals.
Each player can take up two crafting classes
in the game, and some work hand-in-hand with other skills. One can take
herbology and alchemy, which allows them to find the herbs scattered throughout
the worlds, and then create potions with them. Another example of a paired skill
set would be skinning and leathercrafting. Without the skills, you cannot
collect the resources in the wild. You can, however, collect the items and sell
them without having to craft them into something else.
Some crafted items are extremely beneficial
early on the in the game. Expanding the amount of items you can carry depends on
the number of bags you carry and how many slots each holds. The generic bags
hold six slots, but players can craft bags that hold much more. Required are
found items, a recipe and, naturally, the skill to do it. Other player crafted
material is tied to level, and there is a brokerage (similar to what EverQuest
has in both incarnations) where you can sell and/or buy.
Crafting levels in a slightly different way
than xp levels. You use a skill, and level it up through use, then you can buy
the training for the next level of that skill.
The game does have PvP in a couple of forms.
You can dual another player, which is a great way to test skills and weapon
abilities, or you can raid. There are also PvP servers available. When you
encounter a player in a raid, you cannot see what level they are, and horde and
alliance classes cannot understand each other, which alleviates trash talking.
World of Warcraft is a wonderful-looking title
that is accessible and will definitely appeal to both casual and hardcore
gamers. Players can have a number of characters on each server, which lends
itself to variety, if they don’t mind repeating quests tied to certain races,
though they can certainly have different races and different classes and
experience the fullness of what WoW has to offer.
The game has a wonderful backstory, and the
lore sprinkled through the game makes it intriguing. The different areas are
well designed and diverse enough to further the variety. Though the game
currently has a level cap of 60, there is enough to see and do to keep players
occupied for a long time.
The game has a solid guild structure and
enough inducements to make for a thoroughly enjoyable time.
Accessible is one word that truly fits this
game. Players can move into the world without a lot of trouble and the learning
curve is small.
The game is lush and vibrant, but there is a
flatness to the world that can be a bit distracting. You know something is not
quite right, but can’t really put your finger on it until you finally figure it
out. This is a three dimensional world, but the texturing is, for the most part,
two-dimensional. This really shows when running up a tree path and the ornate
carvings are flat. The animation is very good and the special effects are very
The sound is full and wonderful. Not all of
the characters have speaking voices, but the game has enough sound effects and a
rich musical score to keep it lively.
Play within your level and the game is challenging but not overwhelming.
Few risks were taken with this game. It feels
like an amalgam of the finest ideas from several other games, but all were given
the wonderful Blizzard touch and fit this game’s total concept well.
A terrific community awaits those who enter
this game. Helpful and generally polite, this is a good social game setting.
World of Warcraft is the best-selling MMO of
all time (to date) for a reason – beauty and accessibility. Does it raise the
bar in terms of gameplay? No. But what it does offer is a grand time in a