Review by Donny_Keyes

"The reason American gamers are getting Lazier..."

Introductory words:

Blizzards immensely popular Warcraft Franchise makes a massive leap into the online RPG fray. as many, as well as I, would agree, Warcraft still remains one of the most solid and fun real-time-strategy games to date (Starcraft as well.) But was it really all that cut out for the RPG realm?

RPGs have lowered the standards of game play since they became wildly successful in the American market. Why? Because they hand feed players till the very end. I've been to japan recently, and there is something that struck me as surprising. Why the hell are they so damned good at reflex based games? Well, it's a question I barely pondered until now, but when I say reflex, I mean anything that involves controlling something in real time, and executing every move with precision. For one, reflex based games are widely popular among the japanese, it's just a known fact. There's always a DDR/Beatmania/DanceManiac/Whatever type game in an arcade, and there is always some kid playing it, and doing exceedingly well at it. Another thing that I've come to notice is that real time fighting RPGs are also a whole lot more popular in Japan, a lot more than they are in America. I mean the genuine combo busting RPG games where you, the player, are totally in control of what you're doing. No command queue, no click to target, it's pure skill, backed up with a bit of stats. And those stats are primarily for the game to advance, and for the player to carefully choose how he wants his character prepared for a battle. If there was no leveling, there wouldn't be any point to fighting regular enemies, and it would be a straight boss fighting spree. And when I watch videos of these games, I find that every japanese video is loaded with players who have knowledge of secret moves, and score incredible combos and damage using the same tools every other player is granted. I've played some of those games (Tales of Symphonia, Legendia, Phantasia) and I have only been able to haphazardly pull off a few stunts, only to miss the enemy and do more damage to myself. After playing those games over and over, I found myself able to achieve a lot more than mundane fighting, but able to incorporate those moves, and while I'm a ways from reaching the kind of profession that other players have, I'm a lot better at playing real time RPGs.

And the sales of those kinds of games are so low here in America, and I can't figure out why. It's because of turn based games, and how they've slowly evolved, still retaining the unskillful game play they've always have had. I ask people if they've played any of the NAMCO tales games, and only four out of maybe sixty friends that play and love RPGs will tell me that they have heard of the game, and about three of them actually own and beat it. None of those games get as much publicity as Final Fantasy, or World of Warcraft, and the game play is unarguably better, as well as just about every other aspect. America has been feeding RPG gamers with turn based, and similar style RPG games that don't involve skill, and WoW is one of the largest most mutated forms of this kind of gaming ever.

So without further criticism, here's my review:


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GAMEPLAY: 3/10
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Because this section is so big, I'm dividing it up into other categories

Intro

Gameplay is where WoW falls flat on it's face. Some argue that WoW is like a giant tutorial, and that it's all a long drawn out learning process to learning how to play your class. Sure, last time I checked, tutorials had a SKIP button that allowed you to start off with the basics. Instead, you build what will ultimately be a cookie cutter build that someone else thought up, and proceed to playing PvP and raiding.

I wouldn't change the rating either way if it was there or not. It's part of the gameplay, and we all know you can't just give everyone a level sixty to run around in. The game just wouldn't work if you removed that part of it, and because of that I regard this as a full part of the game, a majority of it I should say.

==Quests==
So let's start from the beginning shall we? We start off with our hero, one or two basic moves, and some guys standing around you with exclamation points. Again, an instance of hand feeding players. Instead of giving people the incentive of captivating writing, the player skips the dialogue, and goes straight for the guys with the exclamation points. Once you talk to them, you can get a myriad of EXTREMELY UNINTERESTING QUESTS. Sorry for the caps, but I think many WoW players will agree if you wake them up from their sleep, that quests are equally as boring as grinding enemies.

Here's a list of some of the oh so fun quests you might encounter, might I add the only good rewards are experience, which you could probably get doing just a little more grinding than required in the quest itself.

Trade quests: These are probably the most boring of all the quests around. Talk to the quest-giver, he'll give you "information" which you won't read/care about, OR an item. Basically, you just take the item to another guy, and report back.

Grind Quests/Report Quests: A lot of these at the beginning. A soldier will ask you to scout an area for monsters. Just the fact that he's asking you will tell you "DUH, THERE ARE MONSTERS THERE." After you go there, and come back. Then as a followup, you have to kill monsters, and collect their drops. You only need 10-20 of the drop, but only a third or less of the monsters carry it, in in reality, you need to kill 30-60+ monsters in order to meet the requirements. The experience you get in the end exceeds the amount that you'll get from the quest-giver, but WoW players don't question this.

Reputation quests: Basically, improving reputation among factions. How do you do this? Do quests for other groups. WOW, THAT SOUNDS LIKE FUN!.......?

Collecting quests: Find lost items, basically like grind quests except the chances drop from 1/3 to 1/20 ish. And you have to go into one large area, with different enemies, so you don't know exactly where to look. Just spend a lot of time there and eventually you'll find what you're looking for.

Unique Instance quests: Killing some unique enemies in an instance or dungeon which you will inevitably go to more than once, and kill that "unique" more than once. I wonder why they're called uniques if you end up killing them upwards of 20 times? Instances become the mainstay of the game until you reach level 60, and each one is a somewhat fresh experience. This is all ruined when you find yourself running through it a billion times so you can gain a level and get rare drops.

==Traversing the World of Warcraft==
Walking around in WoW is just plain boring, and it will be a majority of what you do until you have enough money/time to buy a mount. If the actual battles which punctuate travel were any more interesting, I bet the walking aspect would be a LOT less boring and frustrating.

==Economy and Crafting==
Another downside of the game is how one gets about making money in WoW. Killing monsters and grinding will earn you minimal amounts of money. With the open market in WoW, people have a decent shot at making a little money in the auction house, but moneymaking is still slow. A lot of players rely on paying real money for gold because coming about so much money would otherwise take a really long time. Some people turn to crafting in order to circulate items into the economy and earn money for themselves. The idea is just as low as runescape. Click a rare occurring item, attempt to skin/mine/collect it, and then attempt to refine it somehow. The failures make it a tad frustrating, and the amount needed to max the skill is even more demanding and annoying. Unless you're an alchemist, none of the items you craft will be very beneficial to yourself, not to mention you can only have two crafts at any given time, and in WoW, one can magically "forget" a craft in order to learn a new one.

How realistic.

If I wanted a second job, I'd expect to be paid. Toddlers make more pretend money than WoW players with a fraction of the effort.

==Combat System==
It's just boring. For the first and only 59 levels, you click enemies, and you kill them. Bottom line, if your character sucks, then you die. That's it. That is all the gameplay will ever amount to in player vs. Monster combat. There's no AI, there's no maneuvering needed, they're just like beating posts that fight back. If you don't have the stuff to kill it, you run, and thanks to the crappy combat system, they can miraculously hit you even though they are 5 feet behind you. Because Blizzard is TOO GOOD for a real hit test system like they had in Diablo and Diablo II.
The game, to me, is nothing more than a turn based system well crafted into fooling gamers that they have complete control over their actions. I tell players if they've played any real time RPGs, and they'll tell me that the only one they've played is WoW. I proceed to telling them that WoW isn't a real time RPG, but more of a pseudo real time hybrid of sorts, and after about 5 minutes of explaining, they FINALLY realize what I'm trying to point out...

It's a LIMITED real time RPG. You cannot control when you hit an enemy, only the rate at which you do so in a queued based combat system. In between shots, you can maneuver your character and select a wide variety of moves that will wedge themselves between the queue of repetitive slashing. People claim it takes a lot of skill, but when it all boils down to it, as long as you have better equipment, and read a PvP guide, you'll do just fine unless you just flat out fail at RPGs. The top ranked players? They've just refined tactics, and have superior equipment and stat distribution, there's very little special to be ranked high in a WoW server... It just means you have a lot of money, or you wasted a lot of your time grinding for epic equipment.

Players argue that PvP is where the real game begins. Whoop whoop, so you're fighting someone with intelligence. Now some maneuvering comes into play, while you beat your opponents with cookie cutter builds, and strategies you read offline. If your strategy can be put into synopsis, then there's not a lot of skill in the game now is there. Real skill based games have strategies you can't explain. When someone asks you why you're so good, you have difficulty explaining, and no matter how much you explain, it won't help whoever's asking to become better. You're wits, critical thinking, and reflexes are what win the battles you fight. In WoW, your equipment, stats, and DPS are what win the battles you fight.

==Raids==
Probably more argued than PvP being the highlight, are raids. Group Raids are a sport reserved for level 60's only. It usually entails fighting a giant boss that quite literally requires about forty people to kill.

People argue that this is where the skill comes in. The only skill here is organization. Picking the right people to take with you so that you'll minimize the losses on the battlefield. You got tanks, buffers, healers, whatnot, and someone needs to have a battle-plan as to how they're going to spread out and kill the monster.

At first, raiding was a huge deal, because people didn't have efficient battle plans for going out, and for a long time one raid boss was yet to be defeated. Now that they have been defeated, players know what works, and battles are a whole lot easier. The majority now just depends on weather or not you picked good tanks and healers, and if all of your players are competent. There's not a lot of skill in that. And in the end, it's just more work than fun. There's nothing enjoyable about stressing over team statistics and battle plans, and then yelling at the one guy who slips up. Even if some find fun in it, it lacks the intensity of the "grand scale" battles when there's no intense music, or intense combat system. Unless you're a melee tank, you're just going to stand back and watch the fight, while contributing to a little bit of the damage.


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CONTROL 7/10
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There's nothing wrong with the controls per se. The hot-key system works fine for the intensity of the game (or lack thereof), but the actual interface for the controls is clunky and unorganized. Players have taken it upon themselves to create infinitely better interfaces for better control. There's just too much in the game to keep track of, and it's overcomplicated by all sorts of skills, moves, and buttons to memorize, so certain mods do tasks automatically. Legitimately so, I had a much easier time with the other interfaces, so I give credit to blizzard for supporting customization. That's a very good thing to give to your players. Too bad the gameplay isn't all that great to begin with.


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GRAPHICS:7/10
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WoW's graphics aren't anything outstanding. They're pretty dated actually, but the architecture of buildings and the landscape design is pretty unique. The visual design of some of the levels are quite outstanding, and in others are pretty mundane. For as unrealistic as the game is, the geography's look and feel could stand for a tad more surrealism.


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SOUND: 3/10
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WoW's music is purely ambiance, and I've heard better ambiance than that. The only reason MMO's are afraid to incorporate some heavier more intense tracks, is because they don't have any real talented musicians who are willing to take on a whole masterpiece soundtrack to fill up the games musical nooks and crannies. One huge risk of this is that players will find the music corny, or just annoying. A few things that could remedy this is to allow one of the following:

First off, some serious, emotionally compelling tracks would help to make a less annoying atmosphere. When games add in funky lighthearted tracks, they will eventually and almost inevitably come to piss off the player. If there is need to lighten the mood, there are ways to make your music subtly more calming and cheery without becoming distracting and annoying.

If you've ever played kingdom hearts, the music changes very quickly, and smoothly into a battle track, based on a theme for every level. So if you don't like the battle theme in one place, you'll undoubtedly find a better one in another, also so that the player doesn't need to listen to the same music over and over again. And for those who just don't appreciate music at all, you can turn it down, or off altogether. But I don't think I've EVER heard of anyone not wanting a cool battle theme while fighting.

This doesn't just apply to WoW, but nearly every MMO, the tracks are dull, mundane, quiet, and lacks a lot of emotion. Single player games almost always have louder more vibrant soundtracks, so why not MMOs? Music should become something more important in gaming, without good music, the game lacks a certain level of feel you can't achieve just by plain gameplay alone, although that's still infinitely more important.


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COMMUNITY: 8/10
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As much as I hate WoW, the community as actually quite nice. People are always willing to tag along for a run, and generally, there will always be SOMEONE willing to give you assistance. One thing I find nice about it is that there were numerous times when I found myself being beaten by an overpowered enemy, and someone stronger came over and killed it for me. Saved me quite a lot of deaths in the early levels, and I got better.

I have to say, playing with other people has always been a highlight in just about every online game, and is probably the key to an MMO's success. There's a certain warmth that comes from playing alongside your brother, or a friend, or just someone you met, being able to work together and achieve things that you can't achieve alone. I had my moments with WoW, but once you grow out of the innocent newbie stage (which is about... 5 levels) then it just quickly becomes the dull game that it really is.

If you want to get the warm feeling of doing things with other people, help out your family, and if they're a bothersome bunch, take a walk out to your local park; chances are if you sit on a bench, someone interesting will sit down with you, and you may have an infinitely more rewarding experience with them.


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FINAL NOTES/RECCOMENDATIONS
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World of Warcraft is by far the most overrated game I have ever played. I know exactly why it's so appealing to people, and I hope someday they'll realize it's mediocre at best. It's not worth the 15 bucks a month unless you plan to sell your account, which will go for about as much as it costs to build the characters.

In conclusion, I've wrapped it up with some pros and cons for your lazy kids who don't want to read.

Pros:


-Interesting visuals
-First time in instances and Raids are somewhat interesting
-Somewhat nice community


Cons:


-Dated graphics
-Slow updates
-Slow servers
-Characters non-transferrable between servers
-Repetitive and boring combat
-Limited character developement and customization
-First 59 levels are a "tutorial" of the game
-Bland unmemorable music, repetitive sound clips
-Regular interface MUST be changed for more enjoyable gameplay
-And on top of it, you're the one paying $15 for it all

Don't waste your time playing this game. I could name a whole bunch of single player games that are ten times more exciting that WoW.


Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 07/26/06


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