Review by Exodist

"Granted it's the only MMORPG I've played, but I can see why it's so popular."

World of Warcraft is a game you just can't ignore. If you're a gamer, you probably know about it. You play it, have no real opinion on it, or hate it and think that the people who play WoW are all addicted scum with absolutely no life whatsoever. Apart from the one they're using to play the game, of course. I'll admit it; I first got into the MMORPG genre with Runescape. The player base for that game is literally 10 years and above, until you're about 14 or so and realise there are better MMORPGs out there, so at the time I was perfect for the game. The idea of the genre was impressive to me. I loved RPGs, and the thought of an online one with other players and just endless possibilities was fascinating. I played Runescape for a year but got bored, my interest moved into a new game: World of Warcraft. I myself was drawn to the game because I loved the previous games in the series, although you'll find a lot of players play it due to its popularity and status. It was finally time to move on and enter the lands of Azeroth.

The story of WoW is mostly told through the actual game world. The game is set some time after Warcraft III and carries on the Warcraft lore faithfully. The world is massive but also interesting, but with it being an MMORPG the story elements aren't really of much importance. However, for those who are interested, the lore is rich and the world Blizzard has created is absolutely amazing. The backdrop is a standard fantasy affair, but there are a lot of little touches that make it more unique and standout. The game world is split up into two continents: Kalimdor, to the west, and the Eastern Kingdoms, which both populate Alliance and Horde players, the two factions of the game. Within these continents are zones, areas which cater to different players at different levels. Most of the zones are really interesting places to explore, the world is rich and vibrant, and just exploring is fun. Attention to detail is practically meticulous and some zones have their own, clear personality. Ironforge has its own sub-way system to Stormwind, whilst mailboxes populate the entire world, allowing players to send each other money and gifts via mail, again, giving Azeroth its own fantasy setting. Simply put, the world is a huge grand one, and exploring it and learning about it is just as good as any other storylines games have.

For an MMORPG, the gameplay is fairly simple but also incredibly deep and complex at the same time. The game caters massively for different levels but also styles of players. I myself have spent my entire time in WoW so far (about just over a year now, at the end of 2008 was when I started playing) which is about 380 hours or so, mostly just levelling my character. The game tasks you to level your character to, on Classic WoW (that's merely what the original game is now referred as, since two expansion packs have been released), to level 60 (it goes up to 80 with the two expansion packs). This is done through completing quests, which are fairly simple. They range from killing enemies, killing enemies to gain items, finding items placed in the world, or simply talking to different NPCs. Granted there isn't much variation in the quests, however they're still consistently fun, and whilst some are annoying with the low drop rates, the quests still manage to be at least somewhat fun. To me, you either like or dislike MMORPGs, and if you like the genre quests really won't bother you.

However, players can also participate in professions. There are two types: gathering professions and crafting. Gathering is the one used to get your materials, from skinning, mining or harvesting plants. The other professions use these resources to craft items (Enchanting doesn't require that, instead letting you disenchant valuable items as part of the profession), ranging from Engineering to Leatherworking. They're quite simple and fun, but also time consuming and expensive. This is where the auction house (mostly) comes in. You can put your own items up for sale provided it's not bound to your character, and also buy other items; either via bid or buyout, when you win the item is mailed to you. A lot of the time, crafted items are placed on the Auction house to make profit, whilst materials are also placed. This is where a sort of economy comes in, which is usually unique to each realm (the servers you play the game on). For example, when I started playing, Silk Cloth was selling at six gold per stack (a stack being a collection of 20 materials) on the auction house, however later on they were only selling for two gold per stack. The prices of items change all the time and it's interesting to see this change, although most of the time you'll probably hope everything is cheap. I myself do Enchanting; I can tell you know it's an incredibly expensive profession to level up if you're looking at the Auction house for your materials. You can only have two professions (you can get rid of them and change though), but you can also have all three of the secondary professions: Cooking, First Aid, and Fishing. First Aid lets you create bandages from cloth, Cooking lets you use different recipes to cook food using the ingredients, and fishing is pretty obvious.

Another distraction from levelling your characters is the instances. These are basically dungeons, where a group of five players with different roles (Healer, Tank (gets the enemy aggro and takes the damage) and DPS, which means ‘damage per second', they're the one who deals the damage) go through a dungeon together. They basically consist of lots and lots of elite (or, boss) enemies. The loot gained is usually pretty good though, and they're quite fun but also challenging. Different instances cater to different levels, but one instance will usually feature multiple paths to take and different bosses, allowing you to play the same instance multiple times as you level up to face the different, more challenging bosses to get better equipment. Instances and raiding (instances on a larger scale) get pretty serious at the later levels, but I admit it's a feature I've not explored much.

The only other main feature is the Player versus Player system. You can duel practically anyone anywhere without no real penalties, you don't die and your health and mana is restored after the fight (that said; when you die you merely have to run back to your corpse, rather than death being a harshly punishable ‘offence'). Again, I don't duel too much, but it can be pretty fun and the player classes are rather different, providing a lot of different ways to fight. You can also play in the battle grounds, 5 versus 5 matches usually involving capture the flag on a large battlefield, which are also pretty fun but also have a relaxed atmosphere. You gain honour points from these fights, a battleground only currency different to the one used elsewhere. PVP can be fun, but it's also an aspect of the game you need specific talent specifications and gear for.

If you like MMORPGs, you've probably played this one. If you don't like the genre, fair enough, go elsewhere. However if you're interested in the genre I can't recommend World of Warcraft enough. The game eases new players to the game and genre in and offers loads of content from the get go, from the different races and classes, to the instances available at around level 15. There is plenty to do all year around with world events such as Love is in the Air (a valentines based event which offers new items and quests for the duration), new content patches constantly improving and balancing the game (such as class changes and the recent addition of a matchmaking styled dungeon finder) and also the addition of achievements (from the Wrath of the Lich King expansion pack). If you're new, I recommend you start with just Classic, however if you think you'll play for a long time and really want a Dranei or a Blood Elf, then take the risk and buy Burning Crusade. At anyrate, Classic is all you'll need until you reach 60, and along the way there is plenty of stuff to do to take a break from levelling. You can love it, or you can hate it, but if you hate it, it's merely not your kind of genre.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 03/15/10

Game Release: World of Warcraft (EU, 02/11/05)

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