Review by Raphael_Solo

"Not Wowed by WoW"

If you like World of Warcraft you should probably just stop reading here.

World of Warcraft aka WoW is proof that just because 12 million agree on something, it doesn't make them right. World of Warcraft, is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, or MMORPG for short, based in Blizzard's world of Azeroth. Like other games of it's kind it falls prey to many of the common pitfalls of the genre. Unlike its contemporaries, such as Guild Wars and EverQuest, it is also a spinoff game from the popular Real Time Strategy series Warcraft. Now while that gives it a boost in appeal for long time fans of the series it also tends to lead to continuity errors which can drive those exact same fans away from the game. The game's popularity seems to primarily stem from the fact that it caters to the lowest common denominator. In other words anyone with any vague amount of gaming experience can play without much difficulty. While helpful to the casual gamer with little time on their hands causes the game to rapidly become boring for the more skilled players. The game does have interesting story-line and the quests integrate well with it, although after doing the same quests over and over gets very old very fast.

There are some common pitfalls and drawbacks of MMO games. The most notable one is the monthly server fee. Most of the big names in MMO games charge a $15 USD service charge to use the servers. This fee goes to pay for the large amount of upkeep and maintenance of the servers. With several thousand users logging in and out of the server on a daily basis there is going to be a lot of work to keep all that data organized and intact. While necessary this fee can quickly become a drain on a user's budget, at $15 USD you are paying over $150 a year to play the game.

The second most notable flaw with many MMOs that WoW suffers from is the auto-attack. You hit a button and your character fights on autopilot requiring the user to do nothing more than hit hotkeys for spells and abilities. Unlike previous games like EverQuest however you are almost guaranteed to land virtually every blow. My first experience playing WoW was about a year after it came out. Playing a free 14 day trial I found that my brand new character with zero fighting experience could single handedly eliminate anything that came after him. Being an archer it most things died before they even reached me. In fact with the sole exception of falling out of a tree I did not die once or even come close to it. Unlike it's predecessors WoW's auto attack system was powerful enough to play the game for you for the first few levels. Auto attack, which was boring enough in other games, became auto-play in WoW until you hit a point where enemies became more difficult. Some classes are referred to as being facerollers. What this means is that you can target your opponent, turn on autoattack, and roll your head across the keyboard and still win. It's a bit of an exaggeration but not alway by much. There have been cases where I have fallen asleep out of boredom while playing the game only to wake up still alive and still fighting, not just fighting but winning.

Third flaw in MMOs that most series tend to work hard to avoid is the powerlevel. WoW not only does not try to avoid it but seems almost to encourage it. Two main ways it does this is: One - low level players can group with high level players and still gain a decent percentage of the exp gained from each kill. So if your level 10 hunter walks into a dungeon accompanied by a level 80 Paladin you can sit back as the paladin destroys anything that moves and you will likely walk out a level 15 Hunter without nocking a single arrow. Two - World of Warcraft follows the rule of first strike, meaning whoever hits the creature first gets credit for the kill. This was done in attempt to prevent another pitfall of MMOs called kill stealing. In other games some rude player will come by and finish off whatever random beastie you happen to be fighting. Under the rule of first strike doing this will only waste their time and energy as you will get credit for the kill even if all you have done is a single point of damage. Bring on the exploits, hit a creature that is a little too hard for you and have a high level friend finish it off before it tears your arms off for a snack for quick and easy experience points. If you are worried about your skills not keeping up with your experience flow, don't be. Weapon skills will level on nearly every swing until coming to within about 90% of your max allowed skill level.

The one flaw that MMOs tend to suffer from that WoW did seem to conquer is the quest system. The quests tie in nicely to the story-line of the game often leading to very potent equipment and will even guide you to the next suitable location for your adventuring. The interface allows you to track specific quests in your quest log, keeping a check list on screen that is off to the side and out of the way so you can track your progress. Some quests however are notoriously unrealistic in how long it takes to complete. Comics abound poking fun at the quests asking for the heads of animals and the heads never being on creatures you kill. So while the quest system does tend to hold your hand walking your through the game it doesn't baby you 100% of the time.

The final fatal flaw of any MMO is content. Too much content and not enough players will kill a game faster than the MMO will drain your pocketbook. However the reverse is also a problem. WoW is in a unique position of suffering both at the same time. Because the game's quest and combat systems do tend to baby the player there are too few low level players to fill the vast amount of low level content. The result is you get stuck questing in the exact same places no matter what your race because that is where the groups are. The quests are divided into 4 categories: Solo, Group, Dungeon, and Raid. Most quests in the early game are of the solo variety with a few Group and dungeon quests thrown in to make it interesting. However if you are trying to complete those group and dungeon quests for the nice rewards you will need help and many times there just isn't any to be found without asking a high level player passing through for help.

On the flip side at the high levels there are too many players for the small amount of content in the game. In high level game both factions find themselves trying to hint in the exact same places doing quests that mirror that of the other faction. In some more rare instances they are the exact same quest obtained in neutral territory from a third part affiliated with neither the alliance or the horde. The only place you do not find yourself having to compete with other players are in dungeons which only your group or raid may enter. However many dungeons are considered too difficult for the low grade of rewards obtained within. This leads to doing the exact same dungeons over and over each day. The monotony of it can get very boring fast.

Because WoW tries to keep things easy for the casual gamer the quest system tends to baby you every step of the way, won't lie to you. It will tell you where to go and what to kill and even what your chances are of surviving the quest at your current level. The only penalty for death is having to fork out a handful of gold to get your equipment repaired and a long safe walk to revive yourself. If you don't have a lot of time to play this is helpful as you will spend more time fighting than you will flat on your back. However it also means that you will end up with some rather odd surprises while grouping. On more than one occasion while I was still playing this game my group and I were dismayed to discover that the quiet member of the group was actually 4. Dead serious on that one, the child's parent would come on briefly to explain that the player was quiet because they could not yet read and write because they were still only a toddler. Needless to say the group was not pleased in the slightest.

WoW is of course first and foremost an MMORPG, but it is a spinoff game of the Warcraft series. As such when creating your character you must decide where your allegiance lies, with the Alliance or the Horde. This choice will not only drastically affect which towns you can enter without becoming impaled by the local guards but also which players you can interact with. All members of the Alliance speak the language of the Humans and vice versa all members of the horde speak the language of Orcs. Unlike other games however you cannot learn new languages. While this does tend to cut down on arguments and insults flung about the world between the two sides it also means that your poor human priest has no idea what those two gnomes in the group are saying about you behind your back in their native tongue.

As with any MMO the game starts with character creation. You can choose between male or female it doesn't matter which. It is entirely up to preference although many players tend to be nicer to female characters. Each faction has 4-5 races to choose from, depends on which expansion packs you possess. Each race has it's own set of playable classes as well as their own unique set of starting quests (Gnomes/Dwarves and Orcs/Trolls are an exception as they share a starting area and main city). A brief cinematic will give you background on your race and their role in Azeroth and after a few levels your class trainer will explain your class's role in the world. An even short explanation of each race and class is present at the character creation screen. Each race has a unique bonus but by the time you reach the maximum level those abilities often mean very little.

While a fairly good depiction of the world of Azeroth, WoW tends to flub some of the details from previous Warcraft installments. I have known some avid fans of the series who refused to play World of Warcraft solely because they loved the intricate lore surrounding the series and WoW got some of the details wrong. Such as certain characters of note on the horde side having their species switched.

The positive of being based in a well established world is that there is plenty to explore and do in the game. Combined with the ease of the game, it allows the player to run off on his own and get all the way to the maximum level without ever teaming up with another person. You can just go off and explore the massive number of available solo quests and the stories they tell. The game's ease of gameplay and massive low level content is wonderful for drawing new players into the world. However after you have done the same group of quests with a few different characters it can start to lose its appeal.

All in all, World of Warcraft, not exactly impressive. The graphics are fairly good albeit a bit cartoonish at time. Gameplay and difficulty, easy to say the least if a four year old can play it. Good for the casual gamer without much time on their hands, if you are willing to pay the hefty price tag. The game is decent enough, whether it is worth 40 bucks per game and an additional 15 a month is something that has to be determined on an individual basis. Personally I don't find it to be so. Because it is an online game it is prone to attacks on security in various forms. Some people will use everything from password hacking to phishing emails to try and get people's username and password so they can steal the account. I haven't found Blizzard's security to be reliable as my account was hacked when it had been inactive for months.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 04/04/11

Game Release: World of Warcraft (US, 11/23/04)

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