Review by RickDias

"A year and a half later, and still just as fun and addictive."

Now some of you may have read my old review of WoW (Back when I was playing a level 18 rogue, trying to finish the Deadmines with a group of 5 rogues). Needless to say, my impressions of the game back then were a bit misleading. All in all, even after a year and a half of playing and quitting, WoW remains a testament to excellent game design and is just plain FUN.

Gameplay is simple and easy to understand. You start out by picking a server to play on, one of two factions, one of four races for each faction, a class for your race (Some classes are race-specific, meaning some classes are not available for all races. Tauren cannot become Rogues, for example), a gender, some simple visuals for your character (Skin tone, face, hair, hair color, misc features such as facial hair, piercings, etc), and a name.

You start out in your race's beginner area, where you are forced to kill simple enemies, such as small wolves and spiders. You obtain quests from NPCs that requires you to kill a certain number of enemies, find an object, find an NPC, or many other different criteria. Completing these quests grants you experience points and in some cases, money and items. As you level up, your character automatically gains new stat points, and you are rewarded "talent points" which you can use to either enhance existing skills, enhance your character, or add completely new skills. New spells and abilities are unlocked as you level up, and you spend money on these new skills and abilities. In addition to your class skills, you can also take two professions that allow you to gather certain materials or produce certain goods. There are also minor professions that don't count as your two main professions, such as First Aid.

The graphics are presented in a very stylized medieval fashion. Castles, knights, dungeons, etc are all shown with strange angles and in a cartoon-like fashion. Polygon count is kept relatively low to allow for WoW's huge PvP and raid environments, which can contain hundreds of characters onscreen at once. The textures are relatively high-resolution and look good overall. Some people may not like this type of stylized graphics, but personally I think the unique art style adds to the atmosphere well and is incredible to look at. Special effects look very nice, with hundreds of different effects for the many skills and abilities and such.

The graphics are especially amazing when in a raid environment, either PvP or PvE. At the time of this writing, Alterac Valley is the battleground with the largest capacity of players, with 40 on each side of the playing field. This can cause immense strain on older systems even with the low polygon count of the characters and environments. Personally I tended to avoid Alterac Valley because of the incredibly hectic and chaotic fighting, and the general flaws of the map itself. If you stick to the lower capacity battlegrounds, I'm sure it'll be fine. Easily my most memorable moments were during my 40 man dungeon raids, with bosses like Onyxia and Nefarion having grand introductions and amazing visual effects.

The game sounds amazing. Everything from the music to the ambient noises of the environment are varied and interesting. The sound effects for the different spells and abilities sound convincing and help give them "oomph". Every weapon type has a different sound when it impacts, every race has a different voiceset, every area in the game has its own unique feel because of its ambiance and music. My one gripe about the sound in the game is that some sounds are reused and rehashed again and again, such as the sounds for certain spells and abilities.

At 15 dollars a month, the game can seem very pricey. However, buying play time in bulk will save money, with 6 month plans dropping the price to 13 dollars a month, and 14 for 3 month plans. 2-month gamecards are purchase at 29.99 each. During my entire WoW career, I have played for over 2000 hours. At 50 dollars for the game and a total of 7 gamecards, that comes out to around 260 dollars for about a year and a half of gametime (Including the free month + bonus days). For a game this polished and expansive, it's a bargain. However, my only gripe is that Blizzard's customer service is TERRIBLE. I mean, grade F terrible service. They rarely listen to their customers, never answer their questions, and frequently ignore posts on their forums where their customers are supposed to give feedback. The servers are also slightly unstable, although server stability has improved since launch. However, this is enough for me to knock a point off my previous score of a perfect 10.

So in the end, WoW is an excellent game and an excellent value for the money. Anyone wanting to get into the world of MMORPGs should give this a shot for its ease of use and fun factor (And no, Guild Wars is NOT an MMORPG). I've tried out Guild Wars after quitting WoW, and found it to be fun for a while. However, a month later I was already bored with it. Recently I've been floating around, playing different games and such. I've been thinking of getting back into WoW, albeit not as hardcore as I used to play (Top-end guild with epic equipment from Blackwing Lair, which was the highest level dungeon when I quit), and I will most definitely be playing again when the expansion is out. In the meantime, happy hunting, see you back in the world soon.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/18/05, Updated 07/31/06

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