Summary: Jason's been a little late with his World of WarCraft review. Judging by his character in the game, I'm guessing he was doing a lot of research. Take a look at the screens and let me know.
Blizzard has pulled off a rather perfect coup by taking the formula that has made games like EverQuest and Anarchy Online so popular and refining it down to itís most simple form. The down time is minimal and the action is often quite furious. What it all comes down to is that this game is, for lack of a better word, fun. Yes, fun is a dubious word to use in the magical, make-believe art of game reviewing, but there it is. I dropped the fun bomb. Itís very blatant and I make no apologies. This game is crazy fun. And there are several justifications for this statement.
Blizzard owns several very successful game franchises. Anyone that plays games has more than likely heard of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo. The communities around these games are unbelievably large and for a very good reason: Blizzard releases high quality work. Along with the basic quality of their games, the WarCraft series also has a deep back story with plenty of possible cool locations to explore. Playing through any of the WarCrafts, youíll come upon plenty of places that stand out and would make good landmarks in an RPG. Thereís something to be said for seeing many of the locations in a 3D world. One of the real joys of playing a MMO is the exploration and discovery, which World of Warcraft offers in spades.
The clincher, though, is the fact that Blizzard puts a ton of work and quality control into all of their games. While the constant delays may drive fans nuts, there's no denying that a first impression lasts a lifetime, especially with a pay-to-play MMO. Blizzard's recent server capacity problems only highlight this fact.
So, letís get down to it. World of Warcraft is a MMO. If you didnít know that already, maybe you shouldnít be reading this. Just in case some of you have been out of the loop, a MMO is a Massively Multiplayer Online Game that is often fitted with a role playing theme. World of Warcraft is just that. Itís a RPG based in the WarCraft universe that allows you the option of playing either the Horde or the Alliance.
When making a WoW character, there aren't all that many ways to customize your character's appearance. There are some different head and hair models for each race and gender, as well as non-gender specific options such as skin/fur tone, but this doesn't add up to the visual variety possible in other games. Not to say that appearance options are shabby, but donít expect a level of customization that was offered in City of Heroes for instance. This ends up being perfectly ok, though, as the equipment you gather throughout the game will change your outward appearance noticeably.
Once you decide upon a faction, you can then choose which class youíre going to play. A lot of the classes are shared, but there are a few that are faction specific. For instance, Alliance members can be Paladins whereas the Horde has Shaman. These are very slight differences because most of the factions can play most of the character classes.
The classes are you usual fantasy fare, but weíll go over them briefly. First up is the Druid. Druids are magic users that are tied heavily to nature and animals. The druid is a healer of sorts but is also heavily concentrated in damage. The Druid can transform into different animals for different bonuses. Hunters are a basic pet class. A pet class meaning that they have animals they control directly to attack monsters and players. Hunters have many special abilities centering around the use of ranged weapons and their pets. The pure caster class in WoW is the Mage. Mages concentrate on pure damage output as well as being able to cast a few really great support spells. Theyíre always good to have in a party for the damage as well as they can summon useful items for the party such as food and water.
Paladins are a class unique to the Alliance and are very deadly. Theyíre a cross between a warrior and a priest sharing some of the finer qualities of both. Basically a Paladin is a holy warrior that can heal himself and wear very nice armor. The main healer in the game, priests, are also very deadly. There are many different ways to set this class up and all are effective. Rogues are pure damage dealers. The majority of the options for making a rogue in this game lead to either jumping out of hiding to either do massive damage or stun an opponent. Theyíre easily one of the more deadly classes in WoW. The other hybrid healer class is the Shaman. Shaman are spiritualistic casters who can heal and do massive damage. They throw down totems to aid them and their allies in combat. Never underestimate the amount of damage a Shaman can do.
Warlocks are mages that delved deep into demonology and rely heavily on the dark arts to damage and control their opponents. The Warlock can summon demons to do his bidding and they all have different abilities that are useful in certain situations. Theyíre one of the more difficult classes to play due to having to have the right thing in the right situation. Finally thereís the Warrior. The all around fighter class of WoW, Warriors can take a lot of damage and also deal out quite a bit in return. Theyíre a basic necessity for most groups and are always useful.
Every class in WoW is useful and different in its own way. One nice thing about Wow is that you can play each class a little to get a feel of what you like because the early levels come quick. Donít be afraid to experiment some.
Instead of going the uber-technology route, Blizzard decided to follow the WarCraft III theme with a cartoony and vivid style instead. This has a sort of dual bonus for a lot of gamers. First thereís the fact that the art direction in WoW is quite beautiful and secondly it will play on a wide range of hardware. Whether it plays well or not is another story, but it will indeed play.
The sound is also rather inspired with some great voice commands and a really nice musical score. Background noises are very fitting and oftentimes tranquil. All in all, we'd say that World of WarCraft's effects are quite natural, which is possibly the best compliment you can pay a game.
So, after looking around a bit, your character will most likely begin his first set of quests. The quest system in WoW is, hands down, one of the best implementations of questing for any game to date. In the early game especially, the quests are designed to be a sort of tour of the world. Each quest will take you to different parts of the map and when youíve reached a level that isnít as beneficial to you any more youíll get a quest that leads to a higher level area. Later quests serve as good experience and money outlets as well as offering a few nice items here and there, but they really shine at lower levels.
Each quest has different goals but they do usually fall into certain categories that most people are familiar with. Thereís the ďkill a certain amount of monstersĒ quests and the delivery quests, but also there are quite a few that donít fall quite as easily into those categories. Quite a few are listed as ďEliteĒ as well, which means you either need to be higher level or have a group to complete them.
Other than the quests, thereís always just exploration and killing throughout the world. Whenever you discover a new area youíll gain a bit of experience and it will be revealed on your over-world map. Thereís really quite a bit to find and there are certain bonuses to being in an area that is less populated than some others such as mining and herbalism.
World of Warcraft offers a few professions that most anyone can take to supplement their income or create useful items for use in battle and otherwise. The upside of a crafting in this game as compared to others is you can easily find a lot of the stuff you need by yourself and if you canít or wonít you can easily purchase it in the cities auction houses. This, combined with a little bit of patience, can end up being very beneficial for you as well as friends and guild mates.
The large cities, which quests lead you to, will end up being a hub for quite a few players. These are the places where a player can find most anything he needs. Other than the vendors and trainers, some of the large cities have access to the auction house.
The auction house is sort of like WoWs version of EBay. As a player, you can go in and browse or search through the database of items currently being offered by other players and bid on them or, if the option is given, buy them outright. Other than being a very convenient way to purchase items youíd want or need, itís a great way to gain some extra cash for that equipment you donít need or those extra items youíve scrounged up using your profession.
Talents are a system of points that are given out at a rate of one per level starting at level ten that can be spent in one of three different class specific trees of abilities. These abilities coupled with the way different people will play different classes make for a lot of unique characters. With the talent system, almost every group will be different from the next.
That being said, the combat in WoW is very entertaining to say the least. The action is pretty frantic and thoroughly engaging. Each class has a load of skills to choose from and, for the most part, theyíre all at least marginally useful in certain situations. The days of hitting a button and waiting are over; it seems the new wave of MMOs has gotten it right. It'd be overkill to suggest that the game is about button-mashing, but the player's fingers are kept quite busy as he times his damage-over-time attacks and watches various meters (rage, combo points or just plain mana). It makes combat much more involving than merely setting the auto-attack key, pressing taunt/backstab every now and then, while scratching your balls in the meantime.
In WoW there are two different types of servers: PvE and PvP. PvE stands for Player versus Environment in which a large portion of the game is dependant upon fighting the computer controlled opponents with the ability to fight other players if desired. In a PvE server the player chooses when he or she wants to fight someone else by turning on what is known as a PvP flag. Within the game mechanics, itís possible to allow yourself to be attacked by members of the opposite faction by turning on your flag. Once activated, the flag lasts for five minutes from when you turned it on or your last aggressive action against another player. There are other ways to activate the flag such as attacking flagged npcs or attacking another character that has their flag on. This welcome design makes most play relatively safe from sneak attack by members of the opposing faction.
Then thereís the PvP server. PvP stands for Player versus Player and, as you can imagine, this means that anything goes. These servers add an extra element to the gameplay overall. Not only do you have to fear getting killed by wandering monsters but also by random players that may happen by to stick a sword where you donít want it. Both types of servers offer a different experience and challenge, and both are fun, so it really comes down to a preference. PvP servers are obviously much friendlier to those players with guilds to protect them, retaliate or simply assist on quests.
Now, no matter what server youíre on youíll have the many different quests and areas to explore and conquer. Some of the more entertaining places to visit in the game are the instanced dungeons. The levels range quite a bit per instance, but theyíre mostly geared more for higher level characters and always have some interesting loot and bosses to fight. Instances are packed to the brim with elite monsters and bosses that will make even the most kill happy players take a step back. There is much killing to be done.
While the game is extremely addictive and fun, there are a few little problems here and there. One of the most immediate things that come to mind is the overpopulation of some servers and the neglect of others. Now, itís completely unrealistic to try to restrict players from joining their friends on certain servers and what have you, but itís also unrealistic to expect one server to handle the load of two. It just doesnít work well. The cities start to bog down noticeably and then there are the infamous login queues, whereby a player is required to wait his turn in a line to actually get into a server and play the game.
Another little problem that has popped up repeatedly is character balance. As always, this is constantly in flux and while all character classes are adept, their relative value in a group (such as warrior vs. paladin) can change with patches, new equipment. This can have gameplay consequences for players, who may have a more difficult time finding groups if their class is currently hurting.
One final issue presents itself: the cities of Ironforge and Orgrimmar are amazingly laggy to almost everyone. There are a few reasons for this but the most prominent is the fact that they house the auction houses. If a city hosts the auction house it is automatically going to attract more players because of the extended trade. This coupled with the fact that theyíre also the hub for many quests and training makes for a slideshow experience not just frustrating, but frequent.
World of WarCraft is perhaps not the deepest MMO out there, but it definitely ranks up high in the longevity factor. What's different about it is that Blizzard has made the game very accessible and really put together an amazing system of quests that aren't just part of the depth, but actually a tutorial. All this is done in a world rich in landmarks, characters, races and enemies.
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