World of Warcraft review
From the Bowery: World of Warcraft
Value and Longevity: 10/10
Tilt of Mars: 9/10
Ah, the review for the game of a forum I've moderated for years, World of Warcraft may very well be the best MMORPG that has ever been released. With a rich tradition from the Warcraft series and elements taken out of other Blizzard games, such as Diablo, World of Warcraft came about with a lot of fanfare from the fans of the series. However, the game itself quickly transcended the Warcraft and Blizzard fanbase and has now gone on to be one of the best selling games of all-time.
As with most other MMO's (massively multiplayer online games), there are so many details to go into that there's no way this review can be less than gigantic and still be helpful in determining whether you wish to purchase this original WoW game or not. I'll start with an overview before I go into my usual review format since there are so many things to discuss about the game. World of Warcraft will be a game that will take you a long time to get to endgame (level 60 for this original version), and that doesn't even include all of the other various things to do on your way to 60 as well as what you'll do once you get to 60. This game not only includes questing and grinding (the act of killing enemy after enemy in order to level up), but many different professions to choose from to work on, running instances/dungeons with groups for both questing and special item gathering, various PvP options, and a lot of player to player communication such as joining guilds of players who work together. All of these features will be discussed in detail later on.
Another important topic to get into off the bat is the faction vs. faction element of the game. There are two playable factions in the game: the Alliance and the Horde. The Alliance consists of the Humans, Night Elves, Dwarves, and Gnomes. Casual players may view them as the "good guys," but long time fans of the Warcraft series know that no race is truly incorruptible, and some of them have done some immoral things to further their race. Entering the game, the Humans are one of the two original Warcraft factions and have a long history within the series, this game seeing them shortly after a war and looking to pick up the pieces of what the Scourge (the ultimate bad guys of the game), has destroyed during the events of Warcraft III and Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. The Night Elves come into the timeline of WoW after their numbers were quickly diminished over years of their lands being taken over by the Orcs. They aren't too spread out in the game and most of their old areas are inhabited by the demons that have entered the conflict between the NE's and Orcs. The Dwarves enter this game as the allies of the Humans, have many of their lands still intact, but are aiding their Human allies in the war against the Scourge and to reclaim what the Humans have lost in prior conflicts. The Gnomes enter the game right after their capital, Gnomeregan, had been taken over by troggs and leper gnomes, and have been taken in by the dwarves to have a home.
The Horde consist of the Orcs, Trolls, Tauren, and the Undead, and may be viewed as the "bad guys" by the casual gamers, but longtime fans of the series will be fast to argue that point. The Orcs were placed on Azeroth (the planet WoW is based on), by the Burning Legion in order to take it over and destroy humanity, but have since rebelled against their former masters and are now establishing their race to be the most powerful on the planet in their conflicts with both the Alliance and the Scourge. The Trolls come into the game as one of the tribes of their race, the Darkspear, following their lands and population being nearly destroyed by other Troll tribes as well as the Murlocs, before the Orcs came to their aid and formed an alliance with them. The Tauren appear to be the most peaceful playable race of WoW and are a race that serves nature and aids their Orcish allies against the Burning Legion. The Undead may be the most dynamic playable race of them all, a group called the Forsaken that broke away from the Scourge to be their own free people, they hate every other race in the game and use their Horde allies to further their own war against their former allies in the Scourge, their capital residing under the ruins of Lordaeron which was formerly a huge Human castle.
There are nine playable classes in the game, and prior to the Burning Crusade faction there were two classes unique to a particular faction. Warriors are your typical "tank' class, which means they can take a lot of damage and hold enemies' attention (called aggro in the game), and try to keep enemies away from other classes who do not have the armor to be taking many hits. Mages are your typical casters and are known for "DPS" in the game (damage per second), and can cast spells from several types of magic to both do damage and slow enemies depending on the type of magic you are using; they can not take too many hits and primarily rely on killing enemies quickly or keeping enemies at a distance to limit being hit often. Priests are your typical healers and are used primarily for keeping others and themselves alive by healing the damage of themselves and others, but some priests use the talent trees (the specialization of each class to play a certain way), to be a damage dealer similar to a mage but with only one primary spell type, shadow. Rogues are another primary DPS class with medium armor that use physical attacks along with the element of surprise by using stealth, and can also place poisons on their weapons starting at a certain level. Hunters are another DPS class that primarily use long range bow and gun attacks, along with using their beast pets and setting traps, to take on enemies, as well as having medium armor and the ability to use many weapons to handle enemies in hand-to-hand combat if necessary. Warlocks are a class that are excellent on soloing and are able to summon a powerful minion to fight at their side, while they can cast damage over time spells and several powerful shadow and fire spells; the handling and usage of the different summons they use determine how they combat enemies. Druids are the most hybrid of the classes and are able to do physical DPS, casting DPS, tank, and heal almost as well (and sometimes better) than classes specifically designed for those such things; they are also classified as the easiest to solo as and their different play styles make them a very enjoyable class to both build up and start as for newcomers. Paladins, once exclusive to the Alliance, are a class of tank/healer hybrids who have the armor to be able to take hits, the ability to heal themselves and others, and have auras that party and raid members also become affected with at a certain range to benefit them. Shamans, once exclusive to the Horde, are a class of DPS/healer hybrids who have medium armor and are able to heal themselves and others, but can also drop down various types of totems that do a wide variety of things to themselves, party members, and enemies.
The graphics of WoW are very well done and rather unique; they aren't life-like or extremely sharp, but Blizzard has implemented their own artistic style to make the environments look beautiful and interesting, and the character models resemble different designs of common RPG races in Blizzard's unique and yet simple way. Humans don't have perfect supermodel bodies and seem to have big hips, yet aren't ugly by any sense of the word. Night Elves are the tallest Alliance race and come in various darker shades of colors, such as blue and purple, and can also have marks around their eyes and on their faces, as well as having their signature long ears. Dwarves look much like how many other dwarves are represented in other games and movies: short and hairy, though rather strong. Gnomes are the shortest playable race in the entire game and generally come at a smaller stature than Dwarves do in terms of muscle and bulk; they also sport a wide variety of wild hair styles and colors. Orcs are your usual greenish race of brutes, powerful in stature and comparable in height to the Humans. Trolls are a tall and lanky race, hunched over and featuring very large fingers and toes and are typically green, blue, and violet in their Darkspear tribe color, as well as featuring tusks and tribal markings on their face. Tauren are basically cows and bulls on two legs, the biggest of the playable races, the males with various horn sizes and manes. The Undead were previously Humans and are now more hunched over and feature numerous bones showing as their bodies have deteriorated over time.
There are numerous environments in the game, many of them look very well done and quite artistic. There are places that resemble rocky deserts, such as Durator. There are the vast plains and mountains of The Barrens. Elwynn Forest features grassy lands and many trees, mines, lakes and rivers, and reminds me of the beautiful non-urbanized places of the old frontier in America. There are the snow-capped mountains of Dun Murough for the Dwarves and Gnomes, a vast white winter wonderland of dead trees and frozen lakes. The Night Elves reside in remarkably beautiful multi-colored forests of absolutely gigantic trees with various leaf colors, like violet and blue. These are mostly just the earlier areas in the game but throughout your experience in Azeroth you will enter various kinds of swamps and marshes, desolate areas without life, huge mountain ranges, thick forests with some being very dark and eerie, a huge jungle and colossal underwater reefs, huge deserts, ashed-filled lands of death, amongst many other beautiful sights.
During your travels in Azeroth, you will come across many different sounds and songs, the musical scores being very-well done and many different voices and various sounds being heard. The music is the best of all in my view, featuring a wide variety of sounds depending on not only what zone you're in, but what part of each zone you are in, for some cases. From the loud drum beats and deep brass of Orgrimmar, to the melodic and heavenly singing and harps of Ashenvale, it has the best music of any MMO game I've ever played. The various voices are well done and differ a lot by race, including the Jamaican-sounding Trolls and the high-pitched squeaks of the Gnomes. There aren't a vast amount of different voices per race, but there doesn't necessarily have to be. You'll also hear many different sounds during battle, like the clanks and chings when weapons hit hard or mail armors, the various types of attacks and the sounds they'll make like the swipes of weapons through the wind as you spin around, or the gunshot from your rifle. The voices and sounds are well done, but the main attraction to your ears will be the music.
What would an MMO game be without gameplay? As mentioned before, World of Warcraft features a wide variety of different things to do in the game for not only leveling up, but for making in-game currency, fighting other players, or being a part of a huge community.
First off is the leveling up of your characters. There will be two main ways of gaining experience points in this game: questing and grinding. Questing is what you will likely do the most of and consist of various types of missions you can do, where you may not only receive experience for completing them but during the process of them as well. The ones you will run into most are delivery runs, killing a certain amount of enemies, collecting items from enemies, escort missions, and bounty missions (killing a particular individual). The ones involving the killing of a certain amount of enemies and the collection of items from them are basically grinding ones where you get a bonus for doing so, especially when some of the collection quests take so long for an enemy to drop the item you need and you need a good amount of items from them. Delivery quests are rather simple and often involve you either visiting places you've already been to talk to various people, or you're sent to the next zone you'll be working on so you can go there, learn the flight path so you can access it faster the next time you go, and pick up new quests while you're there. Escort missions can be the most difficult when you're soloing as often you'll be overwhelmed by a group of enemies trying to attack an NPC you are protecting. Bounty missions are normally found from wanted posters you see in a town and most of them send you to kill a named enemy, sometimes protected by other enemies around them. Questing will reward you with experience points upon completion, as well as often giving you gold and your choice of an item from the few it lists.
Another aspect of questing are the dungeons you will be running with other players, called instances in this game. Instances are zones that will only be inhabited by you and your group and normally contain elite enemies that are stronger than normal ones, typically requiring teamwork to go through unless you're a lot higher level than the enemies. This is where the class dynamic really comes into play as most good groups (many instances are 5-person groups) consist of 2-3 DPS classes, a tank class that can hold the attention of enemies and take hits, and a healer that an keep healing the tank and the DPS classes when necessary. These instances also hold the best items you can have at your level, often by special drops bosses can have that may take you a few runs to successfully see drop. It's not uncommon for players to find groups often to keep running these instances to get a particular item they are after. Even when the item they want drops, they may not be able to get that item as WoW uses a dice rolling system called Need or Greed that determines who gains the item. When uncommon class or better items drop (this option can be changed by the group leader), a small window opens up giving you the option to either pass on the item if you don't want it at all, Need the item if you really could use it for your character, or Greed the item if it's something you wouldn't mind having if others don't need the item either. The later on you go in the game, the more difficult instances will become and the more strategy will be required to tackle bosses within the instances.
You will also go into instances later in the game as part of a raid group, which is a large collection of players in multiple 5-man groups, some raids even taking up to 40 players to do successfully. This is where the guild system comes into place in the game. Guilds are a collection of players under the same guild name that form a small community of players that quest together while leveling up, trade items between each other, and later in the game form these big raid groups to handle instances together. Guilds come about so players can familiarize themselves with each other and can get used to working together so they can better handle the most difficult raid instances in the game. They feature a lot of communication between the players and really form a society with the people within the guild. Most WoW players will join a guild as they level up and try to find people to quest with often, and your experiences with the guild depend on how the people in the guild are to each other.
Another major aspect of gameplay is the PvP system, or Player vs. Player. Now servers are separated into types depending on what kind of play you like: Player vs. Player, Player vs. Environment, Role Playing, and Role Playing Player vs. Player. PvP servers are the most dynamic and separate the zones in the game between faction-specific zones, such as the beginning ones, and contested zones, where players of each faction (Alliance and Horde) are free to attack each other. Engaging in combat depends on whether you have your PvP flag up. The PvP flag is automatically on whenever you're in a contested zone, whenever you enter the zone of the opposing faction, or whenever you manually turn it on when you are within your own faction's zone (can also be activated in your own zone when you attack an invading member of the opposing faction in your own zone). PvE servers rely a lot more on players vs. the NPC's in the game and not against each other. There are no contested zones, all of them are safe from players attacking each other while they are trying to quest. The only times your PvP flag will go up is if you manually turn it on, you attack a player of the opposing faction who has their flag turned on, or if you walk straight into a capital of the enemy faction. RP and RP-PvP servers are the same as their counterparts but gamers pick these role playing servers when they want to take a more narrative approach and act out their characters and react to the NPC's around them.
Another aspect of PvP play you'll encounter are the battlegrounds. These are PvP instances where a group from the Alliance will take on a group from the Horde in various games, and is where the honor system mostly comes into play. The honor system, as it stands now, acts as a different type of currency than gold and is used to buy a different set of items geared more towards PvP, such as items that add more to your health rating. Honor is gained from both killing other players of the opposite faction, whether you are in a battleground or when your PvP flag is on, when you kill bosses of enemy capitals as a part of a raid group, or when you win or achieve objectives in the battleground instances. The honor currency is split into different parts: the honor points themselves which are given on a nightly basis depending on what you achieved the day before, and the marks of honor you receive when you win or lose in a battleground (winning obviously gives you more marks of honor). As you collect these points and marks of honor, you can turn them in to specific vendors that sell items with your honor currency. The battlegrounds themselves are different types of PvP games, and the original three are Warsong Gulch, Arathi Basin, and Alterac Valley. Warsong Gulch is a capture the flag type affair with 10 alliance taking on 10 horde, trying to enter the enemy base and steal their flag and run it back to their own, the first to three captures wins. Arathi Basin is a 15 on 15 match where players try to occupy 5 different locations on the map and build up points depending on how many nodes you control at once, the first to 2,000 points wins. Alterac Valley is a 40 on 40 fight where the teams try and fight their way to the enemy faction's NPC controlled general, capturing various locations on the way to turn the tide in their favor, the first team to kill the opposing general winning the match. You can access these battlegrounds either by entering their specific instance on the map, or talking to NPC's in capitals (the easier method). The groups are separated by level range to try and keep equal and balanced team strengths.
Professions are split up into two types: gathering and crafting, and they are also split up between primary and secondary professions. There are three types of secondary professions you can learn, and you can learn all three if you so choose. Cooking will reward you with items that may add to your stats for some amount of time, or may have interesting effects like belching out fire at your enemies. You can collect the meats off of the enemies you kill, and various spices off of cooking vendors, and you cook the items in fires in towns and capitals or with man-made fires you can create with wood and flint & tinder. Fishing is used for both cooking as well as alchemy and is gone about either by casting in regular waters around the world, or in small pools of a select kind of fish that you may be after. Fishing sometimes leads to obtaining other items, like some herbs or chests that contain various materials or even items. Finally, first-aid is the art of making bandages and anti-venoms out of cloths and venom sacs from spiders, and is used to heal yourself over time whether in or outside of battle.
There are ten different primary professions, of which you are allowed to learn two at one time. To learn a third you will have to drop one of your existing two professions, which will set you back to a 0 skill level if you choose to go back to it at a later time. These are separated into crafting and gathering professions, and I will start with the crafting professions you can learn with the original WoW game. Alchemy is used to create potions, elixirs that add on to stats for a certain amount of time, and for transmuting certain items from gathering professions into another item that other players may need for their own professions. You can get the materials you need mostly from gathering herbs and fishing. Blacksmithing is used for making various armors and weapons, and some other items such as keys or stones to give small buffs to weapons for a short amount of time. Blacksmithing often requires metal bars from mined ores, and occasionally cloth and gems also gained from mining ores. Enchanting gives added buffs to weapons and armors, using the dusts and shards gained from disenchanting magic items. Though there really isn't a gathering profession that goes along with it, many enchanters choose to go tailoring in order to make the magic items for themselves. Engineering is used for making a wide variety of different bombs and gadgets, and may be the most entertaining profession to get. With crazy gadgets like the Gnomish Shrink Ray or damage dealing Goblin Dragon Guns, this can be a very beneficial profession to have when you're soloing... that's if your weapons don't backfire on you, hahaha. Engineers get their materials primarily from mining ores and gems. Leatherworking is a profession where you use items gained from the skinning profession in order to make leather armors, and later mail armors for hunters and shamans. Tailoring is used to make cloth armors from the cloths that drop off of humanoid and several other types of enemies. It does not have a gathering profession that goes along with it, so many tailors go with enchanting for their extra armors they make, or gathering professions to earn more money on the side.
Gathering professions are used for gaining items for the crafting professions, as well as making money from the materials you collect by selling them in the auction house. Herbalism is the art of picking various herbs to be used for alchemy. Mining is used for collecting both ores and gems for blacksmithing and engineering. Skinning is used to collect leathers and hides from beasts to use for leatherworking. These materials are always in demand by crafting profession players and can be used to make in game gold when you need it.
Obviously a game of this magnitude is going to have longevity, so the value is what you'll find to be the most important. The game has a monthly cost for about $15 US, a little less when you pay for months in advance. This can be paid using debit or credit cards, or purchasing pre-paid game cards and many different retail locations. Paying monthly may turn some gamers off, but add in the fact there is so much to do and accomplish within the World of Warcraft, the price of $15 will be less than buying a new videogame once every three months, and you'll still get more playability out of WoW than you can with a typical 20-50 hour game. The cost is there in order for Blizzard to afford the hundreds of servers they have across the globe, as well as paying their employees and making other games for their company. This is going to be a game where you will constantly find new goals to accomplish, new items to obtain, and unique experiences for PvP and in battlegrounds, not including the experiences you will have to leveling your character up to endgame and all of the fellow gamers you will meet along your journey.
For me personally, I find this to easily be the best MMO game I've ever played. I purchased the game at release and have been playing it off and on since. I have taken breaks, as many fellow WoW players have, when I find that doing certain things multiple times can be repetitive, which is why I don't find this to be the truly perfect game. However there is so much to do that I have found myself coming back for more after breaks in order to accomplish new goals I set out for myself. I have only covered the basics of the game, as there is so much more to learn about while playing. With all of the major patches and expansions Blizzard has for World of Warcraft, this will be one MMO game you can stick with for years and years to come.
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