Review: World of Warcraft (PC)


World of Warcraft
Genre: Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game
Platform: PC [Mac]
Publisher: Blizzard
Developer: Blizzard
Release Date: 11-23-2004

After two betas and quite a bit of fanfare the World of Warcraft went retail on November 11th, 2004. Brisk sales and hubbub balloo surround this massively multiplayer online role playing game set in the Warcraft game world. Yet is there anything really interesting to this newcomer in the crowded MMORPG playing field?



STORY:

The different factions of the World of Warcraft (Horde and Alliance) are comprised of 4 different races. For the Alliance there is your standard human, dwarf, night-elf, and for some reason gnome races. The Horde is made up of the bovine like tauren, orcs, trolls, and the undead. Each of these races has their own distinct storyline surrounding them, at least background wise.

The story for Word of Warcraft takes place 5 years after the events of the Frozen Throne Warcraft III expansion pack. The humans are dealing with dissension in their ranks; the dwarves and gnomes (who decided to make their home city a toxic waste dump to try and save it showing that they are, in fact, about as brilliant as the Nader rally cry of UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED) are facing some sort of weird aboriginal retarded tribe known as the troggs; the night-elves are trying to cope with being mortal and crappy (I hate elves); the trolls are a small tribe trying to make it in this big, bad world after being ousted from their home islands and dealing with other bad troll tribes; the orcs are being green and saying zug zug along with having to deal with a cult’s springing up; the tauren are fighting centaurs and trying to appease the Earth Mother; and the undead faction in this game has left the fold of the new Lich King Arthas and are just trying to make sure they aren’t put back into servitude or wiped out.

The back story is interesting and more bits of depth come in through accomplishing missions, giving it a bit more teeth than most of the MMORPGs I’m familiar with. Though it isn’t quite great shakes, it is better than even some standard computer RPGs (I’m looking at you the people who made Lionheart suck).

Story: 7



GRAPHICS:

The world in which Warcraft is set had thus far been represented by maps in the prior 3 real time strategy games that comprised the Warcraft canon. A daunting task lay ahead of Blizzard in re-creating the game world in a more up close and personal point of view.

The lush forests of upper Kalimdor (night elves) are mysterious and dark, the plains of Mulgore (home of the tauren) is a large and serene plain, the harsh environs surrounding Durotar fit the warrior race of the orcs and troll exiles while the mountain homes of the dwarves and their gnome exiles are appropriately snowy and cold. The humans live in what can only be deemed nice looking, albeit stereotypical, dwellings that are turned into decayed and nightmarish by the undead for their abode.

The lands are detailed with wildlife sprawled about that are really nice representations of what those animals really look like, if they exist in our world. Sometimes the visuals boarder on less than realistic but it stays true to Warcraft. One problem is that often times you can easily walk through walls or objects in your path and occasionally the camera is uncooperative but not often enough to take you out of the immersive experience that is World of Warcraft.

Graphics: 8



SOUND:

A great thing about the World of Warcraft is that every NPC has a voice, even if it is repeating lines it does make things seem a little more interesting. While not the best voice acted game on the face of the earth the different races have their own unique vocal patterns and manners of speaking. The dwarves sound Scottish, the gnomes sound like they are on a helium binge, the undead rude and to the point, the humans are vanilla and overly noble, the night-elves would probably be more at home at a jam band concert or in San Francisco fighting with PETA to car bomb places that serve meat, the tauren sound new agey mixed with some native flair that I wonder if they have had a bit too much patchouli, the orcs are gruff and the trolls are full of some bad mojo from the Caribbean.

The music, on the other had, is strictly Naradalike adult contemporary dreck. It tries to be grand and mood setting but falls flat on its face. The soundtrack ends up sounding like the sound engineers listened to the Anvil of Crom a tad too often and decided to try to make a soundtrack fitting for the lamentations of women, more so than being able to be withstood for hours on end.

The music becomes annoying after a time and it is advised that you fire up your favorite music playing program and use that as a soundtrack, with the game music turned all the way down, rather than subject yourself to too much bad David Lanz copycatism.

Sound: 6



CONTROL & GAMEPLAY:

Blizzard decided to go with a very easy to understand control scheme with easy to access hotkeys and quick to master mouse driven menus.

Attacking or activating objects is done on the PC with the right mouse button and the camera is moved with either the scroll wheel or, for those of us with trackballs, the left mouse button.

Moving is done through either the WASD method or through the arrow keys. Hot keys for assigned actions, that can be changed through a quick drag and drop method through a few menus, are done 1-10, and can make battling a rather easy affair.

Simple, yet effective. The only major downside is sometimes the camera is at bad angles but that’s splitting hairs, though sometimes it stinks not being able to move when you call up the map or having a more detailed mini map with more markers but not enough to really hinder enjoyment.

Controls: 8.5



BALANCE:

Quests given in WoW can be done at a person’s leisure, allowing for more adventuresome gamers to try harder quests at lower levels or for more cautious types to go slowly, at their own pace. Having player vs. player servers, role playing servers, and normal player vs. environment servers helps keep those people who want to immerse themselves in the game from those who want to just kill people sometimes and the pve servers allow those who really aren’t interested in fighting against other people do what they want, but they can choose to engage in pvp action if they so choose.

The various zones are filled with animals that are relatively equal or a bit above most player character levels, making adventuring a bit challenging sometimes but not too much so. Sometimes the typical ‘oh no another monster has come within range and is now screwing up my precarious battle’ situation occurs, but that is just part of the MMORPG Achilles heel of having to have constantly respawning critters to destroy.

The limitation on skill proficiencies, ie mining, skinning, herbalism, etc., means that you either must take one gather proficiency and one creation one, or two of either the former or latter. This can encourage interaction, much like the auction house, a way of balancing out some people’s isolationist tendencies.

A major blow to the balance issue right now is the lack of the honor/dishonor system. This means there is no penalty for higher level characters going around and killing lower level characters plus I’ve seen enough higher level characters start exterminating quest NPCs to annoy the ‘newbies’.

The different occupations: hunter, warrior, warlock, mage, priest, paladin, rogue, shaman, druid have different means of achieving the same goal but sometimes it seems paladins are a bit overpowered thanks to their ability to heal and being good at combat and having better armor proficiencies, but that may be my biased opinion. The game itself is not overly unbalanced, just a bit too lenient on some things.

Balance: 7.5



REPLAY ABILITY:

There are different quests for each faction (Horde and Alliance), each race, different classes, and then there is the player versus player stuff and seeing the Warcraft world unfold closer than ever before. There is so much to do that your average player can keep playing and not end up with the exact same experience twice. Maybe a few things will be the same but there will be different ways of solving the same problem.

When you start a new character for a different race and class the challenge is slogging through the initial early level doldrums and quests you may have seen before with a different paint job and wording for another race. It can make the game seem less shiny and new, bringing down some of the high of playing the game and making you go back to your more established character.

Replay ability: 7.5



APPEAL:

Fans of medieval MMORPGs, fans of Warcraft, and curious gamers will find World of Warcraft a good game. The latter will find WoW to be a great introduction to the world of MMORPGs. Those who do not like to keep paying to play a game every month and who aren’t big Warcraft fans may be pleasantly surprised by how good WoW is, like this reviewer was.

The MMORPG frame work is not much different in WoW and for those who do not like MMORPGs you will not find much to keep you coming back as most everything has been seen before. Level treadmills, craft working time killers, it is all here and can scare away some players.

Appeal: 7



ORIGINALITY:

While there have been games set in ‘name’ universes, World of Warcraft is one that actually sets you in the world itself. Phantasy Star Online and Final Fantasy XI have their own distinct worlds, the former away from the original Algol storyline and the second having a new world with the typical junk of keeping Final Fantasy classes and quirks around but having ‘a new and exciting’ story.

World of Warcraft is interesting in how natural the interface is and how easy it is to pick up, tweaking pre-existing ideas and adding the new feature of instances (dungeons that are unique to groups of adventurers when different ones visit). It’s not earth shattering but it does add some spice.

Originality: 6



ADDICTIVENESS:

World of Warcraft is highly addictive, offering the ‘just one more quest’ syndrome in a highly contagious package. You can spend hours exploring, finishing different side quests, meeting new people, learning about your character class and skill proficiencies, and killing lots of annoying critters.

The problem is that the fetch quests, level grinding, animal killing, ad infinitum gets boring after awhile and could eventually lead to taking a longer break or quitting the game through lack of variety. It can become a war between want (to get a new spell) vs. boredom (having to do X and Y to get EXP = Z.)

Addictiveness: 8



MISCELLANEOUS:

The problem with MMORPGs are the people, at least for me. It is tiresome to listen to people complain about ‘newbies’ or moan about other people being higher levels. There are rude and boorish louts playing these games and it can grate on those who do not suffer idiots. This isn’t Blizzard’s fault, I acknowledge this but it is a part of the game and something that, as a player, must be addressed.

Eventually people’s attitudes and actions will begin to affect you and possibly make you sick of the game, not because it isn’t a good game, but because of how players act. It’s a sad thing but something that must be stated.

Plus I really dislike the whole idea of guild or clan cultures because of how much importance people can place upon such things. Sometimes it makes it easier to get people to help with quests, but other times it makes it harder for people who want to enjoy the game without such attachments to find help. It varies and this is again biased but it is from my experience.

I also dislike that I cannot use spaces and make proper surnames.

Miscellaneous: 5



THE RATINGS:

Story: 7
Graphics: 8
Sound: 6
Controls: 8.5
Balance: 7.5
Replay Ability: 7.5
Appeal: 7
Originality: 6
Addictiveness: 8
Miscellaneous: 5