For those PC gamers that have spent the last few years hidden under a rock, in a cave, on mars, World of Warcraft is the highly anticipated Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG)Which continues the story of the Warcraft series. With so many MMORPG's in the market trying to get us to dip in to our pockets for the monthly game fees, can WoW do enough to stand out? Read on and all will be revealed.
The series has come a very long way since its 1994 release. The series started as a Real Time Strategy gaming, pitting Orcs against Humans. Over several sequels and a massively developed plot the game has ended up in the form of a MMORPG. This did seem an obvious choice, the game has a solid fan base and there's plenty of material and back story to develop into such a game. The games races are split into two distinct groups, the Alliance and the Horde. The Alliance represents the traditional side of good including Humans, Elves and Dwarves. Whereas, the Horde represents what we would normally consider as being evil such as Trolls, The Undead and a variety of other beast humanoids.
Upon playing the game you soon realize that this is not Good versus Evil. Upon hearing the Hordes story you will soon see that the Horde are not truly evil, just different. For example the Tauron, a large beast creature that resemble bulls, are very in touch with nature and their culture and society appears to have been inspired by Native Americans.
Each race will have a number of classes that it has access to and the Horde and Alliance have slight differences in the types of class that they offer.
Rather than everyone playing in the same game, WoW is divided into a number of realms. This obviously reduces the number of players you will meet but therefore reduces a number of problems you would expect with a ridiculously high level of characters in one area (such as lag or players killing all enemies in an area, thus depriving you of the chance to be involved in combat), also the realms have a general focus as to the type of gameplay you will experience. There are currently three types of realm; Normal, PvP and Roleplaying. On a normal server the focus is removed form Player versus Player (PvP) combat and focuses more on quest. PvP servers allow PvP combat to the full extent and the Roleplaying servers are aimed at those who want to develop the story and interactions of their character, rather than just stabbing everything. If you are going to play with a friend you must make sure that you choose the same realm, otherwise you cannot meet up. Currently a number of realms have queues so I would recommend choosing a realm with a lower population.
So What's it All About?
The game includes a variety of things for you to do. These are; Quests, Professions, PvP and Exploration.
The game has quite a strong focus towards quests. Quests are gained from NPCs' (Non-Player Characters) and will require you to do something. A quest can be very easy (such as delivering a message) or quite epic in its scale (taking on armies of enemies). All these quests can be done solo or in a group and in your quest screen the quest will be colour coded to show you the relative difficulty of the quest to your character. The games overall focus is towards quests, which gives it a very different feel to other MMORPGs, such as Final Fantasy XI or Anarchy Online. In fact at time the game feels almost linear (in a good way). I have never found myself thinking 'I'm not sure what to do next'. Over time the quests will introduce you to new game areas and have you traveling further a field into more dangerous territory. The good news is that you don't have to follow the quests as they arrive, if you want to go to a completely different game area and do the quests their, you can. The game doesn't railroad you down a set path, true, low level characters are likely to be doing similar quests, but this is jot forced upon you at all. In my opinion this quest focused gameplay gives the game an addictive coherent quality that many other MMORPGs often lack. Even if a quest is too difficult, you can spend your time out in the wild gaining xp knowing what your goal is eventually going to be.
Your character can take on a number of professions. There are three types of profession; Gathering, Crafting and General. Of the Gathering and Crafting Professions you can choose any two. For example, you could choose skinning and leather working. This would allow you to take the skin from fallen beasts and craft armour from these skins. There are a wide range of these professions, such as mining, herbalism, engineering and alchemy to name some of the possibilities. Other characters often choose two gathering skills, such as mining and skinning, rather than crafting goods from the raw materials, they sell them to other crafters for a premium. Crafters will often pay well above the going rate for raw materials if they are crafting an item which demands a massive material input. In addition you have access to the three general professions (you can have all three of these); Fishing, First Aid and Cooking. These basic skills are useful to all characters, and although they can produce a profit for your character they are most often used to support your characters survival. The different professions have very different feels which will affect how you play your character. Skinning is popular because the raw materials can be found on many of the creatures found in the game and so those people with this profession will gather items as they go along. Herbalism requires you to find your materials in various places, such as fields or under trees. So to get specific materials you will have to go out of your way to hunt down areas which are rich in that item. Mining requires ore veins. These are often in high risk areas and so you'll have to specifically go on mining expeditions to track down these valuable resources. Because of this the cost of raw materials will be higher (and less likely to be available) for mining ore than leather.
PvP in this game works extremely well. It is possible to attack people from the opposing side, but not in all circumstances. If you are in an area that is home to your side you cannot be attacked. In an neutral area you can be attacked and in an enemy controlled area you can pretty much guarantee you will be attacked. If you see an enemy in a safe area, as I've mentioned they cannot attack you, though if you choose you can attack them (which will then allow you to be attacked as you will be given a PvP tag). This allows for lower level characters to be safe in friendly areas, and higher level characters have the option of taking on attackers. This system reduces griefing and it works well. In the future an honour system will be introduced. You will only gain honour and increase in PvP rank if you attack enemies of a suitable level. High rank characters will get various advantages over lower level characters, such as high powered or cut price items.
Exploring the game will give you xp for finding new areas and you will have a wide range of enemies to fight. It is very nice sometimes to just have a bit of a wander.
The games combat system is similar to most other MMORPGs. You click an enemy to attack and then you can select to perform various skills whilst in combat. The game is different to some others in that combat varies between the different classes. For example, the rogue class gains combo points when using skills, these combo point can be used against the same enemy to use a devastating attack. Warriors have a rage bar and magic users have mana. This gives helps to emphasise the differences between the games different classes. Skills don't go up with time or use. Instead you pay to increase your skills once you have reached the requisite level. The penalties for death work quite well in the game. If you die your ghost will appear at a preset point on the games map. You then have the choice of either traveling to your corpse and coming back to life without any penalties.The alternative is to be immediately be resurrected, though you will suffer from resurrection sickness which lowers yours stats for a period of time plus your weapons will be damaged and therefore it may be costly to have them repaired. I think this system works extremely well.
Most MMORPGs recognize the importance of an in-game economy and WoW is no exception. The game has a three auction houses plus the ability to trade with other players. The issue I would raise is the lack of chat trade channels in most areas. Normal channels generally do not allow you to post a link to the items info, so you don't know whether its worth buying an item without having to ask for all the stats. This issue could easily be resolved and I'm sure it will be.
Gaining Levels and Progressing
Xp is gained for killing enemies, completing quests and finding new areas. If your character is rested (by spending time or logging out at an in) you will gain double xp from creatures for a while. To be honest level progression is a little too simple for my liking. When you gain a level a few of your stats go up, and that's about it. Your character does get more powerful, but there is very little in the way of customization. Their isn't currently a massive range of equipment for each class. So its not unusual for two level 15 rogues to be pretty much identical. Past level 10 you get access to talents. Each level you gain you get given a talent point. Each class has three talent paths. This allows you to develop your character and give an emphasis in one specific diection or stay as a generalist. This may seem to contradict my previous statement, but at the moment it doesn't seem to do enough. As the game develops and more items are introduced that may change quite a lot. The game does feel a little simple and stripped down at times though I'm sure this will open the game up to more people, and not everyone wants a system as complicated as the one found in games like Anarchy Online.
Graphics and Sound
For those of you that have read my previous reviews, you will know that I don't see graphics and sound as being very important. This game did impress me though. The game doesn't do anything over the top, but there is quite a lot of detail in the environment and character models. There is an absolutely massive range in the games various areas and it gives a very impressive feel. The game does suck you in very easily and a lot of this can be attributed to the games graphics. The sound is also very satisfying. There are all the sound effects you would expect from a game with so much combat, and like all good games the games musical score does a great job of sparking various emotions as you go through the game.
The game is a very satisfying MMORPG experience. There is a massive amount of content for each of the games starting areas, and the game feels very complete. My main issues are that the game does feel a little shallow at times and can be a touch underwhelming. As time goes by I'm certain more items and content will be added which will drastically change how the game feels. The PvP system also contributes towards the game and is far superior to other games such as Anarchy Online. The game has made an impact and I'm certain that its success will continue.