World of Warcraft Review
By Gus McZeal |
World of Warcraft is the most popular MMO ever, and for good reason. Blizzard combined the sprawling, in-depth lore of the Warcraft series with a huge, dynamic world, accessible graphics and gameplay, a fun PvP system and a large variety of dungeons, and it proved to be a winning formula. Sure, a lot of people found problems with it, but everyone knows that a lot of gamers are entitled whiners, so it’s not really surprising. In a couple of weeks the game will see the release of its fourth expansion set Mists of Pandaria, which Blizzard hopes will reinvigorate the franchise after a recent decline in subscriptions. Is World of Warcraft still worth playing after all these years?
Given that there are currently three expansions for this game, it’s kind of hard to explain the story in any detail without going on forever. Basically, there are two factions, the Horde and the Alliance, who exist in a state of perpetual warfare in the world of Azeroth. The Horde is popularly characterized as the “evil” faction because they’re the uglier of the two, but really, the two factions’ alignments are more complicated than that thanks to the game’s rich plot development. Although the Horde and Alliance spend a good amount of time fighting each other, they also have to content with a variety of mystical forces threatening to tear the world asunder—typical fantasy stuff—including a massive dragon possessed by an ancient and terrible god, a prince under the influence of a powerful orcish shaman, and an elven prince addicted to chaotic magic. This all sounds pretty serious, but the game also incorporates a huge amount of popular culture references and uses humor to tremendous effect. If you play through all the game’s content, which will take you a long time because simply tons of it, all of your emotions will be piqued at some point. It’s really quite an achievement.
World of Warcraft is a third-person MMORPG, with eight different classes to choose from if you don’t pick up any of the expansions. The classes are varied, although they’re also quite standard for MMO games: warrior, mage, priest, rogue, warlock, shaman, hunter, paladin, warlock, and druid. The Wrath of the Lich King expansion adds a death knight class to the mix, and Mists of Pandaria will add the monk, a kind of ninja-healer, which should shake things up a bit. The classes are all fun to play and well-designed: after all, this game has been under constant development during its existence, and had undergone thousands of balance tweaks and tons of content additions. This game is always being updated, ensuring an ever-changing gaming experience which provides tremendous value for money. However, be prepared to sink a lot of hours into the game!
You’ll spend your time in Azeroth running around the massive world completing quests, battling other players, exploring dungeons and participating in numerous mini games. Did I mention there’s a ton to do in this game? You can level professions like skinning, mining, blacksmithing, engineering, alchemy, tailoring, enchanting, fishing, cooking, and first aid, or spend your time raising your reputation with various factions in the game for epic rewards. There are rare spawning enemies, some of whom can be killed alone and others who take groups of up to forty players to take down. You can try and sneak into enemy cities, or defend your own capitals from player-driven invasions. And that’s barely scratching the surface. There’s a lot of content but it also unfortunately means you’ll have to grind sometimes. But, given that this is an MMO, you should be prepared for that.
World of Warcraft was released in 2004 and was designed to be able to run on a variety of system specs, so the graphics are pretty simplistic. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re bad; in fact, the game still holds up pretty well visually thanks to the game’s cartoonish aesthetic which is reminiscent of Warcraft III and its expansion Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. The new races (goblins, blood elves, draenei, and worgen) look slightly better than the original races that have been in the game since the beginning, but the difference isn’t huge, and Blizzard has made vague promises to update all the character models at some point in the future, so that’s something to look forward to. The sound design is great: while a lot of the game’s speech only appears in text form, expansion packs have brought in more and more voice acting, which, typically of Blizzard, is of consistently high quality. The game’s orchestral score is epic in all the right ways, and I don’t mean that in the throwaway sense: it really is good.
Overall, despite the fact that this game is aging, World of Warcraft remains vibrant and accessible. It truly is one of the greatest achievements in gaming, even if the formula is getting a little stale. Mists of Pandaria may be able to reinvigorate the franchise, but with the advent of more graphically-intensive MMOs like Guild Wars 2 which focus less on grinding and more on providing an experience that is fun the whole time you’re playing, World of Warcraft may have to substantially change its tack to remain relevant for a long time to come. Overall, World of Warcraft gets a Z-Score of 87/100: this score only improves with the addition of each expansion pack, all of which are available especially cheaply right now to coincide with the release of the game’s new Mists of Pandaria content. There’s a free trial, so definitely considering trying out World of Warcraft if you’re at all interested in venturing into MMO territory.