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2 Gamers Review one Game

Friday, October 07, 2005

World of Warcraft - Review

World of Warcraft – Review PC – PickyPants

I have to apologize for reviewing a game so old, but as you might be aware, there hasn’t been much to review over the last three weeks. Burnout Legends for the PSP looked cool, but gamers have made up their mind whether or not to purchase that game, and another review of it would be silly. Dawn of Sorrow would also be promising, but my colleague, Harshly_von_Smokenstein, hasn’t picked up his DS since I made him review Nintendogs. I am looking forward to a flurry of winter releases, but right now, we are in a desert.

So here we are. This is a brief history of my experience with MMOs. I think it's necessary to give some back-story before reviewing this massive title. If you wish, just scroll down to the first World of Warcraft picture to get right to the review.

When I first heard Blizzard was making an MMO my first thought was,

"WTF-zor?"

As most people who attended "Higher Education" during the years I did, Blizzard was king of the dorm rooms. From the hardcore matches of Starcraft, to the even more hardcore matches of Warcraft 2, (hardcore, or old computer?) to those delightful casual games of Diablo 2, Blizzard had a game for whatever mood and whatever timeframe you happened to have.

These were also the first days of Everquest, where you would kill "mobs," get "phat lewt" (non-level capped "lewt" that is) and never know how many experience points you were getting per kill.

Speculation was the name of the game for older MMO's, and while terribly fun, (and term paper shattering-ly addictive) these games never quite made sense. You can still hear the arguments between players about what the level spread for effective powerleveling was, what the "calculated" dps was of certain damage/delay weapon combos were, whether Shaman sow was faster than Druid sow. 2-man vs. 6-man group xp relativity, pets that pull group xp. The questions that later, after about 100 patches, became only slightly clearer.

MMO's were in the Wild West. People were finding new ways of making in game money, and getting people to group with them. Random killable NPC's wandered around holding quest items giving you no idea what to do with them. I sold real life cookies in game for platinum. It was excellent, exciting, and new!

But then, things went downhill. The popularity of the series increased exponentially. More players = stupider players. Shouts of ,

"Can ne1 give me 2 gp at orc lift plz?"

were heard throughout Greater Faydark and soon spread to zones beyond.

As the game became more popular, the idiots started to outnumber the regular Joe's. Everquest was always a game of persistence, not skill. He or she who puts the most time in becomes the best. But with this new breed of players, people seemed to think their success was tied to their skill. This arrogance lead them to making declarations of their intelligence, a sort of "I know best" philosophy that they felt necessary to shout as often as humanly possible. We were treated to such pearls of wisdom as,

"If you are playing a Dwarf Warrior, you have to reroll before 60," and
"That gear is crap, you HAVE to get the Etched Ivory Hauberk at that level!," and
"WTF? Y would u make a shaman? There dots suck az!"

All of the sudden, playing became about choosing the class that everyone else agreed had the best abilities. People played shamans so they could get good buffs post-50 for their guild mates. They played monks because they had better combat stats at level 55. (with the right gear) Everyone had the "end-game" in mind so much, that no one was enjoying the beginning or middle. I give the Wurmslayer quest as an example. One of the last things my Warrior did before I quit playing was quested for the Wurmslayer. It was a long, incredibly satisfying quest for an item that I really loved using. Soon after it was implemented, the Wurmslayer was deemed obsolete. And there were no shortage of players telling me so. The in game quests quickly became obsolete. Tradeskilling was only useful to the highest levels. And so many different zones were created, that most of them became empty, and alone. Certain zones became only a place to key a character for access to another zone.

This reckless addition of the EQ world got incredibly out of hand, and there was far too much ground to cover. Once the developers decided to include the Plane of Knowledge, they put the final nail in the EQ coffin. By giving every class unfettered access to many, many zones of the world, entire zones were forgotten. The only new players were twinks. The Bazaar sold every item imaginable, (including FREE LAG!) and the days of a pick-up 20-something group were long in the past.

Everquest became so big it ate itself. But still it grew. More and more expansions offering more and more empty zones. 99% of the EQ population was in 10% of the zones. There was no reason to try new things, no reason to go new places and explore. Everything you ever wanted to do was done, and there were a plethora of players ready to tell you so. Any rare drop you found was already farmed and selling to the lowest bidder.

The only way to innovate or find new experiences was to raid. The dreaded late game raid. As if the leveling process wasn't boring enough, Sony wanted to get players together in a huge group, and wait. And wait and wait and wait. And then die.

Or to be victorious! To get that one piece of "ub3r" gear to show your friends. The pay-off between time spent, and fun had was shrinking. That shrinking to some people became "hard core." After all, waiting around for 3 hours, followed by a 4 hour raid (with 1 or 2 wipes) to get a chance at a better helmet for your character is a hardcore way to play games. For those "hardcore," there was raid content. For the rest of us gamers, who remembered a day when games were fun to play, there was only console gaming, and the occasional PC FPS shooter.

Then something happened. More and more MMOs came out egged on by Sony's successful Everquest. Ultima Online II, Asheron's Call, Final Fantasy XI, ShadowBane, Lineage, Guild Wars. All these new MMOs all with new promises. New challenges. PvP combat, no downtime leveling, quest logs, better economy.

So many interesting new ideas, but why take another chance? To potentially get sucked in by another game that would end up being plagued by the same late-game problems in EQ? Not a chance, said I. I kept my PC clear of subscription costs. Unreal Tournament, Counter Strike, Battlefield, Warcraft III. These all gave me the rewarding gameplay I wanted desperately in Everquest. And for a time I was happy.

Until that damned Harshly_Von_Smokenstein changed my mind for me.

Harshly was raving about this new MMO called Dark Age of Camelot. It had three separate nations at war with each other. There was permission based PvP, which meant when I was in an area that I could be killed, I knew it. Ganking was still around, but I had more control over it. We played. It was excellent.

It revitalized my interest in the genre. All of my problems with EQ were satiated. The game was unique, fun, and ultimately had late game purpose in the form of giant realm vs. realm castle sieges with catapults and ballista firing over Braveheart like battles raging in valleys and forests.

BA-ZING! This is where I wanted to be!

With my Troll healer Daiquiri, I raced into battle and forged a name for myself in the world.

For a time.

And then, it started to do downhill. The grind became more important. The gear, difficult to get. In the interest of stirring up trouble, Mythic put dungeons that all three realms could enter and meet up in. Routine gankings happened often. Griefers, and dude speakers came in drones. Fun was waning.

I never gave DaoC the time I really wanted to. I wanted to be capped, with uber gear. I wanted to be as amazing as my guild-mates. But the more I played it, the less exciting the "endgame" became. The castle battles were not that useful to the realms outside of bragging rights. The catapults, less than effective. The massive Braveheart style battles changed to massive AE damage spells and cheap shots by scouts. The game became a place to be bullied, not to have fun. I gave up on DaoC, and went back to my consoles again.

This is when I heard about Blizzard making World of Warcraft. I was initially annoyed. I wanted Starcraft 2! I wanted more expansions for Warcraft III! I didn't want Blizzard to be spending its time on an MMO. I knew first hand what happens to good ideas in that genre, they are exploited and then removed. I couldn't stand the thought of Blizzard being homogenized by MMO players. Blizzard was fearless and bold, but I knew that couldn't transfer over to the MMO genre. I just knew it!

I played Everquest 2 in the meantime. I didn't want to start another MMO up, but my college friends (now living all over the country) wanted something we could all do together. I wanted to see them, talk to them, hang out with them, but they were too far away. We all had (relatively) grown up lives now. They weren't two doors down anymore. So we played. And we had a good time. EQ2 definitely made some strides over EQ1. We enjoyed each other's company, and we all agreed that there were some parts of this game that were not perfect, in fact, far from perfect.

I couldn't stand the complicated and top-heavy tradeskill system. The economy seemed out of whack. The add mobs were so brutal. The exp debt ensured players wouldn't group unless they had to. The spell upgrade system was awful. The loot, almost worthless. But still we played on. For a few months anyway. We played one night a week, and it got so (around level 30) we could only get a few bubs of xp for playing all night. Weeks would pass, and no one would level. Except that asshole Harshly_Von_Smokenstein, but he was playing when we weren't around. What a jerk.

I didn't want to stop though. I loved teamspeaking with my friends, and I didn't want that to end. We could have played Battlefield 2, but FPS games allow for so much less conversation outside of "DUDE BEHIND YOU!"

Then came the email from Harshly. It started like this,

"Well, it happened. WoW blew my socks off."

He had been "double-dipping" as it were with EQ2 and World of Warcraft. (hereafter noted as WoW) Once he went over, the rest of us stopped playing EQ2.

For a while, I had no MMO to play. I was fed up with them. The grind, the item-game, the arrogance of the other MMOers. I went back to a peaceful existence of Super Smash Bros. Melee, Metal Gear Solid 3 and Defense of the Ancients.

But Harshly was persistent. He kept telling me how different WoW was, and how I should really give it a try. I missed Harshly, I missed chatting and laughing with him, so eventually, again, I caved to his wishes and bought WoW. By the end of the first day of playing, I was hooked.

I know that was a long preposition, but I felt it necessary to say before I wrote this review, that I have experience with MMOs, and this one indeed, blew me away.

World of Warcraft. Oh man. Where do I begin?

Blizzard must have read every message board thread, and checked all the feedback on Everquest before making this game. It seems built from the ground up to cater to a variety of gamers. From casual to "hard core" players, WoW has something to offer on every level of play. The quests give a lot of xp and lewt, but so does grinding. Everything moves at an incredibly fast pace. As if EQ2 was sped up by about 75%.

In WoW you get to SEE the amount of xp you get. How novel! You mean we get the same privilege given to us in Final Fantasy 1?

In addition to seeing your xp, you see your xp bar move. On every kill, every time. I am currently level 39, and I have seen that bar move every time I have killed something. Its beautiful. If you have an hour on your own, you can solo half a level by just grinding at level 32. WoW allows you to level up at an extremely fast pace.

So why am I not higher than 39 you might ask?

Because the game is so goddamned fun, you don't want to level. You want to just enjoy it.

Running around doing PvP, engaging in CTF style combat against opposing players, and exploring. Exploring like the day you first set foot in Kunark back in EQ1 and saw such amazing things. That exploration is not only possible, but necessary. You can grind and get xp to level, or you could quest, letting you see the world and gain xp for it. Gone are the days where getting to the next level isn't rewarding. Not only do you make choices that shape your character to your own play style, but if you decide a character is not for you, WoW makes it easy to start over with a new character and start fresh.

I have gotten to level 39 almost exclusively soloing. And I am a warrior. And I HATE soloing. Let me tell you how rad that is.

I am a WARRIOR.

I have SOLOED 38 levels.

The whole point of me playing MMOs is to connect with my friends that I miss. And when they come on, its great! We chat and kill like old times. The difference between WoW and other MMOs is that it makes it enjoyable to play on your own. The levels come fast, the lewt drops all the time, and the PvP is amazing and on your own terms.

I hate soloing, I am a social person, but the game makes it so easy and fun to solo, you can't say no! The best part is, if you get a group, it gets even easier and even more fun! There is no stop to the ease and fun of this game.

And tradeskilling? Oh man. After the abominations of Tskilling in EQ2 (Fossil Tempers anyone?) I vowed never to attempt it again. But in no time at all in WoW, I have maxed out my tradeskills. MAXED. I have spent no more than 4 minutes outside the field working on it, and a lot of time while resting and I have maxed potion making and herbalism.

That means when I am wandering around (which happens a lot) I see little dots on my minimap (YOU GET A MINIMAP!) that are herbs to gather. You see them on the map. Since you have to choose a secondary profession ( i.e. mining, herbalism) chances are you are the only one in the area who can get it. No retards can train up all their skills and take every static drop on the map. No sir. Those herbs are mine.

Once I have those herbs, oh the things I can make. I can make buffs that last an hour (for STR, AGIL, armor class, magic resistance, damage resistance) Buffs that last 30 seconds (Giant Growth, Invis. Potions. I am an invisible warrior, SURPRISE! ) and my personal favorite. The speed potion. This thing is unbearably easy to make, you can farm the ingredients from 11-20 areas (even horde safe so no chance of gankers) and make these sweet babies all day long. They sell incredibly well, and are simple to make. I also can make healing and mana potions, so I am basically a juggernaught with a built in healer (albeit a crappy healer) This allows me so much freedom while soloing, as well as gives me the upper hand in PvP one on one battles (something that happens a lot more often then you would think)

So enough about the mechanics, let me share a story.

My First PvP.

So there I was at the tender level of 17. I had probably 75% of my warrior skills, the best of which start coming between 20 and 30. Harshly came in with one of his friends and told me we were going a-hunting in a place called "The Wetlands." Now "The Wetlands" are WAY the hell on the other side of the world, and I had not even begun to scratch the surface of that continent. The only place I have been to on that side of the globe was the undead city, The Undercity. Coolest city ever.

While wandering the globe, you meet people called Flight Masters who give you flight paths to the location you just arrived at, so basically, once you walk somewhere once, you can then fly there for the rest of the game. Its sort of like the Griffin towers in EQ2, but so much more convenient. (You will notice that so many things in WoW are LIKE EQ2, but SO much more convenient)

So Harshly decided to come to meet me and walk me to the Wetlands so I could get there more easily next time. He came out to get me, and we started walking, through forests and mountains, great walls, castles you name it. Unbelievable scenery. Truly amazing stuff. Until we run into an ally. An enemy PvPer.

Allies and Hordelings cannot speak with each other, alla Dark Age of Camelot. The lack of communication between the two factions is something that breaks down the humanity of the other faction. You look like a bad guy, they look like a bad guy.

There he was, A big red name across my screen. He was killing a mob, he was level 23. Harshly stops and watches him patiently. I shit my pants.

An ally.

They look so different! It was surreal watching him kill that mob, knowing he was another person. He finished off his mob, and Harshly waved at him. The guy charged, he was a warrior like me, unlike me, however, he used his charge ability on a person 30 levels higher than him.

Harshly lept into action and destroyed him, while I lost all control and stared. All of my hotbars perfectly aligned for PvP, my brand new weps and armor waiting to taste Ally blood, and I stood there, frozen. I couldn't even touch my keyboard. It took all of 4 seconds for Harshly to work this guy over, and I didn't do a thing. After the battle I apologized to Harshly.

"Haha! Don't worry man, intense isn't it?"

Intense didn't begin to describe it.

The Wetlands, as it turned out, was a contested zone with a lot of ally towns and guards in it. This typically meant hordelings stayed out of here. It was possible to get xp in here, but it would be damn foolish. It was a 20-30 level zone, and allies were everywhere. As we ran around, our death squad killed every thing that moved. It was glorious.

While running, we saw some dead mob corpses. You see in WoW the mob corpses stay around for a while after they are looted. Like for 15 mins. This makes it very easy to find the person who has killed those mobs,

"We follow the mob corpses like bread crumbs."

Harshly said as we killed each and every person trying to get some quest xp. I felt bad for them, they were just out there trying to get xp. And here was a group of high level fatties ganking them.

"Just wait until the allies gank you, then you will feel nothing for them."

Harshly told me, although at the time I didn't really buy it. I mean, ALL the allies can't be the same can they? Its not like every single ally on the server could be a shitty, griefing little scumbag just waiting to taunt your dead body and corpse camp you over and over and over again with no reward for themselves other than to annoy the living piss out of you. They can't all be like that can they?

They most certainly can. Every ally, every ally I met was a total douche bag. After getting ganked by them over and over again, I felt nothing, nothing but rage. It's almost as if all of those d00d speakers who ruined Everquest 1 for me played on the Alliance side of World of Warcraft. Finally, I had my revenge. Their uppance had come.

When you have a few of these experiences, you start thinking about WoW at work, where you should go to level, what class/race combinations (along with specialty talent lines) would be the best for a crushing PvP victory. What items to farm in an instance.

But the best part is, WoW is not made for hardcore 8 hour sessions. Ideally you xp for an hour or two (at the most) and if you aren't satiated, go find some allies to destroy, go to the auction house (best economy ever!) or get more quests. Any number of wonderful things, but the point being, that WoW can be enjoyed in small increments. Which is why it doesn't have to take over your life.

WoW is one of the most amazing games around, MMO or otherwise. I highly suggest you try it out if you haven't yet. Before I get into any negative issues with the game, Here is a quick list of little things in the game that are so helpful, and make so much sense, it makes you think,

"Why hasn't anyone done this before?"

When you die, you can either corpse run or revive with 10 mins of rez sickness, and nothing else happens, no xp penalty, no xp debt.

When you mouseover a wep in the auction house (or armor) another window pops up to show you what you have. A direct comparison.

You see the exp you get for everything (I know I already said this, but it is so refreshing)

No downtime after combat

Every class can be good in PvP

Every class has more than 20 abilities.

Every class can be specialized along three trees. (think Diablo 2)

You can rearrange all of your skill points for a fee.

Tradeskills are fun and easy.

Rest xp gives you double your xp the longer you stay offline.

Meeting stones at every dungeon allow you to quickly meet others for grouping.

All major dungeons are instances. Nothing respawns in these instances. They are also hard.

Elite mobs. They have 3x the HP and give shit tons of xp, and items.

Capture the flag. The closest thing to Team Fortress (original) CTF I have seen. Level capped at 30, which is one of the reasons I stayed at level 30 for 3 weeks. Every time your team wins, you not only get honor, but you get a stone that can be turned in for xp. Oh god how I love Warsong Gulch.

No zone loading.

Guarded outposts everywhere making visiting contested territory fun and easier.

Amazing visuals. Some of these locations will blow your mind.

Easy to run. My computer barely ran EQ2, and it hums along in WoW.

Easy to make money. Really! I am the laziest MMOer I know and I have so much money. And money is really needed. Not like Dark Age of Camelot.

PVP, PVP, PVP… I can't stress it enough. It is so rad.

With every game though, you can't help but think of the things that might make it better. One of the best parts, and most difficult to swallow, are the talent trees. There are just some abilities that don't make sense. Some abilities that would only be good if you had your character's path in mind all the way up to 60.

Some people plan like that, but I like a game where I choose the best skill for what I am about to face, not what I will face in 15 levels.

A lot of the best loot is in instances, which are really, really fun, but they have a pretty abysmal drop rate. If I am level 35, and I want a good axe, realistically it will only last me around 3-6 levels no matter how amazing it is. Taking that into account, I shouldn't have to run through an entire instance (which can take up to three hours for a full group) over 10 times to get that item. Especially since a lot of the best items are non-tradeable, you would think they could "spread the love" a little more liberally.

There are a lot of d00d speaking morons, still. This is an aspect of MMOs that I guess I will never get away from. I am not a strict RPer or anything, but there's only so much idiocy I can take before I have to log out.

There are neutral cities erected around the WoW world that open their doors to allies and horde members. They have guards that discourage ganking and PvP fighting inside the city walls. Unfortunately, those guards don't do very well. I have been ganked and killed several times in such "safe cities," and it's annoying and detracts from the experience. I really wish Blizzard would step up those guards, or give them better AI.

Other than that though, its game on. See you in Stranglethorn!

-Pickypants 10/3/2005

World of Warcraft – Review PC - Harshly_Von_Smokenstein

It’s difficult to review a game that you have put so much time into. Sounds like it would be easy, but in certain types of games where micro-management (SeeRTS, RPG, or MMORPG) is a major feature of gameplay, many elements that a first time or test player notice have become so ingrained into my subconscious that I don't rightly recall them.

It’s like trying to review the process of breathing or pissing. "I dunno, I just fucking do it."

Anyway, the game itself…Since most of you rat fuck gamers probably value graphics, I'll start there. That way you can read what you find important and then go back to being a jerk-face in real life.

One of the features of most last-generation MMOs were striving for realistic graphics. Everquest 2 is a prime example of this. Landscapes, city structure,and NPC/PC models were focused on realism. Yes, a Ratonga does not exist but you could easily see that the designers of the visuals had some rat pictures on hand.

World of Warcraft differentiates itself by embracing the same slightly cartoony character design that has been around since Warcraft. When I was one of those elitist fuckers in EQ2 saying that this style would make the game stupid in general chat in the Commonlands while running around looking for fucking animal dens, I truly had no idea what I was talking about.

Frustrations with EQ2 led to my eventual purchase of World of Warcraft. (Shitty Zoning times, Poor Exp management, Repetitive gameplay, Horrific Tradeskilling) When I saw the graphics for World of Warcraft, I was awed. In so many aspects, a more characterized feel gave the game more depth than realism. After all, these games are based on fake worlds. Not real life. It supported the idea of a fantastical world. It made it breathe. Animations are great, fluid, and environments are engaging.

Also, the emote system in World of Warcraft is far more developed. The /silly or /joke commands are great. World of Warcraft provides audio with emotes and reveals the sense of humor that Blizzard fans have come to love and more importantly, expect. Each race has its own dance. A subtle difference from the main competition, EQ2, but incredible.

I know, these things aren't important as far as being the best on a server, but they contribute to the overall success of the game. Blizzard decided to build atower from many different, and amazing, blocks rather than Sony's approach of building a tower on name alone it seems.

Control. The UI for WoW is excellent. You can punch up any variety of screens and close them without having to move the mouse. Not only that, but the UI is totally customizable. Like previous games, Blizzard allowed some freedom for modifications to be designed by private sources that change or alter the game slightly. To maintain balance, Blizzard allowed the UI to be customized by these mods.

Myself, I'm a purist. I haven't added anything to the game. Others have downloaded mods that add extra skill bars, coordinates to the mini-map, the ability to place markers on the map (Good for remembering where tradeskill mat nodes spawn), and other such things.

Control itself is standard. Most adopt a combination movement style that utilizes both keyboard and mouse. You can customize this extensively though.

Its fucking great. But then again, it is pretty hard to fuck up control in an MMO.

Tradeskilling is easy as hell and serves itself perfectly as an augmentation of the game, not a totally different purpose.

Pickypants hit upon a lot of the details, so I won't bore you with repetition.

I will offer you though, the things that WoW disappointed me with though. It should be noted though, that despite the following things, I'm stillgrossly addicted to the game.

First of all, I found the character customization lacking. I also didn't like the lack of true variety in character race/class combinations. This is attributed mainly do to a small pool of classes to choose from. The talent trees don't really providethe variety I look for because there are obviously superior trees that no one in their right mind would not use.

EQ2 did excel in this respect. I was hoping for a similar DAoC class scheme. Forcing choices of class distinction at various levels. In WoW, when you pick rogue, you are a rogue, for all 60 levels.

But...But, in the next expansion, it is rumored that Blizzard will introduce Hero Classes for a little switch up at level 60. Exciting rumor, but shitty because you have to be 60.

I guess that is my only real beef with the game. Fortunately, this can be remedied by expansion implementation or patch work. This isn't an issue with the core structure of the game.

Thats it. I want to play now, but I wrote this fucker up at work. Goddamnit.

Harshly_Von_Smokenstein 10/5/05


9 Comments:

  • i love world of warcraft. everything you both have said about it and the preceding mmos has been 100% true.



    p.s. glad to see you picked horde. Alliance sucks balls. and hi, chris. I got linked here from doc.

    By Anonymous Laura, at 11:33 AM  

  • Dear Chris,

    You write very long.

    Regards,
    Thorn

    By Anonymous Christopher Thorn, at 4:25 PM  

  • As a game, WOW is great. As a MMORPG where you are forced to interact with the people that play that game, it sucks. I loved WOW when it came out. It's the playerbase that drove me away. Very detailed review. If you ever get sick of Fantasy MMOs, come checkout www.eve-online.com. It's almost as fun as MajorMudd. =)

    By Anonymous Scott H., at 10:18 AM  

  • Dude. MajorMudd. Awesome.

    Who is this "Chris" you speak of?

    Thanks for the comments people I don't know.

    By Blogger PickyPants, at 4:49 PM  

  • I still can't believe Chris Thorn is still alive... crazy.

    Pascal Class Rocked!

    Hows Rob BTW?

    By Anonymous Scott h., at 7:12 PM  

  • But...Picky...wh...whats a keyboard?

    I hope I'm right here.

    By Anonymous Harshly, at 7:18 PM  

  • Please to review Trauma Center: Under the Knife on the DS. Need 2 lrn srgery. tnx.

    i love u

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:20 AM  

  • I am really interested in reviewing Trauma Center. We are finishing the review of Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrows right now. I know I said I wouldn't do it, but I just needed me a CV fix.

    By Blogger PickyPants, at 12:22 PM  

  • good post :)

    By Anonymous World of Warcraft Gold Guide, at 4:20 PM  

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