Video Game Review - World of Warcraft (or "My first two weeks in Azeroth")

Massively Multiplayer Online Games, or MMOGs, are getting more and more attention these days. MMOGs are games where thousands and possibly millions of players can connect to a single game environment and interact with each other through their internet connected PCs. There are lots of MMOGs available today. To this point, I have avoided them due to the subscription fees and time investment necessary. Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) are especially notorious for becoming incredibly addictive, and some over-zealous users have even played marathon sessions that have lead to their own deaths through malnutrition and neglect of the real world bodies. I'm not interested in becoming a hermit, nor am I interested in having my wallet drained monthly for a game, especially when most games I buy get about a month to two months of playtime before I have finished them.

World of Warcraft is a MMORPG. It is held to be possibly the best of the MMOGs available, and has even been rated Game of the Year by GameSpot, an online video game review site. World of Warcraft, or WoW for short, was created by Blizzard, the company already famous for the WarCraft and StarCraft series of real time strategy games, as well as the Diablo series of adventure / role playing games. I am huge fan of the Diablo series, and my friends and I would play for hours and hours, battling through hordes of evil meanies and leveling up our characters. It was great fun. World of WarCraft seemed like an extension of a lot of things I liked from the print reviews I had read. It had the role playing elements and action / adventure combination found in the Diablo games, but it was set in the very rich environment created through the WarCraft series of games. I was very interested, but still timid about committing to a montly payment to play this game.

Then something terrible happened. A coworker of mine gave me a free two-week trial to play. I was able to install and play the full game for two weeks. That was all it took. With a trial key, there were some limitations on my account. I could create as many characters as I liked on any of the servers (called realms), but my characters would be limited to reaching level 20, I would not be allowed to trade items with other players, I could not use the mail or the auction houses, and I could not carry more than 10 gold. The only one of those restrictions that really limited my play was the player trading. Although several helpful players were willing to give me new equipment, I couldn't accept it.

I talked to my buddies at work, and found that they were playing on the Malygos realm, so I created a character there. I chose to play a Human Male Palladin. There are eight races to choose from, with four races allocated to each side in the war (Alliance vs. Horde). The Alliance races are Human, Dwarf, Gnome, and Night Elf. The Horde races are Orc, Tauren, Troll, and Undead. You can choose to play as a male or female, and can customize the appearance of your character to your liking (or just hit randomize if you aren't too picky). You can also pick a class of character to play as, such as Warrior, Mage, Priest, or Rogue. The class you choose will determine what abilities and equipment are available to you throughout the game. Once those choices are taken care of, your new character is introduced to the world and ready to play.

The introduction to playing WoW couldn't be easier. You character is born into a region determined by your choice of race. You can chat with other players, or chat with one of the in-game characters to receive a quest. Quests give you a goal and help encourage you to explore new areas and meet new people. From what I hear from others, this is where WoW really excels beyond other MMORPGs. In most MMORPGs, you get into "grinding", where you feel that your tasks are monotonous and you don't have much fun as you just try to get that next level so you can complete the next quest. The quest system in WoW is paced very well, and the variety of tasks makes it feel a lot less like grinding, even if it is grinding. The maximum level for a character in the game is 60, which prevents anyone from getting so powerful that they can crush everyone and everything. Still, the game masters at Blizzard have done a good job of keeping things interesting for those who have reached the maximum level (so says my level 60 buddy).

In addition to the quest system, the world itself is amazingly rich and diverse. Traveling through the capital cities give just as much a sense of awe and wonder as traveling through some real life big cities. The attention to detail in the game is amazing. Each area has a unique feel, and a diverse set of creatures that inhabit them. The equipment that you can buy or receive through killing off enemies reflects in the appearance of your character. If you put on a red cape, your character displays a red cape in the game. If you wear chain mail arm, you hear the "chink-chink-chink" of the armor as you run around. There are an incredible number of items in the game, and more are added all the time. As you play, your able to really customize the appearance of your character to suit your own taste.

Probably the biggest draw of the game is the social aspect. This game is fun because you are sharing in the experience with your friends and making new friends to share experiences with. I have several friends at work that play, and it is nice to get online at night and spend an hour or more bashing monsters and just having a good time together. I've also met new people in game, and even received advice on how to get Jenn's heartburn to subside during pregnancy. The social aspect is so strong that servers are dedicate to those who wish to do their own role-playing, creating their own set of quests and making the world their own. Although I'm pretty sure there are more guys playing this game, it isn't a completely male dominated game. The player who gave me the heartburn advice told me that she and her husband enjoy playing online. They had two kids at home, and found that after they went to bed, jumping into WoW was a great way to unwind and have fun together.

Today is the last day of my two week trial. I've built my character up to level 17, which I think is pretty respectable for a two week effort. I've met several folks, and enjoyed time with existing friends. I've worked in groups to complete difficult tasks, and ventured out on my own to explore new areas. In short, I've had a blast playing WoW over the past two weeks. So much so that today I picked up a full copy. That gives me another 30 days of playtime, and removes all of the restrictions from my character. So if you are in Malygos and run into a character named Corbindallas, stop and chat with me for a while. I would love to hear from you.

Before I finish, I must say one last thing. My wife is an amazing woman. Right this minute she is up in bed trying to get comfortable to sleep for the night with a nearly full term baby in her belly. She is a wonderful mother and never ceases to amaze me with marathoner endurance and wonderful attitude. Jennifer, thank you for being such a wondeful mother, a loving wife, and for being understanding about my video gaming habit. And thank you for giving me the green light to subscribe to this game.


Anonymous said...

Come on dude! Its Freakin Friday... Update your blog?!?!?!

Jade Mason