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World of Warcraft

[ Review Comments | Screenshots ]

World of Warcraft Review

Game Info:

Category : Role Playing
Publisher : Blizzard
Developer : Blizzard
Release : 11/23/2004
MSRP (US): $49.99

ESRB: Teen

Official Site - Official GCC WoW Guild

Minimum Requirements:

System: 800 MHz or faster
OS: Windows 98/ME/2K/XP
RAM: 256MB RAM
Video: 32MB RAM DirectX®/Direct3D compatible video accelerator card (GeForce4 Ti 4200 or Equivalent Recommended)
Hard Drive Space: 4000MB

DirectX: DirectX 9.0

Background/Summary:

Four years have passed since the aftermath of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, and a great tension now smolders throughout the ravaged world of Azeroth. As the battle-worn races begin to rebuild their shattered kingdoms, new threats, both ancient and ominous, arise to plague the world once again.

The long awaited first entry of a Blizzard game into the MMORPG arena arrives to us in the form of a World Of Warcraft. Here you become the very class of characters that you have come to know and love in Warcraft III The Frozen Throne. As with all other games in this genre you choose your race, skill and character attributes to a certain degree and enter the Warcraft environment. The distinct races known to Warcraft are divided into two groups, the Alliance and the Horde. The Alliance, or "good guys" are the Dwarves, Gnomes, Humans and Night Elves. The Horde, or the "bad guys" are the Orcs, Taurens, Trolls and the Undead. Your long known worlds of Azeroth, Lordaeron and Kalimor come to life in a living and breathing environment you become part of!

Gameplay:

First off, if you're reading this article before you purchase the game, then you'll be having a good size download after installation. Why? Because Blizzard is one the best out there at keeping their games patched and balanced whenever possible. In fact right off, those that have played Blizzard games for almost a decade now have come to have a level of expectation from that company, I am here to tell you that in this aspect they don't disappoint. From the first moment you enter the game and get going, you feel the quality of being in a Blizzard game!

As with most games of this genre, you create your character first off by choosing the race, physical attributes which have just enough to give you a bit of personality, and your race. Besides the races already listed you also get to choose from many familiar classes such as Warlock, Paladin, Priest, Warrior, Druid, Shaman, etc.. There is a racial character balance though within the game that dictates the race/class combination and affects your choices. For instance, every race has Warriors but only Night Elf and Tauren races can have Druids. This then adds character to the classes and races and changes the balancing of team play accordingly. Also, you have limitations on alignment and classes, Paladins are available only to a few races of the Alliance for they represent good, and Shamans are the Horde "equivalent".

You have a familiar feel to your mapping and your inventory, though there is a huge assortment of functions available to you across the entire width of the screen bottom. The ease and availability of all of this information makes for quick and ready access to most all functions and inventory items. The functional slots in the tool bars can either be activated items in your inventory or some spells or skills you know as well. Entirely configurable to meet your own needs and desires these can be configured for your own style of gameplay and organizational skills.

The world is huge and easy to immerse one self into. Huge hills may appear blurry and without definition, at least until you get closer and the details come into focus as you approach viewing range at a believable distance. The topography and fauna of the land is done in quite a realistic fashion that makes realistic sense in how it's all laid out. There are occasions when climbing steep inclines such as working your way through the mountains that don't always appear absolutely sensible, but you learn to jump and turn to overcome these slight irregularities and soon move about the ranges with the dexterity of a mountain goat. Water bodies are quite believable as you dive in and see the full topography of the land and envision what is beneath the water that is not so visible from above. Most transportation is running about, however there is no "run" function so your speed never really changes, it just remains constant, so you'll use your Num Lock key quite often! There are some other modes of getting about available later in the game such and flight(single trip purchase) and domesticated animal mounts that can speed up getting about.

You'll have plenty of NPC's to get your quests from, enough to fill your 20 limit quest log, with most of them paying out in cash and/or items. In some cases you make a choice between two items offered in exchange for your success. Hunting always pays off in some fashion as just about everything you find or gain from hunting is sold or wanted. While cash becomes a tight commodity in the beginning, it won't take you long to start making money if you have some trade skills and secondary talents.

You can choose up to 2 Trade Skills with which to put materials and time into and reap the benefits there of. Skills such as skinning and leatherworking, two different skills that help each other as you then can skin the animals you kill and then work that hide into different leather projects for use and profit. There also remains several secondary skills available that do not count against your 2 trade skill limit, these including things such as fishing or first aid, etc... These too, will provide income and some resources that you can use or sell for other things.

Different chat modes and a built in mail system allow you to easily send not only messages but goods and items as well to other players. Larger towns have a postal box where you can conduct your postal business.

At the very beginning of the game you must make a choice how you wish to play the game for the very conflict and maintenance of the temporary cease fire between Alliance and Horde forces is the responsibility of the players. There are both normal servers and PVP servers available. PVP servers deal specifically with three different types of zones that the players can enter, these are zones of the world map within each server. Friendly zones are those in which you cannot be attacked by enemy forces unless you attack them first, contested zones are wide open warfare between the two sides-player be ware!, and the enemy zone is the opposite of the friendly zone in that you cannot attack until attacked first. This doesn't just apply to the humans playing the game, the game generates NPCs that will attack you as well, most times when you're weakened or just finishing a battle. When such attacks occur in friendly zones the word is put out by the "defense" net and everyone in that zone is aware. If PVP is your game, then this game provides you ample opportunity and method to fight to your heart's desire. However, if you do not embrace such activity, you certainly have the choice to be a carebear if you wish!

One part of the display in your tool bar gives a constant latency indication, thus dispelling any questions about who the lag monster is in the group. Any time you mouse over the Blizzard familiar colored bars indication you get your numeric server latency indicated. This way, you can ensure that all members of your party are good and green before venturing into that contested zone!

Death is merely an inconvenience in the game. Your corpse will lay there as your spirit refreshes at the nearest graveyard bringing you into a ghostly black and white misty rendition of the colorful world you just left. You then move your spirit back to within range of your corpse and finally revive yourself, only to about 33% health and mana. This will regenerate of course though you'll have taken damage to your equipment. In fact, most battles will eventually take their toll on your gear and keeping regularly repaired should become second nature. The graphics are astounding and only rare glitches will occur, usually when you are partied up with someone of a dissimilar connection type when they might well be standing in front of you, but have disappeared from your view. This kind of oddity and the funny look of a re-spawning creature popping in out of nowhere are about the only oddities I have seen. The hardware requirement is that you have gear capable of running Direct X 9.0c. All of the controls and movement put some other current popular titles in this genre to shame.

Graphics/Sound:

Again, I can only have words of praise for the graphics and how smooth this game is, being both colorful and fully functional. Besides running with the default selections I have also toyed with the greatest and minimal details. If you have to run this game lesser than half of the default settings, you're past due for equipment update. Even at the default settings and not pressing system settings to the test the world and vision of everything in it is rewarding. The way they have rendered the water/underwater aspect is very impressive, I find myself diving into rivers and such just to get a view! Across the land you will see of course the interactive creatures that you can engage, but you'll see other interesting things as well, such as birds flying, or gazelles running in packs, etc.. The world revolves much like ours in that there is a definitive night and day mode, however, the night mode never takes away from the vision you need to see your environment. Equipped gear has a believed appearance when donned, not an out of sorts half hazard replication.

The sounds are done quite well and give you a very distinct three dimensional sound effect. One good example is to be out on some grassy plains scouting about and hear the wind through the tall grasses as it comes and goes, then flows in directional changes...amazing. All of the graphical and sprite related actions and sounds are impeccably timed. Weapons hits and sounds seldom miss having coincidental contact. The voice acting is well done and easily understood, while promoting the sense of inclusion into the speaker's world. Flying on the back of a domesticated dragon, from one zone to another, is a spectacular sight the first time. The wind, the flapping of the wings, and the spectacular real time birds eye view of the lands as you travel....amazing.

Wrap-Up:

What with several MMORPGs filing the genre lately and all of them elbowing each other for gamers dollars and time, Blizzard's entry meets the standards that it has set in the RTS world. Truly a novice to this world you could not even begin to detect that fact by playing this game. One might say that it has borrowed the best of previous genre giants and yet tactfully left behind those attributes that brought about more frustration than satisfaction. In the last six months I have been involved with not only my first MMO but with three of the other major contenders of this year. The controls and ease of operation put it ahead of the big entry from last year, yet are as easy to use as a genre giant from this past summer/fall. I could jump on that small bandwagon that questions Blizzard's choice of Warcraft over a Starcraft world, but I think there are some sound reasons behind that.

The Warcraft world makes the transition across the genres much easier than a Starcraft jump would have. I mean, how can a world convey the sense of urgency with 50 zerglings all rushing you at once? With its ability to reward you even if just wandering about hunting aimlessly or fishing relaxed for an hour makes immediate payoff and starting economy enough to enjoy the game early. The travel across large expanses might seem tedious but that just adds to the enormity of the regions. The biggest threats to games in this genre are the survivability and continued evolution. Expansions cannot save a game if the companies don't listen to players and developers are ignorant to what the wants of the players are. However, considering the thousands of people playing Starcraft 6 years after its release might give us some hope that at least Blizzard will try to remain tuned to its audience and keep WoW a viable interest for quite a long time. It's fun, it's easy to learn, difficult to master, and very dangerous. I know, I play it every night now (did I mention I had disdain for this genre?? Probably not....)!

Michael "=][= Maximus" Kerr - December 2004

 

Screenshots: 0
Author: =][=Maximus
Review Score: 6.2

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