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Game Profile
January 16, 2007

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King

World of Warcraft

 Written by Jason Young  on February 06, 2007

Review: ?Mom!!! Bathroooommmm!? - Eric Cartman, on playing WoW

Unless you've been unmistakably hiding under a rock for the past couple of years, you've most likely heard of the MMORPG ?World of Warcraft.' The game has become an international hit, with players from Korea, Europe, and America all partaking in making the game a cultural phenomenon. It's been featured on South Park, has had subsequent spin-offs (the TCG and board games), and has been called the equivalent of video game ?crack.' Part of the good ?ole Warcraft Lore, World of Warcraft occurs after the defeat of the Lich King from the ?Frozen Throne.' As the Alliance and Horde try to learn to live together, their pack becomes broken and hence we have World of Warcraft.

Choose your character?
When players first log onto World of Warcraft (WoW), they're immediately presented with a list of servers to join. These range from full-servers where there's a high population density with possible wait times in order to log-in to servers with minimal population due to their time of creation. The player also gets the opportunity to choose between a PVP (player-vs-player) or PVE (player-vs-environment) server, each delivering a different experience to the World of Warcraft. One of the most interesting things about Blizzard was the decision to allow players to cross-realms with their old characters if they were tired of wait times, or just wanted to meet new people. While almost any character can be moved to any server, some of them hold a $25.00 fee in order to process this.

After choosing a server, the player is presented with two choices: join the Alliance or join the Horde. Each side includes five different races: humans, dwarves, night elves, gnomes, and draenei (alliance) and orcs, trolls, undead, tauren, and blood elves (horde). After choosing a race there's multiple professions to choose from including: druids, hunters, mages, paladins, priests, rogues, shamans, warlocks, and warriors. Each of the classes has their own specialties and talents, while not all of the races can be each class. Prior to the Burning Crusade, the Horde and Alliance each had their own exclusive class: the Shaman and Paladin respectively, but the two new races allow for members of the opposing fractions to become them removing the exclusivity. While the jury is still out on whether or not this will help make the game balanced, it's allowing players to experience the things that they've been missing by joining the other side.

Part of what makes MMORPG's so appealing to players is the fact that you build an identity with your character. As such, WoW's level of customization is pretty detailed with multiple choices for eyes, faces, hair, skin tone, etc. This allows players to build a character their own character the way they want without being limited to only several different choices.

A New Innovation or Just a Game with High Production Values?
During your first couple minutes with your new character, you're placed into a ?newbie' area where you'll acquire the basics of combat, learn some new skills, and spend your first ten to twenty levels there.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game's combat system, the game plays similar to almost every other MMORPG in that your skills are based on a cooldown system and you are presented with a talent tree in order to raise those skills. Where World of Warcraft is concerned, the player is presented with an opportunity to customize their characters with the very-in-depth talent tree. Every time your character gains a level after the first ten, you receive one talent point in which you can invest into one of three class-specific trees. This allows you to tailor your character to either your guild's or your own personal need.

As stated earlier, the player gets to choose between the Horde or the Alliance. As you progress through the game, you'll often have the chance to attack another player of the opposite fraction, although it's often impossible to damage them if they're either a higher level than you or have better equipment.

Like every MMORPG, part of what makes WoW so much fun is the community-based environment. Every player has his or her own role in their guild (which is similar to a community), and as you begin to forge friendships with other players as you level up. This bonding is what makes online RPGs completely different from any other type of game, and Warcraft is no exception.

The world is also extremely immersive in size, and running around you'll easily feel the size and scope of the games world. Since it's nearly impossible to get anywhere by foot, you'll have a chance to acquire mounts, take ?taxis', ships, or even teleport.

A Beautiful Game That Doesn't Require Extreme Hardware
One of the best aspects of WoW is its artwork. Designed by the creative minds at Blizzard, World of Warcraft is easily one of the visually most impressive MMORPGs currently out there.

Inspired with a cartoonish-fantasy hybrid, the world is extremely rich in detail and no area is exactly the same. From the barren wastelands of Tanaris to the buzzing capital of Stormwind, WoW's environments are unique and diverse. Often, the player can find themselves running all over the map just to see how much more of the world there is to explore as no nook and cranny is ever the same.

The character sprites are equally as impressive. Each weapon and armor has its own unique look, yet doesn't look entirely out of place if you mix and match your equipment. The game's use of bloom lighting is awesome and helps bring out the environment that the player is residing in.

Audibly, the game supports full surround sound although it's not required. The sounds in WoW become iconic and completely recognizable as you continue to progress throughout the game, so you'll be able to tell exactly what is going on in any given situation. The game's soundtrack is also extremely rich and diverse, enrapturing as they continue their journey.

A Grinding Intensive Time-Waster or a Casual Player's Dream?
To many players, the largest concern about online RPGs is that you can easily become addicted to them and that it can easily take over your world. The news reports have been out there: a Korean couple gets arrested for neglecting their child, people dying in Internet Cafes playing a game for too long without sleep, a man being interviewed by Tyra Banks over his WoW addiction. Although any of these are realistic possibilities, it's ultimately up to the player to control their play time as the developers aren't making you play the game, they're just making it.

With that said, like any online RPG, reaching the highest level in WoW will take time. Perhaps even 200 plus hours as you quest, grind, and raid your way to level 70. Fortunately, WoW includes a ?bonus-xp' system where a player can double the amount of experience points they earn by resting in inns and taking a rest from the game. Although the max bonus xp is 1.5 levels, it still helps to reassure the player that they'll be able to level of quickly and efficiently.

Helping you to reach the max level are quests. Unlike some RPGs like Final Fantasy XI and Everquest where doing quests don't give you anything more than a useless item like a rock, quests are WoW's bread and butter. Not only do you get great items from completing them, you'll also receive experience points for each one you complete. Although the quests range from remedial events such as being a delivery boy to killing 200 monsters of the same type, it doesn't feel as tiring as some other online RPGs can get. Not only does it give the player a chance to grind and actually have some sort of incentive, it gives good items. The largest of these quests can reach up to 40 man raids of a town to something as small as a solo mission. The quests are also color-coded according to difficulty, so you aren't wasting your time trying to finish a quest that would be impossible for you to do alone.

Feel the BURN!!!
When the expansion pack was first announced, many players were wondering just how much it would impact the game. Well, the game's out now and many players are experiencing the joys of the Outlands or restarting with a new character. Although it still begs the question: is it worth updating?

Well, for any WoW player, it's a no-brainer. The new items, the level 70 cap, and the new areas give plenty of reasons for either beginners or veterans to upgrade.However, the expansion has a mixed feeling to it.

For starters, the new worlds seem kind of tacked on. There's no real-connection between them and the original continents. This proves to be a problem as jewelcrafters and/or new classes will be going back and forth to their original starting areas as they level up. Not only does this make the game that much harder, it just gets annoying after a short time.

Additionally, the game doesn't provide any new content between levels 20 to 60. Players who are already established at these levels might consider the 40 dollar expansion price to be a bit steep as they don't really gain anything until much later in the game. However, players who are level 60 and wish to grind their way to 70 will experience the joys known as the Outlands.

Not only are there new monsters, quests, PVP areas, and items to collect, there's enough material in these areas to ensure that you won't get bored. The new areas also have additional PVP objectives where factions that control the three citadels in the Hellfire Peninsula will receive extra damage bonuses in their areas. Additionally, the inclusion of flying mounts and level 68 flying forms for Druids adds to the experience.

My first 30 levels (again)?
As a former WoW player who reached the 60 plateau and then quit, I rejoined when the Burning Crusade came out. Unlike other players who hunted and bought the game solely for leveling their characters to 70, I decided to take a different route. I stopped using my old main character, and started an entirely new one on a different server. Not only would this allow me to experience the Burning Crusade from the beginning, but it would let me have a fresh new start after my one-year rest from the game.

Creating a Draenei shaman, I began my quest in Exodar, one of the new places included in the expansion pack. One of the first things I noticed was how much more beautiful the new environments are than the old ones. Both the Bloody Elve's and Draenei's starting locations are visually more appealing than the old ones proving just how important an artistic team is to a game.

Although the new areas are largely designed for levels 1-20, they provide a refreshing pace after going through the Alliance's starting points about five times. Unfortunately, after I reached level twenty it was back to my old familiar haunts in Kaldimor and Stranglethorn Vale (aka Gankville).

Bottom Line
World of Warcraft was already an immersive and in-depth game prior to the expansion pack. With the Burning Crusade, players are now allowed an opportunity to spend their honor points to buy new items to help balance out the casual players with the hardcore players once they hit the level cap.

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