World of Warcraft is a name that everyone will be familiar with after being one of the most popular MMOs on the market for many years now. This addictive game has seen numerous expansions added since first launched in 2004 and is consistently attracting new players to see what all the fuss is about. It is quite an expensive game to play, with the newest expansions required to keep up with the world and a comparatively high subscription fee to pay monthly – something competitors such as Guild Wars 2 lack. But is it worth it?
Well in short, of course. The game has good reason for its popularity! Its addictive nature certainly drew me in, and must have been the only game I played throughout 2010. The developers, Blizzard, have been adding expansions to keep the game fresh since its release, “The Burning Crusades” (2007), “Wrath of the Lich King” (2008), “Cataclysm” (2010), “Mists of Pandaria” (2012), and shows no signs of stopping with the announcement of the upcoming fifth expansion “Warlords of Draenor”.
These expansions have added huge continents to explore, new races to try out, increased level caps and a major environmental redesign to the existing world with the Cataclysm release. A pretty neat move by Blizzard is their recent decisions to provide the first three expansions as part of the base game to new players. Perhaps necessary but still their choice, I think it will further entice new gamers to join now you don’t need to spend money on so many expansions, as this may have been a previous put-off.
Races and Classes
The game features two rival factions, the Alliance and the Horde, which you must choose between when creating your character. With the Mists of Pandaria expansion, WoW introduces the Pandaren – yes pandas! – which allows the players to begin neutral and pick a side later. I think this faction system is pretty cool, while it does restrict you and your friends if you decide to play on opposing factions, it does add a degree of loyalty to your chosen side.
The Alliance consists of Humans, Dwarves, Night Elves, Gnomes, Draenei and the Worgen. The Horde’s races are Orc, Undead, Tauren, Troll, Blood Elf and Goblin. As you can tell there is an obvious good and bad feel to each faction. Choosing a race may however conflict with your desired class. Certain classes are locked off to different races e.g. Orcs can’t play as Priests. This may frustrate some players who can’t have the combination they desire, but I consider that it adds an element of realism (if that’s possible in fantasy!) as seeing an Undead Paladin would raise a few questions…
There are currently ten classes to pick from, with a wide range of variety between them. In an MMO this is a must as while some players may like playing as a Warrior, others may prefer to attack from range using a Hunter with a pet companion. This means there is something for everyone’s style and creates a desire to try them all out – creating plenty of replay value.
World of Warcraft does of course have its complaints. Perhaps the biggest is its grindy nature. The main aim, at least to me when I played it, is to reach end-game. I did manage this back in 2010 with one character. Although I had others, they weren’t half as high levelled as my main and I had no intention of going through the same zones to repeat the success when I had finished. This will be different for everyone, but as soon as I got to the end I quickly lost interest and the subscription was soon stopped.
The game does have a backdrop and a setting for your actions, however I personally didn’t feel like I was an active part of a real story. Guild Wars 2 achieves this much more successfully by making you further engaged with the game by having a storyline that unfolds as you play, while still have a high level cap to work towards. In WoW, it reached a point where I was no longer enjoying it as much as at the start, and was just playing in order to reach the end.
However. The rewards and benefits you acquire as you level up, such as mounts to speed up travel, being able to fly to cut distances, and just being to show off, were very satisfying. The zones you visit to complete new quests are atmospheric and each has a unique feel and environment which are different enough to keep it interesting. This is good on your first play-through but it doesn’t appeal enough to me to warrant achieving end-game for a second time.
So World of Warcraft does get you hooked and definitely lived up to its reputation for me. I’d say the subscription is just about justified for the huge amount of content and depth available, which has made it hard to match in newer MMOs that have often unsuccessfully tried to become “WoW killers”.
Personally I struggle to find reasons to return to the game after reaching the end, but everyone is different and may think otherwise. It is a solid MMO for both those new to this genre and existing players who haven’t tried it out yet. There are plenty of “ooh” moments to encounter, like the first flight path you’ve unlocked (great for tea breaks), getting a cool mount, or just simply emerging out of a tunnel into a new breathtaking zone.
For me World of Warcraft keeps its hold on the title as one of the best MMOs out there.