World of Warcraft
Developer: Blizzard
Publisher: Vivendi
Release Date: Out Now
Players: Thousands
Words By:

The BIGGEST game I have reviewed to date should I guess deserve the BIGGEST review – also bearing in mind I have a months “free” subscription to play I thought I would do this (or at least the first part) in diary form, so here goes…

Day 1
Around 1140hrs GMT and bearing in mind I have the 2.40GB download I was able get started straight away, or so I thought. You see this being a MMPORPG the first thing you have to do is create an “account” so clicking on the link in the supplied email I find myself staring at a screen stating “THE PAGE CAN NOT BE DISPLAYED” – you see this is no ordinary MMORPG – This is World of Warcraft – the most hotly anticipated game of its type of all time – for months and months the PC Gaming press have been telling us how great it will be, lovely screen shots have gotten even the most non-graphics-whores dribbling at the mouth and every European MMPORG fan had the 11th of Feb marked on their calendars. So why, when the players and the press knew how big this was going to be, did the publishers not? Because “Due to the heavy load on the system” the account sign up page had to be taken down…

It’s now 1520hrs and the last few hours have been spent enjoying Shadow of Rome on the PS2 (great fun by the way – but sure the review will tell you that) but I have DualShock thumb and decide to give the account creation another go. It’s slow and painful but eventually my account is created and I’m up and running!

Firstly I need to choose my location and server type I want. It’s a simple yet great and welcome feature and means (all being well) that you can understand those people you are playing with – this being a MMORPG, communication is often essential. As well as that you can choose the server type and again this is a nice feature. It allows you to decide how you want to play the game with the choice of the following “RP” These are servers based around Players who want to Role Play – so instead of being Dave from Dagenham you can be Dargorc from Go'Shek in the Arathi Highlands. “PVP” is a set of servers which are designed for those who want to participate in Player Vs. Player combat – here you can fight amongst “real” players instead of just the AI controlled ones. “NORMAL” is the last server type; here you can be Dave from Dagenham and not have to worry about Bill from Bath killing you as you walk around.

Ok – so I choose English and PVP. Next it’s character creation and time to create my Avatar. Having never played any of the earlier RTS Warcraft games, the two opposing factions and their races meant nothing to me, so being a short dumpy ugly bloke in real life I opted for a Dwarf and hoped that the physical similarities would help forge a bond. I then had to choose a character class – again besides the obvious, many of them meant nothing to me so I opted to be a Paladin as I’m ever noble. Then all that was left was to choose my appearance and name me. Soon Dunkonian the Dwarf Paladin was entering THE WORLD OF WARCRAFT...

2010hrs – 5 hours, give or take, bathroom breaks & stops for tea included, and I’m now up to level 7. First impressions? - Well the game really does look that good, and not only that but even at the highest res I could get it all flew along – although I never really ventured that far, the game easily handled around 30 or so “real” players on screen at the same time. The other thing that all the previews seem to have got spot on is the game’s ability to make you think you are playing a single player game. It’s difficult to explain properly but it really does feel like you are part of a huge world which just so happens to be full of other “real” people. Yes there are still hundreds of people who insist on hanging around together and discussing the merits of various strange acronyms and technical stuff which I will never understand – but you can always run away from them - these types seem to take the game almost as an aside, and may as well be on MSN. The game has plenty of people willing to provide you with various quests and missions, but again they feel just a bit different to other games of this type. If I had to compare it another game I’d say it actually feels like a much more interactive and bigger version of Morrowind.

Anyway – I have to be up early and my Dwarf’s little legs need a rest – so I’ll pull up a chair in the tavern and rest up for tonight.

Day 2
Due at work at eight but can’t sleep so up at four – with nowt on TV at this time in the morning I decide to get a couple more hours in on the game. Loading up I begin from exactly the same spot as I left last night. Another new feature is highlighted here, to reflect the fact I have been “resting” for the last eight hours, Dunkonian is able to earn more experience points for some time after I start adventuring again. Again it’s only something small but it’s clever and helps those of us who can not put so much time in on the game to, at least, try and keep a level playing field.

The pattern of questing and killing continues – each new mission pushes me away from my starting location and onwards into the land surrounding my Dwarfen home. The scale of the game soon becomes apparent, when walking for some twenty minutes I come across the entrance to what seems like a mine of some kind – going in, I find the place is HUGE. It has to be easily the largest “building” I have ever been into in a game and it’s full of detail. In the middle is some kind of pouring lava and around that a group of Blacksmiths work. It seems I have stumbled across an entire colony of Dwarfs – more than I have seen so far in the game all live here in one location!

It is here that I find I can learn professions; jobs that my character can carry out to harvest raw materials or create new objects - another way of gaining more experience and also (more importantly) more money. I decide to opt for mining and blacksmithing. With this combination I (fingers crossed) can mine my own raw materials and then use them to create new and more powerful weapons and armour. Well that’s the theory, anyway. By now it’s seven and I need to get to work.

1420hrs – it’s pouring down outside and I have just spent last 20 minutes cycling home from work. It’s been a rather uneventful morning and I found myself (sad as it sounds) at times thinking back to the game and what approach I would take when next logged in, it’s not often I have done this and it’s obviously a sign that I’m enjoying the game. A click of the mouse button “wakes” the PC and a double click puts me back into WoW, or so I thought…

You see the server is again busy, I’m 207th in the queue and it’s estimated that it’s going to take about 20 minutes to start playing again. I’m sorry, but what’s this all about? – It’s 2005 and I want to play a game when I want to play it – my spare time is precious as it is – sometimes all I have is an hour to play, I don’t want to have to sit watching a screen waiting to play. Is this progress? Is this the way forward? Being restricted to when I can play is not something I am happy about! I do have the option of playing on a different server, but the problem would be that I would have to start as a new character, those 8 hours as Dunkonian would be put on hold and in effect I would have to start over again. So I have no choice but to wait.

It’s ironic, but as I sit waiting to play watching my Sky+’ed Soccer AM, I get to see a lovely TV trailer for the game. Maybe that money would have been better spent getting the servers ready so I could be playing the game rather than being teased by it?!

It turns out to be just over forty minutes before the game decides I’m worthy to play again, at least I had the lovely Miss Chamberlain to keep me company (and while I’m at it, maybe I’ll try for a fiver: LOVEJOY IS A LEGEND!!! - you have to watch Soccer AM to understand what the heck I’m on about), the only problem is that by now I only have an hour left to put into the game…

That hour is spent STILL exploring DUN MOROGH which is an iron forge, the scale of which can just not be described in words; even the screen shot does not do it justice. The place just has hundreds of rooms and hundreds of people, some with stores selling all sorts of interesting things whilst others offer to train me or teach me new things, all the time loads of “real” players run around the place going about their business, I try to ignore them for the time being, I’m still new and not ready to team up. I call it a day, sitting in front of another fire – this is the life – maybe tomorrow I’ll actually go back outside, but for now I’m comfy.

Day 3
Sunday – a day of rest – well not for me, work again at 0600 meant that I don’t get much chance to play – by the time I get in, have dinner and grab a shower I only really have an hour to dedicate to the game.

What a shame then that upon double clicking on that WoW icon I get that bloody screen telling me to wait a calculated “25 minutes” - this ends up being just over half an hour and by which time I have given up and gone off to play a game which lets me play when I want to. I know I can create a character on another server, but as mentioned before just what would the point of that be? – It’s like putting 12 hours into Final Fantasy VII and then going back to the beginning again for NO reason.

Day 4
Again another early start, again another “wait” message – again I give up in disgust. Things aren’t looking good Blizzard – no other game tells me when I can and can’t play – it was bad enough with Steam and HL2, but this is really extracting the urine.

On the plus side it did give me the afternoon to watch SAW – great movie – highly recommended.

Day 5
A well earned day off to spend with other half – only, she is having a lie-in so I get another chance to see if I can play the game. To my surprise it lets me in on my first go with no waiting! – It seems that very few want to play at half eight in the morning – not great news if you are looking for a group, but as it’s still early days I’m happy with still going solo.

I arrive back in the game exactly as I left – sitting in front of the roaring fire – I find my way out of Ironforge and head back out to do some exploring. This is when I realise just how frustrating the game is. If it was rubbish then I could cope with those waits and not be able to play – the problem is that the game is very compelling. It’s just so easy to play, it’s fun and the game world is always giving.

I spend a good few hours taking various quests and missions – I manage to start putting my mining and blacksmithing skills to good use as well. It turns out to be a rather good combo – finding deposits of copper I mine them and add them to my backpack. I’m then able to use a local forge to turn this copper into basic armour, I can then sell this to in-game shops and start making some money – I’m rather self sufficient now – the money may not be a huge income (for now) but it helps to pay for all those new skills I want to learn.

The combination of doing all the above again and again and again never seems to get boring. Whether it be killing wolves and bears for their fur, mining or completing basic tasks I just keep persevering as I know that every little bit of XP gets me closer to another level of experience and with each step I get to visit yet more new and gorgeous looking areas. Before long I hit the magic level TEN!!!! Here I get my first look at ‘Talents’.

These are yet more skills which open up when you hit a certain level and these allow you to really customise your character. Each class of character has three separate talent “trees” to progress through and so once you hit Level 10 you find that you start to branch out and really start making your character your own.

Anyway – it’s now lunchtime and I promised the other half a meal – progress to level 11 will have to wait for now.

One Month on …
Okay I will admit, I gave up about 10 days ago. It’s not that WoW is a bad game - far from it, it’s just that like any other MMPORG it requires the gamer to be able to devote a lot of time to it. Working shifts as I do, that just was not possible and the added problems of being denied access to play when I wanted to just meant I lost interest with the whole thing.

The game is deep - very, very deep. There is so much to see and do here – it makes the other MMPORPG games I have played seem very claustrophobic and limited in comparison. It’s also the closest I have yet come to a single player MMPORPG (if that makes sense) allowing you just to go off and do your own thing and never worry about being out of your depth. It’s still possible to get completely outmatched and killed by enemies but that’s always down to the user rather than the game. As in real life, if you go somewhere dark and horrible on your own without sufficient protection then don’t be surprised if you get nobbled rather quickly.

I feel rather strange being less than happy with a game which (looking around the Web) seems to be loved and adored by everyone, but I guess the whole MMPORPG thing is just not for me. Yes there is a HUGE game world to explore and new things are always there to see, but for me it just felt very laboured. Whilst it does raise the benchmark for games of its type, it still can’t get round the same old ‘levelling-up’ system. As advanced as the game is, it is actually very, very simple for the most part. Run around, find a group of enemies around the same level and just kill them to gain XP. Get enough XP to level up. Take on a few new missions that you are now skilled enough to undertake to gain money and more XP. Missions involve killing groups of enemies which again give you more XP. Get enough XP to level up and repeat.

I know many, many people will probably read this review and probably think I’m missing the point. The game certainly has a hardcore following and I risk the wrath of all of them by writing negative comments, but the fact is that despite trying hard to like it, the game was just not for me, I just don’t have the time needed to dedicate myself to it, and can’t imagine that all that many people do. To get the most out of the game you really need to be able to spend a good couple of hours a day with it as well as being able to keep up with various updates and know the ins and outs of all the skills, characters, careers etc. It’s just so big that if you don’t have time to devote to it then you just get lost and bored. I actually tried to print a guide off for the game which explained the ins and outs of EVERYTHING – I’m not exaggerating by saying that by the time it had used the half ream of paper I had, there was still about 20% of the guide left to print...

On the odd occasions I was able to put 2 hours straight into the game (after a 50 minute wait to get on the server) I could see just what people like about the game, but its fussy nature meant that my real life clashed with my virtual one too often, and one of them had to go.

Best Bits

- It really does look that “pretty”.
- Runs well and smooth.
- It’s too big for words.
Worst Bits

- Possibly only for people with massive amounts of disposable time.
- Not being able to play when I wanted.

by: dUnKle

Copyright © Gamecell 2005