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World of Warcraft w/ The Burning Crusade & Wrath of the Lich King Expansions Review

July 8, 2008

World of Warcraft is the biggest Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Game on the planet. This Juggernaut of the MMO genre has trumped EverQuest (The previous genre Juggernaut) and is now the gold standard in the genre with every other  MMO being compared to it after it was released. Being released in 2004, the game has been running for the past 4 years, read after the break to see how the game, as well as its expansions hold up.  (Keep in mind that this core review will not address things changed in later expansions, those changes will be addressed in the Expansions sections, however additions through patches will be dealt with.)

Core

Story

The World of Warcraft story takes place after the events of Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. After the defeat of the burning legion the truce between the Alliance and the Horde is barely being upheld with only a few members on either side trying to keep a all out war from occurring. Players take control of a inhabitant of this world as a number of characters.
Races & Classes

The core game includes 8 races and 9 classes. There are 4 races for both the Alliance and the Horde. The Alliance has Humans, Night Elves, Dwarves, and Gnomes while the Horde has Orcs, Trolls, Tauren and the Forsakan. Each race has different stats depending on the class with some races more suited toward one class than others. Another factor that differs the races are the racial abilities known simply as racials. These racials add variety in the races that can change how they work in different situations. Some racials increase health, add more weapon mastery or add more defense. After a certain point some racials become a mute point while others are always useful.

The 9 classes in the game are Warriors, Mages, Warlocks, Hunters, Rouges, Paladins, Shamans, Priests and Druids. Each class has unique abilities that make it fall under the Tank, Dps and support categories. A few classes are a mix of these categories such as the Shamans, Paladins and Druids. These 3 classes are hybrid classes that can act as either of these categories. Hybrid classes are both popular and unpopular, many complain that they don’t do the jobs as well as the core classes while the mix can improve the core. No matter how you specialize your character(More on that on the next part) you have access to all your spells and moves so a Shaman who is purely fighting can still heal, just not as well as a Priest or a healing specialized Shaman.

Talents & Skills

World of Warcraft uses a Talent system to customize characters, or i should say, specialize your character. Talents are dictated by class with each class haven’t 3 “trees”. These talent trees specialize your character for a specific focus. For example a warrior has the Fury, Arms and Protection trees. Fury is for warriors who want to specialize with quick damage and with dual wielding, Arms is for two handed weapon damage while protection is to become the ultimate tank with a weapon and a shield. Depending on your talents you can drastically change how your character plays and talent placement becomes integral. Once you get into the higher levels(Like the late 50s+) you’ll master whatever you were specializing in and you can expand a bit into other territories. However it can be very easy to mess talents up and you’ll have to unlearn them. This is done easily, but its very expensive. This can really limit experimentation with talents early on since it is early on that you will be trying to find what you like to do.

Mounts & Travel

There are a variety of ways to traverse the large world of Azeroth. The mains way of travel are boats & zeppelins (For between continents), Flying escorts(For Between Cities you’ve been to) and mounts. Boats and zeppelins are free to use while flying escorts cost gold depending on the city and the distance. Escorts (Btw this isn’t the real name, just what I’m calling them) are unlocked at certain allied towns that have them. Some towns cannot be flown to even if you’ve been there, this is because a town on the way hasn’t been unlocked, breaking the needed chain.

Mounts are the basic way of travel after you hit level 30. At level 30 you will be able to buy training in the ability to ride mounts as well as buy them. Mounts improve movement speed by 60% drastically reducing the time of travel. Mounts are upgraded at level 60(61 for Paladins & Warlocks) with “Epic Mounts”. The epic versions require additional training and a new purchase of an epic mount. These increase speed by 100% thus doubling your normal running speed. Mounts can be expensive and the epic mounts are especially so, however they are a nessisty of the game. Each of the races has access to their own racial mount and one race can use a mount belonging to another race granted they achieve enough reputation to do so. Palidans and Warlocks used to be able, and are still able to do quests for their mounts, epic or otherwise, however changes done in patches has simplified this, making mounts spells to learn from a trainer, making the quests absolete.

Gameplay

World of Warcraft takes place over the world of Azeroth. Azeroth is split into two continents, Kalimdoor and the Eastern Kingdoms. The 8 races start on either side with Night Elves, Tauren, Orcs and Trolls starting in Kalimdoor with the Humans, Forsakan, Dwarves and Gnomes starting in the Eastern Kingdoms. Each starting location is different from the others and show the differences between the races. The gameplay depends mainly on attacks which are dictated by speed. All weapons and spells have an attack speed. Lighter 1 handed weapons like basic swords have attack speeds of 1-2 seconds while 2 handed weapons go from 2-6 seconds. Slower weapons are generally more powerful than lighter ones, due to the fact that they are slower.

Being an RPG as you kill enemies you gain experience which can level you up. As you level up your stats improve and on every even level there will be new skills for you to purchase. You gain skills based on your level and whether or not you have the money to buy them. As you gain more and more levels you will notice that new skills are rare and the bulk of the skills are upgraded versions of older skills. The interface of WoW is very intuitive and makes it easy for casual gamers to get hooked and enjoy the game.

Instances & Raiding

To some these are the only reason to play. Instances are dungeons for a party of 5 to explore and defeat. These instances have all elite monsters(Elite monsters are monsters that are harder than their normal counterparts) and have better loot and equipment to find. Instances are a good way to level up since elite monsters yield more experience and bosses in instances drop great loot, that more times than not, can only be used by the person who picks it up. Instances take time and depending on the difficulty and the efficiency of the group be either short or long.

Raids are the bigger, badder versions of Instances. Raids are for groups of 10-40 people(Yes 40 but newer raids rarely go up that high anymore). I am not a personal fan of raids but they can be challenging and difficult and bring something new to the WoW gameplay. Gear, talents and chat skills all come into play in order to defeat mobs and bosses.
Professions

There are a number of professions in World of Warcraft. These include everything from mining, to blacksmithing and herlbalism. Professions fall under two categories, gathering or smithing. For every smithing profession(With the exception of Enchantment and Tailoring) there will be a gathering profession. For example Mining/Blacksmithing, Herbalism/Alchemy, and Skinning’Leatherworking. Gathering ingredients for smithing can be very difficult so many people use the Auction House to buy ingredients. This allows people to use two gathering professions to vastly increase their funds. This is a major part of the in world of economy of WoW with many people using Smithers to make equipment with ingredients they’ve gathered with gathering professions.

Recent patches in the game have changed professions somewhat.  Certain professions, mainly gathering type professions will now add passive bonuses to characters.  For example mining will increase maximum health, while skinning will increase critical strike chance.  While the bonuses are small, even at larger skill levels, they are still bonuses and more strategy for players.  No longer are professions just for acquiring gear & money, they are now important for buffing players.

PvP

There are a variety of PvP modes for players interested in it. There are PvP server types where if your in enemy or neutral territory your PvP status is automatically turned on. There are also battlegrounds. There are a number of battlegrounds with new ones being unlocked at specific levels. Battlegrounds are in a range of 10. For example the first one is 10-19, then 20-29 etc etc. PvP is fun but PvP servers can be annoying when your questing in neutral territory and a random high level enemy player comes and kills you.(This is known as Ganking)

There is now the Arena which is a competition that goes over a span of time that allows players to get special Arena loot.  The Arena is a more, small team focused form of pvping, with teams of 2 or 4 face off against other teams.

Graphics/Audio

The graphics are a bit dated at this point but that doesn’t mean they are bad. The graphics are very stylized and bring this fantasy world to life. That said i would prefer a new graphics boost because just about any PC can play it, which may actually help it since it doesn’t require a $5,000 gaming PC to play. Amazing music with great voice work and atmosphere. The game works well in bringing the world to life with the sounds of waves, insects and more playing all around you(Granted you have that option engaged).

Conclusion:

World of Warcraft is the gold standard for a reason. Its intuitive design along with the content and sheer depth adds more than enough for casual and hardcore gamers alike. Its a rare game that everyone will like, whether they want to escape reality for a few hours, or days worth of time.

Amazing

Amazing

____________________________________________________________________

Expansions

World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade

Changes

The new expansion adds a new world in the form of Outland. This shattered world is for those 55 and up. The Burning Crusade has also raised the level cap from the previous 60 to 70.

Races

Two new races were included in this expansion. The Alliance gain the Noble Draenei while the Horde gains the Blood Elves. These races allow access to previous classes that were side exclusive. The Alliance now gains the Shaman and the Horde gains the Paladin.(If your wondering why i omitted that in the core review its because i was going to mention it here). These races are both great additions to each side and add more variation.
Mounts

New Flying and Epic Flying mounts have been added for outland. These mounts can be accessed at level 70 and allow players to fly. They act in the same way as the previous mounts as normal increase speed by 60% while epic flying increase speed by 180%. These new mounts are even MORE expensive than the previous mounts(Epic Flying training can cost 5000g which is an insane amount).
Increase usage of Reputation

Something I didn’t talk about much in the core review Reputation allows you access to goodies of other races(Your limited to your side whether it be the Alliance or the Horde). There were a few instances of “Neutral” allegiances that either side can gain reputation with but none of these were vital in any particular way in the original game. However Burning Crusade has changed this by increasing the usefulness of gaining reputation as well as ways to achieve it. Quests were the previous way of attaining Reputation but now Instances can as well. However much of the higher end “End Game”(Meaning level 70 raiding) is dependent on Reputation and there can be a lot of Reputation grinding.

Instances & Raids

There are no new 40 man raids, with the max now being 25. This allows easier communication amongst participants and just lower the chaos of 40 people at once.  The Burning Crusade as also added the Heroic option.  This option increase the difficulty of a given instance or raid, however the loot is extraordinarily better than the normal counterpart. For many heroics a set amount of reputation is needed before they can be done.

JewlCrafting

A new profession Jewlcrafting allows people to use mining to create jewelry. Jewelry had to be found before but now it can be created making it easy for low levels to use them.

Graphics/Audio

Same as the core

Conclusion:

World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade added more variety and more content for WoW fans. Anyone looking to get into WoW should buy this along with the game. They can be found together for $30 in a Battle Chest version.

Amazing

Amazing

____________________________________________________________________
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Changes

Wrath of the Lich King(WoTLK), like its predecessor, adds a new continent to explore, in this case the continent of Northrend on Azeroth. Northrend is an area for those level 69 and higher.  The level cap has again been raised, this time to level 80.

Death Knight: The Hero Class

Outside of the obvious addition of another continent to explore, Wrath of the Lich King has added a big new feature to the game, the Death Knight Hero Class.  The Death Knights have requirements before they can be made, namely a level 55 or higher on that perticular server.  Once you have a character level 55 or above, you’ll gain the option to create a Death Knight.  A Death Knight can be made from any race that is in the game, meaning there is no limit to which race can become Death Knights.

Within the Death Knight starting area you’ll start, which by level order, will be the first of the new gameplay mechanics of WoTLK (More on that later) as well the first in big story heavy chains that WoTLK has added to the game.  This new story heavy aspects add a lot more story focus to the game which keeps players interested, engaged, and happy.  To be absolutely blunt, Death Knights are overpowered DPS, soloing elite monsters.  Like Warriors, Death Knights don’t need to worry about mana, many of their techniques heal the Death Knight, as well as having heavy defense with plate make playing a Death Knight, easy & fun.  There is little to no downtime for a Death Knight as their health, unless under weird circumstances, will rarely enter the half way range allowing them to fight and fight and fight.

Some of the biggest advantages of being a Death Knight are the goodies players get for being one.  For example you will get a free epic mount, every flightpath in both the Eastern Kingdoms & Kalimdor, as well as a special flying amount that scales with flying skill (Meaning the Death Knight does not need to buy both a flying, and epic flying mount as his mount will be both when each skill is acquired).
Instances/Raids

Instances & Raids have gone through a little makeover in this expansion.  Blizzard seems to tweak raids to make them more player friendly, even to veteran raiders.  The raids are now, smaller & shorter, lasting less than an hour for a standard one.  The same is true for instances, with some barely lasting 30 mins.  This fixes one of my grips for the raiding of the game in the past which was the time investment.

New Gameplay Features

WoTLK adds in new gameplay mechanics to freshen things up a bit.  How well this works out largely depends on the given mechanic, or even the given quest, but on the whole these new features work.  The features range from controlling a hawk, shooting harpoons, to controlling pets.  As I said sometimes they don’t work so well, but none of the misteps hurt the game in a way that it ruins the experience.

Achievements

Taking a hint from the home console market, WoTLK adds achievements into the World of Warcraft.  These achievements range from exploring an area fully, to completing raids, to doing unusual things like falling 65 feet and living or special seasonal ones.  There are also feat of strength achievements that don’t go towards the achievement point total, but are there for show.  These achievemnts include, holding a pvp rank from earlier builds of the game, to becoming the first to reach 80 of your race, and more.  While achievments, for the most part are useless outside of show, Blizzard has stated plans for an achievement store of some sort.

Increase Story Focus

WoTLK, as I stated earlier, has added heavier story focused moments in the game.  This new focus gives some areas a more standard narrative feeling found in normal RPGs, rather than the distance players feel from most quests in MMMORPGs. This new narrative can be found at the end of the Death Knight awakening saga, right before Death Knights are let loose on the world, and again at the Wrathgate scenario.  The latter of the two changing the story around the game more than anything else that has happened in the game so far. (The Video Below contains WoW’s first cutscene, marking the middle point of the WrathGate chain, it contains spoilers, you’ve been warned)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Inscription

A new professions has been introduced in the new expansion.  Inscriptions allow players to create glyphs that can be added to other players for buffering effects.  Glyphs are separated into two categories, Major, and Minor, even though this impacts little on the useful of a given glyph.  As players level up they gain access to more glyph slots, allowing them to equip more.  Glyphs take the form of mostly skill/spell buffs, affecting how the skill is used, whether it be the power, cool-down, etc of the skill.

Graphics/Audio

Vastly unchanged from the core game

Conclusion

World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King is the best expansion for the wildly popular MMO.  While at a first glance it does not add much, what it does do is to reinvigerate the game, even for jaded players like myself.  While the $40 price of admission is a bit much, especially after considering the prerequisites, this expansion is well worth it.

 

Amazing

Amazing

 

 

Overall Score:

Amazing

Amazing

 

*Note: Anything I’m missing? Anything you think i should talk about more? Write a comment for a review and I’ll address it. This is a big game(Obviously since this is the longest review I’ve ever done) and i can see myself accidentally skipping something (almost forgot to write about PvP).

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