World of Warcraft Retrospective

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© Copyright Blizzard Entertainment

© Copyright Blizzard Entertainment

The year 2005 saw two major releases in the MMO market: EverQuest 2 and World of Warcraft. Even though I’d been an avid EverQuest fan for years, I opted not to purchase its sequel because, well, all my friends wanted to play that other title, and good company always improves your gaming experience. Another reason is that Blizzard Entertainment gave me access to the beta version of World of Warcraft. I like it when people give me free stuff, and I always remember it. Hint, hint.

What first hit me when I started playing World of Warcraft is how easy the game was by MMO standards of the time: food was not necessary for your character to live; death incurred no penalty; and mobs stopped giving chase if players ran away. Survival wasn’t a real concern, and you could get to where you wanted almost instantaneously, thanks to flight points. No more afternoons wasted running across the continent! By the same token, when crafting, you’d succeed every time rather than lose all your reagents trying over and over again. In short, it was like playing Everquest for Dummies.

Despite its simple approach, World of Warcraft proved enormous fun, owing in part to the breathtaking graphics and animation. The cartoonish way the characters move around was such a nice change of pace from the failed realism of older MMOs. Beyond that, the game always kept things moving, allowing your character to level up in a quick, straightforward manner all the while keeping mobs of similar difficulty (and subsequent reward) conveniently grouped in Azeroth’s clearly delineated zones. In other words, special visits from level-35 hill giants while trying to kill a level-20 orc were a thing of the past.

However, all was not perfect at launch. Endgame instances contained so much trash mobs they took forever to clear even in large groups. What’s more, there were no battlegrounds, so if you wanted player-versus-player action, you had play as a rogue and go out into a giant free-for-all area with no objectives other than kill, kill, kill! The biggest problem, though, pertained to the specs. Each class had three specs, but only one or two were viable, making each character very one-dimensional.

© Copyright Blizzard Entertainment

© Copyright Blizzard Entertainment

Fortunately, all these problems were addressed before the launch of the first expansion, The Burning Crusade, and World of Warcraft kept growing and growing until it reached its peak with Wrath of the Lich King, at which time the game garnered over twelve million subscribers. It’s at this point that Blizzard Entertainment decided to cater more to the casual gamers, which made up the larger portion of the title’s client base.

Unfortunately, casual gamers are also the most fickle customers, and I suspect the strategy might have backfired. Subscriptions to World of Warcraft have since dropped by a little under a third, and the first trimester of 2013 alone saw a decrease of fifteen percent. Now, eight million is still a pretty big number, so I doubt the game will disappear anytime soon, but it’ll be interesting to see in what direction the developers will take the franchise next. In the meantime, we can look back at each of the expansions in more detail, as I dedicate my next reviews to a game that kept me entertained for seven years.

Reviews

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Video Game Correspondent: Nicolas or, as his friends like to call him, Dr Nick has a PhD in physics as well as an unhealthy obsession with video games. He won the 2006 Nininger Award for his work in astrophysics and hates vegetarians as a general rule.