World of Warcraft

Review

posted 12/30/2004 by Randy Kalista
other articles by Randy Kalista
One Page Platforms: PC


But first, a disclaimer: Some will be unimpressed with the visual elements in World of Warcraft. Some prefer a greater graphical degree of realism to coat their world of fantasy. Some prefer their fiction to be caught up a little more snuggly within preconceived constructs. I am thankfully no longer one of these individuals.

The opening motion video does not depict legions of marauding armies. Nope, no burning cities either. No signing of peace treaties or war contracts. Instead, there is the individual. The singular, player-controlled entity placed within the elements, casting about their conundrums or fascinations, alert to an underpinning level of mounting unrest. Then: snap. One-on-one clashes erupt between Alliance and Horde members, tearing away at your computer screen, giving you a bone-crushing handshake with the world that is Warcraft. Seen small, it’s a subtle and brilliant illustration of that world’s shift from an RTS to an MMO. Seen big, it’s a testament to the TLC that went into every inch of this game.

If this isn’t your first foray into a Warcraft title then you will be treated to some familiar elements, despite the paradigm shift. The storyline picks up where Warcraft III: Frozen Throne left off (albeit indulging in some plot changes since), geographical names remain, and obvious ties like the races and monstrosities populating the planet are immediately recognizable.

The Alliance gives you brawny dwarves, ingenious gnomes, resourceful humans, and ascetic night elves to choose from. The Horde offers war-mongering orcs, spiritual (minotaur-inspired) tauren, tribal trolls, and the unknowable undead. Each race’s history is embedded deep within the war-torn mythos of Azeroth, yet roleplaying prospects are open-ended enough for all personality types. Although tempting, generically labeling the Alliance as Good Guys and the Horde as Bad Guys would be a misnomer. Each race has definable struggles, greater and lesser ambitions, as well as ignoble and righteous undertakings, all panning out through countless quests.

Your quest begins like most quests begin: with a character. Of course, one character is often too limiting, so you may create up to ten characters (!) per server (!) on every one of the now 80+ “realms” available. Far be it from Blizzard to stop you from maintaining over 800 characters.

Initial character class selection is basic and final, although specialization breeds itself through skill choices you make as you ascend the leveling ladder. Not all races have access to all class types; as examples, paladins are unique to the Alliance, but only the Horde raises the shaman. Likewise, within each faction are limitations: only dwarves and humans may become said paladins, whereas only the undead do not possess a shamanistic class within the Horde. In addition to these examples, opening options span the warrior, rogue, priest, mage, and warlock professions. With easy access to all of these at first level, there is no reason not to try them all out firsthand. This is an excellent opportunity to find your particular niche early on, as opposed to systems that require developing a tenth or twentieth-level character before specializing in a class you may not like anyway. It is difficult to create a “broken” or unplayable character due to inexperienced developmental choices.
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