World of Warcraft


posted 12/30/2004 by Randy Kalista
other articles by Randy Kalista
One Page Platforms: PC
Which is to say, guildhalls proper are notably absent from the normal and RP servers. All may create a functional guild, but being granted a physical structure to huddle in is reserved for the PvP realms. Player housing has also been left out of WoW, so those MMO fans wanting to flex their interior decoration skills will be left out in the cold. Martha Stewart fans should be pissed.

But, to make up for it, insider-trading scandals abound in the auction house. Just kidding. There’s no purchase or sale of stock for the Azeroth Trading Co. But you can certainly enjoy the simple beauty of a player-run economy through the auction houses that reside in select cities. Minus the auction houses, a postal system is in place to send messages to other players, gather responses of issues sent to the game masters, or to conduct a little trading (you can even send things COD.) With that last possibility, trading items with other players doesn’t have to take place face-to-face.

As regular MMO artisans know, crafting is a road paved with many, many gold pieces. You may select up to two manufacturing professions, most having at least one applicable partner profession. As examples, mining and blacksmithing logically hold hands, as do skinning and leatherworking. The crafting scheme itself is basic by most standards but often creates items that are immediately useful. No more long sessions smithing ‘crude spikes’ and ‘tin bars’ that serve no immediate benefit to the crafter. (Everquest II players know exactly what I’m talking about.)

Aside from these manufacturing professions, all three of the secondary skills are available from trainers: cooking, first aid, and the oddly unavoidable fishing skill. Again, even at their lowest levels, these skills provide you with immediately useful items for selling, trading, sharing, or using for your own greedy consumption. Hardcore MMO artisans with a love for complex crafting models and procedures may feel shortchanged here. But those of us that have been intimidated by mind boggling crafting formulas can breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Another relief comes from dying. Sort of. At least the penalties aren’t as harrowing as in most titles. When you die your spirit materializes at the nearest graveyard (there are many scattered throughout every area) and you run your ghost back to your dead body for re-absorption. Dying gets your attention without putting your experience bar in debt or even leveling you down. Other options exist that have some additional penalties attached, but they are by no means devastating. It finally seems as though a fair balance has been struck without completely trivializing death as an inconsequential matter.

Stepping in boldly as a matter of consequence, however, is one of the best musical scores to ever lace a roleplaying videogame. Whenever needed, the soundtrack steps in as a major storyteller, covering every theme from the understated and contemplative, to the aggressive, chopping block drums-of-war. This, along with so many other things that are done right, are executed with masterful precision. The sound effects themselves range from playful to powerful, and the voice acting (though only given in short, emotive spurts) is everything you could hope for.

There is little not to like about WoW. If this game is your gateway drug into Warcraft or into online games in general, then you’re in for a treat. If the art style turns you off, consequentially you are missing out on a finely-crafted game MMO that at least makes you feel as though your accomplishments and failures bear plot-driven consequences—a difficult reaction to evoke due to the gameplay structure of the genre. But what if you already approve of the standards, the rules, the snail-paced composition of the Everquests and the Final Fantasy Onlines? Then, sadly, World of Warcraft might not do it for you. Though it gains heartfelt converts daily, WoW is especially bred for those of us that have thrown our hands up in the air, exasperated and exhausted from the time-killing and life-leeching requisites driving most other MMOs. And best of all, in this time of graphical resource-hogging, you don’t need a machine built by God to enjoy it.

The acronym says it all: WoW! At its gorgeously-animated heart is a thoroughbred MMO, but one that has tweaked all of the standard settings and gameplay nuances to effectively set it apart from its contemporaries.

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