World of Warcraft is a name that has been around for what seems like forever. Released by Blizzard Entertainment in 2004, this game has built momentum and, over the past 9 years, has managed to retain a huge majority of its player base with frequent expansions and new content. I’ve been playing the game with some regularity since about 2010, so I wasn’t one of the pioneers of the game. In expansion terms. I came in around the middle to the end of Wrath of the Lich King. Therefore, I can’t give too much feedback on how the game used to be outside of what I know from other players, but from what I have played, this game is a great example of an MMORPG archetype.
To start, let’s look at World of Warcraft’s art style. It has been called cartoonish and even anime, but those descriptors aren’t really accurate and don’t do the art style justice. Even compared to other Blizzard games. such as Diablo, Diablo II, and Diablo III, the art style is vastly different. Diablo features dim hallways, dark colors, and epitomizes a dungeon experience. World of Warcraft, on the other hand, has always had bright colors that stand out in stark contrast to the Diablo series. Sure, the art may not be as realistic as games like TERA or Guild Wars 2, but it has its own appeal and a certain charm that has kept players coming back for more over the past 9 years. Granted, it is not an art style for everyone, and many people don’t play the game because of that, but Blizzard has its reasons for making the art style what it is. They want a game that can be played in a bright, well-lit room and still display all of the colors, which, as anyone who has played Diablo will know, is not always a possibility.
Next up on the list is the character creation. There are currently 13 races to choose from: the standard human, elf, and dwarf, along with orc, troll, and undead. Some of these races are faction specific, as World of Warcraft is split into the Horde and the Alliance. Your choice of faction determines what races you are allowed to play as, just as your race determines what classes you can play. Classes range from Warrior to Priest and include anything and everything in between. Additionally, the class you choose determines what role you play in the game. Tank is a role classified by a lot of armor and a lot of health, whose main job is to hold the attention of bosses in dungeons/raids and survive. Damage is a role classified by stacking lots of damage-enhancing stats and unleashing everything you have on a target, but they usually have lower health pools than tanks. Finally, there are healers, whose sole purpose is to make sure the tank and everyone else in the raid group stays alive through the duration of the dungeon.
Dungeons and raids are not the only type of gameplay available. With a current level cap of 90, you have multiple ways of reaching that max level. Some players prefer to go it alone throughout the whole game and do the quests for each of the zones throughout Azeroth. Questing can be a bit tedious at times, but it is a good time killer. Questing is the only option available for levels 1 – 10. Once players hit level 10, they can start queuing for Battlegrounds and engaging in Player vs. Player (PVP). Battlegrounds range anywhere from resource gathering to tower defense to capture the flag, and they offer a great opportunity to test your mettle and your skills against other players. At level 15, players unlock the Dungeon Finder option, which allows them to select a role to play and find other players who are also looking to dungeon-crawl and kill bosses. Dungeons are where the class roles come into play and require a skill set that is slightly different than that required for PVP.
Also, upon hitting level 10, the player unlocks their class specialization and their class’ talent tree. For example, a Monk has three choices at level 10. They can choose Brewmaster (Tank), Windwalker (Damage), or Mistweaver (Healer). Each of these skill trees has its own unique abilities necessary to play the role it is made for. The Brewmaster tree, for example, would have skills designed to draw the boss’ attention or prevent damage being done to the player, while the Mistweaver tree would have skills designed to enhance the power of healing spells or increase the efficiency of the Mana pool. In previous expansions, the skill trees weren’t very flexible until you maxed out a specific tree. However, in patch 5.1 which released with Mists of Pandaria, the skill trees have much more variety to them and players who decide to play Brewmaster don’t have to choose one set of skills. Instead, they unlock their major skills and can choose, at designated levels, between three skills that they believe suits their needs more than the other two.
Once at max level, a whole new set of options opens up for the player. There are Arenas, which are smaller battle grounds where players can engage in 2v2, 3v3, or 5v5 and fight small scale battles with players from the opposing faction. Alternately, if dungeons are more your style, you have Heroic Dungeons, which are harder versions of the older dungeons where bosses and other enemies have more health and more devastating skills. There are also Raids, which can be run as 10-Man Normal, 10-Man Heroic, 25-Man Normal, or 25-Man Heroic, in which large groups of players join forces to tackle the big bosses of the expansion. A good example would be Deathwing, the dragon featured on the cover of the Cataclysm expansion. There are also daily quests that can be completed for repeated rewards of gold and Valor Points, which are used to buy powerful pieces of gear in order to do better in raids, arenas,or rated battlegrounds.
World of Warcraft features a huge and varied world with lots of different experiences for players to take part in. Whether your style is questing, killing bosses, or fighting other players, there is plenty to do. The game can be purchased either in stores such as Gamestop or Best Buy, or can be purchased online through the Blizzard Store. The game itself requires a credit card to play, as it runs $14.99/month to keep an account active and connect to the servers. If you have the extra money to afford it, and you enjoy the time investment required to reach the max level, then I would highly recommend seeing if this game is the game for you.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PC version of World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.