Iíve been in Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft (WoW) beta for several months and if I had to sum up the game in ten words or less, Iíd simply say, OMFG IT FREAKING RUL3Z! However, the previous description isnít even a complete sentence, let alone an entire hands on preview. Sure, Iíd much rather be playing WoW than writing about WoW, yet I press on. Why? Because I care, I care about all the poor suckers who can only dream of and wait for World of Warcraft. Iím here to give the inside scoop on this, the Mother of all massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG), World of Warcraft.
Get With It, SlimFor neophytes or those who recently came out of a coma, Iíll begin with a little background info. World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game currently under simultaneous development for both Mac OS X and Windows by Blizzard Entertainment. Upon its release, WoW will feature 8 playable races, 9 character classes, a complex quest system, Player vs. Player (PvP) mechanics and a vast world rendered in full OpenGL splendor. Of course, thereís more to WoW, so much moreÖ
A World of its OwNWorld of Warcraft even in this stage of the beta is absolutely massive. There are sprawling cities, small villages, rolling hills, dark forests and elaborate dungeons. Basically, every area discussed in the Warcraft RTS games and then some will be in World of Warcraft. Players will get to visit Stormwind, the last grand bastion of humanity in Azeroth. Rebuilt after the second war between orcs and humans, Stormwind is full of shops and intrigue. The sheer amount of activity in cities like Stormwind is really striking. There are guards on patrol, NPCs going about their daily affairs and always quests for eager adventurers to undertake. Visually, cities are a thing of beauty. For instance, as day succumbs to night, Stormwind becomes awash in lamplight. From street lamps to shop windows, the entire city is bathed in warm and inviting shades of yellow.
Thatís whatís most striking about this game; the entire world feels alive, not static. The cities hustle and bustle, the forests are full of ambient life and there are always people milling about. It is amazing how much detail the Blizzard artists put into simple things like an ocean of stars in a cool night sky. Atmosphere is a huge part of WoW. The human lands often feel full of hope and ambition, whereas the undead lands tend to feel completely bereft of such emotions. Speaking of the undead, they too have vast cities and other lands under their sway.
After breaking free of the Lich Kingís icy grip, the Dark Lady, Sylvanas Windrunner lead her free willed undead followers to the Tirisfal Glades in the heart of the plagued lands of Lordaeron. Originally conceived by the fallen Paladin, turned usurper, King Arthas, the Undercity is an enormous maze of tunnels and crypts far beneath Lordaeronís once vibrant capital city. The Undercity sort of reminds me of Halloween Town from Tim Burtonís brilliant film, The Nightmare Before Christmas, in that itís dark and creepy, lacking in the typical forms of joy, yet itís not purely evil per se. Among the factions, no side is truly good or evil; there are many shades of grey. For instance, the Night Elves and the Tauren both share a love of nature and honor, yet the Night Elves trust no one who would ally with the Orcs. The Undead are interesting in that they wish to create a new plague to wipe out all of humanity, but that is only because humanity shunned them as abominations. They arenít mindless zombies, but no one will stop to listen. So, those who donít like playing as the ďbad guysĒ may have less trouble doing so in World of Warcraft.
World of Warcraft is mainly a game of questing, which is the exact opposite of a game such as Shadowbane. In Shadowbane, players gain levels by finding a camp of monsters (or MOBs) and killing said MOBs over and over and over and over and over again, without any true purpose. However, in WoW most experience points are gained through story-driven quests. For instance, thereís a fellow in the Stormwind Mage District who wishes to study the intact brainstems of the vicious Nagas. Thus, the player must kill the aforementioned Nagas and return with their brainstems. MmmmÖ brainsÖ Aside from the experience gained by killing monsters, players gain a huge chunk of experience for completing the quest and are also given some sort of item or monetary reward. There are also Elite quests, which are more advanced and difficult than average quests. For starters, Elite MOBs do more damage and have more hit points than normal MOBs of the same level. Elite quests are always meant to be done in groups, as the monsters are so much harder to fell. Elite quests also often take place in what are known as ďinstancedĒ dungeons. When a party enters an instanced dungeon, they are there alone, with no other parties to interfere with the questing. Instances are on an entirely different server, separate from the rest of the world. One of my favorite instances is the Scarlet Monastery, home to a corrupt cult of religious zealots. Aside from being a challenge, the quests within are quite unique. For example, one quest involves acquiring a certain text from the Monastery Library. Of course, this task is far easier said than done.