'World of Warcraft' Is Still The Same Old Game, For Better or Worse

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I grew up as a Massively Multiplayer Online gamer, but never really got into World of Warcraft . I lived and breathed City of Heroes , an MMO which allowed me to live out my spandex fantasies of superhero superstardom. I had friends who would swear by WoW , but I never paid them any mind. Their MMO was much too different from mine, so I never bothered to play or understand it. I also couldn’t get my dad to fork over another $15 a month for another game subscription, and COH was my life.

I hadn’t played an MMO since COH ’s’ unfortunate demise, but I’ve had that online game itch that only an MMO can scratch. In Hearthstone’s newest patch, Blizzard released a new Paladin character, Lady Liadrin . You can get her by getting a character to level 20 in World of Warcraft . I took this as an opportunity to finally try out WoW and see what got my friends so obsessed all those years ago.

I started out as a human hunter, because I was told that’s the easiest race and class to level up. After about an hour and a half I managed to get to level seven. I flew on a Griffin three times and slaughtered about 50 wolves and orcs. The one thing I didn’t miss about MMOs is the constant need to grind. Collect Gold dust, fight five goblins, put out some fires: all of these quests start to get boring really quickly.

World of Warcraft has aged like a slice of American cheese. I’m playing it on a top of the line gaming rig that can render a texture on the other side of the map and still have enough power to not lag in a 40-man boss fight. I’ve seen this baby make Far Cry look like an actual photograph. WoW looks like it has the same graphics that it had in 2004. I only got through the tutorial, so maybe newer parts of the game look better; I assume Pandaria, which was made in this decade, looks better than Stormwind, which looks like a generic medieval town from a PlayStation 1 JRPG. I expected better graphics out the gate - no pun intended - than what I was shown.

The basic gameplay that made World of Warcraft famous is now one of it’s biggest downfalls. In 2004, the simplicity of a toggleable ability bar, with simple auto attack commands and WASD movement were new ideas. Itcaptured fans looking for an easy, immersive experience without having to read a massive guide book. Now, every video game either has those features, or has managed to update them for the modern day. TERA is an MMO where abilities string together with mouse clicks, giving the player a sense that his character is doing something.

When I play WoW I press the “1” button followed by “3” then back to “1” while I kill eight angry Orcs. I then go to a quest giver, taking whatever loot he gives me while ignoring the dialogue. When I was 12 and playing COH that’s all I needed: just point me in the right direction and my ice blaster will do the rest. As I get older, I expect more out of a videogame I’m spending hours upon hours with.  

Hearthstone was originally an add-on for World of Warcraft , a way to market the game in a creative way. The card game has far surpassed its inspiration in popularity, but I was shocked by how much of this world I actually knew. While walking through WoW I heard so many classic Hearthstone sounds; like the Ironfur Grizzly snarl and the Murloc gurgle.  There were also classic lines of dialogue, like the Kobold’s “you no take candle.”

Blizzard still lives off World of Warcraft , even though most of their subscribers have left.. At the game’s height during Wrath of the Lich King there were 12 million people playing; now there are only 5.5 million active subscribers. It may not be as popular as when South Park made fun of it, but it’s still one of the biggest games out there.

This Lady Liadrin marketing campaign has the potential to bring World of Warcraft some major traffic. There were thousands of new players running around me, all trying to unlock the new character. If Blizzard can get even the smallest percentage to become WoW addicts, then it has succeeded. I definitely won’t be one of them; I’m dreading having to go back into that game and slog out 13 more levels. Maybe I’ll pick up fishing.

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