Well, the word is out, and the word is that World of Warcraft is selling like the proverbial batch of piping hot pastries. The European release has seen gamers flocking to the stores like a swarm of Zerglings*, battering down doors in a January sales style stampede in order to secure their place in the Warcraft MMORPG universe.
We know how packed the servers are, as we’ve been out and about on them this past few weeks levelling up our priest and rogue. It’s actually the Player versus Player (or PvP) servers which are the most crammed. These are the ones where you can bash real players (there are two opposing sides fighting, the alliance goodies and the evil-doing horde) as well as computer-controlled monsters.
Our first impressions of WoW (now that’s clever acronym thinking on the developers’ part) were very positive, with one slight caveat. Some may not be too keen on the visuals and atmosphere as it’s more cartoon-like and brighter than the typically dark high fantasy fare that EverQuesters are familiar with. However, the graphics are still excellent, if not quite up to EverQuest 2‘s standard – but then again neither are they as demanding on your PC.
The positive side of the atmosphere is that it takes tons of elements from the Warcraft RTS series, including the races, character classes and spells, locations, NPCs and so on. Even the quests are based on Warcraft lore, with many references to the RTS series that rabid fans will really appreciate.
Mentioning the quests, there are so many of these that trying to shake a stick at them all would be an entirely impossible and insane endeavour. This isn’t just for the early newbie levels either; we’ve gone up to near level 30 and there’s still an absolute mountain of quests to climb. By all accounts, it doesn’t tail off at the later levels, either.
Rarely are you left monster-bashing with little purpose as there are so many tasks to undertake. It’s true that many of the quests just involve killing this or retrieving that, but there’s always a background story, exploration elements and many truly original quests which involve getting Goblin mining machinery to work, or digging for edible roots using a magic stick and gophers (no, we’re not making this up).
World of Warcraft is also friendly to the casual player, as every class can ‘solo’ well and there are no problems finding ungrouped mobs to slay. The quests can often be completed solo too, so you can make good progress even when you’re just dipping in and out of the game. It’s less of a commitment than EverQuest 2 in this respect, plus the death penalty is very lenient and levels are gained at a faster rate.
Some might complain that World of Warcraft has a lack of challenge here, but we’re highly impressed with this casual, friendly philosophy. It’s true that the early levels are very easy going, but that’s good for complete MMORPG novices and quite fun for us veterans who know that after the teen levels the difficulty tightens up. Extra challenge also comes for the majority on the PvP servers, where you have to watch your back when out hunting, lest an enemy player sneak up behind you and back-stab you into oblivion.