Release Date: November 23
Pre-order 'WORLD OF WARCRAFT': PC
This past week I’ve had the pleasure of playing Blizzard’s upcoming new MMORPG, World of Warcraft, due out November 23. I was able to play the game for a little over a week during the Open Stress Test conducted a couple months back, and I’d like to share my impressions of what’s changed about the game since then. Read further to enter the amazing world of Azeroth and see Blizzard’s fantastic universe brought to life!
Fundamentally this is the same game that I enjoyed playing back during the Open Stress Test, however Blizzard has managed to make a number of improvements to the game engine, eliminating several pesky bugs that were annoying, but in no way game-breaking. For example, mobs in dungeons no longer get stuck in the “Evade” bug, where they appear frozen in place and cannot be hit by anything. Another minor change, but marvelous if you are into doing tradeskills, is the ability to specify a number of times you’d like to make an object, components allowing. No more having to sit there clicking “Create” fifty times to turn a few stacks of linen into more usable bolts of cloth, just tell the game to make fifty (or better yet, Create All) and go do something else for a few minutes.
In terms of actual gameplay, they’ve implemented a durability system for equipment. Each piece has a durability rating that goes down through use. When it reaches zero, the item no longer provides any benefit, although it works perfectly up until that point. This adds a money sink to the game because the only way to repair items is to pay an NPC in a city to do it for you. This ties directly in with the recently added death penalty. It used to work so that when you die your spirit appears in the zone’s graveyard, and if you run back to your corpse you can resurrect for free. If corpse recovery was impossible you could resurrect yourself at the graveyard at the cost of experience. Now every death causes all your equipment to take 10% durability loss, and instead of paying experience for a graveyard respawn, all your items take 100% durability loss. So basically death costs you money now, making it something you don’t want to do often.
It is no longer possible to resurrect fallen comrades during combat, either, so once a battle is joined anyone who goes down, stays down for the duration. However, they removed resurrection sickness, which means that instead of having to wait two minutes after a resurrect, players are immediately ready to continue playing.
Racial benefits have been added to the game, and the Undead race is no longer considered undead, but instead is humanoid just like the rest of the races. This was a balance change, because previously undead status made the Undead immune to some spells (such as charm and fear), but susceptible to others (like Shackle Undead). Humans gain a bonus to using swords and maces, some extra Spirit (an attribute that affects regeneration rates), and the ability to increase their stealth detection for a short time. Dwarves can go into Stoneform, which makes them immune to such things as disease and bleeding, and have extra cold resistance and the ability to see treasure chests on the minimap. Gnomes get a bonus to Intellect and the ability to break out of snares and roots. Night Elves gain Shadowmeld, a form of invisibility when immobile, a bonus to dodge, and wisp form when dead to make corpse recovery a bit faster. Orc pets do bonus damage and they get a bonus to axes and Strength, making them one of the best Hunter races. Taurens can War Stomp, which is a short duration stun ability, and have increased hit points. They lost the plainstriding ability, which let them cover great distances faster than other races, but now can obtain Kodo mounts. Trolls can go Berserk when they have less than 20% hit points, speeding up their attacks and spellcasting, and get a thrown weapon bonus. Undead can temporarily become immune to fear, sleep, and charm, something they permanently had before. None of these bonuses are huge, however some may make a few races better at being certain classes than others (such as Orc Hunters or Gnome Mages), however you aren’t gimped by any means if you decide to try your own race/class combination.
Some of the high-end buffs now have reagent costs, a change which many in the closed beta player community are not pleased with, since it seems to unfairly place a burden on classes which can cast those spells to buy relatively expensive items just to cast necessary spells. The death penalty also has come under some fire, since players die frequently doing high-level instances (special dungeons) and PvP, making those activities cost a fortune.
The paladin has been almost completely overhauled, making him pretty much a brand new class. He has lost all of his special combat abilities to be replaced by a set of seals, or special enchantments that he can cast on himself. Many of his other abilities have been changed as well, and both he and the Hunter have finally received Talents.
The warrior has had a significant change as well, as the taunt ability is no longer very effective at drawing aggro from a number of mobs at the same time. This was done in an attempt to make big fights less about having a lone warrior stand in the midst of enemies while a number of healers constantly cast heals on him to keep him alive (a la Everquest), however it will take some time to rebalance what exactly the warrior’s role will be. I applaud Blizzard for trying to make combat versus mobs different from the stale EQ formula, and hope that this is a turn in the right direction. One significant problem, however, is that many of the high-level fights in the game have been balanced over the last few months with uber-taunt high-HP high-armor warriors in mind, and this change has made many of the fights much more difficult if not impossible.
Graphically they’ve added water effects, which makes looking out over the expansive ocean or even small lakes and rivers breathtaking. When you die and roam the world as a spirit, everything is drawn in shades of grey and mobs (except for other dead players) are invisible, making the spirit realm an eerie place that you wouldn’t want to wander around in for long. They’ve finished all the maps (hand-drawn) for every region, which is such a nice touch that it makes you wonder why no other company has ever bothered doing it.
NPCs now speak when you click on them, much as you would come to expect from Blizzard and very reminiscent of their Warcraft and Starcraft games. Quests are still given through typed words, but the feeling of immersion is increased by lending voice to the people of Azeroth. In a nod towards the game WoW is based on, some mobs, such as peasants, have the same voice set as they did in Warcraft 3. Mobs now make a distinct sound whenever they aggro on a player, which is helpful since it gives a small amount of warning when you are about to be attacked from the side or behind.
All in all, the changes are mostly nice touches designed to eliminate tedious and distinctly unfun activities from the game and increase the sense of immersion. It still feels like the same WoW I played two months ago, only better, which is great because the game two months ago was leaps and bounds ahead of most MMORPGs I’ve seen several months past release.
This is a great game and I would recommend it to anyone, even someone who normally doesn’t like MMORPGs (unless they just don’t like RPGs in general). While this game definitely is an MMORPG, it gets right everything about the genre that people enjoy, and additionally provides players with all sorts of options for things to do, while not requiring the player to be constantly looking up walkthroughs online just to figure out how to access the content in the game. The quest system is a step up from anything seen before. You never feel lost as though you don’t know what to do next and you never have to grind because there are so many quests to do at each level that be the time you get them done you’ll have leveled up and will be ready to tackle a whole slew of new quests. Even if you don’t like the idea of paying to play, you can always pick this up and play it for a month, I guarantee you’ll get more than fifty bucks worth of fun even over that period of time.
The game launches on November 23rd. I hope to see all of you in Azeroth!
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