World of Warcraft - Initial Impression
I've been trying out World of Warcraft on a borrowed account. Obviously, reviewing an MMO after two days playing, no grouping, and one character is not going to work well, but I do want to get my initial impressions down. The first is that it just doesn't have the sheer stickiness, for me, of Dark Age of Camelot - such that last night, I decided that levelling the WoW character was too easy, and that I'd much rather go do something challenging in Dark Age.
That ease of levelling may be one of the attractions for other people - and I understand that it levels off after about level 13 - but it annoys me. My first characters in other MMOs took many hours to get to, say, 5th level. After about six hours play, my undead warlock is Level 8. Those levels feel unearned, less than real in some way.
The graphics are another point that's annoying me. I was expecting the cartoony aspect of it to stop bothering me after a bit, but it's not stopping. The undead look faintly comical, not at all threatening or off-putting, and some of the other creatures are positively cute. The landscape has huge hillocks everywhere, and the signage and architecture have a very slight defiance of physics about them, Beetlejuice or Scooby-Doo style. And the spell animations are impressive the first time, but mostly too jarring and bright for repeated use.
Having groused about the negatives, let me get on to the positives. Firstly, the user interface is great - and I mean, really, really good. I have no dead-tree manual, only a PDF, and I haven't had to refer to it once; everything works intuitively. The quests - while I may complain about them being easy - contain no stopping points or unclear instructions, and they're pretty perfectly set for the levels at which they're given.
The cartoon aspect of the landscape has its upside in the variety. There are none of the vast barren spaces I'm familiar with from DAoC - and indeed, from Everquest and Anarchy Online as well. There's no sensation of the same tree yet again, because the surrounding terrain is different, and each building is unique. There's a level of detail that matches that of Myst and its ilk, and there's the rare effect of being able to interact with some of that detail. You can sit on chairs, for instance. And there are actual farms and livestock and so on - these are almost completely absent from Dark Age.
One thing I was completely stunned by was the level of roleplaying I saw going on. When I first created my character, I stopped in the initial area and watched five other players discuss the horror of waking up as undead. It took me a good two minutes to work out that they were in fact other players, not some sort of set-piece. This is biased, of course, because I'm playing on Argent Dawn, an RP server, but even so, I was impressed. Since there's no European RP server for Dark Age, it's hard to know if that happens elsewhere, but that single moment blew away any roleplaying I've ever seen in other games.
The quests you can collect from NPCs are good, too. They feel like part of the setting, part of the game rather than something tacked on afterwards. And one leads easily into the next, with connections between them. There was one where I had to steal pumpkins from a farm occupied by living humans. Try as I might, I couldn't work out the patterns the mobs moved in, but some strategic thinking about how to approach the pumpkin field paid off. Those are two things I haven't really seen much of before in quests.
Finally, the crafting is pretty damn good. You choose two tradeskills. There are crafts wherein you gather material, and crafts wherein you make stuff from it. You can choose to gather materials for your own craft, or buy them, or even choose two gathering crafts, and just sell the raw goods. There's a "make all" button, which allows you to make as many of a given item as you have material for - that's an element of genius, which could well be applied to other games. My undead warlock, Wormscion, is going for herbalism (gathering) and alchemy (making). I'll be trying other tradeskills with other characters too.
Things I have yet to investigate: grouping, guilds, the auction houses, dungeons, long-distance travel, PvP play, and of course, the player mounts (although I may not get to a high enough level for that before I have to return the account).
Posted by Drew Shiel at July 14, 2005 12:14 PM