World of Warcraft
On further inspection, this appears to be a good game. I'm not prepared to say that it's a better game than Dark Age of Camelot, but World of Warcraft has different strengths. One of these is down to the server rather than the game itself; there's no RP server for DAoC in Europe, and there are two for WoW. All comments here apply to the low levels, of course - I've not been at it long enough to reach a higher level than 14.
The main thing that I'm liking is the lack of grind. Grinding is when you have to go and do something mindlessly and repetitively for a while to get experience enough for the next level, skill points enough to make something, or whatever. World of Warcraft simply doesn't have this - by the time you've completed the quests you have access to at a given level, you've made it to the next level. There's no necessity to hunt for experience. Likewise in the crafting skills, you just line up your materials, hit "create all", and let it rip. No failures, so no material losses, and if you're making stuff that's appropriate for your skill level, the skill goes up.
There are definite benefits stemming from Blizzard's experience in RTS and other offline games - you can play solo far better than in any other MMO I've seen yet, and there's more in the way of strategic and tactical thinking than I've seen before. Some opponents will run away after they've taken too much damage, for instance, rather than staying and hacking mindlessly until you kill them. The variety of terrain and the resource-based nature of crafting also seems to benefit from previous games.
And then there are the quests. Looking at it from a strict point of view, most of them are still "go and kill something, bring back some bits". They're carefully set up, though, so that they touch on elements of story and background, without feeling clunky or tacked on. And the tone of the NPCs who talk to you is perfect; condescending, friendly, or respectful as appropriate. This is usually a bit off in other games; camped up to a degree.
Speaking of camping - I've seen none, nor any mention of it. Major and named creatures spawn quickly when required, or are in instances. Minor creatures are either present in large enough numbers that you can find them easily, or widely enough spread that they respawn as you move about. Most of the named creatures are sought on a basis of quests rather than just hunting, in any case, so they're not much use to anyone not doing the quest. Repeated kills have no benefit.
The cartoon graphics are still annoying me; I don't think that's going to stop. I've become used to the exaggerated shapes of buildings, though, and I'm actually starting to enjoy it. The sheer imagination that's gone into the variety of architectures - and I've only seen two dozen settlements or so yet, from the hundred out there - is staggering. However, many of the characters look very similar - there's very little to distinguish one undead from another, or one tauren from the next, until you arrive at the extremes; undead with mohawks, tauren with plaited beards, and night elves with braids, for instance. Some more customisation would be good here.
On a technical note, the gamma settings for your monitor have to be fairly high to see things properly. This isn't usually a problem with newer monitors, but old ones may need some adjusting.
Transport is a delight. Flying on bats and griffons is genuinely a pleasure, and taking zeppelins is nearly as good. I hear there's an dwarf-built underground and underwater tram system in one of the human cities, too - I'll have to investigate further for that. There are also teleports, portals, player mounts at higher levels, and so on. Travel takes time, as in any MMO, but it's something to enjoy.
I'm going to be playing World of Warcraft for a while, I think. What started out as cautious exploration has turned into definite liking.
Posted by Drew Shiel at July 20, 2005 12:32 PM