I recently had to replace my laptop due to an accident with one of the keys and a fortuitous replacement policy which allowed me to upgrade. I'd never had a good enough computer to become a serious MMO player so I thought I'd give World of Warcraft a try now that I had a up-to-date one. I'd always been a quote-unquote lore fan but I'd never gotten much chance to play the game where most of the setting was shown off.
The Starter Edition is Blizzard's generous offer to individuals who haven't had a chance to play around in the world for very long. It allows you to create any character race or class in the game (save Death Knight) and play for as long as you want. The Starter Edition replaces the previous Ten-Day trial pack.
|My character, Level Sixteen. I've decided he'll eventually become a Death Knight.|
Really, playing from Level 1 to 20 in World of Warcraft was equivalent to a free console game. I got a over twenty-five hours of gameplay in before reaching the maximum level I could with the Starter Edition. If that isn't equal to Skyrim or Dragon Age then it is far better than a lot of games I've played. I appreciate Blizzard's confidence in their games that they think players will want to continue after this point.
It certainly worked with me.
For those who have never played World of Warcraft before, now is a good enough time as any to describe how it plays. The game, as befitting something started ten years ago, has elements which some players will find quaint. The majority of the game's storyline is told with text and only rarely are there in-universe cinematics.
|The Deadmines were quite fun. Fast and furious fantasy action.|
If you've played Dungeons and Dragons, you more or less have a sense of how the game works. It's real-time turn-based combat with lots of special abilities, search for better equipment and weapons, plus exploration. I chose to solo throughout my first run, mostly because I don't know too many other players and enjoyed the game just fine on my own.
WOW's tone is, for the most part, light and airy. There's a substantial amount of humor in all of the quests I've been involved in from being required to slay a massive pig eating a farm's crops, to Kobolds speaking in broken English, to re-enacting an episode of NCIS with murderous hobos. The game doesn't take itself too seriously and, as a result, is more effective as a relaxing pastime.
In some ways, the humor level actually detracts from the immersion of the game, however. It's funny to have a character named Horatio Laine (a parody of CSI: Miami's Horatio Caine down to the sunglasses and cheesy-one liners) investigate a murder in-game.
It becomes somewhat less so to have him be a key figure in the, otherwise serious, peasant uprising affecting the land of Westfall. By the end of that region's main questline, I was stunned to note he'd appeared more times than any other character in the game up until that point.
Much of WOW's gameplay is built around "fetch quests" where you go kill X number of monsters and bring back proof of their deaths, get ingredients for characters by doing the same, and retrieving items they may have lost. At the first twenty levels, this doesn't become so repetitive I wanted to stop but it does form the bulk of the gameplay.
|Sadly, there's no sign of my favorite in-universe character, Jaina Proudmoore, yet.|
Another key feature of the game is the never-ending quest for slightly-better-than-you-have-now equipment. You will be constantly updating your equipment with newer and better material, some of which will looks ridiculous, in the hope of improving your stats. Comparing and contrasting this stuff is addictive--explaining much of WOW's appeal as there's a never-ending supply of loot with different advantages.
There's plenty of other features to the game like Player versus Player combat, Crafting, Pet Training, and so on I didn't get a chance to try out yet. I suspect these features will be more interesting to advanced players as opposed to those who just want to game. I didn't have nearly enough gold to participate in the in-universe auction system. I'm glad those features are there, however. The Griffon-travel system also allows a limited amount of Fast Travel, somewhat slower than in console games but prettier, which I enjoyed doing just for its own sake.
|Seeing the Valley of Heroes was a real stunning moment for me, especially as you get closer.|
After all, it's free and that's always the right price.