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Nothing splits the Massive Multiplayer Online players like World of Warcraft. For some, it's a highly polished, excellent game. For others, it is the scourge of MMORPGs as the 'casual' friendly focus makes game play shallow and boring. I'm pretty much in the first group. Yes, it is a 'casual' MMO - it's accessible and easy to get into. However, I don't think being easy makes World of Warcraft bad, and it also has some challenges at the higher level of content.
For many, World of Warcraft is their first MMO, and this three piece guide to World of Warcraft will be sort of aimed at them. My first MMO was World of Warcraft, and I think that it's a good thing to start here. The game was fairly polished when it first came out, and the World of Warcraft development team hasn't stopped working since, re-balancing, fine tuning and adding content. Other MMOs have things that frustrate their players, but World of Warcraft offers an almost seamless leveling experience, although it's not without problems.
Before I started playing World of Warcraft, I thought Oblivion was a huge game. I mean, it must have taken me like, 30 minutes to ride from one side of the map to the other! That's more like a couple of zones in World of Warcraft, and there are around 60 zones total, if you count all of the expansions. I mean, the first time I played, I was blown away at the scale. However, you won't be visiting all of those zones in one play through, seeing as some zones over lap level wise, and some are exclusively Horde/Alliance. There's definitely places I've never seen, even though I've played for around a year. I think you'll be able to level perhaps three characters to level 60, the classic level cap, and never visit the same zone twice.
MMOs offer insane value for money, as long as you play them for more than an hour a week.
In fact, leveling to 60, and then 70 and 80, is a huge task in itself. It took me 10 full days to get to level 60 alone. That's 10 days playing time, and is roughly three months, probably more, of my actual life. This is why I no longer understand why it is that people complain about the price of MMOs. Those three months cost me GBP8 each, and the game cost around GBP15. That's GBP40. I spent GBP35 on Halo: ODST about three days ago. I've finished it on Heroic. MMOs offer insane value for money, as long as you play them for more than an hour a week. Don't forget that in those three months, there was no need for me to buy another game. Every five levels or so, I would move into a new zone and I'd face something new, collect some new quests and get some new gear. It sounds slightly ominous, but World of Warcraft can be the only game you ever need.
It's fun to run around the level blowing things up, then turning into a car and zooming away.
However, you have to bear in mind that the process I've been talking about, the game between levels 1 and 60, is five years old. It's dated, and it's empty. The quests can be badly organized, sending you off to some far corner of the globe to pick up an item, only for you to have to run all the way back to deliver it. And it's also not as interesting as the later expansions.
The Burning Crusade really perfects the questing system, and the quests all work together, meaning you don't re-visit any old areas and you gradually are sent to new ones.
The Wrath of the Lich King brings questing to a new level with use of phasing, which I'll talk about in a later guide.
Cataclysm revisits the leveling system and through its cataclysmic events gives the developers an excuse to head back into the 1-60 level game and redesign as much as they can.
This is particluarly exciting to newcomers. Usually, they have to play through the fun-but-not-perfect 'vanilla' game to get to the excellent expansions. But with Cataclysm they can expect to be leveling in an environment that is almost as good as the excellent Wrath of the Lich King. So, I'd hold off buying World of Warcraft for then, unless you really can't wait.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: