A Fresh Start - Beer Pairing and Part One of My Revisit to World of Warcraft
The Nitty Gritty:
Game: World of Warcraft
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: Forever ago.
Price: $14.99 a month subscription plus expansions
There is little that hasn't been written about Blizzard's behemoth MMORPG World of Warcraft. The game has been around since 2004, a year where a good number of those that play it now were mere children (in some cases not even born yet). This is a game that has gone through more changes, and more scrutiny, than any game ever. Love it or hate it, this game is here to stay for the foreseeable future. We all have to okay with this. There will be no “WoW killer.” This game will just one day go to sleep while we’re not looking.
However, if you subtract endgame content, what is this game truly about? Does it still hold up after all these years? I took it upon myself to find out. I have played the games on and off since about six months after its original release, and feel that I have a fair understanding its many facets. However, in all of those years, I’ve never actually played a Horde character after a few quests. I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to explore the world as a new player would. For the record, the current state is Patch 6.2, likely the final major patch in the Warlords of Draenor expansion.
The Beginning - 0-5 hours in
Setting up a character hasn't changed much. The classes have grown a bit since its early days, but it has been mostly streamlining and ongoing attempt to keep them balanced. The biggest disappointment I had when creating my new character was the lack of variety in the textures. With the latest expansion, Blizzard has taken the opportunity to produce some higher quality faces on the player characters. Sadly, the changes are meager at best. Sure they look a little better, but the variety is painfully marginal. There are MMO's out there that are making Blizzard look foolish in this department. Considering how much money Blizzard pulls in each month with its millions of subscribers, you would think they could invest in a few people to add to the facial textures every month. It boggles the mind that this has been overlooked. Gamers in all play styles love to be unique (especially on RP servers, the only servers I tend to play on due to its immersive qualities), and this is just a flat out misstep. I settled on an Undead character. A lot of it had to do with the beer I was drinking (see below). It took me mere seconds to decide on a look that best suit me.
Once the game started, and the rather confusing prologue finished, I was off to the races. I mean this almost literally considering how fast you level up. I get that a great majority of players in the lowbie lands have other characters well into the endgame content and just want to add to that pool, but this is ridiculous. Aside from the OCD completionists out there (I tend to count myself as one of them), not many people are going out of their way to experience content they don't need to. Wouldn’t, from a designer’s standpoint, want all of their hard work to be experienced? Isn’t it rather difficult to keep making great content? Why are they rushing us to the end so quickly? There are plenty of players there already. I feel like there should be two versions of play here: One that levels fast for any who want it that way, and one that levels slow for those that want to play all of the game. Better yet, Blizzard should mimic Everquest and create a few patch progression servers. So much work has gone into these quests, and yet the game almost makes you avoid going on them. I reached level 10 after about 2 hours of legit playing time. I’m gathering herbs for my inscription profession, I’m doing my best to try to read all the text. There are still quests that need finishing and I haven’t even left the first zone yet. Already, there is an issue with outleveling the content. There’s just no reason to do this other than force players to rush to the finish line.
Being an undead is an interesting concept in the World of Warcraft story. It’s nice to read the quests themselves, as it provides a lot of insight on why they exist, and why they want to keep it that way. My biggest issue with it is the feeling of being rushed through. I’m not even sure if this is Blizzard’s fault either. A lot of MMO’s I’ve played do the same thing. Maybe the quest dialogue is too long. Either way, when you begin to bypass the story behind it all, the game grinds on as usual. Collect 5 of this, kill 10 of that, run here, run there, now run all the back to deliver a letter. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s difficult to fault Blizzard in this regard either, since they perfected this style of gameplay back when it was posh. As I’m playing again, I’m beginning to see issues with it. It isn’t posh at all. Frankly, there are some quality of life problems that really need to be addressed if they want to remain the best.
I have no complaints about the cartoony style graphics. I know they’ve updated a lot of this over the years as well. I find it absolutely ridiculous that my video card works so hard on this game, especially considered the textures and rendering I’m looking at, but whatever. Yet after 11 years, the game is beginning to look a bit long in the tooth. It can still remain a cartoon and not be blocky at the same time. My hope is that Blizzard is aware of this and plans to make graphic updates with each future expansion.
Further, the content needs to be updated WWAAAAAAYYYYYY faster. There have only been 5 major expansions. That’s completely ridiculous. The amount of money this game generates needs to be put to use. The delight of an MMO is that it is almost a living thing. It grows and improves over time. Static MMO's are inexcusable, especially one this big.
While leveling up, I have noticed Blizzard has tightened up a lot of the superfluous running around I remember having to do back in the day. There are more flight paths in the new zones, and since you don’t get a mount until level 20, it’s nice to include more questing over travelling from one place to another.
I ended up at level 16 about 5 hours into the creation of the character. It has given me a firm understanding of my class, what skills are most important to use, and what stats I should be looking to improve from a gear standpoint. From here, the game opens up a lot more, with three dungeons and the specialization tree. I’ll continue the second part of this analysis at a later time.
All together though, World of Warcraft still has its charm, its 100 levels of content, its incredibly large fan base. There have been recent reports about the numbers slipping by the millions, but it’s still by far the most popular MMO out there. There is nothing that is going to be usurping that fact any time soon.
My excursion into the realm of the Undead could not have been complete without Ninkasi’s Dawn of the Red Ale. At 7.0% ABV, this India Red Ale packs quite a punch. Thankfully, the flavor is rather fruity, and makes for a very easy beer to drink. Ninkasi typically releases high quality beers throughout the year, and this one is no exception. A must have for all fans of reds.