Mini-reviews of each WoW expansion, from a WoW noob

As you may recall from last time, I have recently started playing retail World of Warcraft for the first time. Call me fashionably late. This means I have sixteen years worth of content to chew through. Chromie Time means that characters no longer need to progress through each expansion in order. In fact, all of my characters thus far have hit 50 before I was finished with an expansion story, which means that, in order to see it all, I have to create a bunch of alts. Oh darn, you know how much I hate making alts. (Please note the dripping sarcasm; I love making alts) I’ve made it a point to spread them all out across all of the expansions. Repeating content isn’t that fun, and one of the appeals of starting this game so late is that there is a ton to explore that I haven’t seen. 

Since I’m seeing all of this with fresh eyes, with little to no nostalgia goggles and out of its historical context, I thought it might interest some to read my thoughts on each expansion. Remember that these mini-reviews from a mostly solo, story/leveling point of view, so the fact that Expansion X was boring but had great raids means nothing to me, because I’m not even in a guild, and my experiences with the dungeon finder have been mixed at best, so while that may have been important at the time, it doesn’t really make any difference to me right now. 


Ok, so Vanilla doesn’t really exist anymore because of Cataclysm, but I’ve puttered around Classic a bit, and while I didn’t get super far, I got far enough to know it wasn’t for me. Leveling is at a snail’s pace, and many classes are designed such that they don’t get interesting skills until the mid-to-high levels, forcing you to slog through the boring parts to get there. This isn’t helped by the fact that quests are scattered randomly, and, sans addons, the map doesn’t give you any hints about where anything is, leaving you to wander around in frustration. In short, I would say it was poorly designed. Or, perhaps more accurately, well designed to waste players’ time. Like I said above, endgame might be great, but I’m just not that interested in WoW’s endgame. 

Burning Crusade

WoW’s first expansion introduced the concept quest hubs, which makes the leveling process bearable. However, it still feels very old. I don’t have a good explanation of why, it just does. Maybe it’s the graphics? I’m not usually a graphics snob, so maybe it has as much to do with the more recently updated character models in contrast to the older landscape? Maybe it’s the writing? Maybe it’s the more mundane and repetitive quest structure? Either way, I’ve never made it past the second zone. Maybe one day.

Wrath of the Lich King

Wrath is the oldest expansion I actually feel like I wouldn’t mind playing all the way through. For one thing, the Lich King/Scourge has always been a more interesting villain than the Burning Legion. It also gave us my favorite class, Death Knight, so it has that going for it. Plus, I always like icy zones. Better than BC’s desolate hellscape at least. It still feels a little old and creaky, but in a way that doesn’t make me want to quit. Again, I’m not sure why it feels better than BC, it just does.


I didn’t really like leveling in the vanilla zones in Classic, and while Cata improved the quest flow, I’m still not that excited about the old world. That said, there’s a lot of it, so I’m sure there is interesting stuff I’ve just never seen. Also, I’m not super clear on which areas are new and which areas are overhauled vanilla zones. If you pick Cata from Chromie, she  just sends you to the mission board and has you pick a zone out of three random options, so it sort of feels like there’s no direction here, which is itself kind of a turnoff. 

Mists of Pandaria

Pandaria, in my mind, is where WoW starts feeling like a modern MMO. First off, it’s the first time that I’ve felt like WoW was genuinely pretty. There were many places in the old world that were pretty given the limitations of the era, but I would say that just about anywhere in Pandaria is objectively prettier than anything that came before it, and holds up even nine years later. Along with better graphics, it brought more voice acting to the game (including the inimitable Jim Cummings, voice of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Doctor Robotnik (the best one), Darkwing Duck, Hando Ohnaka, and some random character from half of every animated thing you’ve ever watched). While I don’t consider voice a requirement for a good game, it certainly makes characters more interesting and memorable, even if it’s not every line. 

The story is very different from others that came before it too, a little more chill, while still maintaining a sense of urgency. Pandarens have quickly become one of my favorite races. Any expansion that adds a new class automatically gains points in my book, and the Monk is a fun, dynamic class that brings some truly interesting and different mechanics to the game. 

Warlords of Draenor

I think Draenor is my favorite expansion. I love time travel and alternate universe stories to begin with, but I think this also clicked with me because it had a lot of callbacks to characters from the Warcraft RTS games, which was previously my main exposure to the Warcraft-verse. Additionally, garrisons are like having your own little RTS base, down to ordering peons around to gather resources for you. I feel like I need to expand soon, though; surely my mines are running low. I know the lore has always been integrated, but this expansion makes me feel like Warcraft 1-3 and WoW are part of the same universe in a way that previously content didn’t.

The only thing I don’t like about it is that the transmog skins in this expansion are all super ugly. Lots of horns and iron spikes and rough-hewn hides on everything. I’m sure there are some people who live for this look, but they’re basically everything I dislike in a skin.


I’ve already stated that I’m not a huge fan of the Burning Legion as an enemy faction, but, all things considered, this is a pretty solid expansion. I liked the idea of class-specific artifact weapons that you continuously upgrade. They’re like LotRO’s legendary items, except not as terrible. Given LotRO’s long-standing problems with them, I’m fine with them being a one-expansion feature, too. That said, some of the modifiers were really cool, and I wish Blizzard had found a way to continue with those rather than just throw artifacts out the window as soon as BfA came around, but since I knew this was coming, I wasn’t too broken up about it when I hit 50 on my Legion character. 

I have mixed emotions about the Demon Hunter class. On the one hand, it’s one of the most eye-rollingly edgelord classes ever to come out of the MMO genre (and there have been many). On the other hand, you get a Guild Wars 2-style glider. In some ways it doesn’t feel that different from a Rogue — a melee class with big, facerolly damage, good mobility, and what basically amounts to a combo point system — without stealth, and the added complication of those purple orb things that heal you and fill your fury bar. Plus the race choices are limited to elves, which generally aren’t my favorite. 

Battle for Azeroth

I actually liked Battle for Azeroth quite a bit. The Alliance side was boring (three different zones, three different variations on [New] England) but the Horde side had a nice variety of visual styles, and a more interesting storyline. Quality aside, I just generally like it when the two factions are given some different zones to play through, since it gives me more to do as someone who likes to flipflop between factions. Granted, I completely ignored island expeditions, which I think was most players’ main complaint with this expansion, so take that as you will. 


Given that Shadowlands is the current expansion, and I’m still not all the way through it, I think it deserves a post all of its own. Maybe zone by zone. Suffice it to say for now that I’m not impressed with the new hotness. It’s fine, but I’m really not into the story, and collecting powers that only work in one zone doesn’t do much for me. 

So there you have it. Feel free to disagree with me, but those are my thoughts on each WoW expansion. I’m having a lot of fun just messing around in all of the various areas, good or bad, WoW has graced its players with over the years. The fact that I’m more interested in a lot of the previous expansions than the current one doesn’t say a lot for my longevity in this game, but for now, I’m having fun, and I’m managing to scrape together enough gold every month to buy a WoW Token, so I don’t feel too bad just playing what I feel like playing.


Starting out in World of Warcraft, 16 years late

Yesterday, World of Warcraft launched its latest expansion, Shadowlands. Normally WoW expansions are kind of a non-event to me, as I’ve never really been a WoW player. I don’t have anything against the game, there were just a few things that kept me out of it. But, while the expansion launch is still kind of a non-event, I have recently gotten sucked into Azeroth, 16 years late.

A few weeks ago, I was looking at my stable of MMOs, and feeling really burned out. Guild Wars 2 is my anchor, of course; I’m always playing that one, and I recently joined a new guild and have been having a lot of fun with them. But I like to have at least one other MMO to play on the side. Elder Scrolls Online’s vampire/Skyrim expansion was really disappointing, so much so that it kind of pushed me out of that game. Besides, I’m tired of action combat, which nixes most newer MMOs. Lord of the Rings Online, my go-to when I feel like a classic tab-target MMO, has been doing its best to demotivate me from playing all year, between its server issues and mini expansion drama. I always think about playing Rift, but given that it’s basically in maintenance mode, it’s hard to get excited about it. I played Star Wars The Old Republic for a few weeks, but with no new classes since launch and only a slow drip of new content, it didn’t hold my attention for long. I tried Final Fantasy XIV again, and once again, it just doesn’t click with me, even though I really can’t explain why.

Then, I started reading about World of Warcraft’s new revamped leveling, which came in with the Shadowlands pre-patch. There were two big things that have always turned me off about WoW when I played the free trial and that one time I tried classic for a month (three if you count the subscription fee in an era where almost everything else is free- or buy-to-play). The first is that the leveling always felt slow and unrewarding, taking way too long to get me into the unique mechanics of my class, then, once I hit the higher levels, giving me nothing of interest for leveling up except an excuse to get new gear.

The second is the daunting task of getting up a hundred-some levels before I can group with my friends. This was fixed to a certain extent with the introduction of level scaling, but as someone with a severe case of alt-itis, I don’t think I could stick to one character for that long, and going through the same old hundred-some levels of content repeatedly on multiple characters doesn’t sound exciting either.

With this level squish, however, WoW has managed to remove both of those barriers. In a week, I had several characters at or near the free trial cap of 20 (which is significantly farther than the old 20), and I had decided I wanted to main my Dwarf Death Knight. Zombie pets, DoTs, and a little bit of health syphoning. What’s not to love? The new tutorial zips players from 1-10 in an hour or so, better prepares them for the game (for instance, it hands you several bags instead of expecting you to know to track down a bag merchant the first chance you get), dumps you out in your faction’s capital city, points you toward the riding trainer, and lets you decide your destiny from there, be that continuing with the Battle of Azeroth expansion, or picking one of the others to level through. I’ve gone through the racial starting zone on a few of my characters, but I like that they now give the option to bypass that and just get on with the action. Sometimes that’s what you want.

In under two weeks of relatively casual play, I have nearly leveled my Death Knight to 50, and am most of the way through Kul Tiras. I tanked one dungeon with a friend, which was a mistake, partly because DK tanks are in a bad spot at the moment, but mainly because their tanking rotation is fairly complex, so just switching to it and hoping to learn as I went didn’t work out very well. I quickly switched back to DPS, and decided to level a different class as a tank. Maybe a Monk? That stagger mechanic sounds really cool and unique.

My main goal right now is to unlock Mechagnomes. I have a simple rule: If an MMO gives me the opportunity to play as a steampunk cyborg, I play as a steampunk cyborg. You can bet that I will be heading to Mechagon as soon as I ding 50, and rolling a hunter with a mechanical dog pet shortly thereafter.

My favorite feature of Shadowlands so far is that those stupid zombies are no longer exploding on me every time I try to use the auction house. Seriously, who thought that event was a good idea? As a humans vs zombies PvP instance it might have been fun, but in random old world maps, including capital cities, it’s just annoying. Rant aside, I haven’t bought Shadowlands yet and probably won’t right away. As fun as it can be to be a part of the initial rush to gobble up new content, there’s just so much old stuff that’s new to me that it doesn’t make sense to drop money on an expansion just because it’s shiny and everyone else is doing it. I’ll wait until I’ve seen most of the old expansion content, or for it to go on sale, whichever comes first.

It turns out now is a great time to get into World of Warcraft. I’m having a lot more fun than I have in any of my previous attempts to get into the game, and it’s nice to feel like there is a feast of content ahead of me. Not everything is perfect (I’ve had to find addons to do a lot of things that I feel should have been built into the game by now, and the community definitely doesn’t live up to the “subscription fees keep out trolls” meme) but I’m having fun and playing with friends, and that’s what matters most.

LotRO is my WoW Classic

Hey, not sure if you’ve noticed, but a lot of people are playing World of Warcraft Classic. Shocking, I know. As I recently wrote for Massively OP, I never played WoW, but I was interested in giving Classic a try with some friends. I haven’t been converted to Warcraftism, but, weirdly enough, my time in WoW did make me long for The Lord of the Rings Online.

In some ways this shouldn’t be surprising. After all, LotRO did shamelessly steal much of its gameplay mechanics from WoW. Playing a game so similar is bound to stir up old memories. But if I’m turned off by WoW, shouldn’t I be turned off by LotRO?

After thinking about it for a while, I realized why. LotRO has the same effect on me that WoW Classic on my friends. It’s a traditional, tab-target MMO, with mountains of content (no Erebor puns intended), that I played during some of the formative years of my MMO gaming career. Unlike modern WoW, LotRO hasn’t had the budget to do major, Cataclysm-style revamps of the game, so, while it has seen its fair share of controversial updates, the “retail” version of it feels much the same as it did back in its heyday. LotRO is my WoW Classic.

The problem is that I’m still subscribed to WoW Classic. More than once, I’ve logged into LotRO, felt guilty that I’m playing a free-to-play WoW clone while paying for WoW, logged out after an hour, played WoW for half an hour, felt bored, and logged out and played something completely different. This is exactly why I dislike the subscription model, and why it’s bad for the industry as a whole.

Why, you may ask, isn’t Old School RuneScape my WoW Classic? After all, RuneScape was my first MMO, and the thing that I was playing when World of Warcraft Classic and Old School RuneScape were just “World of Warcraft” and “RuneScape.” The answer is… I don’t know. Maybe it’s because RuneScape is from such a different branch of the MMORPG family tree that it doesn’t fire the same nostalgia triggers. Maybe it’s because LotRO has built in so many more quality of life features, whereas OSRS has preserved many of the little annoyances of oldschool MMOs (although, let’s be honest, by 2007, RuneScape had better QoL features than WoW, you just had to earn many of them through levels and/or quests).

Have you ever had a similar experience? Is there a classic MMO that things like the recent WoW nostalgia storm has you longing for?

WoW Really Needs To Work On First Impressions

I recently pondered if World of Warcraft was worth starting in 2018. I even sent a cut-down version of that post to the Massively OP podcast to get their opinions on the subject. Finally, I decided to give the free-up-to-20 experience a try. I had done this a while back and wasn’t impressed, but it was with a friend who was rather disenchanted with everything that had changed in his absence, so maybe I just needed to get to know the game on my own?

Sadly, my original impression was confirmed; the low-level game is just kind of terrible. I chose the monk because it sounded interesting to me (and it’s one of the newer classes, so probably a more refined design, right?), I’m dumped into the world with a single skill on my bar, which is a Chi builder that costs slowly-regenerating power to use–that’s fine, I’m comfortable with builder-and-spender class designs–but I’m basically just stuck auto-attacking until my power bar refills, when I can do another low-damage builder skill with nothing to spend it on. That’s… probably just for level 1, right? I’ll get enough skills for a basic rotation in the next couple of levels? Well, at level 3 I get my first spender. Still not enough to build and spend without auto attacking in between. Well, surely this will be remedied soon. So at level five I get… a roll? It literally just makes you roll forward, dealing no damage, and it doesn’t even stop at a target for use as a gap closer. I’m sure there are times when this comes in handy. I can’t imagine what they are, other than getting places slightly faster before I get a mount, but I’m sure it has a purpose. But why in in world (of Warcraft) wouldn’t you wait to give me this until I actually have enough attack skills that I’m not standing around waiting on resource blocks? When I hit level 8 and was handed, not another builder, not another damage spender, but a heal skill, I ragequit.

I don’t see a way in which this isn’t simply poor low-level class design. This is Blizzard for goodness sake! I thought they invented polish and accessibility in MMOs. I mean, they did invent polish and accessibility in MMOs; I played just enough EverQuest and other older MMOs to know that. But this is 2018 and in every MMO I jump into, I have three to four skills on my hotbar by the time I’m level 3, and I don’t have to feel like I’m doing RuneScape combat. I can’t fathom, with all of the class revisions they’ve done over the years–after all is the post-Cataclysm revised leveling experience–that they haven’t made this better. Are they just trying to discourage alting by making the early game experience so bad you only want to do it once? I can’t imagine why a game would do this; alting makes for better players who stick around longer.

My friends who play WoW assure me that this is a good thing. That by the time you get a new skill you really know that last skill. But I feel like I learned all I needed to know by reading the tooltip. Yeah, if they dumped three or four hotbars full of stuff on me all at once (as I’m sure they do when you level boost), it would be overwhelming. But I think I could handle two or three more at the very beginning to get a decent feel for how the class plays. I don’t mean to mock them too much; their main complaint with Guild Wars 2 was that, once you get your relevant slot skills, leveling adds nothing new to your character until you start working on elite specs (and if you don’t like the elite specs for your class, you’re pretty much done progressing). I think that’s a legitimate complaint. But there’s a middle ground that seems to be missing in WoW.

I’m going to try rolling another class–probably a druid or a shaman–and stick with it for another week or so, but if those classes have equally terrible early games, Blizzard probably still isn’t getting any of my money on this one. I really don’t want to be this negative about a game that is so influential and widely beloved, and, going in, I honestly didn’t expect to be. I’m quite sure the game gets worlds better if I just stick with it just a bit longer, but I can muster no motivation to do so.
You really need to work on your first impressions, Blizzard.

Is World of Warcraft Worth Starting In 2018?

I’ve played just about every major MMO you can name, but I’ve never seriously played World of Warcraft. While I’ve watched it from the outside for years, the extent of my first hand experience is that I did the free trial for a couple of nights when one of my friends was thinking of going back, but he didn’t end up sticking around and neither did I. Now several of my other friends have jumped on the Battle for Azeroth bandwagon, and I’m starting to toy with the idea again.

Part of my hesitation is that I also recently went back to Old School RuneScape. It’s pretty ironic, because that was the MMO that we all used to play together, and one by one they all left me to play WoW, while I stayed behind on (the much cheaper) RuneScape. I’m really enjoying my time in RuneScape, but as I walk around, I can’t help but think about how awful this game would be for a newcomer. There are so many archaic systems that just aren’t well thought out or are intentionally designed to slow down progress or are just plain hard to understand, I can’t imagine playing this for more than a few hours before giving up, logging out, and never coming back. I enjoy this game more because of nostalgia, and less for the game itself. (To be completely fair to RuneScape, there are some really great things to do buried in there, but there’s a crap ton of grinding before you get to that, and past that is basically just more grinding)
How does all of this relate to WoW? I’m wondering how much my friends who make their periodical return to Azeroth are also riding on nostalgia, and how much the game experience really is superior. I know RuneScape and WoW are two very different games, but the juxtaposition of my friends’ nostalgia and my own is difficult to ignore.

My other concern is that I’m already so far behind, will I catch up and be able to play with them by the time they get bored and move on to something else? Because if I’m not going to play with them, I might as well keep playing other games that I know I’ll like. 120 is a lot of levels, and they actually somewhat know what they’re doing and where they’re going. I guess I could buy a booster, but that’s more money to spend. Maybe the new and controversial level scaling would make playing with them actually viable? I’ll have to look into that.

Finally, I’ve already touched on this, but is the game really worth subscribing to? They’ve gotten rid of the initial box fee, so there’s that barrier gone (not that it was much of a barrier anyway; I used to see it go on sale all the time for less than the cost of the first month sub it came with). I’ve heard the argument that, if it’s got so many players and it’s basically the only game to still have a mandatory sub then it must be worth it, but personally I’ve always thought that WoW has survived the way it has because of pure momentum. It was in the right place at the right time; it took the EverQuest model and made it more accessible and polished, and it got tons of players who never quite went away. But hey, I haven’t played it extensively, so what do I know.

So I’m throwing the question out to the Internets: Is it worth my time to start World of Warcraft as a brand new player in 2018?

When MMOs Need An Overhaul

MMOs are somewhat unique in that they are, by nature, persistent and ever changing and expanding. Single player games may come out with a few expansions or DLCs, but other than that, the developers generally scrap everything and create a sequel. In MMOs, however, you can’t really scrap anything, you have to constantly add new content if you want to keep players happy and coming back for more. This is one of the things that I love about the genre, but it also creates a problem. Sooner or later, the game gets bogged down in so many things–progression systems, extra gear slots, gear augmentation, etc.–that, at some point, it really starts to overwhelm new and returning players–sometimes even consistent players who don’t spend a lot of time reading forums and wikis and the like–and it really needs and overhaul. Marvel Heroes’ new 2.0 update (“Biggest Update Ever”) got me thinking about this. I had a big post written about the update that I never posted, partly because, to talk about all of the changes, it ended up being a mile long, but also because it ended up sounding more like a review, and there are people out there who can do that a lot better than I can. To summarize, I really like the update as a whole, I can also see where it went wrong in a few places, but most of all, this was a totally necessary change that, aside from a few hiccups, was handled more or less in the best way possible. So, I’ll be using Marvel Heroes as a case study to talk about overhauls in general.

If at all possible, updates should be done a little at a time. Overhaul one system, then, when that’s settled down, overhaul another. Marvel Heroes, for example, reviewed and overhauled one older hero a month for years. This approach is great because it allows the team to focus on one thing at a time, and it keeps panic down in the community. Speaking of community, they often know the state of the gameplay better than its developers do, so involving them as much as possible as early as reasonably possible is ideal. From what I’ve heard, this is something Marvel Heroes didn’t do so great at with 2.0, but hopefully they’ll take feedback into consideration for future updates. Sometimes, as is the case in Marvel Heroes’ most recent update, you really have to overhaul everything at once (you can’t just rework the whole way power work one hero at a time, and while you’re shaking up hero’s powers is the only really good time to redo the rather arcane and convoluted Omega system), and, when that’s the case, it needs to be communicated early and often.

When a massive update needs to happen all at once, the developers need to sit down and figure out what needs changed, what needs streamlined, and what needs removed altogether, and focus on that alone. I like that Marvel Heroes didn’t pair this update with a new content expansion; they just worked on streamlining the game and balancing all of the classes, and that’s pretty much it. Not only does it allow more crucial manpower to go into the overhaul part, but it also disassociates the overhaul from any other added content. For instance, I heard a lot of negativity about WoW Cataclysm, not because the endgame content was bad, but because it streamlined and accelerated the leveling process, removing and changing a lot of content from the beginning of the game that people knew and loved. As a non-WoW player who knows several WoW players, I don’t really know a whole lot about what Cataclysm added; I mainly know about what it took away.

At the end of the day, no matter what you do, someone’s going to hate it. It’s best to just resign yourself to that fact, both as a developer, and as a player. People who are content don’t tend to get on forums and write lengthy posts about how the update is nice, or at least marginally better than what we had before. It’s the people who are upset that their favorite class isn’t as OP as it used to be, or who have some reason why they liked the game better when it was inaccessible to new players, that will stamp their feet and threaten to leave the game forever if something isn’t done about it by next patch.

I know all of this is much easier said than done. I’m actually in the process of developing a single-player RPG with a friend right now, and just balancing that is hard enough, I can’t imagine a game with sixty classes that’s constantly being picked apart by min/maxers. I know video games are made by companies with higher-ups that aren’t always as interested in what’s best for the game so much as what’s best for the bottom line, and sometimes the only way you’re going to get funding approved for a major systems overhaul is if you bundle it with a paid expansion or other major content drop. But overall, I think Marvel Heroes has done a good job managing this update, and I’ve been really enjoying it so far.

Warcraft Movie: Why the Hate? (Spoiler Free)

Durotan RoarI walked out of the theater last night after watching Warcraft with only one thought on my mind: “That was really good. Why did this get such horrible reviews?” With a current Metacritic rating of only 32, to say that film critics have not received Warcraft well would be an understatement. Ok, so movie critics are just categorically biased against video game movies. The fans will like it, right? While some did, much of the gaming media has jumped on the hate bandwagon as well. Seriously, were they in a different movie than I was?

Let me say up front that I don’t know Warcraft lore well. At all. I played Warcraft III a little, but mostly in multiplayer, and that was years ago. I have had a lot of friends who have played WoW off and on over the years, but if any of them were lore junkies, they didn’t talk about it to me much. As such, when Stormwind and Dalaran look too much like they do in the era of WoW and not how they should look at this point in history, I don’t know the difference. I’m not saying that my ignorance excuses the film makers’ ignorance (or worse, willful disregard for major details), I’m just saying that it doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the movie the way it would if I were a Warcraft fan. If I were, I’m sure I would rage right along with them on those points.

That said, I really thought that this movie, in a vacuum, did a lot of things really well. The CGI, for example, was amazing. I went in expecting to hate the orcs–they look ok in the super-stylized fantasy world that Blizzard has created, but their exaggerated proportions and weird tusks can’t possibly make the jump to photorealism, right?–but they were so expressive, something that is usually lost with CGI-ified characters, that I forgot within the first ten minutes to try to look for places where they look fake. I would argue that Warcraft does realistic, expressive CGI characters better than Avatar did, and everyone raved about how great Avatar’s characters were (granted, Avatar was 7 years ago, but few movies have managed to top it). I simply never felt, as many have accused it, like it was a bunch of people prancing around in front of a greenscreen. Magic was also really well done, especially in 3D. Only in one scene, involving a giant wall of lightning, did I think the spell effects looked cheap, but other than that they did an excellent job with it.

Another criticism is that there isn’t any character development. That simply isn’t true. I can’t talk a lot about it without spoilers (maybe I’ll post some spoilery thoughts if people are interested, let me know in the comments), but I think a case could be made that several characters show as much development as any character in most other blockbuster movies. Again, I can’t speak to whether or not the characters develop in a way that is consistent with the games, but to say that there is no development is a gross exaggeration. Also, many people felt that the movie jerked you around a lot, trying to tell too many stories in too many different places at once, but I’m not sure how you could possibly tell the story of Warcraft without showing both sides equally as well as the strife within each faction’s own ranks.

The most ridiculous claim that I’ve seen is that it’s some kind of Lord of the Rings wannabe. This claim is simply laughable, and makes me wonder if these reviewers, first of all, have even read The Lord of the Rings books (or at least watched the movies), and second, if they actually watched Warcraft or just watched some clips and made assumptions. If Warcraft is a Lord of the Rings ripoff, then literally every fantasy story of the last fifty years is as well. Lord of the Rings has had incredibly far-reaching impact on the fantasy genre, to the point where many would say that Tolkien invented the modern Fantasy story. Yes, there are orcs fighting humans, with the occasional magic-user thrown in… but that’s literally where the similarities end.

Don’t get me wrong, this movie isn’t without its flaws. It skims over some of the details, like how exactly the Dark Portal and fel magic corruption work and how the various characters came to have access to them. What’s worse is that the Dark Portal was changed a lot for the movie, so it’s not like they’re skipping over details they figure the audience knows, it was just poorly thought out. Also, several of the main characters’ deaths are rather sudden and unceremonious, killing them and moving on before it has sunk in. And (I don’t think this a spoiler since it was in the trailer) the whole thing with Thrall being orc Moses was really weird. That said, I don’t think it was any more flawed than the vast majority of movies that get much better ratings than Warcraft.

So why all the hate? I know only a smattering of the lore from the Warcraft ‘verse, and my wife knows even less, and we both came out of the movie extremely satisfied with the story, production, and thoroughly confused about all of the hate it has been getting. What am I missing?

WoW: Joining the Dark Side

WoW Sith
I never thought I’d say this, but last night I created a World of Wacraft account. Oh sure, it was the free-up-to-level-20 Starter Edition, but I’m seriously considering subscribing.

Why? The only reason there is for subscribing to WoW in this age of excellent free-to-play and buy-to-play titles: Jeremy Soule did the soundtrack for Mist of Pandaria. Just kidding, I refer, of course, to the fact that I have a friend who’s been trying to get me to play forever. My friend, who I rarely get to see anymore, has heard Azeroth irresistibly calling to him to return yet again, and this time, rather than make fun of him for never trying anything new (I’ve tried to get him to play just about every MMO I’ve ever been through, and he’s almost always turned me down), I decided to take the plunge with him.

It’s strange actually being in this game I’ve seen and read and know so much about, and yet have never personally experienced. Just about everyone I know that plays MMOs has played WoW. WoW was the game that, circa 2006, everyone left RuneScape for. I didn’t want to pay the three times higher subscription fee, so I contently stayed there, harboring just a little vague resentment toward WoW. Later, when games like LotRO started going F2P, I moved on to things that didn’t cost me money. I must say that I’ve taken some pride in being that one guy who’s been playing MMOs nonstop since 2005, but has never played WoW. I’m really not sure how I feel about giving that up. It kind of feels like selling out, but I can’t really give a good reason as to why. But I’ve come to the conclusion that, if I don’t at least give WoW a try, I am, in a way, just as irrational as someone who won’t play anything but WoW.

So, my first impressions? It feels… old. I’ll probably be tried and convicted for the high crime of being a WoW hater for saying this, but I feel like it hasn’t really aged very well at all. I’m perfectly willing to believe it’s because I know it’s old, but from the way every WoW player talks about the game I went in expecting to be wowed (pun only somewhat intended) by how perfect everything was. Character customization is pretty slim. Heck, RuneScape had more options than this when I first played in 2005 (granted, there are a lot of races, so there’s that, but couldn’t I at least adjust my character’s height or build?), and even with the recent character model redesigns, I’m still not impressed by the graphics. The interface feels a little cluttered. The settings menu isn’t organized very well (I spent a good five minutes or more trying to figure out if there was a way to stop my character from yelling at me because his spell was in cooldown when I hit it a second early or late, as I tend to mash the key a few times, and I still haven’t figured out how to move the buff/debuff box under my character portrait where it belongs). Also painful is the fact that I keep reverting to Guild Wars 2 mode and trying to run around the target while casting, either getting the “can’t cast while moving” message or worse, interrupting myself (I quickly switched to a Paladin, a class with mostly instant casts). And then there’s the miles of quest text they give you as motivation to go kill five rats. I know, I know, I’m totally spoiled by modern fully-voiced games, it’s true. But isn’t the operative word there modern? It really kills my momentum to stop and read stuff, and the temptation is so strong to just skip it and grind on. The writing had better be good later on or I, like so many players before me, am probably never going to do much more than skim any of it.

Perhaps the worst mechanic, one that I thought even WoW would have dropped by now, is mob tapping, the idea that, as soon as you do damage to something, you own it until one of you is dead and no one else can get quest progress, XP, or drops from it. I’ve heard the argument that it’s somehow supposed to encourage people to group up (something you can’t do as a starter), but to me it simply removes all incentive to help other players. If I’m supposed to form a temporary group to kill things for one quest, how is that different from open tapping? What’s worse is when there’s exactly one specific, unique person I need to kill for a quest (and believe me, those Blood Elves have a thing for bringing peoples’ severed heads to them). I must have waited 10 minutes to one-shot some loser elf, impatiently waiting my turn among a crowd of other “newbies” (mostly in heirloom gear with that obnoxious orc chauffeur motorcycle) also waiting to kill said elf. And this was on a medium population server. It got better as I moved farther away from the starting point, but it’s still an incredibly frustrating mechanic that, in my opinion, has no place in a modern MMO.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the game or anything. There are a lot of nice touches. The voice toasts when you click on NPCs, for instance. In a game where you’re stuck skipping reading pages of questgiver text, they’ve done a nice job of having a nice array of voice clips to give you something to go on. Similarly, Blizzard has always done a great job of giving different races unique personalities. You can almost guess the character’s race simply by reading what they said to you. Also, capes. It’s silly, but I’ve missed capes since going to games like SWTOR and GW2. Why GW2 hasn’t included capes yet is still a mystery to me. I mean, I get that cloth physics simulation is hard and all, but a good cape looks way cooler than a rose growing out of your back or those dumb flappy wings. Perhaps the most appealing advantage of WoW is its extremely well developed endgame. As someone who much prefers the journey to the destination, even I find this appealing. It’s something that’s often a little lacking in F2P/B2P games, and I wouldn’t mind running on the gear treadmill for a little while.

My biggest fear with the game is that I won’t find it worth my monthly $15. Honestly, if I didn’t know anyone who was playing, there’s no way I would even be interested at this point. But I’ve spent a lot more than $15 in a month to spend time with friends, so I guess it’s not unreasonable to just be a social WoW player.