Saturday, July 24, 2010
9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Beard Status: Inexcusable
Personal Smell: Like Death
Character: Kniveschau (Level 14 Blood Elf Hunter)
I spent the first part of my penultimate day completing simple quests and flying back and forth between the two halves of the Blood Elf starting Zone. For some reason the class and profession trainers were all in or around Silvermoon City, so I had to keep returning from Eversong Woods to keep up my hunter, skinning, and leatherworking skills. I was learning new combat abilities quickly but the leatherworking advanced a bit slower than I would have liked. (I’m not too impressed that I can finally make “embossed leather gloves” if I already found some on a mistbat’s corpse.) At least I got to watch this pretty flying animation a lot; it gave me time to refill my glass. I was also slowly filling in the map for Eversong Woods, finding little villages and caves all over the place.
I believe I got my pet, Caboose the ferocious war cat, on day Six. But this was the day I really learned his value when soloing. Because I was a hunter, my best skills were being built up for ranged attacks, which don’t work when enemies rush at you. But Caboose would run ahead of me and keep the enemy distracted while I gave the fiends impromptu tracheotomies from far away. The cat was worth his weight in gold and I actually started to bond with the little guy. I couldn’t imagine ever letting him go.
Until I found a bigger and better cat, of course. Then I abandoned Caboose and tamed one of these new beasties, naming him “Caboose II.” Except it turned out that all cats you tame look the same in battle, no matter how big they were when you were fighting them. The cat levels with you and gets more powerful but stays at the same scale. Reminds me of Umaro in Final Fantasy VI, who was a big badass boss when you fought him but a normal-sized mediocre character in your party.
Caboose II and I spent the rest of the day killing things and desecrating bodies. Literally. I don’t remember why but at some point I had to burn mummified troll remains, which is odd because I thought the trolls were my allies. Sure spent a lot of time killing them today, though.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Beard Status: Actually Against the Law
Personal Smell: Noticeable by People in the Game
Character: Kniveschau (Level 17 Blood Elf Hunter)
I started my day off by fighting some underwater monsters including a boss. Fortunately Caboose II and I could hold our breath for like ten minutes and it turns out that arrows fly underwater exactly as they do in the air. The swimming controls were actually very intuitive (much better than the bullshit controls in Metal Gear Solid 2, but I guess since that’s been nine years ago I should let that go. But, seriously… Fuck You, E.E.). The only problem came when killing the boss and trying to find its corpse to get the loot. I saw the sparklies that indicate a treasure drop but somehow couldn’t quite get myself lined up right to collect the booty.
More bad guys were killed, more trips to Silvermoon City were made to level up. At one point I saw this NPC whose pet was a succubus or something. If I’d known I could have a hot chick in lingerie as a pet I never would have picked up Caboose.
There were two minibosses of sorts named Kucklerot and Luzran who were giving me some trouble every time I ran into one of them. As I was running out of other quests I finally decided to tackle the dudes but needed help. I put out an all call for assistance, and was answered by a dude named “Samsiust.” He agreed to help… and came to my aid with a Level 80 Paladin who made short work of the monsters before I could blink. I was starting to notice a trend. After this premature evisceration we chatted for a minute before I agreed to join his guild and he went on his way.
All that was really left for the area after that was the boss Dar’khan. Subsequent to a couple of ass-kickings I decided to run up to the next area and level up a bit. Fortunately, I’d learned to ride a mount at some point. The bird ran very fast and made short work of the long treks from place to place. However, he was no help in combat and apparently Caboose II was afraid of him, as the cat disappeared every time I called my chocobo—er, riding ostrich-thingy. Unfortunately, the next area was filled with Level 60 nasties that killed me faster than my wife made me shave when she got home.
So I decided to turn back and get help from my guild in dealing with Dar’Khan. Turns out no one of the appropriate level was on. So I switched to a different guild (yeah, I’ll sell out quick) and got help from another player. At first he actually tried to help me with a level-appropriate character, making the fight interesting. Then we died and he switched to a Level 72 character and took out the boss in one turn. Yeah, this MMO teaming-up-with-people thing is fantastic.
But that’s fine. Things have changed. I’ve complete the opening section of the game! My life will never be the same! No longer will I ride a dragon from place to place, going on simple fetch quests!
Now I’m riding a bat.
At the beginning of the week I had some questions to answer. What was with this game? What made it the undisputed king of its genre? What (if anything) makes it worth the monthly subscription?
Having played through about thirty hours of the game (that’s right, I spent a day and a half of the seven days of my vacation playing this game), I’m ready to answer some of these questions. First the good: World of Warcraft is a surprisingly deep RPG with simple, addictive combat backed up by complex leveling. Everything is levelable and customizable—combat, skills, pets, you name it. Loot is doled out at the perfect pace and everything you get is visible on your avatar. In doing some research on the game I’ve found that there have been tons of updates over the past six years, which is appropriate considering how far RPG’s have come in that time. New quests are given out frequently enough that you never really feel like you’re grinding the same enemies over and over. The enemies themselves evolve more than simple palette swaps. Death gives you a choice of respawn options, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. And the controls work perfectly (which is a pretty big consession coming from a guy who historically hates PC games.)
But I can’t call the game flawless. First of all, the game shows its age. Let’s face it—WoW came out before the Xbox 360. The waypoint system doesn’t work like in a modern game, causing you to bring up your map frequently to get directions. After finishing my starting area, I spent over an hour stumbling around looking for what to do next, which turned out to be another area beneath my level which wasn’t nearly as visually appealing as the place I’d left. The game doesn’t look as good as Dragon Age: Origins, a game with graphics that felt dated a year ago. And modern RPG’s leave this game in the dust in terms of customizing your avatar’s face and hair. I also hope you didn’t come for story, because there is none. I suppose that theoretically my Blood Elf is trying to get her race into an exalted position in the Horde, but eleven million people have done that before me, which kind of breaks the illusion.
But people don’t play WoW for the graphics or story. So we come to the real ass-kickers: sure, there are thousands of quests in the game, but when they all boil down to “go kill x number of mistbats and bring back their spines” is that really any different than level grinding in any other RPG? And, yeah, meeting up with people to complete quests together is pretty kick ass, but only when you’re working with someone at the same level as you and going after a level-appropriate quest. Which I never really did in my week here. And a game that won’t let you play if the server is overcrowded or down for maintenance is, to my way of thinking, inexcusable.
Oh, and I’m a grown-ass man. If I want to curse, Blizzard, give me a server or two in which I can %@#&ing say the $#!+ I want to without censoring me.
So at the end of the day I guess I need to give the game a final critique. I certainly haven’t played enough to give you a Crush! Frag! Review!, and I don’t know enough about MMO’s in general to tell you where this sits in that pantheon. So here’s what I can tell you after a long, hard week of making friends, orphans, and leather capes in Azeroth: I like my character. I want to play some more. Actually, I think I’ll log in as soon as I’m done with this article. I had fun and didn’t give up. The game works (mostly), unlike most PC games I’ve tried to play. I’m more interested than ever in trying The Old Republic and Final Fantasy XIV, two games I didn’t take much notice of at their announcement.
I’m going to keep playing until my two free months are up. After that? Probably not. World of Warcraft is a very good RPG. But I can’t call it a life-changer for me. Maybe the upcoming Cataclysm expansion can fix some of my problems with it. Maybe not.
If you’re like me, and MMO’s have always been like that cute girl next door that you’ve heard is good in the sack but you never asked her out because you were afraid she’d take up all your time and steal fifteen bucks a month from you, I say give it a shot. You can get a free ten day trial or buy the Battle Chest, which includes the Burning Crusades expansion along with two free months. Maybe you’ll get hooked. I did not.
But I’ll never forget my time in Azeroth.
Special thanks to Rob Thomas, “J” Bybee, Smirnoff pear-flavored vodka, the guys I played with online, Lucid absinthe, Mrs. Stevens, and everyone who has commented on one of these columns or followed me on Twitter. And Guiness. I couldn’t have done it without any of you.
Kniveschau will return in Goldmember.