G & G Reviews: World of Warcraft

[Originally posted on June 5, 2015]

World of Warcraft

 

 

Reviewer: Jacob Toman

Developer: Blizzard

Publisher: Blizzard

ESRB: T for TEEN

Platforms: PC (reviewed), OS X

Brief History:

World of Warcraft (WoW) is the pinnacle of the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Genre (MMORPG). Whether you like the game or hate it, WoW is the industry Standard when it comes to MMORPG’s.

In 2014 this iconic gaming giant celebrated its 10th year of service, having launched on November 23rd of 2004. Over the course of its run, WoW has seen 5 expansions, each releasing new content with new geography, dungeons, raids, and aspects of gameplay. With each expansion, the story, gameplay, and particular distinctive aspects of WoW have grown. Players often self-identify themselves in one of three ways. First, the faction that they play on (Alliance or Horde), second, the expansion version they began playing WoW, and third, the class archetype that makes their character unique.

Blizzard has a pattern of improving, perfecting, and refining a pre-existing game concepts and genres. WoW maintains this pattern, neither being the first MMORPG, nor being an early comer in creating innovative gameplay. What WoW has done better than any other MMORPG, is perfect, tweak, balance, and elevate what other weaker games have tried, but done less effectively. Blizzard time and time again uses mechanics, concepts, and theming that is similar to other brands, but with less polish. The highest praise I’ve heard from any gamer concerning WoW is this:

“[WoW] Focuses on taking other games’ concepts, and doing them better than anyone else” –Sunshine

WoW delivers on all fronts.

*Player versus player (PVP) interactions are balanced and high enough qualify to have grown into an Esport.

*Player versus environment (PVE) interactions include a range of difficulty that allow for new players to learn, and high level of challenge for veterans.

*The environment is richly designed, and includes a level of detail that is unmatched in size.

*In-game community is unprecedented with virtually every level of organizational administrative tasking possible.

*The narrative takes players from learning about the world and challenges of a particular faction, to ultimately leading in multi-dimensional warfare impacting worlds.

When considering all the above, it makes sense that WoW has not only survived for over a decade, but thrived for over a decade. This review will check out content in 4 parts; Theme, Gameplay, conscience areas, and a few personal notes from Jacob.

 

Theme:

Warcraft is set in a universe of Orcs, Elves, Demons, Humans, Dwarves, and other various mythological and mythical creatures. Below is an original retelling of WoW’s narrative.

 

The narrative of WoW has the stability of a television show that's run for over a decade, with several character arcs and plot twists. The setting of WoW is a storied one fabled within gaming culture. It was originally a concept for Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, which was released in 1994. Warcraft: Orcs & Humans was originally a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game. A decade after the original release of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, Blizzard switched its Warcraft platform from RTS to MMORPG. With the shift in game genre came the opportunity to expand upon the game universe at a previously untapped level of detail.

Gameplay:

As an MMORPG, WoW sets out to give players an immersive experience in a world other than our own by taking the role of a particular character that is involved in world shaping events.

Most of a player’s gameplay comes in 2 forms.

1.      Menu Interactions

2.      Reaction Interactions

Character progression is done mostly by text menu boxes where a player interacts with Non Player Characters (NPC) to acquire tasks known as “questing”.  Game story is conveyed primarily through questing. This means that much of WoW’s epic story is conveyed through menus. No company does cinematic cut scenes better than Blizzard, and the level of excellence they bring in their cut scenes makes me as a player want more epic cinematic, and less menu navigation.

Combat is done primarily through reaction interactions. Reactive combat means that players must react to the environment or other players (depending on PVE or PVP scenarios) by using various skills known as actives or passives. Reaction interacts require players to get to know their class specific skills and spells in relation to how frequently they can use an ability and how long an ability will be unavailable after use (called a cool down).

Conscience Areas:

wow themed wedding.jpg

Yes, this is a WoW themed wedding...

dirty dishes wow.jpg

Playing a game, shouldn't feel like entering a kitchen full of dirty dishes.

I don't know why, but this is trade chat spamming the phrase "in my pants"...

WoW is filled with brewmasters drinking ale, wars of racism and political interest, and has its share of immodesty. Violence is a given in a fantasy universe, and many of the tropes within magical fantasy worlds are included within WoW. As in any MMORPG, slaying monsters, bad guys, and various faction members is a part of the progression of the game. This slaying of various enemies is given moral grounds through narrative, and serves a mechanical purpose for gaining levels and items. The violence of WoW offers relatively few conscience issues, unless you are of a pacifist conviction in general.

Most of WoW’s questionable levels of modesty are equally distributed between males and female characters alike. My own confusion with the dress of character surrounds the level of armor certain characters wear. While I personally don’t have a problem with any of the characters dress, I would say that WoW’s target audience is an audience that is capable of holding full time employment. Because of the target age I wouldn’t recommend anyone in their teens to play the game.

Personal Notes:

1.      Internet Chores

I’m going to take a moment and talk about something I’ve named “Internet Chores”. Playing a game ought to be an enjoyable thing, not something that is a grind or monotonous. Any system which requires players to log in and participate by creating a fear of missing out is one that has the possibility to create an addictive habit. Having played WoW for 7 months I can say that the game highly incentivizes players to log in with great frequency through their daily quests, and weekly resets of content.

2.      Game versus User Experience

Ask any WoW player “How do you win” and you will undoubtedly get a puzzled look. WoW isn’t a game that you “win” or “lose”. It’s more akin to a user experience than it is a traditional game. With so many options and modules for player interaction, trade, combat, guilds, alliances, looking for raid, faction swaps, guild hall, garrison, and more, players are always being offered ways to interact with each other and the games universe.

3.      Trade Chat

Many players warned me about the notorious nature of trade chat to take any topic, and react in an unhelpful or toxic way to the topic. I found some of this toxic chat, but many times I found the opposite. Conversations could be had in trade chat with hundreds of other people, and those conversations were easily moved into one-on-one chats that led to great in-depth conversations.

On my second day in WoW, I had a very lengthy conversation with someone about the topic of the historicity of Jesus. Later that week the events surrounding the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri were the topic of trade chat. For almost 3 hours various viewpoints we’re represented by the members of trade chat. While some of the comments were inappropriate, much of the discussion was focused on the topic at hand.

In total I was able to have 57 Gospel Conversations in World of Warcraft, topics that led to these gospel conversations ranged from political debates, blatant religious banter, and sarcastic critiques of Christianity, to personal problems and questions surrounding morality. WoW has a storied community filled with rich interactions. For us at Gospel & Gaming it was an opportunity to share the love of Christ, and I’m thankful for the 7 months of gameplay on mission I experienced.

Here are all the cinematics from World of Warcraft, from 2004-2015.  

One of the reasons I highly recommend WoW is because there is a correlation between the events and choices of characters within WoW. These events and choices are integrally related to the way good and evil are portrayed within the universe of WoW. There is no better example of a game that creates scenarios where moral choices made by in-universe characters shape the game’s circumstances. Blizzard shapes narrative within WoW better than any other game I’ve seen.

WoW sets the standard for MMORPG’s. Any other company that is creating, developing, or thinking about entering the MMORPG world, has to both compete and compare to World of Warcraft. Its commitment to excellence & refinement earns WoW the highest marks in our rating system. In every facet of gameplay that WoW seeks to deliver, it exceeds expectations.

Content Score: SUPPORTABLE

Overall Score: A+