|Release: December 07, 2010|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
In the week or so since I filed my preliminary review of World of Warcraft's Cataclysm expansion, I've spent a lot of time exploring Azeroth and leveling up my character, the goblin Yozz. I have yet to dive headfirst into raids, but I've completed more quests than I care to admit, including the entire story that forces the goblin race to join the Horde. After years of casting curious gazes from afar, I finally understand what the WoW fuss is all about.
I'm at level sixteen, and have averaged maybe one level per hour of gameplay, but as with all RPGs, each level is harder to earn than the last. It will be quite some time before I hit the level cap of 85, if that ever happens.
In these early-to-mid levels, there are two things that make a gamer keep coming back. The first is that once you leave your race's starting land, there's always something to do, be it a new quest line, a new area to explore, or a new breed of beast to fight en route to a new destination. The second is that everything you do feels like an accomplishment; even the simple act of delivering papers from one character to another counts as a "quest" and nets you a few EXP, and you're constantly being given access to better weapons, abilities, and armor.
The game's whimsical attitude really starts to stand out, too. Whereas lots of dungeon-and-dragons titles take themselves far too seriously, Warcraft sends you on quests to rip your ex-girlfriend's heart out, interrogate a prisoner Jack Bauer-style, and fly a rickety airplane into old-school dogfights.
It's frankly amazing to me how these positive attributes completely mask what should be a major flaw in WoW: most of the quests are simple errands. You're constantly being told to act as a courier between non-player characters, kill X number of enemy Y, collect A number of item B, or slay a specific enemy who's causing trouble. So long as there's some EXP and a new item at the end, you hardly even notice.
Also, I've finally come to appreciate the beautiful simplicity of the combat system. Combat takes place in real time, so if an enemy attacks you while you're not paying attention, he can keep hitting you while you slowly react. However, there's a definite RPG feel, because you can't dodge attacks by moving out of the way. If you're within range when the attack is executed, that's pretty much it.
Further, each spell you cast takes a while to execute and then recharge. This means you have to plan out your attacks carefully; you don't want to be taking damage while you wait for your best spells to recharge. Right now, I open fire, literally, with Immolate (which continues to deal damage as they burn), follow up with Conflagrate (which deals a nice blow to enemies who are already on fire), and then use Shadow Bolts until Conflagrate is almost recharged.