Though massively multiplayer online role-playing games have been around for years, it has taken this long for the genre’s breakthrough hit to finally emerge. Here is the online role-playing game you should play, no matter who you are. This is because World of Warcraft brings out all the best aspects of this style of gaming, if not many of the best aspects of gaming in general. It also features many of the specific characteristics that have made Blizzard Entertainment’s previous games so entertaining, memorable, long-lasting, and successful. Of course, the company’s past track record did not guarantee that World of Warcraft could have turned out this well. Such high quality simply cannot be expected, nor should it be missed.
In World of Warcraft, you create your alter ego by choosing from a variety of colorful races and powerful classes, and then you begin exploring, questing, and battling in Azeroth, the fantasy setting featured in Blizzard’s Warcraft real-time strategy games. Fans of those games (especially Warcraft III and its expansion pack) will spot tons of references here, and they will be impressed at how faithfully World of Warcraft translates so many of Warcraft’s little details and even some of the finer points of its gameplay into such a seemingly different style of game. Meanwhile, fans of other online role-playing games will be impressed at the sheer breadth and volume of content on display in World of Warcraft, whose setting seamlessly connects a bunch of wildly different-looking types of places and somehow makes them appear as if they all belong as parts of a whole.
World of Warcraft is superficially similar to numerous other games that came before it, and it clearly draws inspiration from some of them. The fundamentals are all here, such as fighting dangerous creatures (optionally including other players), exploring the countryside either alone or in the company of other players, undertaking various quests, gaining experience levels and new abilities, and acquiring powerful items. However, directly comparing World of Warcraft with any of its predecessors would be almost like pitting a professional sports club against a school team. With all due respect to the other online role-playing games out there, World of Warcraft is in a league of its own. The game clearly benefits from not being the first of its kind, as the design issues that plagued previous online role-playing games are handled extremely well in World of Warcraft. In addition, the game’s own subtle innovations turn out to have a dramatic impact on the flow of the action from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, and beyond. So the particulars of the game’s design–along with its incredibly vast, beautiful, majestic world–translate into a one-of-a-kind experience that seems fresh and original in its own right.