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I’m Old – Well not me specifically although having said that I do remember a time when there was only 3 TV channels to watch on UK TV. No, I’m referring to my character on World of Warcraft (WoW) for he is a level 60 Tauren shaman who has seen much of the land of Azeroth and has done many deeds, both heroic and not so heroic. This review is a very different tack to the normal witterings you may read elsewhere on WoW as it focuses entirely on the high level end of the game. For that my dear reader, is infinitely more revealing about WoW than the climb up the ladder to get there in the first place.
Hang on, haven’t we been here before?
Regular visitors to TB may have noticed that I have written about WoW before. I did indeed do a preview of WoW back in the beginning of 2005. The contents of that preview will regail those who have no prior knowledge of WoW with basic gameplay details which this review will take for granted. I therefore recommend that any of you reading this now that have little to no knowledge of WoW read that first HERE. Once you have read it come back to this article to find out how the game plays once you start killing dragons and such!
Are we sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin
The life of a shaman is a grim one on WoW. Shaman are a unique class to the Horde side and are a jack of all trades yet masters of none. Shamans can cast spells, heal themselves and can hit real hard too. They have few weaknesses which makes attacking them rather difficult. It is because of this fact that many players, especially those who have characters on the alliance side cry ‘over powered’ when ever they have their first head to head combat against a shaman. This has resulted in players targeting shaman first during any encounter for they are regarded as the bain of Azeroth due to their flexibility. The above must be kept in mind as I divulge to you my experiences on the European WoW server, Draenor.
DING! 60….oh no…now what?
I remember the day I hit level 60 with my shaman. I required 150 experience points to achieve it and I was in Western Plaguelands at the time. I spotted a rather large spider and swatted him swiftly. DING! I cried as I hit 60. Floods of ‘Gratz’ appeared on the text view and I was most pleased with myself. I had managed to climb to the top of the level tree and all the quests that I had done and the monsters I had killed had gotten me to this point. Seconds later another feeling swept over me, one of sadness and uncertainty. Was this it? What’s the point of carrying on now that the level progression has ceased? The answer lay in a little place called Alterac Valley…
I want better stuff! Why? So that I can kick those tree hugging, bunny rabbit loving Alliance players off the face of Azeroth!
I was not alone in this problem as by the time I had reached level 60 there were over 100 players that had also achieved this goal. I did a quick search for them in the game and found that they were doing one of two things. Dungeon hacking and killing alliance players both of which were intrinsically linked. For the only reason to go to dungeons is to get better equipment. Why get better equipment? So that it’ll be easier to cleave the skull of those meddling alliance players!
Nethack has a lot to answer for
Since the invention of Adventure and, more appropriately, Nethack, the concept of getting through a dungeon filled to the brim with monsters, most of whom appear to have spawned from the depths of hell itself has been oddly appealing. Even more so when you are doing it with others. WoW exploits this extremely well by the use of ‘Instances’. These were described briefly in my preview but they are the very core of the game once a player reaches level 60. High level players will go to great lengths to gather groups together and attempt to run through an instance with the aim of grabbing a long coveted item from the clutches of some monster that isn’t keen on letting it go. To give you a glimpse of what this is like I’m about to describe to you an actual raid on an instance that I participated in.
Remember your training and you will make it back alive!
The wind was howling through the dreary misshapen woods of the Eastern Plaguelands. 10 members of the horde had gathered outside the back entrance to the stronghold of the Scourge known as Stratholme. The group was a raid group i.e. two separate groups of players joined in an alliance forming a raid party. WoW allows players to do this to aid in the progression through the dungeon although any quests that are attempted there will fail due to the size of the group. Strength may be in numbers but sometimes it can make things way too easy.
The two groups were organised into effective fighting units with each group having healers (priests), tanks (warriors), nukers (mages/warlocks/rogues) and other classes such as shaman and hunters. All have their role to play and each player knows it well for they have done this dozens of times before! This is a key point to note about playing as a high level character. 9 times out of 10 when entering dungeons with other level 60 players they know what they are doing. Tactics are carefully laid out and followed. If they are not then a ‘wipeout’ (everyone in the party is killed) occurs and no one wants that…
Bullish with confidence my raid group set off into the depths of Stratholme. We were soon confronted by a host of undead all of whom wanted us to also sport the ‘rotting flesh’ look. Well those of us who weren’t already undead! Anyway we all ran in and quickly started to put our battle tactics into action. I, as a shaman, put down totems that added armor and health regeneration which aided the tanks when they began beating the merry hell out of the masses of undead. I did this while also wading in and keeping an eye on the priests health and mana levels for if he fell I would have to take over. We were making excellent progress with this set up until we encountered a rather large bat like creature.
Unfettered we turned to face this new threat only for it to invoke fear into the entire raid group. At this point we all started to run in many directions at a great distance right into a group of even more undead creatures. We closed up again to defend ourselves but were quickly outnumbered and were annihilated. in very short order. Much recriminations were said by most of the raid group with most pointing at the two shamans for not putting down tremor totems down which negates fear attacks. My only defence for this was the fact that I hadn’t been to Stratholme before and was unaware that these creatures cast fear. So much for knowing what you’re doing eh? All was not lost however as I resurrected myself (a rare talent we shaman have) and then set about resurrecting the rest of the raid group. We dusted ourselves off and changed our tactics to allow for these bats with the use of termor totems being a key change!
You, me, outside, NOW!
We fought our way through waves of monsters and a fair few boss creatures too. All of this was to gain an audience with the ruler of Stratholme. Called Baron Rivendare he is nasty brute that fights whilst mounted on a skeletal horse. He pulses out a negative aura that hits players for 150 hp per second and has the ability to sacrifice risen undead to heal himself during combat. So I’m sure you’re asking now, how did we defeat this monster? Well it was all in the planning and the key was his self healing. He needs his undead minions to heal himself. If they are not there, he can’t heal himself! So we split the raid party into two. The tanks attacked the baron and the priests kept them alive. Everyone else killed the undead minions that the baron summoned over and over again. Oh yes, it worked!
Together we stand, and all that!
So what’s my point here? Well the reason people play games like WoW is that it enables people to work together for a common goal. Whether it’s fighting almost impossibly difficult creatures or defending your homestead against those foul alliance players (ahem) there is a tremendous amount of satisfaction to be had when fighting the odds with others alongside you.
Alterac Valley. The name conjures memories of me and 39 other high level horde players smashing the lines of the alliance forces as we force our way northward to their encampment for Alterac Valley is the location of the Battlegrounds PvP arena that has just been released for WoW at no extra charge (can you hear us Sony Online Entertainment? , EverQuest 2 expansions ripoff *cough*). Alterac Valley and Warsong Gulch both offer up the chance for players to have a bit of a fight within the confines of an instance, similar to the dungeons described above. Alterac Valley is for high level players only and has both the horde and the alliance fighting over spawn points AKA grave yards in a similar fashion to Battlefield 1942 the main difference being that BF1942 players prefer to use the Thompson/MP40 as opposed the Sword of the Bear + 20. Warsong Gulch on the other hand is for players level 20 and above. Its a much more basic Capture the Flag affair with both sides earning honour points as they manage to acquire the flag from the opposing side. There are no NPC’s or monsters and the numbers are limited to 20 players, 10 each side. This makes for a very fast paced experience. quite unlike the rest of the game!
Graphics, Sound, Multiplayer, Deaf & Female Aspect
What I said in my preview of WoW still holds true to the final game so I won’t regurgitate any of it here. Suffice to say it all meets with my approval.
WoW is fun with a capital F. Blizzard have spent a huge amount of time on this game and it really shows for the game oozes quality. It is a shot across the bows for any other developer who wants to get a piece of the lucrative MMO pie. People won’t put up with half finished titles just because it’s an MMO which, until the release of WoW, it was seen to be acceptable to release a half finished game onto the unsuspecting gaming public and let them beta test it for you. Blizzard have set the standard for future MMO’s and many other games that have released since WoW appear to have suffered as a result. The best examples being Matrix Online and Neocron 2 both of which have met with justifiably harsh criticism.
All I can say is even if you have a passing interest in multiplayer games or any other type of game you’d be a fool not to give WoW a try.
Review by Chris