Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Look to the Past: Games of the Years 2004 - World of Warcraft


World of Wacraft (PC)

Forget Game of the Year. Forget Game of the Decade. Forget... whatever would logically come next. World of Warcraft is Game of the Ever. When it comes to MMOs, I'm used to giving out unintended backhanded compliments:

"These are amazing graphics... for an MMO."
"This sound design is excellent... for an MMO."
"What a fantastic interface... for an MMO."

World of Warcraft simply had amazing graphics, excellent sound design, and a fantastic interface... yet was still an MMO. Breaking out of the contrived rut, this game threw away all the old junk from the genre while simultaneously keeping all the good bits. Just as impressive was the gold standard it set in the process, majorly influencing virtually every MMO to come after it. The brilliant quest feature kept players moving from activity to activity, always having something fun to do. Crafting allowed for harvesting, creating, selling, trading, and using items, which alone offered hours of enjoyment. Dungeons required teamwork to plunder and defeat, PvP pitted players against each other in war, and a wealth of other options were ready to be explored. Animal Crossing had too many features to reasonably list, and World of Warcraft had a hundredfold that amount. Whether you like to grind, role-play, join guilds, engage in PvP, or a little bit of everything, you'll find something fun to do in World of Warcraft. The really amazing thing is that all the previously mentioned elements were well-made and bursting with quality; there was a solid game supporting the many features. Combat was an exciting mix of tactical depth and action-oriented gameplay, making it a necessity to think ahead while leaping away from foes and dealing out damage. Your chosen class and race would have serious consequences in the heat of battle, of course, for a human mage would have a vastly difference experience than would a tauren hunter. This variety of combinations made an already enthralling game even more interesting, tempting the player to go back to level one and try out something completely different. This mentality of exploration was one of World of Warcraft's crowning achievements: it showed how a realm populated with hundreds of players at once could be engaging, beautiful, and filled with lore and personality.

One false step and that tauren will be flatter than a McDonald's hamburger.

Never before had a world felt so imaginative and inviting, drawing players into the land of Azeroth time and time again. It felt like a true extension of Warcraft III, as if the old RTS camera wouldn't stop zooming until it put you in the shoes of the hero. The icy slopes of Dun Morogh had a quiet, lonely chill; one could practically feel the hazy heat of the Barrens; the cozy human inns were comfortable and cheery. World of Warcraft's ambiance was phenomenal, and the fantastical art style made it all the better. The scale of mighty castles and soaring mountains was truly a sight to behold, and the rolling landscapes could be seen from atop a flying gryphon for a spectacular bird's eye view. From the dusty barrels of an undead town to trees towering high above in the elven forests, a dedicated art team made Azeroth a believable, magical place. The stylized detail ensures that World of Warcraft's visuals shine even now, because art never gets old. Musical themes that perfectly fit the varied races complemented each area with a subtle touch, and a well-established culture matched each race a unique mood. Whether you're walking the decaying halls of Lordaeron or fishing off the coast of Auberdine, It's amazingly easy to get lost in Blizzard's world and, admittedly, it's sometimes hard to come back out. Keep in mind that this is coming from someone who had never played nor cared about any Warcraft game in the past; I also disliked every one of the numerous MMOs I had sampled. Yet in a matter hours upon playing World of Wacraft I decided that I would put the money down for a subscription. Put simply, it's a brilliant game that basically does everything right, and there are very, very few games that can match such a feat. 2004 brought us Halo 2 (the game that virtually invented online multiplayer for consoles) and Burnout 3: Takedown (arguably the perfection of the Burnout series). However, despite these games and other accomplished titles, they just don't hold a candle to World of Warcraft (and in true Azerothian fashion, "You no take candle!")

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