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January 2014

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After a long period of semi-retirement from gaming, broken only by the occasional FPS bloodbath, I was lured to the World of Warcraft open beta with hopes that I might find a new, refreshing, and original entry to the large scale persistant world RPG market.

Unfortunately, WoW is not such a game.

That's not to say that WoW is bad, mind you - far from it, it's actually quite good - but this is not a groundbreaking or revolutionary title.

I tend to view WoW as a distillation of good gameplay elements from many other games, both massive and not so much. It won't change the way you think about gameplay - but it may change your expectations for quality.

The game WoW feels closest to, in my estimation, is Asheron's Call 2 (at least, before it became Mulliganized). Both games employ a design philosophy I like to refer to as quest-based progression, something I had long begged for in EverQuest and never received. AC2 was the first MMORPG I played that allowed you to simply forget about progression entirely - gaining levels was a side effect of exploration and quest advancement.

In short, with quest-based progression, you seldom (if ever) will be doing something inane simply to "level up" or acquire items.

While AC2 was the first to incorporate this, WoW is undisputedly the best at it. WoW quests have great variety, send you all over the world, and slowly reveal stories that you're actually interested in. Quests reward you with major chunks of experience and items you'll probably be using, and it's not uncommon at all to not even notice that you level in the process.

I have yet to feel like I'm doing "work" to get a "reward" in this game. Now granted, I only levelled up to the mid teens, but it was a constant quest-fest with no downtime and no tedium.

WoW's artwork is excellent, and the game is completely playable on lower-spec systems. The stylized art requires much lower polygon counts to be effective when compared to some other notable new releases, and if you for some reason have something against the style I'm sure you'll learn to live with it. It really does feel like you were plopped down into the world of Warcraft, and the game is stylistically consistant with the RTS series.

As for races and classes... well, pretty standard generic fantasy fare, with a few twists thrown in. Each class and race has at least a couple of important characteristics that help distinguish it from all the others, and that helps a lot. No character is ineffectual, either - it's not like EQ where you need a perfect group of the exact right classes to accomplish things.

All in all, the WoW beta was a great experience, and the retail game is just around the corner... we'll see how good my will power is this time around.

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