A week ago I decided it was time to look into what all those 10 million gamers are doing in the World of Warcraft. So I did create a 10 day trial account to try it out. One of the nice things about WoW is that it runs almost flawless in Linux, it doesn't provide native binaries, but Wine pretty much just works with it. No need to go hunt for cracks or anything, since it works out of the box, which is a pretty rare thing these days, where even game demos are often boggled down by copy protection which Wine can't handle.
So first thing one notices is that the game doesn't really have a proper way to create custom characters, while one can change hairstyle and color, one has no control over the body shape, which makes all possible characters look very much alike. Later in the game you don't really have much control over your clothing either, since at any given level there really isn't much to choice from.
Next step then of course was to actually enter the world with my newly created human female warlock. The world itself looks good. It's technically a little out of date, but on the other side that is why I can play it in the first place on my not-so-brand-new PC, so I won't complain about that. One thing that however looks a little weird is the size of everything in that world, building, doorways and such all look way to huge compared to the character size, like everything was scaled up by factor two or so. Another thing that is a little annoying, is that the whole world is heightmap based. While this is nothing unusual, it looks rather simplistic compared to a game like Gothic for example which features real 3D terrain. A heightmap can't handle vertical walls, so all the mountains looks very much smoothed and unrealistic. This also has some annoying sideeffects for movement, since every now and then you bounce along a mountain only to be stopped by a tile with a too high elevation, it becomes an invisible wall. WoW is by no means the only game that suffers from this, plenty do, but it is just as annoying today as it was 10 years ago. Real 3D terrain is just so much better then a simple 2D heightmap.
So graphics asside, what else does the game have to offer? Quests, plenty of quests. The annoying part here is that they are all rather repetative. You have those quests in which you have to kill five wild boar and then those in which you have to kill ten wild boar and sometimes even those where you have to collect the remains of boars you killed. But that is basically all you ever do, at least up to level 20, which is how far I have played. Every now and then you also get a quest that involves a little travel from point A to point B, but its also extremely streight forward, there is no thinking involved or searching or anything. You just wander around and kill stuff, the quest text itself can be completly ignored, since it doesn't really matter. Sometimes quests involved not killing a random animal, but some specific animal. In those quests another big issue of the game pops up, the complete utter lack of persistence. If you kill that big evil animal it will respawn a minute later. If the place is just a bit busy and somebody else already killed it, you basically have to just sit there and wait for it to respawn. This respawning which happens with all quests I have played is really annoying, since it takes any meaning of what you do away. Not only that, in some mission it also wreaks the gameplay a bit. From time to time the thing you have to kill is deep down in a mine, so you go down there, kill creatures along the way and then when you are down, everything has already respawned and on your way up you have to rekill all the same enemies over again. That is pretty annoying and just looks really stupid. If somebody else cleaned up the place befor you, it can also happens that you are suddenly surrounded by enemies, since they will respawn right behind you.
With all that killing you of course collect a bunch of loot, while I can understand while a wild boar would give you meat, I have a hard time to understand why it would give you a piece of armor or gold. It just seems rather arbitary and not very meaningful. Couldn't they have left the gold and armor away and instead let it to the player to sell the meat and other animal parts instead? You of course can already do that, but you still get much more armor and weapons from animals then you buy at a shop. And speaking about items, its also a little annoying that you can't drop items, if you try to drop them they get destroyed. So you never will find items lying on the ground, but always just in a killed enemy and very seldomly also in a treasure cheast.
A few other random annoyancies are the day/night cycles which happen in real time, instead of accelerated game time, so if you always play at the same time you will never see a sunrise in the game world. It also means that quests and NPCs aren't based on day/night cycles, night simply gives everything a blueish color instead of having an impact on the game world. Another issue is that you get very little explanation why you can't use a piece of armor or a weapon. In the shops the items that you can't use are marked red, but thats basically it. You don't get a "You need this ability" or a "Warlocks can't wear that", but just a "I can't wear that" without explanation. Also voice acting is very limited in the game, in the intro you hear a few worlds, you character says some, but none of the NPCs talk. The lack of ability to easily transfer a character to another server is also not something pretty.
Anyway, so all that down what do I think of the game? Well, not much. The game is relativly easy to get into, but its also a little boring and pointless, because there is no real challange in all the leveling up and quest solving. If you are the right level for a quest you won't have much problem and if you are the wrong one you won't stand a chance. The whole experience gets very linear by this, since you never can leave your predefined areas. You of course can walk everywhere, but if some "level ??" character can kill you with a single hit that trip won't be a long one. You also won't really get much story to hear, because there really isn't one and how can there in a world without progress. When it comes to quest your gui automatically takes care of how many boars you have to kill befor completion, so you can just skip the text. The game really gets the most interesting if you try to bent the rules, when you join a few high level characters in a fight that is way over your level or such, but then the game also is pretty good at destroying that fun, because you really don't stand a chance against a high level enemy, if he hits you, you are dead.
I have only played up to level 20 with my character, so I haven't seen everything, but on the other side I think I have seen enough. World of Warcraft is pretty much MMORPG cliche in perfection. There are no suprises or unexpected events, the whole game just flows along in an easy consumable and but also pointless repeatative way. I think for me the whole lack of persistant and linearity was the biggest annoyancy. Killing five boars is stupid, but when they stay dead it at least feels like you have accomplished something, here it doesn't. The game world size is also issue here, while it does look big and gives you long ways to travel, it really is rather empty. I have seen only two major cities so far and the rest is just a bunch houses and farmland. There simply isn't much to explore, rather soon you have seen everything and then are stuck with leveling up. That you can freely travel around as a ghost of course makes exploration also rather easy. And speaking about the long ways to travel, having a something heavy to place on your "W" key really helps to make long travels a little more endurable. One thing I haven't yet understood is why there are no Orcs, sure I have seen NPC Orcs, but so far I haven't seen any player controlled Orcs or other members of the horde. Not sure what is up with that, but there really doesn't seem to be much if any overlap between those two fractions, likely there will be stuff higher levels, but it still annoys to not actually having seen a member of a non alliance-race with my character.
I still have two days on that trial account, maybe I'll use them for a bit more sideseeing as a ghost, but on the other side I think its really time to go back to some good games, since World of Warcraft starts to get really boring and repetative.