So here it is. World of Warcraft is the best worst single-player MMO you’ll ever pay money to not play.
I’m quite pleased with that.
Nice things first: the RPG mechanics are streamlined and versitile, to the point that the level cap really isn’t, the locations you explore are rich, varied and thoroughly inviting, the background lore is colourful but unintrustive, and each class is varied enough to be interesting all the way through. These are all good things, and don’t let the fact that they all get shunted to this tiny paragraph at the beginning convince you otherwise - they’re all important.
Most annoying is Waltham On-the-Wolds’s position as a world leader in single-player MMOs, and that’s not a joke either. It is entirely possible to get all the way up to that oh-so-coveted level 70 topspot without ever grouping with another person, or indeed, even seeing another person. To which the sensible, well adjusted argument is “Oh so what we shouldn’t be forcing players to mingle and group up if they don’t want to”.
This is a big pile of ridiculous dickery.
Of course you have to force players to group up in an MMO because without any social interaction what you have is an utterly appalling, tedious grind-o-thon which is for the most part laughable compared to a proper single-player RPG such as OH I DON’T KNOW maybe Neverwinter Nights? Planescape: Torment? Hell, even Final Fantasy if you’re into that shit.
Of course, along the way there are quests and large dungeons which DO ostensibly require you to group up in order to secure bigger and better rewards, but since most serious grinders know that whatever they get will be replaced in a few levels anyway few can be bothered to go through the tedium of actually finding someone of the right level who wants to do it too. The net result can be one of two things: either they ignore the group quest until they’re so high level they can do it on their own (by which point the reward will be worthless) or they call on a mate with a level 70 to come along and do all the work for them.
Essentially, this is intentionally not playing the game. The game you’re paying for. Every month.
But don’t get me wrong, I’m not actually against the monthly fee per se, but there is a massive discrepancy between the amount you pay for the priviledge of playing Weird Oliver Williamson and the amount you pay to play a proper game like, OH I DON’T KNOW maybe Dark Messiah or Total War. Considering most people play Witcheta Oil Wefinewy for several hours per night several nights per week what you’re actually getting is good value, real value for your money, rather than most games which are ridiculously cheap for the hours of entertainment you get in return.
This doesn’t however justify the act of deliberately not bothering to play the game you’re wasting your life on as well as paying for every single month. It is essentially a form of cheating, only in this case you’re not really getting anything in return and you’re rapidly thinning out your bank balance.
Also connected to cheating is the equally deplorable act of “twinking” whereby a player with a fat and wealthy level 70 will create a new character, kit him out in ludicrously powerful kit that a “proper” player would be lucky to even see let alone touch, and unleash their revolting little pets on the low-level pvp battlegrounds, making a mockery of the last vestiges of the RPG system. They are in fact cheating to get an unfair advantage on their pvp opponents, which isn’t that unsurprising because the moment you bring in a level-based mechanic like to Will Oliver Wrestle? it becomes all about getting an unfair advantage, but twinks simply take it to ridiculous extremes, so that it is simply impossible to play in the level 10-19 pvp bracket unless you too are a twink. For first time players, that means they don’t get to play pvp, which is an increasingly large part of the game.
So how exactly do you justify that monthly fee? Well, not easily. But Wesley’s Organ Waving is incredibly compulsive, and though that’s, yes, a very bad thing, it’s also very very good. And there were two good veries next to the single bad very so they win I’m afraid HA. Like Diablo, it manages to always have a new and extra-juicy carrot dangling just out of reach, whether it’s a new flashy spell, a handsome suit of armour or a posh mount to show off on around town. It’s incredible just how much bullshit you find yourself able to put up with just to get your little carrot fix, and even though it’s not really, it skirts dangerously close to the shores of addictivity.
Of course if you believe the army of frothy-mouthed forum-zealots over on the official site this is all a big conspiracy and Blizzard are evil moustachio-twirling villains who cackle maniacly as they brainwash millions into handing over their money. It’s not that bad, but there’s no denying that at the core of Wandering Only Weakens is a solid and carefully-planned business model to make this product the world leader in its genre.
And bang howdy has it ever achieved that. 9 million players. NINE MILLION! It’s incredible - a population considerably higher than a lot of real countries, and with a GDP that puts the developing world into one of those shame spirals that not even discount imported Oreos can cure. Of course, if you believe the big figure of 9,000,000 you’re a bit of a thicky because at best it’s misrepresentative and at worst it’s an out-and-out lie. It’s unclear just how many of those accounts are gold farmers, and it’s unclear how many of those accounts have been cancelled, abandoned or banned. I myself have two accounts - the other one being a 14 day trial account that has long since been laid to rest. Is it one of those 9 million? Quite possibly.
Meanwhile, I’m still playing Wibble Obble Wobble, and go on - even if it’s only for a minute or two - pretty much every day. I have a level 70 rogue, I’m levelling up another rogue and I have a Warlock, a shaman and a hunter if I ever feel like a change. I’m looking forward eagerly to the next big patch which will give me a crazy mechanical flying machine, and on the far horizon is the next expansion - Wrath of the Lich King and its 10 extra grind-o-matic levels. Oh, I forgot the big news about the expansion: NEW HAIR STYLES OH YES BABY GIVE IT TO ME.
Score: BSC (Hons) 2:2