I have a few… rules when it comes to gaming. Some are based on morals, like “If you have the option to be a dick to another player, don’t.” Some are ethical, like “No pre-orders.” However, longer than either of these, I have kept the “No MMOs” rule. Back in the day I played some MMOs; in elementary school was Runescape and by Middle School I was playing Maplestory. I spent a lot of time playing these games and in that time I realized that they were giant time sinks and giant grinds and I realized I could do better. However, a pretty cosmetic is being offered as a reward in a game that I actually do play and the only way to get it is to play an MMO, and not just any MMO: THE MMO. World of Warcraft. My buddy Blake tried at one point to get me to play, but I resisted. I didn’t want to get sucked in, and I knew it was a real possibility. But I’ve realized that at some point I need to dip my toe into this monster if only to know; WoW is free through level 20, which is exactly what I need to hit for this unlock so I figured what the hell, I might as well give it a shot. This will not be a review; there’s no way in hell I’m playing enough of this monster to do a review. Instead, this will be a first impression and retrospective. If you don’t hear from me again, let my family know that I love them because I’m going in.
Day 1: Level 1-10
First impressions weren’t great; it required 30 Gigs to download and it crashed on me shortly after failing to connect. That last part was probably my fault since my wifi is shit so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
I’ll be honest, when I got into Character Creation I have little to no idea what any of the classes meant, but I played a Paladin who died in a D&D campaign so I’ll revive him to do this deed. The cosmetic I’m playing for is Hearthstone’s new Paladin skin, so of course I have to play a Paladin. And thus, Varric Ragos the Blood Elf Paladin was revived. Godspeed you magnificent bastard. On a side note, why can’t you put spaces in your name? I know that traditionally usernames don’t have spaces in it, but now I have to run around as Varricragos. C’mon guys, I just want a last name! Is that too much to ask?
Honestly, WoW is a very visually appealing game. It’s semi-cartoon visuals have aged quite well, it’s nice and colorful, and in general it isn’t tiring to look at. That’s nice because I ended up trudging back and forth through the same location to kill X monster, collect Y items, and return them to questgiver Z. Before I knew it I had reached level 7, but I quickly realized that I had run out of quests. I was under the impression that the game simply strung you along from quest to quest for the first few dozen levels, but apparently I actually have to explore this massive fucking world with my pathetic run speed. I know you don’t get mounts for a while so… yeah. Guess I’m hoofing it.
After about half an hour of running around in a giant city that had no quests and running around the map to find other quests, I found an item in my inventory that activated the next quest to move me forward. Whoops. I ground out a bunch more quests until I hit level 10, which should do it for today. Christ that was exhausting. Want to know what the worst part was? At one point I got a quest to go get several items. Okay, sure, fair enough. I can do that. I get to the area where the items are and I find that the items are just random objects that drop around the area at different time intervals. But the problem arises that if a different player interacts with this object, it will disappear for you as well. Why the hell is that a feature? There’s no difficulty here, I’m just sitting around with my thumb up my ass waiting for a new item to spawn. It isn’t even a monster spawn! Just an item that I’ll then have to race five other players to get! Thank god I’m on a relatively small server or I’d be having some serious problems with this! It’s really just a way to artificially pad the playtime which, considering that some people have play for, no joke, YEARS in total play time, seems to have worked. But it isn’t working on me.
I should also mention at this point that I’m completely ignoring the plot and even the intro text to quests. Yeah, I know that I’m a story guy but there’s no way in hell that I can keep up with ten years of WoW plus the Warcraft games before it. Besides, most of the quest text is just mindless fluff. Ugh. I’ll be back.
Day 2: Level 10-15
Well, I finally entered the next area, which should be the last one I see since it’s the “Level 10-20 zone.” Most of the quests are just fetch quests, so it becomes a game of kill the enemy before another player can. It boggles my mind that the spawn rates can be bumped up or something; there should not be this much standing around and waiting in any game! Worst of all were the bosses. Mobs of players sat around a boss spawn hoping to be the ones to agro it first so that they could finish their quest. There were about a dozen at the one I ended up in and attempts to organize into a line quickly failed. It was kill or be killed. It took at least three minutes for the boss to spawn, but once I figured out where he spawned I figured out that I could just rapidly mash my cast key so that I was the one who hit him when he showed up. Seemed to work, which let me get out of there after only ten minutes or so but I can’t help but wonder how chaotic and awful this must be on a larger server.
I unlocked professions and some skill tree, but I don’t really care. I upgraded movement speed because I still don’t have a mount and I desperately want to be able to get around faster. I bet there’s a way for me to get a mount this early but I honestly don’t care enough to seek it out.
The game has also started vomiting quests at me. I’m not complaining; more quests means more XP and more XP means that quicker I get to stop playing this game.
The one bright side in all of this is that I think I’ve finally figured out once and for all that I have no desire to play WoW. It seems strange that I sigh with relief at that, but it’s true; the game is so repetitive and mind numbing that I couldn’t see doing this for a week, let alone the thousands of hours that some players have logged. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Should only take a day or two more of grinding to get my prize and then run like the wind.
Day 3: Level 15-20
As I approached level 20 I noticed the game started throwing more and more boss battles at me. You know, like the kind that you can only beat with a group of friends. Seems fine, but the real issue is that some of these quests require you to get an item off the corpse. One corpse equals one item, so if you’re doing it with friends, you’ll have to beat the boss with each person to get the reward for everyone. There’s also nothing stopping some random shmuck from running up at the end of the fight, getting a few licks in, and then looting the boss before you can. Which is exactly what I did to someone. As I ran away with my ill-gotten gains, one of the players filled the chat with an anguished “YYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!?” but I paid him no mind; I needed out of this nightmare as quickly as possible. The funny part is that I never even finished that quest, since it required you to defeat two bosses and I never got around to stealing the other item from another group. The problem here is that normal enemies will get locked to whoever hits them first so no one can steal the loot, but with big elite enemies that need to be killed as a group, that of course doesn’t happen. It seems like a rather major design flaw, but I’ve really stopped caring at this point because… I friggin’ did it. I ground through 20 levels over the course eight hours for… a paladin portrait in Hearthstone. It didn’t cost any money, but I feel like I lost a shard of my soul along the way. The good news is that I confirmed what I thought yesterday: I have no desire to continue playing this slog at all.
So what did we learn from this experiment other than my apparent immunity from the WoW bug? Well, there was fun to be had in WoW, and provided I went deeper I know that there was more to find. I unlocked my first mount when I hit level 20, and there were some specializations and professions that I completely ignored. The game is clearly designed with an “addictive” quality. There’s a lot of positive reinforcement of tons of quests to do, lots of rewards, and tons of explore, but the game is just repetitive. You run to one area and kill a bunch of things/pick up a bunch of items, return to the hub and then cash them in. Rinse, repeat. In Borderlands this works because it’s fully of colorful characters and funny dialogue, none of which exists in WoW (at least, none I could detect early on). Additionally, at least early on all the enemies feel the same and there’s this sense that the game only exists to drain money from your wallet. I get it Blizzard, you need money to keep existing, but most games are one-and-done with what you pay for what you get. The subscription fee is something I really can’t get behind, though I’m sure the millions of WoW players are perfectly fine with it. That’s fine; there’s plenty of like about WoW and I’m sure if I was entering this from a more neutral point of view I’d have more incentive to go find the fun. If you like WoW, more power to you but it’s just not for me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go oogle my new Paladin portrait in Hearthstone.