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Desktop Maestro

 PLATFORM: PC
WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD IT IS

aving had the privilege of playing in the World of Warcraft beta for the last several months and logging several days playing in the retail version, I feel qualified to say this to all the haters and the doubters: You are wrong. Blizzard has done it again, succeeding in epic fashion to craft a title that once again makes me fear for my social life. Though WoW doesn’t radically differ from the tried-and-true MMORPG formula, the subtle tweaks, additions, and special layer of Blizzard polish make it an amazing and fresh experience.

From the moment you log in to WoW, it draws you in and keeps you enthralled with its endless content, entertaining combat, and delightful presentation. Perhaps the single thing that makes adventuring and crafting in WoW so captivating is the way that you can choose your own pace and style of play. Whether you are popping in for half an hour before dinner or pulling a 16-hour power session on the weekend, you’ll be able to find something to do, accomplish it, and feel like you actually got somewhere. This has largely to do with the quest system – throughout my playtime, I was on a variety of quests, ranging from simple delivery to intense dungeon crawls. Unless you’re trying to get a crew together to do something very specific and all of your friends are offline, it’s awfully unlikely that you’ll be sitting in town looking for a group like some other MMOs are infamous for.

The sights of the world of Warcraft are anywhere from grandiose to chilling to simply beautiful. While the Forsaken (my race of choice) battle to keep the evil Scourge and do-gooder humans from eradicating their fledgling undead society in the corrupted Tirisfal Glades, the night elves work ceaselessly to purify the towering forests of Kalimdor of the aftermath of the great war against the Burning Legion. These struggles are epic, and the way that they are presented hammers the point home. Also, the world is drawn in the slightly off-kilter Warcraft style, which lends that extra little immersive touch. Though WoW doesn’t sport the sheer bleeding-edge technology of EverQuest II, it nonetheless is one of the best-looking games I’ve ever played. Plus, this allows WoW to run acceptably on even low- to mid-end machines.

WoW also does many more things that almost completely remove the tedium and "grinding" commonly associated with the genre. Tradeskills are easy to learn, simple to use, and allow you to craft useful items. Combat is fast and fluid, with little "sit on auto-attack until the monster is dead" going on. Travel times are not bad at all, since all of the towns and cities are linked by quick transit. Basically, nothing ever feels like a timesink that’s just there to keep you playing and paying the monthly fee. It really says something when I’ve yet to be bored or annoyed for a single moment after playing an MMORPG for weeks.

Some people have been afraid that WoW sacrifices its long-term appeal in favor of ease of use, much like the way certain folks think of City of Heroes. To this criticism, I say humbug. WoW offers both depth and breadth of content for players to experience, and I seriously can’t imagine anyone getting bored with the game before the inevitable expansion comes out. Between tradeskills, questing, exploring, high-level dungeons, and player-vs-player combat, there is so much to do in WoW that it seems silly to think that there’s not enough content. What really blows my mind, though, is that it’s all fun. This truly is the best online role-playing game to date. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to defend my people from a filthy human invasion.

  

MATT MILLER   9.5

Blizzard didn’t do it first, but they’ve done it the best. While most of the standard massively multiplayer conventions are in place, all of the non-fun fat has been trimmed away, leaving behind a wholly unique and absorbing experience that is simultaneously simple, deep, and incredibly engaging. The game’s acronym of "WoW" may be the first word that escapes your mouth when you emerge into the gorgeous artistic beauty of Azeroth. The epic grandeur of the setting combines with continually entertaining activity. You never feel bored or disinterested . Every turn of the corner brings a new sight, sound, battle, or wonder. Combining many of the best qualities of Blizzard’s former games, along with the finest aspects of MMOs, World of Warcraft’s only major fault is that it may make playing other similar titles seem like a chore. It’s quite simply phenomenal as it solidly sets a new high bar for the genre.

9.5
CONCEPT:
Perfect the model that EverQuest made popular
GRAPHICS:
Colorful, diverse, and a gorgeous fit for the Warcraft universe
SOUND:
Mood music, thundering effects, and limited Warcraft 3-style voices make a rich environment
PLAYABILITY:
The default user interface has its limitations, but there are already wonderful mods out for it
ENTERTAINMENT:
Simply the best, most polished, and flat-out fun MMORPG to date
REPLAY:
High
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