Monday 22 January 2007
Tuesday, January 16, 12 am Eastern Standard Time: The world stalls for a moment, then gives a little shudder as the lucky few run through the sickly-green, glistening portal, leaving behind the masses who could only stare enviously after them, then quickly mouse over the clock on the mini-map, to see how many more hours it would be before they could purchase their copy of The Burning Crusade.
World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade is the first expansion to the phenom of massively multi-player online role playing games, World of Warcraft. Publisher Blizzard Entertainment, after more than a year of hype and delays and carefully leaked teasers, released the expansion at staggered intervals across the world starting at 12 am EST, January 16. Players have reached level 69 (TBC raised the level cap from 60 to 70) in less than five days, playing for 26 hours straight and longer. Apparently sleeping, eating, talking and using the bathroom are all secondary to grinding out the levels.
So clearly, some folks are fanatic. But for the rest of the world, did TBC live up to the throbbing anticipation? Or was the build up so intense that players could only wander the Outlands in a fog of anti-climax?
Simply put, it's fantastic. TBC not only lived up to every expectation, it surpassed them. Despite fears of server instability and other technical issues, Blizzard did an amazing job keeping the worlds rock solid; lag was a major issue during peak times but rarely did the servers go boom.
The new lands in TBC are gorgeous and beautifully executed, with creatures and monsters galore, as well as the WoW standards: boars, buzzards, nagas and slimes. We were struck by how immediately we discovered we were no longer king of the level hill. No longer secure in our elite gear, proud level 60 players who rocked the old game quailed and ran whenever the screaming-eagle like shriek of the Fel Reaver was heard. Congrats to Blizzard on those Fel Reavers - not even the devilsaurs could strike that much fear into so many hearts, so quickly. Whoever thought of putting not one, but many, elite, death-head level monsters in the newbie area should be given an award - and then hit really hard.
The two new races, Blood Elves (Horde) and Draenei (Alliance) are everywhere in the outlands with new cities and reputation factions - with corresponding quests. This time, you will be asked to choose a faction to gain reputation with, and once chosen, you will lose reputation with the other. We highly recommend the tour of Shattrath City, with a summoned creature as your guide. Blizzard's take on the "we're walking, we're walking... we're stopping" is hilarious.
As races to play, we will have to see. From their racial passive abilities, the Blood Elves seem built to overpower all the other races, hands down - even if their jokes are the worst. Seeing how the new races and the new classes - an Alliance Shaman and a Horde Paladin - work with the new end game content will have to wait for some brave soul to level one to 70. Which, considering, may be tomorrow.
Quests follow a logical and intuitive line and led us from area to area seamlessly. So, while slightly overwhelming, we soon found that by following one quest it would soon merge into another. There were so many players around that monsters and baddies were tough to find, having usually been slaughtered the second they appeared (and still are, we imagine, and will be for the next few weeks) but Blizzard did an admirable job handling the respawn rate. That said, occasionally we found that it glitched, causing enemies to regroup so quickly we died under the never-ending waves of mobs. Player behavior when vying for the right to kill the next group of enemies was shocking at times - whoever said competition brings out the best in people hasn't ever camped a named mob in Hellfire Peninsula.
Drop rates on the gathering quests still tend to be unbearably bad, so you'll have to kill a ton of various foes before their corpses will yield the item you need to complete your misison. And for those of us playing Alliance, we have two words: Fei Fei. Quite possibly the worst quest ever, in the history of all games. Whoever concocted that nightmare, all we have to say is: Bad game designer. Very, very, very bad game designer. No treat for you!
The new instances are thoughtfully laid out, with interesting boss fights that require you to play your race, class and skills well. No more running people through, engagements with monsters in the instances are touchy and intense. And the gear you can earn is sinful. No longer can the hybrid classes clamor about not having cool armor and weaponry. Blizzard paid loving attention to you in TBC, and the stats on a piece of uncommon, green gear can easily better the hard earned purples of the past - and we say that with some regret. Replacing tier two epics with a green made us feel a little dirty...
TBC has its share of bumps but on the whole it fits seamlessly into the world, story and fabric of the original. Lush and vibrant, it is everything an expansion should be: a furthering of a much loved and honored world. We found ourselves barely able to stop playing long enough to write this, and plan on delving right back in as soon as we can. Brava, Blizzard, you've continued the world - and the addiction - impeccably.