WoW in 2020 — MMORPG Noob's Perspective

There is something fundamentally alluring about a massively multiplayer online role playing game during a time when restaurants are closed and normal social activities have stopped. The sense of escapism a game like World of Warcraft provides is very enticing. You can be a powerful demon hunter with glowing katanas defeating fantastical monsters in epic dungeons all while you’re stuck at home.

To be honest, I would have never given this game a try under normal circumstances, because I absolutely loathe games that require a pre defined time investment i.e. a minimum of X hours to reach max level or a commitment to log on every single day and do daily quests. I’ve always most enjoyed games you can hop on for a quick session and then hop off without any commitment.

At the time of writing this review, my main character is level 120 demon hunter at item level 448. I don’t have an exact reading of hours put into the game, but I guesstimate it’s somewhere around 72-96 hours. While this isn’t exactly an “end game” character running max level dungeons, I think I’ve gotten a pretty good feel for the game and put enough hours in to have a pretty decent opinion on it.

Standing in front of the main city, Stormwind

Learning Curve (4/10)

You definitely need an experienced player to guide you at the beginning. Luckily I had a lot of help from friends in getting started with this game. I guess you could ask Reddit WoW subreddits or other people on the internet, but there are a lot of small things that you can’t constantly go to the internet for. However, this might just be a symptom of not having played an MMO before. In essence, this is really a game to be played with friends. There’s so many little things that are so much harder, and even easy to completely miss, if you aren’t actively communicating and sharing information about the game with friends.

What quests are important to the main storyline? What quests can I skip? What should I buy from the auction house? What does this random button on my UI do? Small things like buying “comfortable rider’s barding,” bigger bags (or getting them for free from your friend), or going to the auction house to buy 400 ilvl items to boost your ilvl are things are all things I would have never known if someone else did not tell me. Further down the line, while I was stuck in the low 440s, my friend told me about breaking down existing equipment and reforging it into new higher level equipment. I would have never known this otherwise. There’s plenty more of these situations that makes me realize how important it is to play this game with friends.

Someone called this game the “World of Add-Ons.” This is a good and bad thing. There is a lot of customizability, and a lot of add-ons that make the game significantly easier, but this once again makes the learning curve a lot harder. You obviously don’t need any add-ons to play the game, but without add-ons the game really shows its age. The add-on that took the most time to configure is the ElveUI add-on which totally refreshes your UI and lets you customize the location of your mana and health bars, your map size, your ability cooldowns, map size, transparency, borders of windows, and so much more. I spent about 2 hours just customizing it to my liking. I definitely appreciate the flexibility here. By the time I reached level 120, I probably had around eight add-ons including WorldQuestList, Deadly Boss Mods, and KUINameplates to name a few.

Lore and Immersion (9/10)

At heart I am a sci-fi fan over a fantasy fan. So would I have more enjoyed the story and lore of something like Star Wars: The Old Republic? Probably. But the polish of World of Warcraft lends to a truly immersive experience. There’s never a time when your abilities will just fail to register properly or when a quest becomes truly broken. There are few issues here and there, but nothing that can’t be solved by abandoning and re-accepting the quest.

Questing is generally really fun. Turn down game volume a little bit and turn up some Prokofiev or the LOTR soundtrack, and it’s such a fantastic experience. The cutscenes are clean. The lore is deep. And the voice acting is superb.

However, there are times it certainly got boring and really felt like a grind i.e. when you’re on your 6th hour of WoW for the day and you’re trying to get to level 120. It felt like I was just a robot grinding through mindless quests. Some of the really annoying quests include anything with “tortollan” in the name and maybe some of the foothold quests towards the end of the Battle for Azeroth content. But then you have your good quests like all the quests where you get to control a giant monster or vehicle and just mow down enemies. But the best quests of them all are the ones that take you to beautiful new lands and really make you feel like you’re exploring something new. That feeling really makes you feel like a kid playing video games for the first time again.

Another thing that really brings you into the game is cosmetics and customization. WoW lets you transmogrify your items, so once you collect a really cool armor piece, you can make any future armor piece look like that. This is great, because you don’t have to sacrifice epic looking armor for better stats. I spent a lot of gold constantly transmogrifying my appearance. After all, looking cool in an MMO RPG is like half the fun.

Enjoyment and Playability (8/10)

Like I mentioned before, WoW is a game absolutely designed to play with friends. Without other friends playing this game I would have quit before the end of the free trial at level 20. Me and four other friends all started from level 1 together, which made the experience a lot more fun. Out of all the new players, I hated the game the most at the beginning, because there was just so uch to take in (also I picked a Warlock, and it really wasn’t my style). However, a couple days later, I was probably the most addicted to the game. It is commonly said that the game doesn’t really start until you hit the max level, and this is 100% true. Not only is there a learning curve, but you need to invest about 24 hours into the game grinding out the initial levels just to get to the most enjoyable part.

Will I continue long-term? Definitely not after the current pandemic settles down and the country returns to normal. The time investment is far too significant, and this is definitely a game I should’ve gotten into when I was younger when I had more time and less responsibilities.

Conclusion

Being the first MMORPG I have played, this is probably speaking to MMORPGs in general. It seems this is a game that centers more around knowledge and a long term time investment while most games I play revolve around skill and discrete gaming sessions. The big comparison I’ll make is MMORPG vs FPS games, since I primarily played FPS games leading up to this. Getting stuck in WoW or falling behind feels more unforgiving than losing a game of Call of Duty. When you lose in Call of Duty, you start a new game and run it again, but everything in WoW is cumulative, so any negatives in the game seem to compound.

Late night guild photoshoot

However, overall, some of the feelings this game evoked were really special. The feeling of learning, discovery, and leveling within a game really brought me back to my childhood. And most of all when you can’t hang out with your friends in real life, you hang out with them in a guild in WoW. Right now is a perfect time to do that.

Written on July 28, 2020