A title thats sure to be a
big name in the genre has entered the world of massively multiplayer from one of the most
respected developers in PC gaming, based in one of the most popular universes of all time.
Its a combination that should make everyone but their competitors happy. Enter World
of Warcraft, one of the two Warcraft products Blizzard is planning on introducing onto the
market in the coming months, and it looks fantastic. Aside from the appeal of tramping
around Azeroth in a deer skin loincloth and armor, Blizzard looks to have drawn
some of the most rewarding elements of its other successful games, including the massive
array of weapons and items in Diablo II, and implemented them in an online game. The
result looks very cool. One of the more interesting yet-to-be released facts?
anyone here at Blizzard," says the kind fellow who set me up with a first hand demo
of World of Warcraft, "and theyll tell you that in the next few months
well be introducing a new race into Warcraft that is so cool people will be buying
the game just to play them." He stresses his words when he says this, and looks
mysterious when I press for more. "People already into Warcraft will be happy,"
he grudgingly adds, "but this new race will appeal to everyone." After that
hes silent. Not to be thwarted, I turn my attentions instead to the game in
question. With Galaxies on the way, and EverQuest II showing only a couple hundred feet
away, not to mention the score of other interesting titles on the horizon, World of
Warcraft has to show a strong hand in order to garner the user base it needs. No worries,
though. As anyone coming off of a Diablo high will tell you, no one can do it like
World of Warcraft is looking beautiful a strange mix of the dark atmosphere and
bright cartoon-like colors that have been the mark of the series since inception. After
they turn the controls over to me, I wander into a beautifully rendered hall, complete
with stained-glass windows and marble floors, guarded by several magnificent statues
monuments to the heroes of the past games. At one point I notice fireflies hovering
over an open field, which is a nice effect. The classic humor embedded in each of the past
games is still present; one of the animations I saw was of a beach monster flipping its
tailfin out of boredom (its funnier when you see it). Theres no doubt that the
World of Warcraft is exactly what it claims to be, the beloved world of Warcraft in look
and feel as well as name.
story opens four years after the completion of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, which
Blizzard will be releasing this summer. So far there are four announced races, and several
announced classes, though more of both are on the way. Aside from being able to adjust the
basic look and feel of your character upon creation, any armor and weapons you acquire
through your adventures also help to hide your battle scars. In a nod to Diablo, in which
a wide variation of weapons were randomly generated and dropped by enemies when killed,
Blizzard has included thousands of weapons that are available to the players (though
technical issues prevent random generation). This includes enchanted items, as well.
is handled through a series of buttons at the bottom of the screen that look, again, like
the casting buttons from Diablo. One is a sword, the others spells and special attacks.
Once you select your target, be it an unlucky wolf or an ugly harvest monster, you click
on the button corresponding to the action you wish to perform. The sword will march you up
to the beast and take a swing at his head, while clicking on one of the spells
well, do the obvious. Amongst the arsenal of spells I saw demonstrated was one
called Grasping Roots, which drove a group of vengeful dandelions around an enemys
legs. This too was visually appealing, well crafted, and left you with a good feeling in
point the demonstrator chuckled ruefully as I launched my character into a graceful leap
of not-quite-natural distance, and reassured me that they were still hammering down the
physics system. The game is still under development, but even so it looks to have a strong
showing. Unlike EverQuest, either 1 or 2, Worlds of Warcraft has a seamless zoning system,
which means all the world can be wandered to and from without pauses or delays for
loading. Want to travel to the underwater area? Simply walk out to sea. It makes for a
very big and immersive universe.
we know a great deal, Blizzard is still being tight-lipped about many things, an
understandable move in an industry of fierce competition. Theyve publicly stated
that player vs. player combat will be incorporated, but the details are being closely
guarded, though theyve assured us that theyll stay true to the Warcraft
universe (does this mean racial conflicts, a bit of kingdom aggressions?). Along the same
lines, there is little hard and fast information on World of Warcrafts political
structure, aside from Blizzards admission that there will be guilds. Is there a
ruling government? Will we see the heroes of old reigning from their lofty thrones? We
know that the players will encounter the heroes of the past games in the vast World of
Warcraft, but who knows what function they will play?
comes down to it, were on the brink of a huge massively multiplayer showdown in
which the large number of companies preparing to take the gaming world online will start
dishing it out. Almost all the games look good. Many look unique. Only a few have a name
like Blizzards. Ive played Diablo. Ive played Warcraft. Ive played
Starcraft. Ive seen a little bit of World of Warcraft. When Blizzard tells me
theyve got something up their sleeve, one thing goes through my mind: they
havent missed yet, not once. They have an unbroken track record, and that means
Im prepared to desperately want to play this new race of theirs simply on their say
so. They just have too many "game of the year" awards to think otherwise.