World of Warcraft
At this point in time, World of Warcraft has over 6.6 million subscriptions, it's the fastest growing MMORPG in history. It also broke the record of most successful PC launch, selling 250,000 copies on the first day of release. So, what sets it apart from the rest of the MMORPG crowd?
Well, the thing that hits you immediately when you first start the game up, is how beautifully the game world is rendered. Although the characters have a cartoony look and are often very animated, the environments are capable of taking your breath away and it'll be a while before you get it back. There's definately more than enough to see, with two huge continents, it'll take a while before you're done exploring. Each different town and city has its own distinct theme, from Ironforge's industrial setting, to Thunderbluff's mountainous surroundings.
The gameplay itself is the main element of what sucks players in and keeps them captivated. The game is very open ended and there's always something to do, whether it's questing, socializing, exploring, participating in auctions or collecting supplies for the various jobs and skills that utilize them. You're never short of quests to do in WoW, each with their own entertaining background. While playing I often found myself losing track of time and telling myself 'just one more quest'. The vast scope of the game may be daunting for new players at first, but it's never a case of not know where to go, and once you get into it, you won't want to leave. All the MMORPG staples are here, mobs, loot, dungeons and guilds, Blizzard have just removed the boring parts such as grinding and downtime.
But before you get sucked in, you'll need to create yourself a character. The game is split into two warring sides, the Alliance and the Horde (in keeping with Warcraft lore). There are currently nine different classes (Seven common classes and one each specific to both the Alliance and Horde sides) and eight races available (four for each side). Classes offer the biggest difference between characters in terms of gameplay. Classes widely vary, from those that are mainly focused on defence and healing (such as the paladin and priest classes) to classes that are more suited to causing damage (for example, mages and rogues). The game can be played however you want to play it. Races offer mainly aesthetic variations, with some small stat benefits included.
Characters are further customizable through professions, two of which can be committed to at any one time. This is another aspect that keeps players engrossed, as items created as a result of these professions can have a distinct impact on the course of combat. Players can go into even more depth with character customization by allocating their talent points. These are points that are gained upon levelling up that can be spent on a class specific skill or enhancement. All of these things combined with the huge variety of equipment on offer means that (even with over 6 million players) it's hard to ever find two people that are exactly the same.
Another area in which WoW shines is the audio. The music is excellent throughout, the symphonic soundtrack compliments the game perfectly. The sound effects are also suitable companions for the on-screen action, and never become annoying like in other games (I'm looking at you Ocarina of Time), as I'm sure we've all experienced.
Despite a few bugs here and there (that are constantly being fixed by Blizzard via patches) a PVP system that needs slightly improving and occasional server issues (but that's through no fault of the game itself), it's hard to fault World of Warcraft. It's the first genre-defining game of its kind. And with the Burning Crusade expansion due in the next few months, there's tons to do, and more importantly, it's all fun!