Crushing the Scale in the #9 Position…
Let me throw a couple of numbers at you real quick. Ten and ten million. Taken on their own, they don’t tell you all that much. When you apply them to World of Warcraft, well, they can straight up blow your fucking mind. Ten years and ten million players are what we’re referring to here. World of Warcraft’s latest expansion has brought its subscriber base back up above the ten million mark. To illustrate just how batshit insane this is, let’s have a quick look at what was happening when this game first launched in 2004. George W. Bush was still in his first term. Facebook was still a dinky little nonentity that nobody outside of Harvard knew about. Smartphones weren’t a thing yet. A tsunami annihilated huge swaths of Southeast Asia. Massachusetts was the only state that had legalized gay marriage. Hell, some of you reading this were probably still in car seats. Personally, I was just finishing up college. I was supposed to graduate in 2003 but I, uh, didn’t. I was on what we politely refer to as the “extended plan.” Less politely we refer to it as “I’m too busy drinking, partying and playing video games to take any of this crap seriously because I’m an idiot.” For the record, I don’t really recommend doing things that way. But I digress. I started playing World of Warcraft right after it launched, and I’ve never really stopped. I’ve taken a couple of big breaks, even thought I was done with it once or twice. I always end up coming back to it. Is it an addiction? Maybe at one point, it was. Nowadays it’s a part of my larger gaming hobby, but it’s an important one and not just because it’s still a fantastic game. Warcraft has been with me for 10 years. In that time I met, fell in love with, and married an incredible woman, become the father of two beautiful little girls, bought my first home, and somehow forged a pretty successful career for myself. Basically in the time I’ve been playing World of Warcraft, a whole era of my life has come and gone and I’ve somehow become a (gulp) adult. Ick, I feel gross just typing that.
THE GAME OF A LIFETIME
I’ve spent over a year of my life logged in to World of Warcraft, and by that I mean an actual year and change worth of man-hours specifically playing the game. That’s a fact that is impressive, depressing, scary or unremarkable. It depends on whom you ask. Suffice to say that I’ve spent more time playing Warcraft than all the other games I’ve played in the past fifteen years put together, and it’s not even like it’s close. Nothing else captured and held my attention and affection like Warcraft, and there’s a good reason for that. At it’s peak during Wrath of the Lich King, World of Warcraft boasted over 12 million players. As I pointed out above, Warlords of Draenor has brought that number back above the 10 million mark. That is absolutely fucking nuts for a game that’s ten years old, but it speaks volumes about the quality of the game and the dedication and work Blizzard has put into keeping World of Warcraft relevant and making it better as the years have gone by. They haven’t always gotten it right, (the Cataclysm and Pandaria expansions were enjoyable but ultimately disappointing,) but even when Warcraft hasn’t been at it’s best it’s still been better than pretty much anything else out there. At its core, World of Warcraft is just a fantastic god damn game. Six continents comprise a massive game-world that is home to dozens of dungeons and raids, PvP battlegrounds, breathtaking landscapes, enormous monsters and millions and millions of players. Each race and class within the game has it’s own distinct feel and personality, and the music Russell Brower has created as the soundtrack of Azeroth is, by a wide margin, my favorite video game score of all time.
BLOOD AND THUNDER
One of the most shocking things to me about Warcraft is that, after all this time, the game is still just incredibly fucking fun. The combat and PvP is still enjoyable for me, dungeons and raids are still interesting and challenging, and the addition of Garrisons and offline play has added a whole new dimension to the game that I am very much enjoying. On top of all that, World of Warcraft has been telling one of the best stories in gaming for years. It doesn’t get nearly as much credit as it should for that and a lot of people I know just flat out ignore the story, which is really a shame. There’s far too much for me to even give a synopsis here, but when I think about the siege of the Wrathgate, confronting Illidan in the Black Temple, or finally defeating Arthas at the top of Icecrown Citadel, I mean… those were fucking moments, and they resonated all the more if you followed the story that Blizzard was telling. World of Warcraft has been the setting for the greatest gaming moments and experiences of my life, bar none. I have never felt a greater sense of accomplishment or contentment in a game than I have in World of Warcraft.
FOR THE HORDE… BUT NOT FOR EVERYBODY
I am absolutely aware that there is a huuuuuuge group of people out there that think World of Warcraft is either evil, shitty, bad, or a joke. And, (perhaps shockingly), I can understand where a lot of them are coming from. MMOs in general appeal to a certain personality type and a certain sensibility. Obviously, I’m part of that group. World of Warcraft appeals to me for multiple reasons, from it’s artistic style to it’s music to it’s gameplay, but it’s not going to appeal to everyone. All I can say is simply this; try it before you knock it. When I first heard about World of Warcraft from a college buddy, I remember thinking I was going to hate it. I couldn’t have been more wrong, because I didn’t understand what the game had to offer until I gave it a chance. Ultimately, I’m happy that I did. I don’t have a whole lot of negative things to say about the game personally, but you don’t have to look too hard to find a contrasting point of view. But if you haven’t given World of Warcraft an honest shot, or if you tried it years ago and haven’t picked it up since, do yourself a favor and give it another chance. You might be very pleasantly surprised.
YOU ARE NOT PREPARED
Illidan Stormrage famously growled that line during the opening cinematic for the game’s second expansion, The Burning Crusade, and it certainly wound up being prophetic as far as I was concerned. I really wasn’t prepared for the impact this game would have on my life. Because of it I have friendships I wouldn’t have otherwise, it gave me a whole new way to bond with my then-girlfriend and now wife, and possibly the early stages of carpal tunnel. I’ll be honest; I was really dreading this review. I put it off longer than I probably should have because I didn’t know how to effectively encapsulate what this game has meant to me over the years. I hope I’ve done a reasonable job of giving an assessment of the game, but if I can’t be objective about this I’m okay with that. After 10 years, thousands of hours, and more epic loot than you can imagine, World of Warcraft has earned every single good thing I have to say about it. In my book, this game is number one. 5 out of 5.