Perfect Ten: Why no one should recommend World of Warcraft ever

    
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OVER TIME

Last week, MOP’s Justin (friend to man and beast alike) posted his list of MMOs he would recommend people play. It was a pretty good list! It wasn’t the list I would have written, but that’s why we’re separate people and not a single fused mass pulling ourselves along on withered, inhuman appendages. That would cause lots of problems in our respective marriages, for one thing. Also, it’d probably render us ineligible to collect multiple paychecks.

One thing I did not ask, however, was why he didn’t include World of Warcraft as a game he would recommend, even though some of our readers wondered it aloud. I would think that the reason for that would be pretty obvious, given that it was a list of Justin’s recommendations. But because I do love being contrary, there’s a good list of reasons why no one, ever, should recommend World of Warcraft as a game to be tried. Under any circumstances. Let’s even make it a nice round dozen reasons… but then subtract two, for no good reason.

1. It’s already a common point of entry

When someone asks me about comics that are worth reading, my suggestions don’t turn to superhero titles put out by the big two. They don’t even turn to things like Maus or Watchmen or Sandman because the odds are near absolute that if you’re asking about these things, you’re familiar with these options. It’s not that they’re not good; it’s that I’m recommending things you already know about.

WoW, for better or worse, is a familiar point of reference for people who may not even know about other online games. Saying that MMOs are “like World of Warcraft” usually serves as a common starting point. So recommending it is kind of silly; someone looking for recommendations has decent odds of having started in the game anyway.

I SHOULD ALWAYS BE THE TARGET AUDIENCE FOR EVERYTHING!

2. It’s become the norm

When MOP’s Matt Daniel was first talking about Hearthstone to me (well before it launched, in the long-long ago), he explained to me that it was kind of like a stripped-down digital Magic: the Gathering. The two of us both love board games and have played a lot of them together, and I would argue that there are other games that Hearthstone more closely resembles… but comparing it to Magic was a good baseline. Magic is the archetype against which other games can be effectively evaluated, because it has the pedigree and the popularity.

Similarly, WoW is usually a good starting point to explain a lot of MMO mechanics. If I describe a game as “like WoW, but with a strong narrative focus and more complex combat mechanics,” you probably have a picture in your mind of what I mean. When something becomes the standard against which other games are judged, you’re less likely to recommend it as something others haven’t heard of.

3. It’s not the game’s glory days

Yeah, this one is subjective. Most of the game’s editorial staff is pretty firmly fond of Wrath of the Lich King as the height of what WoW has accomplished (I’ve opined on many occasions that Final Fantasy XIV is, effectively, a sequel and expansion to that version of WoW), but that is hardly scientific. There are grounds for people to praise the narrative thrust and novel setting of Mists of Pandaria, or the higher challenge of Cataclysm’s endgame dungeons. You could really even point to The Burning Crusade as the place where so much of the game was shaped for the future, a real grand experience.

Pretty much no one can defend Warlords of Draenor as the best the game has to offer, though.

What’s fairly indisputable is that the game’s subscriptions have been going downhill since the start of Cataclysm, and while I have nice things to say about Legion (lots of them, even), Legion is an expansion partly built upon leaning on remembered glory. The heights are past, and you’re remembering them now.

What happened and why? Who cares.

4. The current game has an issue with the past

I’ve argued in the past that the key part of an MMO that makes it feel like an MMO is a sense of persistence, that what you do today is going to still be there tomorrow. There’s no reloading from an older save, nor are older zones going to be removed from the game. Relevance and power might change, but you can count on a degree of persistence from one moment to the next.

Except that modern WoW is not only not going that route but seems to actively avoid it; every new expansion seems to more aggressively wipe the slate clean and start fresh. The Garrison was abandoned once Warlords of Draenor became the past, and we all know class orders and artifacts are vanishing when Legion is no longer the most current expansion. That means that it’s sort of missing a core element of MMOs in that respect.

5. Starting fresh is an odd experience

Start fresh with Legion and you have a level 100 boost waiting for you. This means you don’t have to languish around in the old world and can jump into current content… but it also means that you’re thrust into the fourth act of an ongoing play that is only going to make cursory efforts to bring you up to speed. You are inevitably going to be missing a whole lot of references.

Of course, you could start from the bottom… in which case you’re still missing references and you’re also missing, like, all of the people. Plus, there’s nothing to mark your progress from one patch and bit of story to the next; you’re just going through zones with no real sense of why things link together. It’s a fine introduction to the mechanics, not so much to the world.

6. You don’t get a sense of the genre

I first came to WoW having played City of Heroes, Guild Wars, and Final Fantasy XI. This did not, in fact, give me a comprehensive picture of everything that could be done with the genre, but it did at least give me a sense that WoW’s standards were not, in fact, universal. Remember how I mentioned above that the game has become a norm? This is the flip side to that.

We’ve largely moved on from the batch of years when every single game was WoW with a twist, like “WoW with more grimdark” or “WoW but free-to-play” or “WoW but it’s absolutely horrible.” The skeletal structures are still there, but WoW remains kind of… thin, compared to what can be done. There’s still no housing, there’s less persistence, there’s not much character creation, there’s none of the more out there systems various games sport. It’s a McDonald’s hamburger, demonstrating the basic points of the concept but not expanding far beyond that.

Friday night is apparently also all right for fighting.

7. Lots of players are just there for it anyway

Some portion of any MMO’s population is going to consist of people who just don’t play anything else. They’ve never played any MMOs before, and when they’re done with that game they’re not going to play any subsequent MMOs. That population is present in WoW, and it seems to be a bit larger than the median I’ve found in other MMOs, percentage-wise.

That’s going to give anyone who’s never visited the game some issues. If you haven’t played many MMOs, you’re going to think that “WoW is the whole world” mentality is normal; if you have, it’s probably going to frustrate you to no end.

8. Age is a factor

The oldest game on the list in question is Lord of the Rings Online, and Justin not recommending that game would just be weird. WoW, for all its virtues, is getting downright old; the game has been continually upgraded and improved, but it is increasingly showing its age as it soldiers along with its older code base. That’s all well and good, but older games are by necessity just not as novel as new ones.

It's the same old song, and with no different meanings.

9. It sure as heck doesn’t need help from us

In terms of industry footprint, the reality is that you pretty much know about WoW already. It’s there. You might not have heard of Secret World Legends (although you probably have if you’ve been around here for any length of time), but even if you’ve never played it you almost certainly know about it. I have friends in FFXIV who have never played any other MMO but are still well aware of it. The game is old enough and has enough name recognition that it doesn’t require any further recommendation.

I’ve compared it to recommending Dungeons & Dragons for tabletop roleplaying or Settlers of Catan for board games. Sure, there are probably a few people unfamiliar with it, but it’s almost impossible to seriously read about this stuff without being exposed to discussions of it. It’s familiar background noise. That doesn’t mean any of these options are bad – I think D&D 5e is pretty great, for instance. But I wouldn’t recommend it as a bold new system for someone to try.

10. Recommendations aren’t laws

A list of the most important MMOs ever would have to include WoW, sure. But a list of games that you would personally recommend? I’d probably leave it off, too.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”

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Jeremiah Ratican

Ok I have to jump in here. I have tried so many times to get into LOTRO but the game just doesn’t play well. Ok I get it if you are max level or something but as a new player it feels like WoW but not as good. I want to get caught up in the lore but even having Aragorn tell me too collect bear claws or whatever isn’t cool. I get keeping WoW off the list because of it being too obvious but the reason it influenced so many games is because it works and works well. Yeah it’s an old game and there are a ton of games that have evolved from their model and really added some much needed things WoW is missing but LOTRO I would not recommend over WoW as the game just isn’t as good of a game even if it does have an amazing setting.

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kalech

But that’s your opinion. And the point of number 10 on this article is that it comes down to personal preference. I wouldn’t recommend WoW because I think its trash. But I would recommend Lotro, because I like that game.
Point is, it’s a list of PERSONAL recommendations. Not an objective review. :)

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kgptzac

… I think I am tempted to introduce Eve Online to ten people after reading this…

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T

Bit of a side tangent here: I genuinely do not understand all the love FF 14 gets. I’m being serious here, not trying to troll. I tried it, and shelved it on multiple occasions, I found it to be ‘not fun’ and, if I might be honest, intensely boring. This as coming from someone who used to play WoW all the way up to the expansion prior to Legion (other reasons prompted me to quit, but have created a large enough barrier that I haven’t restarted my account). So, to be honest, I do not understand the comparison, they don’t ‘feel’ or play similar, and FF falls %100 into the ‘not fun’ camp for me. Could someone please explain this to me?

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thirtymil

I have a similar problem to you – I thought FFXIV had some glaring flaws that I assumed would be fixed over time but instead seem to be accepted or perhaps are actually features (or maybe they are flaws but the current players just don’t care as much about them as I did).

I don’t think its playerbase is massive but I do think they are probably highly dedicated, and all I can attribute that to is the same reason people love iPhones – there’s something about the general style that just simply appeals to a certain group. I, clearly, am simply not the target audience.

semugh
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semugh

ff14’s western playerbase is minuscule. Very small at best.
Generally I like JRPGs but I usually play them on my phone. I’m grateful that japanese devs have embraced the mobile platforms lol…
I’m down to 1 MMO max 2 but no final fantasy among them.

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psytic

The game really embodies old school WoW before they got creative. It’s like literal garbage for the leveling phase “kill 10 rats” or collection quests but then when you start getting clos to end game and fighting primals and stuff in groups it’s got some fantastic bosses and mechanics that are really memorable and so people forgive the crap sand which inbetween to get to endgame. If your like me and not into raiding or doing a ton of group content then it’s a terriable game. If you are into that stuff then it’s one of the best and you put up with the garbage to get to endgame.

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MesaSage

Just wanted to be comment 100. Now I’ll go read the article.

Now that I read it…

I’ve tried to play WoW several times. I’ve started characters on all factions. I’m taken in by the beauty of the game. I really do love the art style, the classes and the characters.

But here’s the problem I have. The community is not for me. I’ve tried to get past it, but I just can’t. I guess I’m getting too old for some stuff. I know it’s not unique to WoW, and every game has its bad sorts, but for some reason, I’ve had the worst experiences in WoW.

I’m hoping that someday that will change, and when it does, I’ll give it another go.

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thirtymil

I play a lot of WoW – it’s my go-to game for when I want to just relax, which is most of my gaming time. Yet I find nothing to disagree with on this list – good write-up.

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Danny Smith

DOES anyone recommend WoW anymore? I mean i know people play it but the last time i saw someone say ‘dude you HAVE to try this game out!’ was wrath of the lich king in like 2009. Games still got an audience but i dont really know anyone that gushes to people that havent played it to check it out.

Aelzen
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Aelzen

This off topic for the site, but since you brought it up at the start of the article … I’d like to hear your recommendations for comics! I’ve read some of the big two, and the others you’ve listed, but my take-away from what you said was that you’d have some off the beaten path stories to recommend. Would love to hear of them.

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Dušan Frolkovič

Recommendations of MMOs always need to personalized based on what i played (so i can talk about it) and their preferences:

Hotkey or Mouselook Combat
Gameplay or Reward focused
Prefers strong Story and/or PvP and/or Raiding etc.
What business model they like

So if someone wants a hotkey-based MMO with raiding and a subscription, then World of Warcraft will of course be my recommendation (never got into FFXIV).

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Ben Stone

I would recommmend it because it is one of the few MMOs that hasnt gone to trash in recent years. Legion is as good as the game has ever been.

That being said, for a new player I would recommend starting at 100. The older zones and gear look like garbage compared to modern games (although max level areas and gear look respectable) so unless you have the rose tinted glasses of a veteran you wont be impressed by the early game.

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Armsbend

I started about a month and half ago and I’m enjoying the older zones because now I’m getting to see all these characters from Hearthstone and HotS in their original form. I’ve been hearing references to these dudes for years – now I get to see their origin stories.

I still have the 100 Token. My plan is to level 1 character then my alt I’ll zip to 100 once I’ve seen the early Horde stuff.

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Carebear

If you use your token on a level 60+ character, your professions also get boost to 700 (Whichever you have chosen). Not that it is any good now, cause you can craft latest stuff with skill 1, but just something to notice… if you go to ~50, push a little longer before use the token

Celestia
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Celestia

I resubbed last weekend after three years since my last attempt to “get” WoW. Rolled up a fresh character on a fresh server and am enjoying it more than I ever have in the many times I’ve dipped a toe in the WoW pool.

I did not enjoy WoW during the beta or at release, and have tried at least six additional times since it went live. This time it feels quite good to play. Could be because of the work Blizzard has done or could just be me. Not sure why, but I’m having a great time in a game that isn’t City of Heroes.