Perfect Ten: Why World of Warcraft is still worth playing in 2018

    
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When it comes to popular games, it seems as though writers don’t feel that they have to extol their virtues. They’re already popular, after all. Instead, it becomes the trend to slant to the sharply critical, perhaps to serve as a counter-balance to that popularity.

And so it is with World of Warcraft. Fourteen years after its launch, this fantasy MMORPG is still relatively popular and has incited countless cycles of attraction and rejection among its playerbase. People love to grouse about it because of its prominent status, but what I see a lot less often is an open admission as to what makes the game so attractive and fun as to pull millions of players into it on a regular basis.

So call this fanboying if you will, but today I want to create a list that ignores the (often valid) criticism of World of Warcraft and instead refocus on what what just works with the game and why it is an MMO that is still worth playing in 2018.

1. That Blizzard polish™

I don’t think you can really appreciate how smooth and polished World of Warcraft is unless you’ve spent a good amount of time dipping into other MMOs. There’s a wide range of polish out there, and World of Warcraft is most definitely on the high end. When you’ve played an MMO where the movement is janky, where the systems are oblique, and where too much is obviously broken, then coming back to this game is a revelation. It was one of the aspects that helped WoW set itself apart back in 2004, and that still serves it well today.

2. Its popularity works in its favor

I love a good underdog story and I’m often out there championing smaller and less noticed MMOs for their qualities. But when an MMO has a diminished population, it can be disheartening to be a part of that dwindling community where you have to worry about possible game shutdown.

While World of Warcraft is nowhere near as huge as it once was, it still contains a massive critical mass of players and receives great amounts of public attention. That’s comforting to those who want to be part of a highly active game that has as assured of a continued future as any MMO on the market.

3. It still looks great

When we’re talking about 14-year-old MMOs, not too many have aged well in the graphics department. The ones that do are the ones where the studios have spent considerable effort to improve the engine and place a high premium in artistry. And that’s World of Warcraft for you. The stylized graphics and lush color palette still have the capacity to make your eyes water with joy. Personally, the graphical style of WoW was one of the very first things that attracted me to this game, and even to this day, it’s one of the best parts that I enjoy.

4. What it does, it does generally well

There are plenty of things that World of Warcraft doesn’t do at all, like player housing, player vendors, or player-created missions. But the systems that are in place generally work well and have benefited from years of refinement. The other day I was looking at the in-game map with its quest markers and realizing how clear and functional it is in directing me where I need to go and what I need to do.

And speaking of doing things well…

5. Combat is spot-on

As a centerpiece of most MMOs, combat is a hard thing to get exactly right and easy to mess up in various ways. I’m not going to claim that WoW’s combat is perfect, but I’ve always enjoyed how responsive it feels, the look of the animations, and the pacing of each encounter. Plus, in this day and age of frantic action combat popping up everywhere, it’s a relief to play a classic tab-targeting format.

6. It revels in simple (and charming) humor

I’ve always seen World of Warcraft’s humor in the vein of Weird Al Yankovic’s. Weird Al is great, but nobody is going to claim that Weird Al is sophisticated and subtle in his jokes. Neither is WoW. Some people strongly dislike this MMO’s blatant jokes and goofy attitude, but more often than not, I find it endearing and amusing. Yes, even the poop quests.

7. Sometimes you just want a good theme park experience

I’ve often compared World of Warcraft to Disney’s theme parks mostly for the sheer attention to detail and atmosphere that runs through both. You’re not getting an open-ended experience with either, but you don’t always want that. Sometimes it’s terrific to have a meticulously crafted guided experience that adds that little bit “extra” to elevate it above contemporaries. When I play this MMO, I’m here for the rides, the environment, and the way it makes me feel when I’m roaming around its carefully constructed lands.

8. It still has the capacity to be a major event

Plenty of MMOs release stories, festivals, and expansions every year, but only a few of them can make an honest-to-goodness event out of them. Like it or hate it, World of Warcraft’s pre-expansion quests stirred up tons of interest and discussion. And this past month’s Battle for Azeroth felt like THE summer event for MMOs. There’s an energy and attraction to that, and I’m glad WoW still has this in it.

9. The storytelling has gotten loads better

It used to be a joke how disposable the quest texts (and associated tales) were in World of Warcraft. But I’ve noticed that for the past few expansions, Blizzard has definitely grown storytelling chops that are serving the game well. We can debate how good these stories are (I generally like them), but at least we could agree that we’ve come a long way from 2004 with all of the scripting, cutscenes, voice acting, phasing, environmental details, and other techniques that are used to convey these in this MMO.

10. There’s a whole lot to do

Again, we’ve come such a long way since 2004’s idea of an “endgame.” I’m often overwhelmed with the choice of activities in this game, and I know that if I feel bored it’s because I — and not the game — am limiting myself. There’s all the usual suspects of questing, dungeon crawling, and raiding, but there’s also transmog hunting, achievement achieving, playing the auction house, rooting out secret quests, going time traveling, collecting mounts, making pets fight each other, and more. I adore variety and choice, and this game has those in spades.

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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Weilan

I prefer the Vanilla – WoTLK versions, the ones after that have strayed too far away from what the game was all about. I wish I could have the new content with Vanilla’s graphics and rules, but that will never happen.

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kelvar

I understand the nostalgia of Vanilla but why would you want the graphics? That seems odd.

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Weilan

Something about the Vanilla graphics gave it more charisma IMO, now it looks like a Disney movie. There is a limit how good graphics can be too, if they are too good, then it’s too cheesy.

Soon we will reach the point where graphics in games look like real life, past that point it will look surrealistic.

For me Mass Effect 2 level of graphics is the perfect level. I play ESO and have set graphics to lowest save for max draw distance and max textures, everything else is on lowest.

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Joe Seabreeze

I played for around 5 years when it first came out. Obviously I loved it. I can’t play it at all today because the gameplay just feels so outdated. It’s like the game drained all the fun out of the genre. I’m not bashing it, I’m praising it. Not many games can be so good that it totally caused the genre to go stale.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

I agree with your points, but. As much as I enjoyed MoP, WoD and Legion, it’s very clear to me that WoW is being designed away from the solo player. So, in a sense, I haven’t left WoW, it’s left me. And I’m just tired of the gear chase. And I really, truly think that the Heart of Azeroth is just an awful, terrible design idea. And the grind for Azerite and Azerite equipment is way, way worse than the Artifact grind.

And as latorn says below and as many of us have noted here on MOP before, Blizzard keeps making mini-MMOs, making the game world smaller and smaller instead of figuring out a way to make all the game world inclusive.

WoW used to have an immense world. Now it’s tiny. Who can forget leaving Darnassus and running across the entirety of Kalimdor, taking the boat to the Eastern Kingdoms, running all the way to Ironforge and then finally getting the tram to Stormwind. Hurrah! The Capital City at last! By comparison, these small expansion zones and confined questing are paltry.

I just can’t think of any reason why I would want to spend time grinding out rep or gear or Azerite, knowing that in two years time it will all be worthless and Blizz will have us starting all over again.

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Loopy

So, in a sense, I haven’t left WoW, it’s left me.

This perfectly describes how i feel about WoW.

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A Dad Supreme

The few years I played it in the past, I thoroughly enjoyed WoW and I agree to every point on this list. It’s hard to argue with any of them personally as they seem very true.

However, I still have no desire to re-visit World of Warcraft.

I have no concrete reason as to why but I just do not feel an urge to re-subscribe to this or any other “older” game I have played in the past, including my favorites FFXIV and SWTOR.

It could be that I’ve finally hit that MMO wall we all will get to one day, whether we like it or not.

I’ll only be able to test this theory if someone makes a really great, innovative and fun MMO without gankstyle PvP as the focus or a major part of it.

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Sariel

Most of these points I have complete opposite feelings about, myself.
1. BfA has easily been the most buggy, unpolished expansion released thus far
3. Can’t say it really looks good compared to other MMOs, sorry. It’s showing its age, ESPECIALLY when they tried lip-syncing in an in-game cutscene and they look like animatronics.
5. The class design in BfA. Dear lord, it’s awful. It doesn’t help that WoW and FFXIV have flip-flopped completely, where FFXIV is far, far faster than WoW is at their respective max levels.
6. Most of the ‘humor’ in WoW is really juvenile with the poop jokes, forced memes and outdated references, honestly.
9. Can’t say the storytelling is good whatsoever this expansion. Too many plotholes and, as usual, characters acting nothing like how they should and plenty of past events are just being conveniently forgotten so that the silly plot can move to a specific direction.

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Vicarious Fan

1. umm what? please elaborate
3. ok…
5. completely disagree the class design is top notch this expansion
6. got any examples?
9. plotholes? please elaborate?

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Mike Pieniaszek

@vicarious Fan…. i love this expansion so far but i can agree with the humor part… some of it is kid oriented…

there is as far as i recall one poop quest per expack (or more) from bc onward… the first being in nagrand if i can recall back in bc….

heres a list of the 10+ poop related quests up till legion…. ive also come across one so far in bfa but its part of the ally story (although a sidequest).

https://wow.gamepedia.com/Poop_quest

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Carebear

agree in all, except the number 9. There are rumors that N’Zoth is behind the character actions and thats why it seems that they “act in a way they shouldn’t”. (or thats whats everyone hope in order to compromise with the story..)

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Sariel

Characters going completely backwards because “muh corruption” is hardly new and at this point really lame and overdone for Blizzard

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DargorV .

Instead of forcing rep grinds and other shaenanigans to “keep players playing and paying” they should just go the gw2 route of scaling all zones period.

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Jokerchyld

So much this! I would love to start a new character and just go to Pandaria. Why I’m forced to choose between old expansions doesn’t make sense anymore. It works for GW2 and ESO and WoW (to the limited degree they have implemented it), but they need to finish what they started.

latorn
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latorn

BFA was ok, but my sub has run out and I completed everything horde side. I don’t get why Blizzard still feels the need to make all previous content obsolete with each new expansion. WoW just continually gets smaller and smaller with each new expansion because of it.

They have level scaling already implemented in the game now, so I don’t know why they insist on making all the past content they’ve built worthless at endgame. In my opinion other MMOs like GW2 and ESO have the right idea with scaling and adding to their world, rather than increasing the level cap and confining max level players to 6 small zones.

Also, while I agree with a lot of your points, I have to strongly disagree with #9. BFA was a step back from Legion. Playing through main quests like the “war” campaign (if you can even call it that) were pretty disappointing; they didn’t even bother to have it voice acted. The entire expansions was advertised with the premise of a battle for azeroth, and while it happens in the first mission it is quickly forgotten in favour of the underwhelming war campaign (which is basically just side quests hidden behind a rep grind). Anyways, I did grind out a WoW token before my sub ran out, so I will be back once the story gets interesting and they actually implement the story they hyped the game around (the battle for azeroth).

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Slaasher

it also offers a sense of belonging, of “home” to so many people.
I dont think that can be underestimated.

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Utakata

…you don’t say! o.O

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Oleg Chebeneev

Nice list. I would also add rich lore and competitive PvP

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Robert Basler

Coincidentally I’m a new WoW player this week. (I played for a month in 2007, but I don’t remember it at all and my character from that time is gone.)

I struggled with accepting WoW’s looks today. 6 poly bushes, 2 poly branches sticking out of trees, flat textured terrain with no decoration or normal maps. It is pretty at times, and the character textures look alright, but even on highest graphics settings, the environments I’m seeing as a new player are very old school.

Combat is pure grind where 1 monster, OK. 2 monsters, sheep one. 3 monsters, die. Running away usually fails. Not being able to move while fighting is a big change after Guild Wars 2. I spend a lot of time eating and waiting to heal.

In the first 10 levels, there are just 2 types of quest: touch N things, kill N things. One level 2 kill quest took me 45 minutes because the NPC spawn rate was so low and 10 people were on the same quest. Spawn rates are still a real issue. Up to level 20 they added just two unique quests: touch thing fight for 60 seconds, and escort NPC. I’ve had one glitched quest where the guy you are supposed to kill spawns then disappears 10 seconds later.

I felt kind of bad on the quest where they sent me out to murder a bunch of people for camping somewhere they weren’t supposed to.

For a new player, the auction house is a void. I had “tons” of money so I expected to be able to buy better gear there because at level 18 I hadn’t won a usable weapon since level 8, but the only gear available is level 1 whites which cost 2,000,000G which I assume is gold sellers. Compare that to Guild Wars where the TP has gear for every level.

I tried a couple dungeons, which were nice because someone else kept me alive the whole time.

I like my bird mount Glenn, mainly because he is purple and so much faster than walking.

It is also nice that there are lots of other players who I can team up with to make the monster murdering go faster.

The music is spectacular.

Progression is nearly perfect, I get new abilities at a rate where I can learn to use them and when I really start to need them.

I am enjoying it, it is very approachable and super easy, I’m just not sure it will hold my interest long enough to get to the fun things everyone talks about.