Review by kirbyfreak
A succcessful expasion pack with a few flaws
World of Warcraft is a monster. Before November 2004 Massively Multiplayer Online RPG's were largely a niche market. The monthly fees and giant timesinks were a turnoff to the average gamer. World of Warcraft changed everything thanks to smart decisions by Blizzard. The original game at launch was casual friendly and visually appealing. The game received rave reviews and sold millions.
It was not perfect, however. The endgame at 60 was lacking, to say the least. Player vs. Player (PvP) slowly got stale and Player vs. Environment (PvE) was the antithesis to the casual gameplay of 1-59. PvE raids required 40 people and large amounts of time to spend in dungeons which got progressively difficult. The amount of loot that dropped in these dungeons was sparse - bosses would drop an average of 2 pieces of gear, meaning advancing your character took a long time. In terms of PvP, Blizzard implemented a ranking system, where the top players had to grind "honor points" for hours on end to rank up. Towards the end of original WoW these problems and more were promised to be addressed in the expansion, The Burning Crusade. BC has been out for over a year now, and while it did fix many issues it also introduced a few new ones.
Possibly the greatest aspect of BC is the leveling content. Getting from 60-70 is much less painful than the frequent grind-fests in Azeroth. There is an abundance of quests, many of which are pretty fun and add some variety to the game. The zones themselves have a unique art style, from the war-torn canyons of Hellfire Peninsula to the trippy mushroom-filled Zangarmarsh. While some areas have a bizarre, out of place sci-fi aspect to them, it is hard not to commend the art team for the beautiful landscapes they've created.
While the leveling content is great and all, what ultimately matters is endgame. Blizzard did several things differently in BC to make time at level 70 more enjoyable. Lets focus on PvP first. Many fans in old WoW desired greater world PvP. The instanced battlegrounds were fun at first, but doing the same one 100 times over did get rather boring. So in BC Blizzard added some world PvP elements to most zones. For example, in Hellfire Peninsula there are 3 bases which the Horde and Alliance can fight over. Whichever faction controls all 3 gains a buff that effects the entire zone. In Nagrand, there is a town called Halaa which the two factions can fight over. The problem with the world PvP is the rewards, or lack thereof. Zone-wide buffs aren't important enough to fight for, and the items you receive from PvPing are only useful to low level players. To level 70 players world PvP is just as dead as it was years ago.
The biggest addition to PvP is arenas. Arenas let you compete in small-scale 2v2, 3v3, or 5v5 matches. This type of combat can be intense and fun, however class balance makes it frustrating at times. For example, at the time this review is written arena is dominated by warriors, druids, and rogues. Paladins and hunters are at an inherent disadvantage thanks to the way their classes are designed. The frustrating part exists because the best PvP gear in the game is attained through arenas. The small-scale gameplay can be very fun at times, but it also leaves you wishing for more massive battles, where class mechanics don't play as big of a role. Arenas are far from the worst thing to happen to WoW, but their importance was too much in a game that is supposed to be about epic Horde vs. Alliance battles.
PvE also saw much change in the expansion. Raid sizes were reduced to 25 and 10 mans, compared to 40 and 20 originally. This made organizing raids much, much easier. On the downside, it also added greater responsibility to individual players. On certain boss fights a single person can wipe the entire group due to lag or plain old stupidity. This emphasis on player skill over player numbers really changed how PvE felt. In old WoW 40 man raids were a very social, often relaxing experience depending on what dungeon you were doing. In 25 man raids the difficulty curve is much steeper from the get-go, partly due to encounter design and partly due to the players themselves. The first 40 man raid in classic WoW, Molten Core, was so easy any moron could be dragged along. The first 25 man encounter in BC, High King Maulgar in Gruul's Lair, takes 15 minutes to simply explain to new players. There were hard bosses in both WoW and BC, but you see them earlier in BC. So on one hand, casual players benefited because raids were smaller and easier to start. On the other hand, they suffered because of unforgiving fights.
Burning Crusade promised to fix everything wrong with WoW. While it didn't exactly accomplish that, it did make the game overall more fun and accessible. I feel there is much more to do at 70 than there was at 60. The flaws exist though, and hopefully Blizzard acknowledges them to make the next expansion something truly incredible.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade (US, 01/16/07)
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