Shortly after I submitted my first preview of World of Warcraft, the upcoming massively multiplayer on-line role-playing game from Blizzard Entertainment, Blizzard released a new “push” of the game. In layman’s terms, that means they released a really big (around 2GB) update, chock full of changes and improvements and new things to talk about. So what you’ll find here are my thoughts on the current push, plus a description of some of the things I neglected to mention before, plus some new screenshots. What could be better than that?
Let me start with some of the new things. The biggest change for me in this push is that Blizzard unlocked the Horde races -- orcs, taurens, trolls, and the undead (they had been available in earlier pushes, but that was before I started playing). So I decided to play a tauren warrior. At this point, just like before, the races are basically the same, except that they look and sound different. For example, undead characters make sort of annoying moaning and groaning noises when they attack, but they don’t have to worry about breathing underwater. Tauren, meanwhile, are much bigger than the other races. They’re so big, in fact, that they have trouble getting through some doorways, and so my warrior has at times been annoying to play. This is something Blizzard is said to be working on.
And so mainly the benefit to unlocking the Horde races is that it’s opened up the Horde areas, giving players (like me) who had pretty thoroughly explored the Alliance lands new places to hang out. Unfortunately, the Horde lands don’t provide the most visually stunning vistas ever seen, which is no surprise given some of their names, like the Barrens and Desolace. Pretty much if you play the Horde you have to like red rocky ground, or else you’re in trouble. I’ve had more fun in some of the “mixed” lands, like the Arathi Highlands, which are “owned” by both the Alliance and the Horde.
Also new this push is that Blizzard introduced a resting state. You start out “well rested” and get double experience for your kills, but then the more you play the more tired you get, and eventually you only get about 50% of the experience you’d normally earn. To become well rested again, you have to stay at an inn for 8 hours (including hours when you’re logged off the game). The theory behind the resting state is to help casual players keep up with hardcore players, but mostly I found that the bonuses simply make gaining experience easier, and I expect this is something Blizzard will tweak quite a bit before World of Warcraft is released.
One last new thing: whereas before characters only got skill points (to learn trade skills and weapon proficiencies) and talent points (to improve weapon skills and increase damage) when they leveled, in this push characters get skill points after every 600 (I think) experience gained from kills, and talent points have been taken offline completely. Currently this means that every character can eventually learn every skill, which is boring (my warrior is an expert in six trade skills right now), and combined they make this push feel much more like a beta test than the previous push did. However, my understanding is that the prices for trade skills will change to prevent people from mastering everything, and that talents will be where characters differentiate themselves. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Now for some old stuff. Since World of Warcraft is an action role-playing game, obviously you’re going to die every so often. So how does death work? Well, the game gives you a few options. You can turn into a ghost and return to your corpse. That will resurrect you, and you won’t lose any experience, but the “corpse run” might take you a while, and when you resurrect you’ll only have half health, meaning if you were in a dangerous situation when you died you might be in just as much trouble when you come back to life. You can also resurrect yourself at a “spirit healer.” That will return you immediately to life, but it’ll cost you 5-10% of the experience needed for your current level. Finally, some characters (priests, shamans) can resurrect characters with a spell. If you’re lucky enough to have such a character with you, then you can avoid the corpse run and the loss of experience altogether.
Ok, but what about your inventory? This is where World of Warcraft most resembles Diablo II. When you create your character, you start out with a backpack that can contain 16 objects. You also have four “slots” where you can put bags. Each bag can contain between 4 and 16 more objects, meaning you can hold up to 80 objects on your character. There is also a bank that can hold 24 objects, and banks have bag slots as well, but unlocking the slots gets wickedly expensive after the first couple. In all, you can potentially hold 200 objects per character, and while that seems like a whole lot, especially since some objects (like potions and herbs) stack, I somehow always find myself needing more room. (Of course, I’m cheap and I only unlocked two bags at the bank.)
Finally, just how does the interface work, anyway? It works about like you’d expect in a 3D game with a third-person perspective. You use the mouse to control the camera and perform actions (like attacking enemies and opening boxes), and you use the keyboard to move around. The game starts out with the WASD and arrow keys set up for movement, but those keys and about 50 other hotkeys can all be configured. There is also a hotkey bar at the bottom of the screen, which is set up mostly for combat skills and spells, but which you can also use for macros that you create. For example, ranged weapons in the game are mostly for angering enemies and drawing them towards you (that is, “pulling” them), and so you might have a macro where you say “Shooting now!” and where you also perform the action.
Some miscellaneous shots, including the map for Mulgore, the home zone for taurens.
Blizzard still hasn’t set a release date for World of Warcraft (and probably won’t until it’s about done), but at this point I’m still guessing it’ll hit store shelves just in time for Christmas.
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