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World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Preview

GAME INFO
publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
developer: Blizzard Entertainment
genre: MMORPG

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
PIII 800, 512MB RAM, 10GB HDD, 32MB video card
ESRB rating: T
homepage:
www.worldofwarcraft.com/burningcrusade/

release date: Jan 16, 07
» All About World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade on ActionTrip


Remember "Pamela's Doll?"

I was thinking about this the other day. Talking about World of Warcraft for me, would be like trying to review my wife. Bear with me here. Sure she might not be perfect, but if you decide to spend your days with someone, you sort of learn to live with their quirks. The question whether or not you want to spend time with them is a non-issue of sorts, unless you are thinking about handing her the divorce papers.

So in other words, no matter what I may say about World of Warcraft, this is still a game I decided to "marry," effectively discontinuing all ties with every other game that has come out since 2004.

Is "marry" too strong a word for you? I am telling you; it simply would not be totally outrageous to say that I am married to World of Warcraft. We've endured through some hard times, and we've enjoyed some good times. I've broken up with it on a couple of occasions, only to come back to it, our relationship imbued with renewed vigor.

Wait.

Even that is not the whole truth. Never in my life have I been so loyal or devoted to my real life wife... or have spent as much time with her. Sure there is the sex bit to think about, and procreation, but that first time I downed Nafarian, it almost felt like having sex...

Oh what?! Like you've never felt like that about a game before! Jesus!

Ever since January 16, I have this irresistible urge to call in sick at least three times in a working week. The reason is simple enough. The Dark Portal has been opened and hordes of geeks from around the world (this one and Azeroth) have been unleashed upon the barren wastelands of Hellfire Peninsula - the number one grinding state of Outlands.

For all the basic information about the expansion, please refer to our previous coverage of The Burning Crusade. This first impressions article is intended to give you a basic overview of the game so far, from the perspective of a lvl 65 player.

For the expansion pack, I had a choice between two characters that I could take to 70 - my previous "main," a lvl 60 Shaman "Twolions," and my "alt" (now main), a lvl 60 Warrior "Thundersnow." A /random 100 was done and Thundersnow got to go first. So as I ventured into the new areas, I took on my role as the group's meat shield, or the "tank" as we are known in game.

It was somewhat fortunate for me that Thundersnow was a virgin level 60, so I essentially went from questing and leveling in the original, to just continuing the leveling process in the expansion. This gave me a unique perspective on the Outlands quests that I might not have gotten had I just started leveling my old lvl 60, Twolions.

The starting area for both the Horde and Alliance is the Hellfire Peninsula. This is a decent-size map with a barren, yet distinctively outlandish look to it. If you are by any chance familiar with the "Dune" book by Frank Herbert and the subsequent movie and video games, this place will moderately remind you of Arakis - worms popping out of the ground and all.

Hellfire Peninsula is loaded with grinding quests, with the exception of a few nice quest chains and a fairly fun "bombing run" quest. The goal of this area is clearly to gear up the new lvl 60 and have them gain as much "blue" gear as possible before moving on to the "real" zones of the expansion. Two starting dungeons, Ramparts and Blood Furnace, serve this very purpose. These two were clearly designed to aid in fast gearing up. Ramparts, especially, is very short and linear with boss encounters that will get really old real fast. The Blood Furnace is not much better in that sense, a little more time and thought was put into designing it, but this is still very much a quick "gear grinding" instance.

Once you are properly equipped with 61 blues that are on a par with the best stuff you could get in Zul Gurub and Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj instances (you could also possibly include pre-Ragnaros Molten Core stuff in this list), you will likely move on to Zangarmarsh - another place brimming with grinding quests. As you progress through these zones, various factions will be present that you can grind rep with. The idea is to get geared up, people, for the stuff to come. In Zangarmarsh, players will be treated to two dungeons that are easily beatable at level 63-ish - The Slave Pens and The Underbog. Both of these places show huge signs of improvement design-wise, both in how the interiors were built and the boss encounters themselves. Still, while these two instances are a lot more fun to play, they still require minimal group tactics to overcome.

As you move on to Therokkar Forest and then to Nagrand, The Blade's Edge Mountain and beyond, instance encounters get a lot trickier. This is clearly evident in Mana Tombs, likely the next instance (level 65-ish or so) that you will be entering. I got it cleared half way last night and the first boss encounter is markedly more difficult than anything else we've encountered in the Burning Crusade. This is where your first true challenge lies, it's a test of gear and team play, and more importantly, it is a good indication of the quality of raid dungeons that await.

At this particular time, my entire server has turned into a care bear questing spot, where Alliance and Horde simply leave each other to quest. I am on a PVP (Player Vs. Player) server, so there is some ganking here and there, but most of the time, everyone just wants to level to seventy (I know at least 20 people that have already done so).

What I'm getting at is that I haven't had a chance to test out any of the PVP yet (though I imagine, we've pretty much seen it all as it is - minus the new high-end Battleground).

If there is one general impression I'm getting about the expansion thus far, it's that it is completely geared towards "end game" play, with endless rep grinds and such already in place, while the nitty-gritty of MMORPG gameplay, the questing has taken a backseat somewhat.

So far, my biggest objection with the game is that there are WAY too many boring grinding quests, and just generally quests that lead nowhere and have no sort of cohesive story behind them.

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