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IMO this post should be stickied.
First.. get a free trial... that is worth much more then I can say here!
The following is my opinion:
WoW is the most successful western MMO ever made. In any room full of people you can almost guarantee there is a WoW player or two... this has never been true of any other MMO in the US.
World of Warcraft is an incredibly high quality product... somthing very rare in the genre. The quality is clearly visible in the overall look and feel of the world and characters, the gameplay, and the content.
Now that WoW has two expansions the original game world has a fairly low population (though still not bad for a four year old MMO!). Because this is the case Blizzard has made leveling from 1-60 much faster and easier. Level 1-80 can easily be accomplished solo, without ever being forced to rely on the help of others. It seems to me that doing the quests with friends or other random players does make things go faster.. it also makes it possible to complete quests that are too difficult for a single player... quests you would have to skip over if you were solo'ing. The fact remains however that solo questing is the generally accepted method of leveling in WoW.
Starting at relatively low level there are five man dungeon instances available. These dungeons require a 5 man group consisting of at least one tank and one healer. The dungeons provide challenging team play for those who are more interested in playing with others. The dungeons are linear instanced experiences where you will kill monsters to progress.. eventually coming to a boss. You will have to successfully kill that boss to proceed... then comes more monsters and another more difficult boss... repeat several times until you come to the "end boss" of the instance. Instances not only provide a nice challenge but also provide nice loot in many cases. You could probably level all the way from level 15 to 80 doing nothing but group instances if you were so inclined. I myself have leveled exclusively off instances since level 40 or so.
PvP in WoW consists primarily of Battleground instances. These are mini-games where two opposing teams are formed (and limited to a certain number.. say 15 per team) and set against one another in an objective based environment.. the simplest being classic capture the flag. There are quite a few different battlegrounds now that become available as you level up. Battleground participation is restricted to level "tiers" so if you are level 25 you will be playing only with other players between 20 and 29... if you are 34 you will be playing with players level 30 to 39 etc. The PvP will earn you honor which you can spend on gear upgrades.
World PvP is mostly exclusive to PvP servers. On PvP servers you can openly attack any member of the opposing team (horde or alliance) at any time throughout much of the world. World PvP pretty much died out with the introduction of "civilian NPC's" and the popularity of Battlegrounds. There is a new World PVP area in the new expansion, available regardless of your server type. This is basically an open Battleground where teams are not restricted in any way.. so you can bring as many friends as you want and things are not likely to be fair or even . This new area features destructible walls etc.
Arena PvP is available at high levels and offers a structured competition. You for a permanent team of 2, 3, or 5 players and compete in a tiered competition (like real life sports). Teams that do very well are rewarded with exclusive gear and items.
Part3: Endgame PvE-
Endgame PvE involves dungeons of increasing difficulty. The last 10 levels worth of dungeons are available as "heroic" versions suitable for a max level character. Heroic dungeons are very difficult and require precise teamwork with a 5 player team consisting of at least one tank and one healer. Each of these "heroic" instances is a different level of difficulty, so as you master one, you move on to the next. "Heroic" dungeons offer exclusive loot of a rather high quality as rewards.
Raids are dungeon instances requiring more then 5 players on the team. They range from 10 person to 40 person, though the 40 man content is obsolete and no longer really viable. Most current raids require between 10 and 25 players, with multiple healers and tanks. Again the raids available vary in difficulty, so as you become able to complete one, you move on to the next more difficult one.
Many people on these forums claim that WoW has terrible graphics.. here is the facts... WoW's graphics are a highly stylized cartoonish style. The polygon count is very low allowing the game to run well on almost any computer, but detracting from overall graphical quality. In my opinion the fantastic quality and color of the textures and art design more then makes up for the low poly count. It really is a matter of taste, and as I'm sure you have seen here on MMORPG.com there are plenty of people who hate them... but remember there are 11 million people who find them satisfactory . Dont rely on screenshots to judge the graphics as you really need to see the world in motion to appreciate it. I recommend a free trial to see how you feel about the graphics.
Another complaint of the vocal minority is that WoW lacks challenge. The basis for this is the fact that any player, regardless of skill level is able to attain max level through solo questing rather easily.. the only thing skill will change is how long it takes. For those who seek a challenge (like myself) the answer is mostly in the dungeon instances. Starting the dungeon instances at a lower level then is generally recommended will give you a very high level of difficulty.. you will most likely reach a point where you can not progress any further because it becomes too challenging for your characters. As you gain a level or two you will be able to complete the dungeon and that is a great feeling! End game raiding is also extremely challenging, but time consuming.
Crafting in WoW is a fairly simplistic system. Basically you collect "ingredients" either by getting them from the world yourself, or from buying them on the auction house from other players. Once you have the ingredients you just click.. wait a minute and the item is created. Leveling up your crafting skill to make better, higher level items requires money more then anything else for ingredients. You continually make the highest level items you can to increase your skill and become able to make even higher level items.
Part6: Whats the downside?-
The biggest downside of WoW really applies only to us MMO veterans from the old school games. WoW lacks some features that us old timers really miss from other games... things like player housing, challenging crafting, harsh death penalties, and "meaningful" PvP (meaning where you can actually take over parts of the world or loot the other players items).
Most players will eventually become tired of WoW because in the end you are basically doing the same things over and over again.... but in reality what game is that not true of? I would say most players play WoW on and off as the mood strikes for years, and many return especially when there is a new expansion pack.
Part7: Immature players?-
Many wow critics complain that WoW is full of kids and immature gamers. This is partially true.. especially on PvP servers. Generally this is really a result simply of the number of players that play WoW and the fact that it is not a "niche" game with a relatively small population of a select type of player.
To avoid immature players as much as possible I suggest creating your character on a RP, or RP-PvP server. These servers have a noticeably better community because "kids" arent interested in roleplay. Playing on a roleplay server does not mean that you have to roleplay.. its very likely that you will play out your time on a roleplay server without even often seeing others roleplay.
Part8: What does WoW have that no one else does?-
WoW is generally considered to be higher quality then the competition. Probably the only game that might compete in the opinion of some is LOTRO, but LOTRO offers a lot less to do then WoW.
WoW has unique "dances" for each race/sex... jokes that each character can tell, fantastic animation, and tons of emotes. These features are largely taken advantage of in the making of "Machinima"... player made movies created using WoW... often humorous. These movies are available on youtube.... or if you are curious go to www.myspace.com/ravensong3 and click the links under "Movies" on the left border of the screen about halfway down... I have a bunch of my favorites linked there.
Last and most important is WoW's player base. WoW has more players and more importantly, retains more players then any other MMO.. this means more people for you to play with! A well populated game world is important to the enjoyment of an MMO. You are also much more likely to get friends and family to play WoW with you , especially since it does not require an expensive gaming computer.
I hope you found this post informative and helpful!
Don't let the naysayers talk you out of trying the worlds most successful MMORPG! Download the free trial.. just google WoW free trial to find it.
MMO addict in recovery!
Aion,AoC,TR,WAR,EVE,BP,RIFT,WoW and others... no more!