World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade PC CD-ROM/Mac
Published by Blizzard Entertainment
Developed by Blizzard Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Requires: World of Warcraft
Being a small games website we don't always manage to get hold of the review software we'd like to have. Occasionally we miss out on a really big title and in February 2005 we missed out on being able to review World of Warcraft, a game that has turned out to be the biggest MMORPG of all time. World of Warcraft has enjoyed stunning success with over 8 million gamers now enjoying the game. Recently we were very fortunate to receive the first World of Warcraft expansion, World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, for review. A copy of World of Warcraft was also supplied to allow us to review the expansion and we have to admit to being rather impressed with the game. Naturally this review will concentrate on the expansion but we'll throw in our thoughts of World of Warcraft too.
Let's take a quick look at World of Warcraft. Why is the game so popular? Is it simply because Blizzard took an immensely popular franchise and used it as a basis for an MMORPG? Warcraft is a very popular RTS series but from my time with the game I wouldn't say that's the reason. In fact it's probably because it's just so well put together and polished. What has really surprised me is that there's a heck of a lot to do. It can be played in any way to suit you. If you don't want to be part of a clan or don't enjoy the social aspects of online gaming you can simply play the game as you would a single-player game. There are many, many quests to be completed and experience can be earned in a variety of ways. It's not just a hack 'n' slash experience. There's plenty of scope for crafting, mining etc. The game allows you to play as any one of eight different races. For the Alliance you can play as a Human, Dwarf, Night Elf or Gnome. For the Horde you can play as an Orc, Undead, Tauren or Troll. Naturally a good range of classes is available with choices such as Paladin, Mage, Warrior, Priest, Rogue, Druid and others available. Certain classes can even have combat pets to accompany them. I personally don't like Player Versus Player (PvP) combat and thankfully you can avoid it altogether if you wish, although it's there if you like it and it's even possible to duel with other players. From a technical standpoint the game is impressive. The graphics may no longer be cutting edge but the fact that the game runs silky smooth and that you can roam vast territories without ever pausing for things to load is outstanding. In short then it's easily the best MMORPG that I've come across and it's easy to see why the game has been so successful.
So World of Warcraft is an absolute cracker then (and for the record we'd give it a 9.3/10) and it's no surprise that gamers have been eagerly awaiting the first expansion. The Burning Crusade is certainly an expansion that World of Warcraft players are going to want to get their hands on. Players can now level their characters all the way to level 70 (the previous maximum being 60). Skills can be increased even further too. A new continent called Outland has been added. Once players have reached level 70 they can have flying mounts and take to the skies above Outland. The Horde has access to Windriders whilst the Alliance makes use of Gryphons. Quite a few of Outland's more dangerous regions are only reachable by the air so this addition makes a lot of sense. Or course any MMORPG worth its salt is going to add an extra playable race or two and The Burning Crusade adds the Draenei (Alliance) and the Blood Elves (Horde) for you to play as.
A new profession, jewelcrafting is now available. Jewelcrafters have an important role to play as they can create rings, trinkets and amulets. They can also cut gems to be used in socketed items. The process of placing the gems into the socketed items can be carried out by anyone but it's the jewelcrafters who can obtain a high percentage of the jewels that can be used in this fashion. When gems are added to various items such as armour and weapons they take on stat bonuses so it's definitely worth having socketed items. It's also worth mentioning that the expansion adds many new items that, for the most part, are better than those that can be found in the original game. Most of the content for the expansion is both enjoyable for longstanding players and for newcomers who have decided to purchase the expansion along with a copy of World of Warcraft.
World of Warcraft was released back is 2005 here in the UK and graphically the game doesn't look as impressive as it would have done two years ago. That said, it still looks good enough and one of the advantages is that you don't need a stellar PC to run the game well. I was surprised that our ever aging PC ran both the original game and expansion very nicely indeed. The game manages to retain the look of the Warcraft RTS games quite nicely and avoid the typical Lord of the Rings/Medieval look that most MMORPG's usually adopt, which certainly makes for a refreshing change.
Deaf gamers won't have any real problems with either World of Warcraft game. The games cutscenes, such as the opening movies and the introductory movies that play when you first create a character, are not subtitled but that's all that you could complain about. All tutorial information is shown in text. All quests are given in text and can be recalled at any time by opening your quest log. There are some character comments made during combat that are not subtitled but they're only the odd word or two and it doesn't cause any problems. There's full support to text communications and it's perfectly possible for deaf gamers to really enjoy what the game has to offer.
I've spent several weeks enjoying both World of Warcraft and The Burning Crusade expansion and it's easy to see why the game is enjoying enormous popularity. I have to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of MMORPG's but I have really enjoyed playing World of Warcraft. If I had the time to invest I would happily pay the £8.99 a month to continue playing, which is something I would never have considered doing with other MMORPG's. The Burning Crusade expansion is a well rounded expansion that manages to appeal equally to newcomers and seasoned World of Warcraft players. The new features really extend the possibilities of World of Warcraft, which is saying something considering how impressive the original game is.
Even those gamers who can't stand MMORPG's would be hard pressed to claim that World of Warcraft wasn't something special. The Burning Crusade is a high quality first expansion and is one that World of Warcraft fans simply won't be able to resist for too long.