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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » WoW: Wrath of the Lich King - Review @ The Escapist

Default WoW: Wrath of the Lich King - Review @ The Escapist

November 15th, 2008, 12:51
Do those 11 million all actually play wow because its such a good good game? Or do they play it - year after year - for other reasons? There are people who till subscribe to Ultima Online just to keep their property. Compared to that WoW is the facebook of MMOs.
Yes, those 11 million people play WoW because it's such a good game. People still subscribe to UO to keep their property? Fascinating. And has that fact made UO the dominant player in the very competitive MMORPG space and one of the most popular games of all time? Where do you even come up with that as an anaolgy? How could people reluctantly still paying subscriptions to old boring WoW account for the fact that the game keeps adding A MILLION NEW PLAYERS every time you turn around?

Facebook? I'm not even going to try and decipher that. Facebook, by the way, is free, and spending time on it doesn't make people assume you're a nerd. WoW on the other hand… Yet people do indeed play it. En masse.

I guess my overarching theme is this: If 11m people play a game (with a monthly fee, no less), that doesn't make it a great game. (See? I get that.) BUT massive popularity should at least give a game a presumption in your mind that it's fun. And massive popularity in a very competitive genre, where the game came out of nowhere (remember 4 years ago when WoW and EQ2 launched at the same time?) to become the titanic market leader with more people still signing up all the time… That really implies to me a good game.

What does it imply to you, WoW-haters? What's your alternative theory as to why people play WoW? It seems to me that BY FAR the simplest and most obvious explanation is: people play it because it's a high-quality (quantity and quality of content and gaming experience) and FUN game. More high quality and more fun than all the others. Would that explain its position as market leader? Yes it would.

What's your alternative explanation? Secrect addicting gas hidden inside the retatil packaging? What do you propose that is more plausible than the simple and obvious fact that WoW is a very good game and people love it?
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November 15th, 2008, 14:01
Originally Posted by purpleblob View Post
None of my char is lv 55 yet so still working on that so I can play Dk. I just want yathzee to review the lich king. Should be hilarious.
Doubt it. He quite loathes MMORPGs, and to play Wrath he'd need both the original game, TBC, and a character who's ready to enter Northrend (i.e. high-60s or 70).

I think what Blizzard's done right with WoW, and why it's so popular, is that they managed to hit the sweet spot in both casual and hardcore gamers. The game's easy to play, the learning curve all but nonexistent. You can be a braindead starfish who's never played anything more complicated than Sims 2 and get to the highest level solo. Sure, it'll take some time and your character won't be efficient because you'll choose all the wrong talents, but you'll get there. But for the hardcore people—the people who want to generate the biggest numbers in the shortest time possible and do in-depth maths to craft theories, the people who gnaw and kick and punch their ways to arena championship—there's a lot more underneath. The game's relatively hard to master. Add to that Blizzard's level of polish: as Yeesh said, they don't even try to innovate. They go by the numbers, but damn if the way they do it isn't shiny and exceptionally executed.

I've to admit, WoW hate baffles me, especially since the most vehement opponents tend to be people who have played it… never.

Originally Posted by Yeesh View Post
What's your alternative explanation? Secrect addicting gas hidden inside the retatil packaging? What do you propose that is more plausible than the simple and obvious fact that WoW is a very good game and people love it?
Subliminal brain-washing in the opening cinematic, duh.
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November 15th, 2008, 14:05
@Yeesh You made a few very interesting points and from my point of view you're seldom completely wrong, but somtimes you're not 100 percent correct either… well, in my opinion anyway.

Originally Posted by Yeesh View Post
Games are neither like art nor like food. I contend that a game's purpose is to be fun. If a game does EVERYTHING right, but a reviewer finds it to be no fun, don't we expect a low score? If a game has problem upon problem, but the reviewer gets addicted, don't we expect a higher score, albeit with caveats?
I think this is really one of the points where I only partly agree. It's true: ultimately games must be fun - no doubt about that. But should games be only fun? Especially in the case of MMOs I'm not sure if that's the right way to go. My favourite MMO until this day is Everquest which was quite the opposite - it wasn't just fun… I'd say there was a lot of frustration and hard work involved as well. Nonetheless, a lot of people who began their MMO career with Everquest think that the game had a much better concept than WoW (not meaning everything was better - in fact EQ also had some pretty horrible features). WoW on the other hand becomes easier, more accessible, and casual with every expansion. I recently reviewed WAR for my own blog and I came to the conclusion that WAR, a bit like WoW is a constant "stream" of good feelings. The problem is - how should people know what they like better if there is no other concept than the old WoW-one? Since WoW became a major success we saw almost exclusively MMOs that used this kind of "easy reward"-principle.

Originally Posted by Yeesh View Post
EXAMPLE: Bejeweled or whatever, those immensely popular puzzle games. I don't play them or like them, but can I take a reviewer to task for giving them a high score just because they compeltely lack the elements of gaming that are important to me? I can't say they're not good games.
Well, I'd say that these games belong to a very special kind of games that have their very own criteria to be judged upon. But to be honest - no, I personally wouldn't give the 10th Tetris clone a very high score.

Originally Posted by Yeesh View Post
Again, I bet if anyone who's poo-pooing these reviews sits down for a second and writes out where SPECIFICALLY they think our current journalists are turning a blind eye to WotLK's shortomings, we'd see no more than differences of opinion. Differences of opinion, moreover, between people who are either sick of WoW or don't even like MMORPGs on the one hand, and 10 million paying customers on the other side. Wait, not just paying customers, but committed, avid gamers.
With all due respect, but I sat down way longer than just a second to write about what specifically is wrong with gaming journalism and I don't think it's just differences of opinion. For over a year now I'm writing my own blog now (I'm sorry, but it's in German) which deals, admittedly not very seriously, with the shortcomings of the MMO genre. I really gave some thoughts to the topic and believe me I'm not someone who hates WoW, WAR, AoC or LotRO, you name it. These are all good games, I'm not denying that - the question for me is: Do these games deserve scores that clearly imply something else - namely that you cannot do it much better?

Originally Posted by Yeesh View Post
Why should a critic pay attention to what you care about, instead of what them 10 millions suckers care about? No wait, now it's 11 million.
This is the old question if or if not journalists should write for an implied readership. A lot of writers do exactly that. But should journalists do it as well? In my opinion it very much depends what kind of writing we're talking about. I think that it's perfectly fine if a commentary is written in such a way, but in the case of a review I don't think it's the right thing to do. A critic should never write what he thinks the majority of his/her readers wants to hear. He/she should strife for objectivity knowing that he/she will never be able to achieve it. But I don't see that in gaming journalism. When I was writing one of my later blog entries (basically a review of WAR) I stumbled across a WotLK preview which was written at a time when just a few concept drawings existed. Nonetheless the journalist was sure that this would become a great expansion. I mean what the hell has that to do serious journalism? Nothing - it's the hunt for readers. You write what you think they want to hear because that attracts them to your gaming magazine.

And there are objective criteria which you should take into account which show that WotLK might be a good expansion, but not an overly brilliant one. Take for example the factor innovation. Where exactly does WotLK offer something new? Where did WAR offer something new? What we see here are baby steps. Truth is WotLK is just more of the same… you might say that this is enough for all the WoW fans out there, but I'm saying: what choice do they have? A lot of people are playing the game for like 4 years now. They invested a lot of time and heartblood into their characters, their friends play the game, they like the people in their guild and have strong social ties to them, for some WoW might even have become some kind of daily habit. So even if these people do not think that everything about the expansion is great they'll probably buy it anyway.

Take for example TBC. I was so lucky to get into beta before it was released. After playing it for about two weeks I felt, that it wasn't really that great. I had the impression that Blizzard had recycled a lot of stuff - items and monsters, you name it. So I was very suprised that it got such brilliant reviews (best, biggest expansion ever… crap like that… which is even objectively wrong, anyway…). My friends couldn't understand my scepticism at first, but after they had played the game for a few weeks they felt more or less the same way about it. I'm reading a lot of forums, not just this one. And to my suprise the points that I criticised at release pop up over and over again. They don't make TBC a bad game, but they clearly show that what the press writes does necessarily represent the opinion of all the WoW fans and players out there.

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November 15th, 2008, 17:42
Originally Posted by Yeesh View Post
Yes, those 11 million people play WoW because it's such a good game. People still subscribe to UO to keep their property? Fascinating. And has that fact made UO the dominant player in the very competitive MMORPG space and one of the most popular games of all time? Where do you even come up with that as an anaolgy? How could people reluctantly still paying subscriptions to old boring WoW account for the fact that the game keeps adding A MILLION NEW PLAYERS every time you turn around?

Facebook? I'm not even going to try and decipher that. Facebook, by the way, is free, and spending time on it doesn't make people assume you're a nerd. WoW on the other hand… Yet people do indeed play it. En masse.

I guess my overarching theme is this: If 11m people play a game (with a monthly fee, no less), that doesn't make it a great game. (See? I get that.) BUT massive popularity should at least give a game a presumption in your mind that it's fun. And massive popularity in a very competitive genre, where the game came out of nowhere (remember 4 years ago when WoW and EQ2 launched at the same time?) to become the titanic market leader with more people still signing up all the time… That really implies to me a good game.

What does it imply to you, WoW-haters? What's your alternative theory as to why people play WoW? It seems to me that BY FAR the simplest and most obvious explanation is: people play it because it's a high-quality (quantity and quality of content and gaming experience) and FUN game. More high quality and more fun than all the others. Would that explain its position as market leader? Yes it would.

What's your alternative explanation? Secrect addicting gas hidden inside the retatil packaging? What do you propose that is more plausible than the simple and obvious fact that WoW is a very good game and people love it?
You sound as if you are offended? If wow means this much to you, then I dont think that a serious discussion would be a very constructive and enjoyable way to spend time for either of us. So I wont make any arguments.

Ive made the facebook comparison before - you are entitled to disagree with it if you dont like it:
Wow fans have argued that its the social aspect that makes the game so fun. I wonder if mmos are more like social networks than real games. Halfway between a facebook and a real game. Allthough inferior to what wow offers, facebook has lots of games too. You have levels and other status things in the games, you can gather exp and equipment and you even have guilds and pvp.

If mmos are more like social networks than games then it wont be easy to introduce new ones into the market. Most people are more than happy to use single facebook. I doubt many people see the need to constantly switch to new ones. If its true mmo market would have only limited space. We might never see more than one or two big names. Rest of the games would be doomed to niche forever.
Its Wowbook or MyWow That is a cool way of looking at it. Pretty much sums up while I play. I don't get into the raiding. But I will often login just to chat - often not even moving my character. Course I also enjoy playing but its like weekend softball - its often just an excuse to do something with friends.
I have to admit, I've spent way too many hours sitting around in Ironforge just chatting with friends in guilds/parties/whispers.

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Last edited by zakhal; November 15th, 2008 at 18:10.
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November 15th, 2008, 19:01
Originally Posted by zakhal View Post
You sound as if you are offended? If wow means this much to you, then I dont think that a serious discussion would be a very constructive and enjoyable way to spend time for either of us.
You know, I don't think Yeesh even plays WoW. I doubt it holds great personal meaning to him.
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November 15th, 2008, 19:07
Originally Posted by Essaliad View Post
You know, I don't think Yeesh even plays WoW. I doubt it holds great personal meaning to him.
He seemed so dismissive of all other explanations (for the fact that people keep playing it year after year) except "Wow is simply a superb game" that I thought he actually played it or has played it quite a bit in the past.

If he doesnt even want to discuss alternatives (he called me a "wow-hater" for it) it would be fair to assume that the game has som meaning to him. Or then he just wants to have an pointless argument?

Originally Posted by Ionstormsucks View Post
My favourite MMO until this day is Everquest which was quite the opposite - it wasn't just fun… I'd say there was a lot of frustration and hard work involved as well.
Ive heard that many times since the mid-90s when I played MUDs and still people kept playing. Personally I can feel when "fun game" turns into "fun addiction" (game is not good anymore but fun is still gained through addiction/friends/status) - thats usually when I force myself to stop playing nowadays. Last time it was eve online and before that wow.

EDIT: I thought Ionstormsucks meant "opposite of fun". Oh well.

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Last edited by zakhal; November 15th, 2008 at 20:24.
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November 15th, 2008, 20:07
I played EverQuest. It was the opposite of fun, I've no idea why I played as long as I did—dragged a character kicking and screaming to level 53. I'm all about not dumbing games down to make them accessible to ten-year-olds, but EQ was just horrible.
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November 15th, 2008, 20:10
He seemed so dismissive of all other explanations (for the fact that people keep playing it year after year) except "Wow is simply a superb game" that I thought he actually played it or has played it quite a bit in the past.

If he doesnt even want to discuss alternatives (he called me a "wow-hater" for it) it would be fair to assume that the game has som meaning to him. Or then he just wants to have an pointless argument?
It's true, I'm a decidedly former WoW player, and a former MuDder as well, just like you. And I'm only dismissive of the few alternative explanations I'm reading to the extent that I'm pointing out they don't make sense.

Again, bring me an alternative that makes sense. You don't have one. The UO explanation of people maintaining acconts for old time sake obviously fails to account for WoW's market dominance and continual expansion. How could anyone take that seriously as an earnest attempt to explain WoW's popularity? It just isn't.

Once again, I'll remind you that the MMORPG genre has been very, very competitive, and yet still WoW thrives while others fall. If you tell me WoW is actually an inferior product to many other games in the genre, I'm going to treat that claim with deep suspicion, and I'm gonig to ask you to please explain where WoW's shortcoming's lie.

Basically, you go ahead and explain to me why those 11M people aren't actually having fun and playing a great game, when they have more choice in this genre than ever before. Is the social aspect important? Of course. But you know what? Guilds come and go, AND big guilds maintain multi-game presences AND people change servers to where they know nobody and all this happens all the time, but WoW subscriptions keep rising.

You imply that people are somehow tricked by WoW into playing it, and paying for it, but you don't explain how WoW does this in a way that none of the other companies (who would be thrilled to steal 10% of WoW's share) can duplicate. I say it makes sense that WoW prevails because it's the better game.

I say this simplest explanation makes the most sense. You say Facebook. Ummm ok.
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November 15th, 2008, 20:20
I played EverQuest. It was the opposite of fun, I've no idea why I played as long as I did—dragged a character kicking and screaming to level 53. I'm all about not dumbing games down to make them accessible to ten-year-olds, but EQ was just horrible.
I was thrilled by the idea of EverQuest, but I only played for a short little while. Still the choices the designers made in that game were just baffling to me. Wasn't that the one where you would sit down and meditate to regain your mana, and while you did so a screen came up to block your vision so you couldn't see anything? And you stayed like that for at least a minute, or more?

Did that really happen? Who thinks that up? That's the very opposite of immersion. That's like the game punishing you for playing it.
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November 15th, 2008, 20:26
Originally Posted by Essaliad View Post
I played EverQuest. It was the opposite of fun, I've no idea why I played as long as I did—dragged a character kicking and screaming to level 53. I'm all about not dumbing games down to make them accessible to ten-year-olds, but EQ was just horrible.
Actually I thought Ionstormsucks meant "opposite of fun".

But anyways its interesting to hear that you kept playing mmo even though you thought it was not fun. Perhaps the game was boring but somthing else made it fun? And no im not talking about hidden cutsceen transmissions that hypnotise you to play the game - Im talking about real stuff like addiction to the threadmill or friends or social/gamer status in the mmo.

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Last edited by zakhal; November 15th, 2008 at 20:32.
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November 15th, 2008, 21:07
This is the old question if or if not journalists should write for an implied readership. A lot of writers do exactly that. But should journalists do it as well? In my opinion it very much depends what kind of writing we're talking about.
I hear what you're saying, but I think you're building too general a rule for the specifics of game reviewing. I mean, this is an expansion to WoW we're talking about. Do you really think that a reviewer who tailors his review to the people who play the game is doing the world a disservice?

Indeed, to touch on what's already mentioned Yahtzee (who's awesome), do we even want a review from anyone who DOESN'T play these games, or even from someone who isn't an active WoW player? If someone isn't intimately familiar with WoW, how can he possibly weigh the merits of an expansion? To put a fine point on it, do we want reviews coming from (erudite and objective) members of the target audience, or from some detached entity who holds the game to more general standards?

And who's standards? Can you review an expansion for WoW and hold it accountable for shortcomings that would have you crucifying a CRPG? Yes, there's not much of a story, there's WAY too much combat, and the NPCs are hardly developed at all. And talk about your generic kill and fetch quests! Bleh! But while those might be criticisms we demand to hear from our CRPG reviewers, they don't make sense when applied to WoW, no more than complaints that there are no guild banks or team PvP in Gothic.

This is not to say that some general concepts shouldn't guide reviewers. But what is it, generally, that we look for in an expansion? Innovation could be one such thing, yes. Another commly lauded plus would be addressing complaints about the original. But that doesn't mean that an expansion that merely delivers a lot more of the same, only better can't be great.

I think that last sentence is where you and I diverge the most. I am a big fan of innovation, just like you. But I wouldn't penalize a game for lacking it, if that game delivers a kick-ass experience in other ways. The specifics you mention about TBC don't strike me as negatives. Recycling weapon models and monster models is OK by me. Think of it this way (making up numbers): Suppose Blizzard could introduce 400 new weapons and monsters, or they could introduce 600 of them, but 200 would be recycled models. Which do you think most players would rather see? Less content, or more? I personally think it's a no-brainer.

For anyone who's not that familiar with WoW, you have to understand that the expansions are few and far between (this being the second one in 4 years, contrast to EQ2 which has had 5 in the same time), and they're big. The part you have to understand is that when the level cap gets raised, all the old content (while still there) is more or less abandoned. Forever. The old armor sets that used to be the epitome of ultimate power are now gimp-wear, the old raid bosses are seldom visited (and then only as a lark), and the old areas and the old world ends up depopulated. At any given point in time, I'd estimate that 75% will be playing SOLELY in the expansion area (I'm talking about TBC, but it stands to reason the new one will be the same), and around raid times, it's more like 90%.

I say all this so you can understand why people might actually be PRO-recycling, because that's the only way new players are ever even going to see those old models of cool armor sets and cool weapons and monsters. Coming in just a few months before TBC, I personally never got to do any of the old 60 high end content, and THERE WAS A LOT. So if they want to recycle some of the bosses, armor, weapons, monsters, then I'm thrilled.

And I have to say that the way that 75% or more of the population is playing in expansion areas at any time belies your claim that the expansion isn't huge or somehow didn't offer enough content to warrant high praise. The expansion (Outland) is all anyone's been playing for the past ~2 years now. I think people got their $39-worth.
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November 16th, 2008, 08:58
Originally Posted by Essaliad View Post
Doubt it. He quite loathes MMORPGs, and to play Wrath he'd need both the original game, TBC, and a character who's ready to enter Northrend (i.e. high-60s or 70).
He reviewed Conan tho.

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November 16th, 2008, 10:10
He didn't need the game and two expansion packs and a high-level character to review a trial play of Age of Conan, is my point.

Originally Posted by zakhal View Post
Actually I thought Ionstormsucks meant "opposite of fun".

But anyways its interesting to hear that you kept playing mmo even though you thought it was not fun. Perhaps the game was boring but somthing else made it fun? And no im not talking about hidden cutsceen transmissions that hypnotise you to play the game - Im talking about real stuff like addiction to the threadmill or friends or social/gamer status in the mmo.
Obstinacy and challenge. EverQuest does not forgive: it punishes players for just about everything. Death is a big loss of EXP and a tiresome trek to the corpse; leveling takes a long time; and yes, regenerating mana really means having your spellbook take up your screen, blocking your view of all else. When you played EQ, you didn't fight the mobs—you were fighting the game.
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November 16th, 2008, 20:28
Originally Posted by Yeesh View Post
I was thrilled by the idea of EverQuest, but I only played for a short little while. Still the choices the designers made in that game were just baffling to me. Wasn't that the one where you would sit down and meditate to regain your mana, and while you did so a screen came up to block your vision so you couldn't see anything? And you stayed like that for at least a minute, or more?

Did that really happen? Who thinks that up?
The guys that thought up like 90 percent of all the other elements that you'll find in modern MMOs including WoW. Or did you really believe that Blizzard came up with all that stuff.

Don’t get me wrong I see all your points. And as someone who likes everything about WoW you probably must see it that way. I too like WoW, but I don’t like everything about it and I know from my experience with other MMOs that there are things that Blizzard could do better without fundamentally changing the game. I don’t want to “crucify” the game for anything, I just don’t think that an expansion which has not even the least bit of originality deserves a 90+ rating.

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November 23rd, 2008, 04:24
Originally Posted by Yeesh View Post
Just because random idiots say something doesn't mean it represents the conventional wisdom, and I don't think too many widely-read reviewers have even used the phrase "just a WoW clone". Everybody who's paying attention knows that WoW has always been more about polishing what works (regardless of which game came up with it first), as opposed to breaking new ground.

Look, I'm a contrarian myself. The fact that something's very popular instantly turns me against it, and if that something happens to be jingoistic, pedantic, and morally reprehensible, then I know my instincts were right (I'm looking at you, 300). But WoW is a game, and people like it. A LOT. So seriously, should a reviewer be penalizing Blizzard for releasing a smooth, polished, tested product that gives its gigantic core audience exactly what they want?

What do you think Blizzard shuold be trying to do instead, trying to impress you personally, somone who probably doesn't even like the genre WoW represents?** Would that make any sense at all?

Just because you think WoW's style of gameplay is boring doesn't make WoW bad. I mean, duh.

** Note that by "you", I mean all you whack assed WoW haters.
Oh no, that was not my point. Quite the opposite in fact, my point is that reviewers tend to diss other MMOs because they don't cover any new ground, but then give a WoW expansion that is basically just more of the same and give it a 95% review. All I'm saying is… I think there's like a double standard when (most) reviewers talk about MMOs.
I think reviews should be independant of previous games. If a game comes that is just like WoW but different graphics, different setting, etc. Then it should have the same score, it shouldn't be WoW 90, other game 70
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November 23rd, 2008, 04:32
Originally Posted by Yeesh View Post
I was thrilled by the idea of EverQuest, but I only played for a short little while. Still the choices the designers made in that game were just baffling to me. Wasn't that the one where you would sit down and meditate to regain your mana, and while you did so a screen came up to block your vision so you couldn't see anything? And you stayed like that for at least a minute, or more?

Did that really happen? Who thinks that up? That's the very opposite of immersion. That's like the game punishing you for playing it.
You know that's one of the things I loved about EQ1. To me it was part of how I felt the world was so immersive, you were meditating after all! That and many other things like items weight (and coins), food and drink, emphasis on first person view, damage on falling, drowning, all that made me really escape the world when I was playing, a feeling I have never had when I played WoW or any other MMO really.
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November 23rd, 2008, 08:16
Originally Posted by wolfing View Post
Oh no, that was not my point. Quite the opposite in fact, my point is that reviewers tend to diss other MMOs because they don't cover any new ground, but then give a WoW expansion that is basically just more of the same and give it a 95% review. All I'm saying is… I think there's like a double standard when (most) reviewers talk about MMOs.
I think reviews should be independant of previous games. If a game comes that is just like WoW but different graphics, different setting, etc. Then it should have the same score, it shouldn't be WoW 90, other game 70
Doesn't work that way. WoW doesn't do much that is original, in and of itself, but it happens to do it the best—and arguably, in this particular casual-friendly one-size-fit-all manner, it's the first to have done so. After all, it incorporates a lot of things from Blizzard's previous games, being Diablo and Warcraft; you can hardly fault someone for cannibalizing what they can use, and improve it, and fit it together well. So naturally, any other MMO released after it would be criticized against it. Consider how a lot of fantasy is compared to Tolkien, for example. Though I've made it clear elsewhere I think Tolkien's fiction is a tiresome old bore, it did happen to be the first to incorporate things that weren't themselves original (were in fact lifted wholesale from older sources, imagery, names, languages and all).

For this same reason, a lot of action RPGs are compared to Diablo/Diablo 2. When you do something so well, or at least got there before everyone else, you're bound to be held up by a different standard. Not fair? No, but nothing exists in a vacuum. Things will always be compared to one another.
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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » WoW: Wrath of the Lich King - Review @ The Escapist
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