WarCry's Official Review
By John Funk
Nobody could have predicted World of Warcraft.
Before November 2004, the MMO industry was in a very different place than it is today. Sure, Blizzard had quite the track record and reputation, and had years of experience working with online games, but Battle.net was hardly comparable to a full, genuine MMO. Behind the scenes, the developers were hoping for subscription numbers of a few hundred thousand or so - quite reasonable at the time, given that only the industry frontrunners like EverQuest and Final Fantasy XI dared to dream of breaking one million.
At the end of October, Blizzard announced that WoW had reached eleven million subscribers - that's people currently playing the game, by the way, not counting inactive accounts. There are almost as many people playing WoW as there are people who live in the state of Ohio. Nobody expected these kinds of numbers, least of all Blizzard themselves. Part of the reason for Warcraft's unprecedented success was its mass-market appeal: more than just grabbing people who were already playing other MMOs, WoW hooked people who'd never played a Massive game before in their life, from librarians and lawyers to executives and mechanics.
There's no doubt that WoW is the most important MMO of this generation - perhaps in the history of online gaming. People who cut their MMOG teeth on Warcraft have gone on to play other Massive titles, and in just the last year alone two titles - Warhammer and Age of Conan - broke the million-man-mark right out of the gate. Though Warcraft may have brought more people to MMOs, it's also increased expectations for new titles. Mythic CEO and WAR Lead Developer Mark Jacobs said that one of the primary reasons for Warhammer's delayed release was the launch of the first WoW expansion, The Burning Crusade, because he'd felt that the bar had once again been raised.
On November 13th - almost exactly four years since World of Warcraft first launched in November of 2004 - Wrath of the Lich King, the game's second expansion, will hit shelves. Burning Crusade may have set the bar higher than classic WoW did, but WotLK eclipses even that standard: Blizzard has really and truly outdone itself here.
For all of the "too long; didn't read" types out there, here are the bare facts: Wrath of the Lich King is an expansion, not a new game. This is more World of Warcraft. If you don't like WoW, then this probably isn't for you. That being said, with Lich King, WoW is far and away the best that it's ever been. WotLK is a tremendously more ambitious expansion pack than The Burning Crusade, and also more of a triumphant success. Almost every aspect of the game - the new environments and quests, the new PvE dungeons and raids, the new PvP additions, the crafting, and so much more - is better than ever. There are many talented developers and many great games out there, but Wrath of the Lich King shows that Blizzard is second to none.
If you've never played World of Warcraft, if you used to play but took a break, or if you're unfamiliar with MMOs in general, head on over to The Escapist for a review tailored more to your tastes. If you're a current WoW player (hardcore or otherwise), then ... well, let's be honest here, you're probably going to get Wrath of the Lich King anyway. For a more in-depth look at what's in store, though, read on!