Monday, February 19, 2007
Burning Crusade review
A bit over a month ago World of Warcraft launched its first expansion, The Burning Crusade. I didn't want to review it before having reached level 70 and getting to know the expansion much better, but now that time has come. So here are my thoughts on The Burning Crusade (BC for short):
The Burning Crusade is a good expansion to World of Warcraft. It does exactly what it was supposed to do, add more of the excellent WoW quality content to the game. There are now more zones, more monsters, more treasures, more spells, more dungeons, more races, more of nearly everything, except classes. I have a rough estimate that the pre-BC World of Warcraft had about 2,000 hours worth of content, if you wanted to see everything and do every quest, without too much repetition. The Burning Crusade adds another 500 hours to that, based on both a personal estimate (again), and a Blizzard statement that BC adds 25% of content to the game. It took Blizzard more than 2 years to release their first expansion, and because of that many people had run out of non-repetitive content to play. The expansion addresses exactly this shortcoming, and was therefore a huge sales success, selling 2.4 million copies on the first day.
Giving these numbers, I may be excused for having predicted a certain chaos on launch, with long queues and server downs. But in fact the launch was one of the smoothest ever in MMORPG history, in spite of the volume of players. There were some problems, of course, but generally there was no shortage of BC boxes in retail, very little waiting times, and most of the servers were up most of the time. Many people just bought their box, installed it, registered it, and started playing without a hitch.
The main feature of The Burning Crusade is one new continent with seven new overland zones and lots of dungeons, adding content from level 60 to level 70, raising the previous level cap by 10. Other features are two new races, including starting areas with quests up to level 20, the new tradeskill jewelcrafting, and flying mounts at level 70. All of which is at the usual high Blizzard quality, and working mostly very well. There are slight improvements to the graphics, and on average the new quests are slightly more varied and fun than the old ones. Once you reached level 70 there are tons of dungeons, more than you had at level 60, and a more accessible raid content, now capped at 25 players per raid.
All is well, except for two major points of criticism I have: Its not enough, and its just more of the same.
The first point is that it doesn't take a math genius to see that if people ran out of content after 2 years, and you plan an expansion to last 1 year, the expansion has to add 50% of new content to the game, not just 25%. As much fun as I am having in BC, I'm already at the new level cap after a month, and have already seen more than half of the quests, zones, and dungeons. Even given the likelihood of some more content patches opening up more dungeons, The Burning Crusade is not 12 months worth of entertainment. Which, in a year with many quite promising other MMORPGs to be released, is opening the door for the competition to grab a slice of WoWs dominant market share. While I would consider that to be generally a good thing, it is obviously not that good for Blizzard.
The second point is that when yesterday I took a flying tour on my brand new level 70 flying mount, and enjoyed it very much, I realized that the flying mount was actually the only really new feature in the expansion. As I said before, The Burning Crusade adds to the World of Warcraft, but doesn't reinvent it. The two new races are just cosmetic, a blood elf mage plays exactly the same as a troll mage in the end. While Alliance as a faction gains shamans, and Horde gains paladins, the players already had the possibility to play these classes by simply switching sides. No new classes have been added. The new spells are very nice, and most people from most classes are very happy with them, but they don't redefine the existing classes. For example my priest got a slightly different healing spell, a slightly different shadow damage spell, a slightly different dispel magic spell, and a cute but not highly effective mana regeneration spell in the form of the shadowfiend. My role in a group or raid remains unchanged, even if my heal crits now heal over 6k of damage, instead of previously 4k. Me killing a level 70 mob at level 70 is exactly as hard, and using exactly the same tactics, as me killing a level 60 mob at level 60. The added quests are fun, but not radically different from the previous quests; I dinged 70 by killing wildlife for Hemet Nesingwary in Nagrand, which was a deja vu experience of dinging 40 by killing wildlife for Hemet Nesingwary in Stranglethorn.
If you have been playing World of Warcraft for a while and reached level 60, I can only recommend buying the Burning Crusade expansion. 500 hours of new content for under $40 comes down to less than 8 cents per hour of entertainment, which is a very good deal, even if you end up finishing it in 3 to 6 months. Very well done is the fact that the expansion lifts everybody on the same level, you don't need raid epics to start playing in the new zones, and you'll quickly acquire gear as good as the previous raid epics. This makes BC accessible to every level 60, casual or hardcore. If you liked World of Warcraft, you will like the Burning Crusade. If you didn't like WoW in the first place, the expansion won't change that. And if you are just starting to play WoW, you simply won't need the expansion yet, just the basic set is sufficient for quite a long while.
On the positive side, The Burning Crusade adds more of the same to World of Warcraft. On the negative side, it just adds more of the same.