Tobold's Blog
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.
The "more of the same" feeling is ofcourse to be expected. It is not WoW-2 it is an expansion . Basically meaning to add stuff to the existing game. It's like buying a new CD by your favorite artist and commenting that it is sung by the same person. Usually that is the reason to buy a CD of your favorite band.

Blizzard crammed new stuff into the game in nearly all departments (zones, dungeons, quests, abilities). As wel as adding jewelcrafting, two playable races and flying mounts.
Granted, a new class would have been nice- but as you've stated in a previous blog, not as easy as it sounds.

It makes me wonder what people would have expected to make an expansion not more of the same?
Player/guild housing? Nice but doesn't add hours of play to the game. A new class? Without new content you would do the same quests in the same zones over again.
The "more of the same" feeling is ofcourse to be expected. It is not WoW-2 it is an expansion

The problem is, that WoW does not have to clean up so much flaws like for example the early EverQuest did. That's why for a long time EQs first expansions felt really new: Kunark brought a new race, improved graphics, class armor sets, faction based endgame. Luclin brought a whole new way of character advancement, new graphics engine, new class and much more developed endgame progression. Next came PoP with maybe the most complex raid endgame ever developed, with first script based encounters. Later came the first instanced based zones with Lost Dungeons. Up to then they really had new stuff up their sleeves, not just more of the same.

WoW on the other hand already had all of this from day 1 and since then there really was no evolution of the genre. There is no real good competitor to borrow ideas from. Vanguards diplomacy is a good runner though to get the Blizzard polish in one of the next WoW expansions.

The main problem is bad timing. BC should have been released month earlier, coupled with the cross-server battlegrounds, the PvP overhaul and the new talents. They played their "new feel" cards to early, to secure technical stability. It's kinda sad, that a prior patch changed my gameplay more than this expansion for now.
Blizzard did make minor improvements in places, such as slightly more creative quests sometimes (the bombing run in Hellfire comes to mind). But you can't blame someone for not taking major risks in changes when something works as well as WoW has, at least money-wise. I would say Blizzard's one weakness is that they don't usually... trailblaze. They let others try the new and risky ideas, then they borrow what works, cut out whats bad, and release a polished game. Experimentation hasn't seemed to be their strongest point.
I think you're being slightly unfair when you add up how much new content has been added. If the %25 figure is right then I would say it would have to be %25 more content of the game as it was immediately before the expansion.

The expansion has only just come out so you should be comparing it with when wow had only just come out. Do you remember - when there wasn't even MC (i think? I came in just before 1.2 so correct me if I'm wrong) and the end game dungeons were scholo, strat and the blackrock instances. Compared to that the expansion has a huge amount of content, and if it continue to be added at the same rate you'll have nothing to complain about.

Also factor in that apart from the 2 new starter zone the whole of the expansion is 60+, and so vastely more useful to you than the 20-60 content that you'll only play when you're levelling up.
Do you really think that MC is a huge amount of content? Or is it just a medium-sized dungeon which takes a huge amount of time to complete? That is not the same.

But of course whether the amount of content of the Burning Crusade is enough for the 1 year until the next expansion depends on how much more content is added by patches, and how fast you personally consume content. If you only play 10 hours per week, 500 hours of content lasts you 1 year.

Please note that BC has two unfinished raid dungeons, Zul'aman and the Black Temple. They are probably already half-finished, and Blizzard will make a big hullabaloo out of releasing them in future content patches. But in fact that is just stuff that should have already been in BC, and they just didn't get around to finishing it.
I completely disagree with you. There is simply no way that 90% of the population will complete Mt. Hyjal in 3-6 months, meaning a great deal of the Burning Crusade's initial release content with remain fresh for quite some time.

I would argue that Vashj remains alive, even from the uber guilds for 3 months, and the average casual player doesn't see the inside of Mt. Hyjal until Novemember.

We are pushing hard in my guild and we have yet to kill Prince Malchezzar in Karazhan. We are likely to start Gruul's Lair this week, but I expect that to take 6 weeks or more to kill him.

Its all prespective on how you view content. Quests are all well and good, but most people at level 60 3 months ago were working on MC through Naxxrammas in varying stages. All of those people will be steadily working their way through this endgame, and in the end, endgame IS what MMOs are about. It may be a design flaw of the industry, but when 80% of a players /played is at max level, thats just the way it is. With 8 level 70 5-mans, 1 10-man raid zone, 5 25-man raid zones, and a few unfinished zones at release, there is easily 1 year of content in TBC.
You are all wrong. this expansion failed miserable by not adding the Hello Kitty Island Adventures Instanced Dungeoun Crawl. I was so dissapointed to not see it in the Patch Notes or any future Patch notes. This is a travesty. No more whining about flying mounts or areanas or repeating quests....I want to roll an Uber Mage-Killing Warrior-Poet Death-Dealing Pony Of Carnage. Its the only way to travel.

cyndre I doubt 90% will see Mt. Hyjal at all.

Its yet to be seen by me, but I still think it takes more time than casuals have available.

The same bottleneck of being able to get a consistent group of people together often to tackle content still exists.
Its yet to be seen by me, but I still think it takes more time than casuals have available.

I meant I haven't heard much about how well "casual" players are tackling black morass, tempest keep, keying for karazhan, karazhan itself, etc.
My take after seeing a level 70 BE pally last night (5 weeks post-BC release)...

I inquired around a bit.
I know about 10 people in RL who play WoW, and the highest former 60 (only four of the 10 had 60's pre-BC) has only reached 63. Some had never even reached 60 yet in spite of months of play. The highest BE is level 44.
I talked to one guy who is in a moderately-large guild that casually raided with other guilds pre-BC; no level 70s yet in his guild.
I see a ton of BE toons wherever I go in Azeroth now. It's not uncommon to have a BE say, "This is my first Horde toon".

I don't think I'm uncommon in that I had a brief 'second honeymoon' period with my warrior main leveling from 60-62 before setting him aside again and returning to my 46 priest alt, who is just more fun and more suited to my play. I also completed played out the new BE content with a BE toon (fun enough that I took an Undead alt through the ending to see the difference in Thrall's reaction), and the BE toon will likely see more play in the near future. And if I had to say now, I'd guess that the 46 priest is more likely to be my first 70 than the 62 warrior.

Personally, as I've said before, I see burnout on the game happening long before I run out of content.
And I think that's probably true of the bulk of the WoW population.
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