World of Warcraft for Mac

World of Warcraft
Company: Blizzard Entertainment

Price: $49.99 + Online Subscription Fees

I missed the boat the first time around on Warcraft, the first version. My friend Mike had played it, and said it was fantastic. But I was busy, and did not pick it up right away. But when Warcraft II was released, with the multiplayer mode, both Mike and myself were first in line to buy it. And we spent days, if not weeks, playing head to head over modem-to-modem connection.

It was a revelation. Up until that time, playing head to head against real world people meant stale console games that were fun, but a little too easy if for no other reason than you could easily see the other players side of the television, where they were hiding, etc. But with Warcraft II, all I could see was my own little army. Where and when Mike would strike was half the fun. Rushing to build up my defenses, while also building a strike force able to seek out and engage his town was nerve wrecking to say the least. And tons of fun of course. To build archers, regular soldiers, or a combination of both? Build a ton of warriors, or a few but get the upgrades going, making one upgraded warrior equal to a few regular ones? Perhaps creating a bunch of the little suicide bomber guys that could take out a small building(s) in a single hit, but were easily killed from a distance if spotted?

Online play, I thought, was at its pinnacle. It could not get any better than this. Of course, this was 1996, and in the decade since, online gaming has evolved to the point that Warcraft II, while arguably still a fun game to play, seems quaint by comparison.

Blizzard Entertainment has crafted some of the best games of all time, from Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo, and more. But their crown jewel is still the Warcraft series of games. Very few games become institutions unto themselves, and less have a shelf life of over a decade. And even then, most reincarnations of those franchise games tend to become either watered-down versions of the original, or keep even the least vestiges of recognizable content with the originals over time. (Donkey Kong and Mario come to mind.)

Blizzard must employ some smart people. The first three major Warcraft games were similar in that you had a gods-eye view. You had to create a town, build up an army, and defeat the other armies in battle, either computer controlled or against real people. While the graphics between Warcraft II and III are vastly different, it was essentially the same game, albeit with far superior game play. And as fun as Starcraft has been, it, too, is essentially Warcraft, albeit in space.

As the publisher or, as well as other writing gigs, I have had scant time to keep up with the world of Macintosh gaming over the last few years. Nowadays, if I need a video game fix, it is usually Playstation 2, X-Box, or GameCube that quenches that desire. I don’t usually play games on my Macintosh anymore. No reason, really, but I had fallen out of Mac computer games. So I was surprised to get an email from Blizzard telling me I had been approved and invited to join their online test of something called “World of Warcraft” during their beta test of the online system. Perhaps I had signed up for it months before, but I honestly did not remember. Nor did I know anything at all about World of Warcraft (WoW).

A quick few minutes of online reading revealed that WoW is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). For those unfamiliar with the concept, it basically means that the game takes place online, in a massive world hosted on Blizzard Entertainments servers. You create a character(s), and it “lives” online. When you stop playing, that is not the end of your game. Your character is still alive, just waiting for you to return and continue the adventure. The world in which your character lives is occupied by both non-player characters, as well as other players just like you. Although in my own case, those “other players” are usually vastly superior in gamesmanship. They also probably, and hopefully, get online much more often than I am able.

There are three types of game play, and while I will get into those in a moment, I wanted to share what it feels like to play this game. While some reviews may focus on the technical aspects, such as FPS or the like, let me instead now focus on what it means to play WoW.

WoW ships on four (4) CD-ROMs, and while installation was a breeze, it was one of the slowest installation processes I have ever had to sit through. This is bad only in that I was anxious to play the game, and was pure torture waiting to get to it. As I had played the demo version for a few weeks prior, I had some inkling of what to expect, though in all honesty the demo was but a pale glimpse of what was to come.

There are male and female Humans, Dwarves, Gnomes, Night Elves, Undead, Tauren, and Trolls that you can be online. I decided on being a Night Elf, if for no other reason than I like the look. Once you pick your race, you also need to pick the class of your character. In my case, I picked Warrior. You can also select Priest, Mage, Rogue, Hunter, Warlock, Paladin for Alliance only, Shaman, which is Horde only, or Druid. Each class of each race has special abilities, so when picking your race, pick what you feel comfortable with. Each race and character type is totally unique, meaning that spells or weapons work only with a certain class. This level of detail, which seems complex to a new user (Me!) actually lends a depth to each character hard to find in most games.

Besides the type of race and class you pick, you can also change the way your character looks with a variety of clothing, face, hair, and other details to create the character as you want him to be. So while you may run into (and will) another character of your class and race, it is hard to imagine running into one that looks JUST like you. Then again, in the first twenty-four hours that WoW was online, 200,000 people joined. So perhaps it is not so far fetched after all!

I played the Regular type of game first, in which you are thrust into the world of Warcraft as a level 1 player. You don’t build armies as you do in the other three versions of Warcraft, but rather you live as a single being in that world. You have a behind-the-character view, which can be rotated as you wish. There is no “training” mode to speak of. Instead, you get right into the game, with helpful little tip information popping up as you progress. In the game, you gain experience points from either killing monsters, or completing tasks. Completing a task will garner more experience points than slaying every monster you come across, but WoW is open-ended enough that you could conceivably play for months without ever completing one task, and becoming quite a powerful character in the meantime.

Completing tasks results in not only the experience points you need to make your character more powerful and open to new spells and skills, but you also get rewards, being it money or items. Usually, at least early in the game, the rewards are items that are of better quality than you have, such as an armored robe with a higher hit-points score than you currently own.

Money is good in the game as it allows you to buy or repair items (such as a sword) from different vendors. One vendor may sell mystical items, such as healing potions, while another may be an armory in which you can buy a better sword, or have your current sword repaired. Just like in the real world, you items will wear out eventually, so you need to keep track of the condition of items you use.

Being a role-playing game, the fighting system is different than what one would expect that has not played a turned-based combat game before. In essence, you select what you want your character to do, such as attack with his sword, cast a spell, perform a task, etc… and your character will act it out. He may miss, score a hit, or what have you, and you continue to give the orders and hope the bad guys dies before you do. As you are injured, your health goes down. Thankfully, you also see the status of your foes health, so it is easy to figure out pretty quickly if you can beat the monster, or if you should run and hope you can get away before dying.

Speaking of being killed, don’t worry; if you die (and you will!) you really don’t loose anything. You become a spirit, in which you have no body and must find your corpse and return to life. When you die and become a spirit, you find yourself at the nearest graveyard, which may be close to your rotting corpse or not. There is a mini-map on screen that will help you navigate your way back to your body.

When you are injured, you will heal eventually. Just don’t take any more damage for a while, and you will be as good as new. This is not always an option if you are in a place surrounded by unfriendly forces. To speed up the health recovery, you can eat something. This will replenish your health quickly. Unfortunately, you have to sit down and eat, so again, in the wrong spot, this would be suicide.

The first few hours of my own game play consisted of running around from mission to mission, trying to upgrade both the level of my character as well as the amount of money and armory I have. You “talk” to non-player characters, which will tell you what the mission or task is, and what the reward will be for completing the task. You can either agree to the task, or decline. Some of the tasks early in the game could be killing a certain amount of monsters in the nearby woods, taking a letter to another character far away, or the like. It is also very easy to get lost, as I did in my first few hours. I ended up wandering too far away from here I should be, in a part of the forest where all the monsters actually chased me down. They were also level 10 monsters, and I but a mere level 3 character. Ouch! I probably died five times before course correcting back to where I should have been.

WoW is a complex game, but the learning curve is fairly painless. As a player, there is a plethora of items, moves, commands, and other things you must learn to master before you can progress very far in the game. I am not one for complex controls in a game, having grown up in the age of the Atari 2600 and the Nintendo NES. I guess you could call me a button masher from way back. (In a twist, one of our own writers, Owen Rubin, actually created some of the games I used to play on the Atari, having worked there back in the 1970’s.) So complexity in game play is not high on my list of fun things to learn and do. But as stated above, WoW really does a good job of holding the players hand during the learning curve early in the game. Before you know it, you are able to do complex tasks quickly and with confidence. I have played a few other MMORPG over the years, most recently Star Wars Battlefront, but none come close to the ease of use that WoW does.

The world in which your character lives is massive to say the least. Exploring the entire world would take too long for even the most diehard player to undertake without a few gallons of Mountain Dew to keep them going for those hours of adventuring. Not only is this world a living thing, but also Blizzard is constantly updating it as time goes on.

The graphics are nothing short of amazing, though not revolutionary. While a good graphics card is a must, the minimum requirements for the Mac call for at least a 32MB 3D card. From lush forests to dark and scary caves, WoW is a huge world full of different settings that all blend seamlessly to create a wonderful world worth exploring.

While the installation process is long, loading times from icon click in the finder to game play is faster than most any other game I have played. It is literally seconds from click to game play. Also a huge timesaver is the fact a WoW CD does not have to be in your drive to play. It is almost unheard of today for a game that does not require a CD loaded to play. Thanks, Blizzard!

The different types of game play are normal, in which the player goes on tasks or battles alone or within a group of other players. The Player Vs Player mode is there as well, in which you choose which side you want to be on (alliance or hoard) and battle each other, while your character grows in experience and power. There is also a quest mode, which I have yet to play.

Going back to the easy approach new players have to this game, after I started writing this review, my ten-year-old daughter created a character and started a game. While she has played quite a few games in her life, she has never played anything like WoW before. How did she do? So far so good, she has her character up to level three, and has the propensity to call me every few minutes to show me either something new she learned, or something “cool” she found. As a for instance, she learned how to plunder the corpse of dead wolves, and she has collected every broken fang she finds on one. Why? She doesn’t know, they just look cool so she is taking them “just in case.”

World of Warcraft is fun and addictive. But there is a price to be paid for said enjoyment. First, the game itself costs $49.99. That is an average price for any video game, computer or console. However, WoW is a subscription-based game. What does that mean? After you spend your fifty-dollars to buy the game, you get one month to play. Yes, you can play WoW for one whole month, after which you will have to pay to play. The cost? $14.99 per month, a three-month plan at $13.99 per month, or a six-month plan at $12.99 per month. How does that work out? Let’s say you go the money-saving route, and sign up for six-months of online play. That would cost you $77.94, plus the cost of actually buying the game, and you come to $127.93.

Only you can determine if this game is worth the price. Blizzard provided me with three free months of online play for the purpose of this review, and I have had a lot of fun playing through the game. On a personal note, I would be willing to pay that price to play this game is (1) I did not have as much work as I do already on the computer, and (2) did not have three kids, one of which is not yet two years old. So I honestly do not have the time WoW demands. Casual game players will not find a value in WoW, but hardcore gamers will.

While MMORPG’s have been around for a number of years now, WoW is really in a class all its own. You can play a little or a lot, but play it you should. It is a fun, engrossing game with a depth and replay value hard to match in other games of its kind.


Mac® System OS X 10.3.5 OS:
933 MHz or higher G4 or G5 processor
512 MB RAM or higher; DDR RAM recommended
ATI or NVIDIA video hardware with 32 MB VRAM or more
4 GB or more of available hard drive space
MacOS X 10.3.5 or newer
56k or higher modem with an Internet connection

Windows® System 98/ME/2000/XP OS:
800 MHz or higher CPU
256 MB or more of RAM
32 MB 3D graphics card with hardware transform and lighting, such as GeForce 2 or better
4 GB or more of available hard drive space
DirectX® 9.0c or above
A 56k or higher modem with an Internet connection

Pros: Almost too much to list. Smooth play over the Internet, no noticeable drag or lag. Great animation. Fun and easy to learn game play. Hundreds of thousands of other online players.

Cons: Expensive monthly costs.

I recommend this game highly to any person willing to commit hours of enjoyable online game time where the monthly price is not an issue. This game is a commitment, but an enjoyable one! There is a reason that awarded WoW the Game of the Year award over stiff competition in Halo 2, GTA San Andreas, and Half-Life 2. While I have not played Half-Life 2, I do own both Halo 2 and GTA San Andreas, and I honestly would not pick WoW over either of those games on any level. That being said, WoW is an awesome game.

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