Thursday, May 19, 2016

World of Warcraft: Some Time at Level 90

I was recently sent an offer by Blizzard for seven free days of World of Warcraft play time, including creation of a character boosted to level 90. Free is a good price, so I tried it out.
I'm not sure if the timing is coincidence, or if the fact that I played the "starter edition" a few weeks ago triggered this offer. I wouldn't be surprised if their marketing department sends this offer to most folks that try out the free-to-play option. At least, those that stop playing once they hit the level 20 cap. Seems like a smart way to try to draw in those who are on the fence about subscribing.

The introduction experience this time was much better than the starter edition. Same character creation process, but with the level 90 boost you are dropped into a story area immediately (as opposed to the race-specific starter areas for level 1 characters). I chose a Tauren Druid, so that put me in the battle to close a dark portal opened by the Iron Horde. After that immediate threat was dealt with, I joined the rest of my allies' forces in a hasty retreat to safer territory. There were a few cutscenes along to way with big fights and explosions to spice things up. As far as MMO story-telling goes, this was done nicely.

I didn't notice any bugged quests through this process, and never had to wait on a respawn to fulfill a quest objective. I didn't have to make long trips through big empty areas to talk to quest givers or chase down objectives. Plus I was given a mount to use if I wanted, though I didn't find it necessary in the early going. As the story moved along, I was gradually granted all the character abilities that I'd have normally earned in the leveling process. All of this is a sharp contrast to the starter edition introduction process, which was slow, had bugs, and generally felt boring. It's pretty clear where the developers have been focusing their effort.

At the end of the introduction quest chain, you're given an outpost of your own to run. I enjoyed the introductory quests that involved directing peons to cut down trees and setting up new buildings...reminded me of the old Warcraft days. There's clearly quite a bit of upgrading available, which I assume would require a good amount of time spent gathering resources to fully realize. And you get your own minions to boss around and send out on missions, which is always fun. Most modern MMOs have some version of player bases, so it's not a surprise that World of Warcraft joined the crowd.

Personally, I'm still not interested in subscribing. Largely that's because there are so many other games that provide basically the same thing, without requiring a monthly payment. I can play a game like Guild Wars 2 with a single purchase rather than an ongoing fee. The only unique things that World of Warcraft really offers are their background story and player base. Neither really means much to me.

Having said that, I can certainly see how someone might be tempted to pony up the subscription fee after playing this trial week. The level 90+ experience feels much more modern than the lower levels, and I expect it's especially attractive if you already have friends playing the end-game. If Blizzard really wants to attract new subscribers, this level 90-boost trial is a much better way to go about it than the free-to-play starter edition.

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