I find Tolkien-esque fantasy a turn off and can count the number of times I’ve enjoyed online gaming on one finger. But the excitement surrounding World of Warcraft’s Cataclysm update piqued my interest.
It seemed like a chance to test my prejudices and provide a newcomer’s view on a game that is often discussed from the perspective of its existing fans. In short could it convert a sceptic first-timer like me?
Given the price of the game it’s a worthy question. By anyone’s measure, World of Warcraft is an expensive game. To get the full Monty you need to buy World of Warcraft, the previous two updates and then Cataclysm itself. Grand total: £79.96. Ouch.
And that’s before you start coughing up £8.99 a month to keep playing.
So is it worth it?
My first few days in Azeroth did little to change my mind. Efforts to talk with other players were met with blank stares and, eventually, a creepy encounter with dancing gnomes who refused to talk.
And as there seemed to be little else to do that just left the quests. But having come straight from Fallout: New Vegas, the quests seemed mundane. Collect 7 furs. Kill 6 wolves. Collect 3 types of stout and kill 9 monsters. Ad nauseam.
Truth be told, if I hadn’t committed to a five-day stint I would have logged off and uninstalled on day 2.
Maybe my expectations were too high, built up by years of glowing praise and warnings about it turning people into frog-eyed addicts. I expected to end up like a geeky Happy Mondays-era Shaun Ryder. Instead I found gnomes that danced like Bez.
But then just as the final hours of my time with World of Warcraft approached it clicked.
I met players who invited me on quests and the dull quests became enlivened by the knowledge that you were doing them with someone real at your side. And while the conversations involved a vocabulary so limited it would shame a zombie, there’s a magic to co-operative playing that can elevate almost any game.
The mind-numbing monster hacking that initially jarred became fun, collective mess-arounds despite being exactly the same underneath.
My spell in the World of Warcraft was too short to make any lasting connections but it’s easy to see how those brief encounters could become regular get togethers.
The game’s options and variety also become clearer as you churn through the quests. The quest conveyer belt will always dominate but options to try out trades like mining and the player-versus-player battlegrounds suggest more leeway from the mothering of the early stages.
So am I converted? The short answer is no.
And then there’s the price. When you can buy games as good as Civilization V and Red Dead Redemption for the same price and still get change, it’s hard to swallow. Especially when it will be raiding your bank account for more money a few weeks later.
But my phobia is cured.
Even now, as I prepare to consign my character to the dustbin of World of Warcraft history, there’s a faint, nagging feeling calling me back.
What’s around the next corner? What would it be like to join a guild? Will I bump into the people I’ve met again? Will I get a chance to kick the ass of that Pinkyperky gnome I met on day 3?
And there’s still the best part of a month before my first subscription payment’s due. Maybe I could just play it until then.
Oh god, it’s got me.
Earlier entries in the World of Warcraft diaries