World of Warcraft is known as the quintessential multiplayer online game… at least it was in its heydey. The folks at Blizzard knew how to make a stunning and thought provoking game, while encouraging teamwork and imagination. It was full of life, along with victories and letdowns came relationships with fellow players and an open world that you could literally spend hours just looking at. But somewhere along the line, it started to falter.
My friends and family like to say, “And on that day, the Lich King died, and World of Warcraft died with him.” There are arguments on whether it’s the fault of the developers for spending so much time on one IP for so long, or Activision and it’s money-mongering ways of trying to appeal to too many demographics (hardcore vs casual). Some place blame on Free-to-Play games saturating the market, while others still uphold the belief that World of Warcraft is the best game out there.
But whether you’re looking for someone to blame, or you think WoW is still alive and well, one thing is agreed upon by everyone I’ve talked to about it. Something changed with the dynamics of the game near the end of the ‘Wrath of the Lich King’ expansion.
WoW didn’t have the same feel anymore. Dungeons that had previously been a major challenge and accomplishment to beat were being nerfed into the ground. More and more “daily quests” were being added for people who didn’t have more than a few minutes to play. Stats were being blown to ludicrous numbers, and epic gear started to lose that “I have to have that” look.
I played up until right after ‘Mists of Pandaria’. At that point, the game just felt like a grind-fest to me, and I no longer enjoyed playing. Back in the days of Vanilla and Burning Crusade, I could play all by my lonesome and still have fun. Near the end of my WoW existence, I would really only log in to chat with my guild mates for a few, before calling it and getting on some other game.
So, where do I place the blame? Honestly, I place the blame on the gamers themselves. So much bitching and complaining about game mechanics, or that something was too hard. That they couldn’t find people to run instances with, or that there weren’t enough things to do in only ten minutes. Even gamers like me, who once enjoyed the game, but soon came to find that they were no longer having fun, but still paid the monthly fee for some reason or another.
You can only feasibly be a great game for one type of player at a time. “Candy Crush” wasn’t made for hardcore gamers that like to sit and waste 5 hours on a game, and they’re not going to change their gameplay to get those gamers to play. But WoW did change. They went from an epic storyline with well developed and nigh impossible end bosses to having pet battles and more quests that you can finish in five minutes than you can shake a stick at.
Blizzard did not keep WoW what it was. And that is the fault of the gamers.
Why do I even bring this up? Well, honestly it’s because I still have conversations about it. The fond memories that we had as guild-mates. The screw-ups, the small victories, the big wins, and the major losses. The many political dramas within the guild that resulted in /gkicks or “soandso has left the guild” messages. The times we couldn’t find our pants in our backpack in the middle of a boss fight, so we didn’t wear any. Fun excursions onto other servers to cause chaos on the other faction. The many holidays spent chasing after some crazy trinket good for one use. Funny or lewd things that would come out of some people’s mouths in the heat of battle. All of this stuff that happened and brought us closer together, not only as an online guild, but also people. And almost NONE of it happened after Cataclysm.
During talk of all these memories, I start to think, “What happened? What changed to make such a drastic difference?” And the answer is simple. We did.
You know what impressed me most at Snail Games’ booth at E3? It wasn’t the fact that they had one of the best pieces of swag I got (which, by the way, is totally going on my wall):
It wasn’t even the awesome, “Can you Wushu?” martial arts faceoff competition onstage. And not even the politeness and friendliness of the Snail staff was at the top of my list (though it’s a close second).
What really impressed me was this game – Black Gold Online. http://bg.snailgame.com/
I’m a fan of steampunk. I’m also a fan of fantasy. It’s very rare that I find a game that actually does one or the other very well. I’ve never found a game that blended the two together so seamlessly. This game does it.
In BGO, you choose either the steampunk side or the fantasy side. Both are fighting over a newly discovered resource they’ve labeled “Black Gold”, though it’s not oil (if that’s what you were thinking). It’s found in the mountains that separate the two different communities. One side uses it naturally, the other to power their mechs. As you can see, opposition from the start.
What really pulled me into this game, though, is the fact that you really have to be skilled. In extremely popular MMORPGs that gain millions of players but shall not be named (WoW, that was kind of a long sentence…), as you level up and go out with your cronies and collect gear, it really doesn’t matter how much you know your character. You press buttons, and you win. (Seriously, I went back to “The Game” awhile ago after an extremely long break, had no clue how to play anymore, and still ended up not dying and getting geared.)
In BGO, line of sight is everything. Not only do you choose which skill you want to use, you have to know the skill in order to aim it properly. There’s also dodging built into the game when you double click your direction. You can roll forward, jump back, or jump to the sides. You get a certain amount of energy to do this (which does quickly refill), but it makes PvP that much more intense. Learning where someone might go, and aiming in that direction anticipating that movement requires real skill.
You also have to know your character. You will build personal combos based on an in-depth character tree. Two characters of the same type will play completely differently dependent on which skills were chosen.
There’s also two types of fighting. On the ground hand to hand, and via a vehicle. For the steampunks, there’s a mech you fight in. For the nature lovers, a giant beast. These vehicles give you a different set of skills to work with, and you can jump on and off of them during battle to switch it up.
Besides the more in-depth mechanics, the game is also beautiful. Water graphics are really well done, and each side’s environment is skillfully crafted. On the fantasy end, the land is lush and vibrant, filled with life. The steampunk side is dirty and gritty, the land beaten down. Both are great depictions of both worlds, and as you progress through the game, they’ll blend together more where the intense fighting is near the central mountains.
I’m really excited to play this game in closed beta soon, where I’ll be able to play for more than 20 minutes like I did at E3. If all goes well, this could be my new “Game that shall not be named”.
BONUS – I received some closed beta keys from the guys at Snail. I’m figuring out a way to disperse a couple of them through a contest of some sort. If you have a good idea for one, post them in the comments below, and maybe that’s what I’ll do to send them out!