Should WoW take a leaf from the Guild Wars book and bring in henchmen and instant map travel? Maybe not. In WoW’s defence I haven’t found much yet in The Burning Crusade (so far) that you can’t solo if you really want to. The walking, meanwhile, helps maintain the world’s feeling of solidity. Oddly enough, there are times when the fast-teleporting convenience of Guild Wars actually pulls me out of the experience and reminds me that I’m just playing a game. Arguably, all that walking helps WoW feel more immersive.
Needless to say, it’s also stupidly addictive. I’m sure the ‘drug’ is slightly different for each player, but for me it’s a combination of the need to explore, the satisfying completion of not-too-challenging tasks and the simple gratification of gaining levels and being rewarded with new arms and armour.
What’s more, the more you get involved with other players, whether in a guild or on an ad-hoc basis, the more compulsive the game gets. For a while I’ve sneered at those who put Guild Wars down on the basis that it’s not a ‘proper’ MMO – so what if the action is instanced? I’m still mixing and fighting with other players and there’s still a reasonable social buzz.
However, the more I play Burning Crusade, the more I have to concede they have a point. There are times when the presence of so many players tears you out of the fiction – don’t worry if another player has just killed Chieftain Oomooroo, he’ll be back again in a minute so you can have a pop – but there’s something about sharing the world with other people, getting cured by a random stranger just as you’re about to collapse, or just swapping tips on a tricky quest that makes you feel part of the world and the larger community. There’s a real sense of people sharing an experience.
And in the end, that’s where The Burning Crusade triumphs: you want to be a part of it, to be able to say that you’ve fought the worst mobs out there and survived, and that you’re ready for anything the Outlands can throw at you. I’m sure other, more experienced players would be more excited than I am about Jewelcrafting (put enchanted gems in socketed items to boost your powers) or flying mounts (apparently essential for reaching specific areas of the Outlands) or just about the chance to hit Level 70, but for me the appeal of The Burning Crusade is this: it’s hasn’t just convinced me that, by leaving Azeroth behind I’ve been missing out, it’s also given me a second chance to join in. It’s not hard for an expansion pack to keep the faithful happy, but this one can also pull in those whose faith has been lost – what more can you ask for than that?
It may be an essential purchase for the true believer, but The Burning Crusade has plenty to offer both new and lapsed World of Warcraft players. Not a revolutionary update, but a worthy expansion to the world’s best loved MMO.