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World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Review

Tim_Tackett By:
PLAYERS 1- 9999 
T Contains Blood, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence

What do these ratings mean?

The second fix isn't free.

Recently in our forums, someone asked why we don’t re-grade games that receive content updates. After all, World of Warcraft has been patched so regularly, it’s hardly the same game we reviewed over two years ago. That got us thinking, with so many balance tweaks, bug fixes, and new dungeons, Azeroth is definitely better than ever before. But, is it still just as exciting? Cue the answer, a.k.a., The Burning Crusade. For forty bucks this highly anticipated expansion adds a Traveler’s Pack of new content to the most massively played MMO, ever. But is it the epic drop we’ve been hoping for, or just an act of corporate gold farming? 

For one full week, yours truly was given full clearance to play as much WoW as I could handle, at work, in an attempt to answer this question. In my extensive journeys through the Outland, I discovered that The Burning Crusade is full of the same legendary play that lured eight million people to the original. Yet for forty dollars, it feels like Blizzard is asking us to pay for the game all over again. I love the new areas, levels and abilities, but after two years, hundreds of dollars in monthly payments and a forty dollar trip to the store, the Dark Portal could be a little brighter.
click to enlargeMost of my joy comes from simply having new stuff to do. Over the last two years, routine patches to World of Warcraft have added multiple endgame instances to keep the hardiest of the hardcore raiding away nightly to score epic items. So for those players tired of the same ol’ thing, the addition of a new continent, is a pretty amazing sight. 
The Outland is comprised of seven zones to propel you to the previously unreachable level 70 through quests, PvP objectives, and a handful of new instances. The zones themselves are varied geographically, from the Hellfire Peninsula’s barren wastes to the shattered pieces of Netherstorm and the dusky Zangarmarsh. There are a ton of fantastical landscapes here just waiting to be explored.
However, not much changed about the game itself. This is largely the same thing we’ve been playing for two years, with more places to go and more items to lust after. Most of the new PvP objectives involve tower-capturing ala the Eastern Plaguelands, but there are a few good variations, like incorporating flag-running into tower capture. It’s fun, to be sure, but not revolutionary. Probably the best new feature is the addition of flying mounts. Only available at level 70 to players with deep virtual pockets, these beasties let you soar all over Outland and get to otherwise unreachable stuff, or drop in on unwary noobs.
The other big reason to get to 70 is the new arena system. Although you can try out ‘practice’ matches with two, three, or five man teams, only players at maximum level can compete to earn arena points, which function like honor points.  There will also be seasons to the arena, with the highest ranked teams getting some seriously rare items.
click to enlargeOn the way to the new level cap, you can pick up the new profession, Jewelcrafting. This allows players to cut gems which can then be popped into new, socketed items. Matching the color of a gem to the socket color of an item gives additional stat bonuses. On top of that, Jewelers can also make a ton of rings, necklaces, and other doodads to boost stats.
It’s a bummer that Blizzard chose not to incorporate any new classes into the game along with the new races. The new races now give both factions the ability to access all of the classes in the game, which feels like a cop-out, and removes much of the differentiation between the Alliance and the Horde. Both of the new races (Draenei and Blood Elves) have their own new low-level zones and capital cities, but ultimately end up running through the same content everyone else has been doing for years.
The saying "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind when I think about The Burning Crusade, and in that sense, Blizzard has done well. Then again, where’s the honor in charging forty dollars to not fix something that wasn’t broken?
Sure, you get a new continent, ten levels to gain, and hundreds of quests, but compared to EVE Online’s upcoming free expansion (which includes a total graphical overhaul) it’s easy to be a bit under-whelmed, and feel a bit overcharged. About as easy as, oh, playing WoW until 4:30 a.m. on a workday. Trust me, that’s easy. We’ll just have to hope Blizzard uses our newly spent millions to get Worlds of Starcraft up and running. Until then, we’ll see you at 70.

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