World of Warcraft 2 has arrived.

In the hugely anticipated extension of the World of Craft, the Burning Crusades have begun. A powerful and vengeful enemy has emerged from the Dark Portal, and two new races have joined the fight. There are new weapons, powerful armor sets, jewelcrafting has become an art, and a realm in which your mount can fly! The level cap has increased allowing for more spells, talents, and power for individuals with the insanity to chase them. This is a whole new world.

WoW is a huge and attractive world. However, the graphics do not force any modern technologies onto the masses. A 32MB video card with basic lighting and texture instructions will handle the game; although the recommended minimum is a FX5700 with 64MB of memory.

The two new races, Blood Elves and Draenei, have new territories on the familiar maps of Azeroth. The Draenei are space travelers that met with troubles in their escape from Outland, and have crashed into an island near the great tree of Darnassus. Pieces of their ship are scattered about in crystalline shards of purple, pink, and blue in stark contrast of the dark forest around them. Some of these glow with radioactivity that mutates the wildlife around it. Twisted critters stalk the land. The Draenei themselves are humanoid with various types of horns and ostrich-like inverted knees; complete with tails. The males are tall and bulky while the females are smaller and curvaceous. The Blood Elves have re-emerged into their bright and decadent lands. The lush and bright scenery is a vast change from the expansive deserts and smoldering lands of the Horde majority. Compared to the natural plains of the Tauren, the grounds are groomed expertly. The surrounding buildings are intricate and ornate with gardens adorning the countryside. The Blood Elves have an aristocratic air to them; complete with new flowing hairstyles cresting preened features like Hollywood stars. Evil Hollywood stars! Or do I repeat myself?

On the higher side of the realm, the new levels bring new places to go and new items to find. Beautiful new sets, referred to as Tier 3.5, are available for the level 70 characters.  Tier 4 is anxiously awaited by the masses and proves to outdo anything we’ve seen so far. Outland is constantly in motion with a stellar skyline, fires spontaneously springing from the ground, burrowed worms lay ambush, and all sorts of demonic creatures on the hunt. The Horde and the Alliance constantly battle for a foothold.

The sample in the Blood Elf starter area has a very Classical root. I found it soothing and rich, and was happy to listen to it over and over. The strings and baroque melody were charming. For the Draenei, the music is minimalist and quiet. The sounds of the forest dominate the beginning area. The battle sound effects match the new moves appropriately, but there is nothing extraordinary about them. There are some new jokes for the new races which border on startling, but were pretty funny overall. The accents have raised some controversy. The Draenei have a thick Slavic accent where the Blood Elves are more of a New Englander perhaps. The voice acting is quality, and the dialogue will entertain most people for a few minutes. Outside the beginner areas the ambience is rich and alive as one has come to expect from the world. Voice overs for bosses are the same almost intelligible shouting from what I’ve seen so far, but it always makes me jump when I hear them coming. Well really this is an MMORPG after all so the entire keyboard is practically necessary. There have been significant changes to the game’s backend so custom user interfaces (UI) have been forced to virtually reinvent themselves. Many of the trickier elements that required massive numbers of icons nestled in toolbars have been greatly simplified. For example, a single button will now cast the highest available buff, according to level, automatically. So where you were unable to cast the 4th Rank Arcane Intellect on a character too low for that powerful a buff, the game will now downshift to the appropriate level. Also, when you learn a new rank on a spell, your toolbar will automatically update itself rather than having to pull up the list of spells you just learned and hope you got them all updated manually. This was part of a few different plug-in sets and it

Blizzard recently announced that they have a customer base of 8-million people worldwide. That is a lot of different tastes to cater towards, and obviously they’re doing quite well. Within the game there are several different types of worlds for all appetites. There are Role-Playing servers to escape into, or there are PvP servers that allow you to spend all day outwitting live opponents, or the “standard” flavor of player versus environment where RP and PvP are optional. There are thousands of items to craft, spells to learn, ‘miles’ to cover, and people (live and NPC) with which to interact. As you grow more powerful, the curve gets steeper to keep you challenged. While you may have been pleased with yourself for fighting off a couple bears in the beginning, you’ll face Ogres, legions of undead, huge demons, and every other imaginable monstrosity. Some people do it for money; some for fame, and some for the lunacy.

The introduction of the new races means that even the most tenured of players will have something new to do at the low end; however, it will have to be after the push from 60 to 70 takes a few weeks of one’s time. That is assuming one takes time to eat, sleep, and attend some sort of job or daily activity. In fact, a Horde guild has power-leveled at least one of their own to 70 in 28 hours! That could not have been any fun, but there you go. However, these two new races bring with them the class that was once only available to the other side. The Blood Elves can be Paladins called Blood Knights, and Draenei can train as Shaman called annoying. This change has met with some resistance, but I see nearly 40 Alliance Shaman on this server and it is still very early morning of Release Day. This ought to make for more balance on the Battlegrounds as Shaman faces Shaman, or perhaps totem faces totem, and Paladins speckle both sides of the front; including the new Eye of the Storm battleground.

There are six new dungeons to hold treasure from you, and Blizzard says 3 more are on the not-so-distant horizon. There will be difficulty settings one can adjust to be challenged rather than bored or driven keyboard-cracking mad. The new armor and prizes will keep you searching the multiple layers of each area for a long while to come.

And if you’re not one for the Battleground pounding, or the 25/40-man Raids of said dungeons, you can challenge players individually or teams of 2 or 3 in the Arenas. Cage matches of old that let you test your might and have it mean something at the end of the day. Fight your way to the top of the Arena Ladder to accrue precious rewards and glory!

It is one living world. It seems that there’s always something new to see. I suppose that if you are creating a new character every two weeks to satisfy altitis (a swollen need to create alternate characters) there are only so many roads to wander down; however, the footsteps are never quite the same each time. With 10 races, 5 major professions, seventy levels to progress through, and dozens of epic sized dungeons it will be a while before the game becomes routine. Even then, with all the friends and guild mates you’ve acquired along the way, there is usually plenty to do. In fact, there are clinics if you like it “too much.”