World of Warcraft (2004) is easily the most popular subscription-based Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game ever made. It's based on Blizzard Entertainment's popular Warcraft Real-Time Strategy game series and was originally set four years after the conclusion of Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, with later expansions advancing the game's plot and timeline.
World of Warcraft is based in the world of Azeroth, on four main continents: Kalimdor, the Eastern Kingdoms, Northrend, and Pandaria; a group of islands known as The Broken Isles; as well as the former planet of Draenor, now known as Outland, whence the Orcs originate, the past of an alternate timeline version of Draenor proper, and several pocket dimensions somehow connected to Azeroth. There are two factions: the Alliance and the Horde (though neither is automatically good or evil — and in trope terms, both are The Alliance), twenty-three playable races, twelve classes, eleven primary professions, and three secondary professions.
Over the years, the game has become casual-friendly to a point, being designed so that those who prefer to play solo can still achieve maximum level and then some. It should be noted that, like most MMORPGs, about half of WoW's content can only be accessed after you reached maximum level, and cooperative play is required to earn the best gear and other rewards. Guilds are a major part of the game's community, with the majority of players belonging to one. Benefits of guild membership are both social and material — most endgame raid content is done by guilds and they can share a pool of resources much greater than that available to the solo player. Guild perks (like more opportunities to teleport around) have also been added that make it worthwhile to belong to a guild even if you never talk to another member.
Players can play against the environment, completing quests and conquering dungeons; against each other, in dedicated Battlegrounds and Arenas (and even in the world at large if the player opts into it); or a mixture of any of these, with talents and gear to support either choice. For most of the game's history, servers were designated Player Versus Player, Player Versus Environment, and Role Playing. On PvP servers, you were automatically flagged for PvP in all zones above level 20, and in PvE servers, you had to manually flag yourself for PvP. In the seventh expansion pack, Battle for Azeroth, the distinction between PvP and PvE realms was removed; instead, players can now opt into or out of War Mode, which enables special Honor Talents in the open world and allows world PvP. Dedicated RP servers remain, which have more rules in regards to character names.
One of the few MMORPG Long-Runners, WoW has been around for almost two decades and has consistently been the industry leader of the genre since its launch in 2004. It has gone through several iterations and has seen the release of no less than eight expansion packs, with no signs of stopping; the dev team claims to have the course of the game planned out several expansions ahead.
- The original, or "Vanilla" game, featured a level cap of 60 and was played in the two continents of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. New content was added regularly up until the first expansion; the final released dungeon was Naxxramas, the lair of the lich Kel'thuzad.
- Re-released in August 2019 as World of Warcraft: Classic, a version of the game running with the entire structure of the game as it was up until the release of The Burning Crusade (save for a couple of minor patches, shorter release schedules for the raids and some under-the-hood improvements). It got a Permadeath version, Classic Hardcore, in August 2023.
- The first expansion, The Burning Crusade, was released in January 2007, raised the level cap to 70, and allowed travel to the remains of Draenor, now known as Outland. Flying mounts and druid flying form were first introduced in this expansion, though allowed only within Outland at the time. It also allowed the creation of Blood Elf characters in the Horde and Draenei in the Alliance. This gave the Horde access to Paladins and the Alliance access to Shamans, a restriction which had previously caused game-balance issues. The Heroic difficulty level was introduced for 5-man dungeons and major raids were scaled down from 40 players to 25. The final released dungeon of The Burning Crusade was Sunwell Plateau, which features a final confrontation with Kil'jaeden.
- Re-released in June 2021 as World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Classic, a version of the game running with the entire structure of the game as it was up until the release of Wrath of the Lich King. It has been discontinued upon the release of Wrath of the Lich King Classic.
- The second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, was released in November 2008, raised the level cap to 80, and allowed travel to a new area: Northrend. It added the Death Knight "hero" class, available only to players who already had a level 55 or higher character. Death Knights start at level 55 in an exclusive zone with a full set of equipment, but no profession skills except First Aid. The Heroic difficulty level for raids was introduced in the expansion, and the final dungeon of Wrath of the Lich King was canonically Icecrown Citadel with the Lich King as final boss; although additional content was added to tide players over until Cataclysm, it was officially part of the latter. The last added raid dungeon was The Ruby Sanctum.
- Re-released in September 2022 as World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Classic, a version of the game running with the entire structure of the game as it was up until the release of Cataclysm. A number of noticeable changes have been included this time around, such as Titan Rune, a new level of difficulty for 5-man Heroic dungeons that borrows from the Mythic/Mythic+ mode of later expansions.
- The third expansion, Cataclysm, was released in December 2010. It returned players to a redesigned Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms (devastated after the titular Cataclysm and also designed to allow flying everywhere), raised the level cap to 85, and revisited a great deal of old and unfinished content while continuing the story lines of Azshara, Deathwing, the Elementals, and the Old Gods. A smattering of previously unseen locations, such as Vashj'ir, Uldum, Mount Hyjal, the Twilight Highlands, Tol Barad and the four elemental planes also opened up for exploration. The expansion saw upsets in the leadership of several player races and a resurgence in the Alliance/Horde conflict storyline throughout Azeroth. It added two new races: the bestial Worgen of Gilneas for the Alliance, and the cunning Goblins of Kezan for the Horde. New combinations of the old races and classes were also made available. The final dungeon was Dragon Soul, featuring the long-awaited battle against Deathwing the Destroyer.
- A re-release is announced for 2024 as World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Classic, a version of the game running with the entire structure of the game as it was up until the release of Mists of Pandara.
- The fourth expansion, Mists of Pandaria, was released in September 2012. It raised the level cap to 90, opened up the continent of Pandaria for exploration and introduced the Mythic difficulty level for dungeons (at the start of the expansion) and raids (starting with the expansion's final raid). It featured the Pandaren as a playable race for both the Alliance and Horde, a new class in the form of the Monk, and more focus on PvP content. Additional features included pet battles, PvE scenarios, and Challenge Mode dungeons. The final dungeon was Orgrimmar itself, with Garrosh Hellscream channeling the powers of an Old God in an attempt to take over the world for his New Horde.
- The fifth expansion, released in November 2014, is Warlords of Draenor. Raised the level cap to 100 and sent players to an Alternate Timeline version of Draenor in which Garrosh Hellscream travels through time to stop the Old Horde from drinking the blood of Mannoroth. His Iron Horde, equipped with modern technology, now threatens to storm through the Dark Portal to conquer present-day Azeroth. While exploring Draenor, players build and customize their own Garrisons and interact with legendary characters such as Grommash Hellscream and Ner'zhul. The expansion also featured redesigned models for all the classic character races. The final dungeon was Hellfire Citadel, where players must defeat Archimonde.
- The sixth expansion, Legion, was released in August 2016, raising the level cap to 110, and sending players to the Broken Isles in the Great Sea to do battle with the Burning Legion, which is attempting its third invasion of Azeroth. The invasion notably leads to the deaths of a number of major characters, leading to both the Alliance and Horde falling under new leadership. Features of this expansion include the new Demon Hunter hero class, a revamped honor system, class-based orders headed by players, a specialization-based artifact-quality weapon (which has its own plotline and scales along with the player over the course of the expansion) and the progressive difficulty in Mythic mode for 5-man dungeons (also known as "Mythic+") that gave rise to a new form of competitive gaming based off the time it takes to complete the dungeons. The final patch saw the Draenei homeworld of Argus also open up for exploration, and the final dungeon was Antorus the Burning Throne, with the titan Argus as final boss.
- The seventh expansion, Battle for Azeroth, released in August 2018. It centers on a full-blown Alliance/Horde conflict, which started with the Horde invading and destroying the Night Elf capital of Darnassus and with the Alliance initially trying (and failing) to retake the kingdom of Lordaeron. Both factions also wage war over a new powerful resource stemming from the wound Sargeras caused to the world at the end of Legion - the Azerite. It raises the level cap to 120, introduces the islands of Kul Tiras and Zandalar, and adds a number of allied racesnote for each faction, which can only be unlocked through quests. The final dungeon is Ny'alotha the Waking City, the realm of the last of the Old Gods, N'zoth the Corruptor, who serves as final boss of the expansion.
- The eighth expansion, Shadowlands, was released in November 2020. A gateway is opened in Northrend into the Shadowlands, the afterlife of the Warcraft universe. Champions from the Alliance and Horde travel there to prevent the dark forces dwelling there from entering Azeroth and ending all life. One of the new features is for players of any race or faction to join one of four Covenants, the natives of the Shadowlands. The level cap is squished back to 60. The final raid is the Sepulcher of the First Ones, and the final boss is Zovaal the Jailer.
- The ninth expansion is Dragonflight, released in November 2022. It adds a new continent — the Dragon Isles, a new race — the Dracthyr (shapeshifting dragons with draconic and humanoid forms), a new class — the Evoker (a spellcaster only available to the Dracthyr race), and a new feature — Dragon Riding (flight on a dragon's back, which is much faster and has many more flight-related abilities than mere flying mounts). The level cap is raised once again to 70. This time around the conflict concerns the Primalists, a faction led by ancient shapeshifting proto-drakes who intend to claim their lost supremacy over the Dragonflights of Azeroth.
- The Worldsoul Saga is a trilogy of more tightly linked expansions (with shorter release schedules than the usual two years) that was announced at Blizzcon in November 2023. It consists of:
- The War Within, the tenth expansion and first part of the saga, announced for 2024. The World-Soul of Azeroth is crying out after Sargeras damaged her at the end of Legion (and after leaking Azerite in Battle for Azeroth), and adventurers must delve into the depths of the planet to save her. Major features from the expansion include a new neutral race, the Earthen; a new form of PVE content called Delves where 1-5 players embark on adventures; and Warbands, a system that allows a player's alts to share things like banks, reputation, and transmogs between each other.
- Midnight, the eleventh expansion and second part of the saga.
- The Last Titan, the twelfth expansion and finale of the saga.
WoW's classes follow the standard RPG archetypes. The three core roles are tanking (taking damage so others don't have to), healing (patching others up), and damage dealing (or DPS). These roles are further refined by the talents each character chooses to specialize in. There are "pure" classes that can only fill a DPS role, and "hybrid" classes that must choose a role to specialize in, but may also fill additional roles at the cost of efficiency.
- Death Knight (added in Wrath of the Lich King) — An undead tank or melee DPS class that can unleash the power of death and disease, freeze their enemies into husks, drain the lifeblood from their foes, and summon undead minions. Formerly servants of the Lich King, they broke free of his control and now seek to Pay Evil unto Evil. They use 6 self-recharging runes as their primary resource, which generate Runic Power as a secondary.
- Demon Hunter (added in Legion) — Based on the demon hunters of Warcraft lore, they utilize demonic magics and transform into demon-like forms to fight in melee. They are the second "hero class" after Death Knights. Unlike other classes, they only have two specializations: Vengeance for tanking, and Havoc for damage. For lore reasons, they are the most restricted class in terms of race; they are only available to Night Elves and Blood Elves.
- Druid — Servants of nature, Druids are the most versatile class, relying on talents and shapeshifting to specialize in melee DPS (cat), ranged DPS (Moonkin), tank (bear), or healer (tree). Additional forms allow them to breathe underwater and swim faster, increase foot traveling speed, and fly without a mount. Bears use Rage, Cats use Energy, and while all druids have a mana pool, only the other two specializations rely on it. Balance druids also use Astral Power. Restoration druids are most well known for their healing-over-time spells such as Rejuvenation.
- Evoker (added in Dragonflight) — A class themed around the five Dragonflights, mixing each flight's powers as well as natural draconic advantages to decimate enemies or heal their allies. It has two specializations — Devastation which uses Red and Blue dragon magic offensively (It's also World of Warcraft's first new ranged damage-dealing spec since the game's release), and Preservation, a healer who uses Green and Bronze magic. Their racial options are even more restricted than Demon Hunter due to the fact that draconic biology is worked into the class; Evokers are only available to the Dracthyr race, and Dracthyr can only be Evokers.
- Hunter — A melee OR ranged DPS class that tames beasts to use as pets in combat. The Hunter can specialize in improving their pet or their ranged combat skills, and can give up their gun for the hunting spear and trap mastery. Notably, the only class that can use a ranged weapon and deal physical ranged damage, but can choose to be a beastmaster that fights in melee alongside their pet.
- Mage — A ranged DPS class that excels at dishing out magical damage. Talent choices focus on specific types of magic: Arcane, the deepest of magic knowledge which is addictive to use and centers around managing an increasing mana cost for maximum damage, Fire which allows the mage to cause huge explosions and wield dragonfire, and Frost giving them the companionship of a Water Elemental and allowing them to freeze and shatter foes. Mages are also versatile in managing large numbers of enemies and controlling monsters, conjuring food out of thin air and teleporting people to specific locations. Obviously they use mana.
- Monk (added in Mists of Pandaria) — A melee DPS/tank/healer hybrid focused on the Pandaren culture. They can tank as a Brewmaster, deal damage as a Windwalker, and mix up damaging attacks with herbal medicine to heal as a Mistweaver. They use Chi, Mana or Energy as a resource. While they wield weapons, monks fight mostly with their fists and feet, empowering their strikes with Chi magic and seldom using their weapons. With the proper glyph, they don't have to use a weapon in combat at all (though the weapon still factors into their abilities).
- Paladin — A hybrid melee class that can specialize as tank, melee DPS, or healer. They were formerly only available to the Alliance, but are now also open to the Blood Elves and the Sunwalker Tauren. Paladins wield their faith in the Light (Except the Tauren, who call it The Power of the Sun) as sword, shield, and bandage and are something of a Warrior/Priest hybrid. Despite their use of Mana, their most important resource since Cataclysm is Holy Power. They possess both melee and a few ranged attacks, but can be seriously inconvenienced by silencing spells.
- Priest — A hybrid caster, Priests channel their faith into spellcasting (What religion they have faith in is dependent on the race). The archetypal and most versatile of healers, they're the only ones to have two talent trees dedicated to healing (though the other, Discipline, focuses more on damage absorption / healing through offensive spells than direct healing.) Priests may also specialize as ranged DPS, melting their enemies' faces with shadow magic and psychic assaults. They use Mana.
- Rogue — A dual-wield melee DPS class that attacks from stealth for incredible damage, then vanishes into the shadows when the advantage is lost. Rogues may specialize in the use of poisons, toe-to-toe combat, or trickery and deceit. They use Energy, and build a unique resource called Combo Points when using their abilities that they can later spend on various finishing moves, from recuperating after a battle, to eviscerating their prey.
- Shaman — A caster/melee hybrid that draws on the power of elemental and ancestral spirits. Shaman may specialize in melee DPS as a totemic warrior who summons spirit wolves to aid him in combat; ranged DPS as a spell-flinger who wields the raw power of Fire, water, Earth, and Air; or healing, using the healing nature of water and ancestral blessings to aid allies. They utilize mystical totems to buff allies and attack their foes. Formerly available only to the Horde, which was changed in Burning Crusade with the addition of the Draenei to the Alliance, and later expanded when the Wildhammer Dwarves joined and began teaching other Dwarves. They use Mana, with their totems acting as a secondary resource to some extent. They can also enchant their weapons with various elemental effects.
- Warlock — A ranged DPS class that employs demons and attacks with shadow and fire magic. Warlocks may specialize in summoning demonic minions to cause damage and bolster their party, withering their targets with curses and periodic damage effects, or battering them with direct power. Warlocks have varying resources depending on their specialization, from using soul shards to cast more powerful curses or summon more demons, to using burning embers to hit the enemies with massive force. All three also use Mananote , while their demons use Fel Energy. Regardless of specialisation, they can opt to sacrifice their demon for a damage boost. They provide a surprising number of helpful spells to their allies, such as a summoning portal to summon players from afar, Healthstones that act as healing potions, and Soulstones which can bring an ally back from the dead in the middle of a fight.
- Warrior — A melee hybrid, warriors are the pinnacle of martial prowess. Besides tanking, they may specialize in two forms of melee combat; either skilfully wielding a single heavy weapon, or recklessly striking with two (The latter can also dual wield two twohanded weapons). Warriors utilize specialized combat stances to access and enhance various sets of offensive or defense abilities in the heat of battle. They use their own Rage as a resource, harnessing their anger and fury as battle goes on to strike harder and live through wounds no one could normally live through.
- Night Elves
- Draenei (added in The Burning Crusade)
- Worgen (added in Cataclysm)
- Void Elves (added at the end of Legion)
- Lightforged Draenei (added at the end of Legion)
- Dark Iron Dwarves (added in Battle for Azeroth)
- Kul Tiran Humans (added in Battle for Azeroth)
- Mechagnomes (added at the end of Battle for Azeroth)
- Blood Elves (added in The Burning Crusade)
- Goblins (added in Cataclysm)
- Nightborne (added at the end of Legion)
- Highmountain Tauren (added at the end of Legion)
- Mag'har Orcs (added in Battle for Azeroth)
- Zandalari Trolls (added in Battle for Azeroth)
- Vulpera (added at the end of Battle for Azeroth)
- Pandaren (added in Mists of Pandaria)
- Dracthyr (added in Dragonflight)
- Earthen (added in The War Within)
Well-known for its depth of interaction, World of Warcraft has also spawned a collectible card game, a pen-and-paper RPG, comic books, and many other merchandising peripherals. The game was one of the largest MMO in the world by a huge margin, with a peak subscriber base over 10 million players and at one point holding nearly 60% of the total market share. note
World of Warcraft provides examples of:
- A World Awaits...