I came into World of Warcraft as a Night Elf druid, the jack of all trades in the game that has the ability to shapeshift into various beasts depending on the situation of battle. I could not believe how beautiful the scenery of Darnassus, the Night Elf continent, was. It was like a painting mixed with colors only found in in Autumn. Before me stood a large tree/building reaching to the sky with the leaves of equally tall trees covered the sky. As I walked up to my first quest NPC, a soothing opera was singing in the background, preparing me for whats to come.
This is what I want in a MMO, immersion. This isn't like FFXI at all. Of all the 6 major cities of the game, it seems that every race starts in their own city. You build a community with your fellow race and you become great friends (or great enemies, I have met a few jerks but thats in all MMOs). You really don't appreciate this until you visit a zone under the control of another race. Truely a treat.
As I finished quest after quest thanks to the needy quest NPCs (Who are very easy to find. Just look for a yellow exclamation mark above their heads.), I noticed a theme for each race. You see, each race has a theme. Night Elves are all about the balance of nature and their fight to maintain that balance. The bullish humaniods Taurens are all about proving yourself to the tribe, whether its cleansing the earth or bringing back the head of an opposing tribesleader. Orcs are all about recovering their shamanic traditions that have been almost lost due to their demonic corruption long ago and making a home for themselves in the desert like continent of Kalimdor. This adds plenty of flavor to the races, giving you pride in your respected race.
As for the quests themselves, they are more important then FFXI's take on quests. In fact, they are needed for leveling. That's right, quests are the main form of exp in World of Warcraft. Not only that but they are more exciting then what FFXI offers. They usually involve a type of quest I love to call a linking quest (a quest that is made of smaller quests that make up a small story) Here is an example:
In a low level linking quest (around lv 3-5) I met a women looking for her friend who took a hike to a nearby cave. My first mission was to find him. As I looked nearby the cave, I found her friend (who was a male night elf) on the floor in pain. He explains that he was biten by a poisoned spider and he rushed me to alert his friend, the night elf woman concerned of his whereabouts, immediately. I went to her to tell her the news and she was afraid what would happen if we don't act fast. She sent me off to gather various materials to make an antidote, which could be found growing near trees except for a piece of a poisonous spider, which dropped on my first try. I gathered the items and she made the potion but time was passing. Her friend was weakening and she knew it, warning me that if I don't make it to her friend in 5 minutes (there was an actual counter for this) her friend will die. Luckly I made it on time and cured him of his illness. During this entire quest, I was able to level 1 time and was halfway before leveling again.
Now there are other quests but I won't spoil it for those who plan to get this game. I will say that quests later on will rely on parties but if you just want to solo monsters, you can. Any job can solo and solo just fine but if you want the good exp, you must tackle the tougher quests (and damn they are tough) with a good party. I must also say that party arrangement doesn't matter. Since the focus is on quests, getting the quest done is more important then how much exp you will get per hour. You have friends that want to level but are all warriors? You can as long as you come prepared (food, which heals hp off combat and potions for in combat.)
Dying is wonderful in this game. Its what I like to call "strict but fair." When you die, you will become a ghost in the nearest town's graveyard. This is where you make a choice: Either lose exp to respawn exactly where you are or spend minutes running back to your corpse. Did I mention there is no such thing as being deleveled? Instead, if you die and paid to respawn but you have no exp in your exp bar, you take a negative hit to your exp which makes it longer for you to level.
I can go on and on about how I love World of Warcraft and describe the features but I detect karma hits like crazy. Keep in mind this is a first impression and I'm still impressed with day 3 of beta now upon me. There are a few problems with the game (its still in beta, btw) but from what I see, it's the most polished MMO I have ever played, moreso then any other MMO in the market (Including FFXI). Take it as you will. I left FFXI because of the many problems that plagued the game but WoW addressed most of the problems and fixed them. This is what I want in a MMO and I cannot wait for retail.