Pardon for the length of this post, been pondering it for a few days.
Just like many of gaming geeks around the country, I have been busy staying up too late playing the World of Warcraft stress test over the past week. And, in a nutshell, WOW this game is reallly really good. Now of course I have only seen the low end of the game so this is said with zero knowledge of what the game becomes in the high end, but they sure made starting out a hella lot more fun than any other MMORPG ever. Here are some bullet points..
1) Quests- EVERYTHING is quest driven. I played a priest to 11, rogue to 6, Mage to 9, Shaman to 6 and I never sat and killed at a spot just to grind exp. There are an amazing abundance of quests with nice backstory and variety that drive you thru your levels and gently push you from area to area. Most other people your level have same or similar quests so it is really fun to get a group or a friend and pound from quest to quest.
2) Immersion- although the graphics are nothing compared to FPS games, it is incredibly well designed and immersive. The settings are well designed with ambient life and foliage, the capital cities are huge and sprawling, the monster and character animations are butter smooth. The dances are funny as hell, and their are voice commands where you character talks. These are just awesome, you type /v oom or /v inc and your character says I need mana, or DANGER! Each race has their own voice & phrases and such-- really nice feature.
3) Gameplay- the actual combat at this low level is fast and furious and fun. Mana regen is fast (and made faster with drink you can buy or make or get a mage to summon for you) and people die fast too if you aren't careful. There is no true mez in the game, there is polymorph spell that mages get that change the target to a sheep for 30 secs unless someone hits them(doesn't work on demons or undead) and rogues get a mez style as well but that is about it. This makes for very limited CC which I think is a good thing.. remember those LDON's you do with no FD pull and no mez? Chaotic and fun!
Melee- melee get skills as they level up just like casters get spells. Each melee class uses a different power meter. For rogues they have a rapidly charging energy bar (goes up during a fight quickly, about 5-6 secs to fully charge). They can use several styles that award combo points then finishing styles that do damage based on how many combo points you have on that monster for that fight. It keeps track of the combo points by the mob's name on the target thing. Warriors use RAGE points. As they fight they build rage that can be used to execute styles. As they rest the rage leaves them. Very cool concept. Autoattack is in effect of course for non style fighting. I didn't play a hunter so not sure how ranged stuff works.
Healing- you have your normal heals, HOT's and such but Priests also have holy shield. This is a nifty spell that is basically an instant cast rune that absorbs a set amount of damage before fading. You can cast it every 10 secs for some mana but each person can only have it cast upon them every 30 secs. This basically gives you a buffer for the warrior to build aggro so you don't get pounded when you heal. It is also helpful on you as it prevents spell interruptions.
Buffs- even at low levels, buffs last 30 minuts for the most part. No 1 class is the supreme buffing class, each has their own thing. Druids buff AC, Mage buff INT (mana pool & spell crits), Priests buff hp, etc.
4) Grouping- grouping is easy to do, easy to use friends list and /who lists. Of course with a free stress test their are plenty of jerkoffs but I developed a nice friends list and had alot of fun with those people who knew how to play a MMORPG. The minimap shows your party as dots so it is easy to find them if you get lost. They also have a SWEET macro system that makes it super easy to make hotbuttons.
Now what is going to happen when this comes out? I can definatly see it consuming my free/grind time in EQ but I don't see it replacing the raiding aspect of the game. As I said in the beginning I have no idea what the high end of WOW is going to be like at this point-- not sure anyone really knows. I will probably be cancelling one account just due to money issues but should still be raiding.