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SEOUL — As Jan. 16 approached, video gamers throughout the Pacific eagerly awaited the release of “World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade,” the long-anticipated expansion to Blizzard Entertainment’s popular online game.

Post exchanges stocked more than 1,600 copies. An hour after stores opened, the shelves were empty.

Three months later, the rush is over. The games are available and gamers across Japan and South Korea have had enough time to form a broad range of opinions.

As the first expansion to a game played by 9 million people worldwide, Crusade offered new quests, monsters, areas and items to discover in the fantasy role-player game in which characters join one of two warring factions and play to gain higher levels of power.

One of the biggest changes was that the characters’ level cap — their maximum strength — was raised from 60 to 70. Two new races also were introduced: Alliance faction players received the blue-skinned, tentacle-bearded “draenei” while the Horde faction received “blood elves.”

“It was good to finally have something new,” said Spc. William Welch, a 10-year gamer stationed at Camp Carroll. “My fishing skill, my mining skill and my cooking skill were all up to 300 and it was great to get some new content.”

He said by playing the game an average of five hours a day, he stays out of trouble and saves money by avoiding the off-base bar scene.

Sgt. Chad Meyers, another South Korea-based soldier, thought one change was for the better.

“Thank God they got rid of the 40-man raids,” he said. Those adventure raids were limited to characters who had reached a level rating of 60. Groups of 40 people would run the raids hoping to obtain equipment that would make their characters even more powerful.

“Burning Crusade” limits the raids to 25-person teams, something Air Force Staff Sgt. Ben Matticola dislikes.

Matticola, of the 374th Communications Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, said limiting the teams de-emphasized the group-play aspect.

“I thought ‘Burning Crusade’ killed the game,” he said.

Groups of players who had formed guilds broke apart, forming smaller groups that went their own ways, troops said.

The addition of 10 extra levels of play also caused a period of adjustment for many veteran players, who’d spent months, or even years, as the highest-level players in the game.

While most welcomed having new monsters to fight and new areas to explore in their quest to reach level 70, once again receiving the occasional butt-kicking from both monsters and other players took some getting used to.

“A lot of people forget what it’s like to be new,” Welch said. “Now, they remember what it’s like to suck.”

Despite a few complaints, most players interviewed say they are happy with the expansion and will continue playing.


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