First: I have never played a MMORPG before this time. I'm not some kid with a gaming habit. I'm 27, fairly busy, and not about to spend money on a game I won't enjoy.
Up until this time the most incredible game I have ever played was The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. It was a perfect role-playing experience for someone raised on classic D&D, and the only drawback I ever found was that it was quite the lonely game. Months ago some friends of mine started talking about World of Warcraft. I was not even familiar with Blizzard or the Warcraft strategy games, so took all the hype with a grain of salt. Out of curiosity, though, I joined the Open Beta. And wow, what a couple of weeks that was.
The Warcraft world is richly diverse and deep in beauty. The scenery is gorgeous and the ambient sounds perfect, with some of the most beautiful music fading in and out as you explore. During the beta I played as human, undead, orc and night elf, and each race comes with its own history and its own future. Appearance is customizable enough that you don't "see yourself" walking around all that much, and the classes are all have strengths and weaknesses. Had great fun running down and slashing enemies with my undead warrior, enjoyed striking them with lightning from a distance with my orc shaman, smote the little beasties with my human priest and bound them with roots with my night elf druid. During that time I also learned how to make bandages and apply first-aid, fish, cook, and use herbs. It is no problem at all to create a character you will enjoy role-playing, and no, there is never another character out there just like yourself.
Of course, all that isn't taking in the social aspects of the game, which truly bring it up above and beyond the Morrowind experience. I played mostly on the special Role-Playing servers, where there weren't alot of people casually chatting about server lag, Halo 2, etc. On the RP server you stayed in character as you played, whether you were whispering to a partner, speaking to those around you, talking among your party or chatting with guild-mates. I never had a problem with finding a group - in fact, many times I was invited into groups by strangers. The quests can be done solo but really are more fun with at least one other person, and a little easier as well. There are some speaking options for your character, as well as lots of fun emotes. You can sit or lie down, eat and drink, fish (fishing is great fun) swim and dive, dance (also great fun) and on and on, all with other people. It truly is a living world, sometimes helpful and friendly, sometimes busy and crass, but how can one really RP without a realistic world to RP in?
The worst part is, now that the beta is over I miss that world very much. It is a place you can casually go to, enjoy the experiece, and then return to at another time.
As far as the game itself, I ran it sucessfully on an old 1.1 Ghz desktop with an anceint video card without much trouble, though getting a new card and some memory definitly helped, especially with the detail and lighting of the graphics. The servers were impressively stalwart under the pressure of 500,000 beta-testers, and when they did go down, it wasn't for long and no data was lost.
I would definitly shell out $50 for simply an RPG of this caliber. To play with friends and other folks in a living world, with new quests, creatures and features constantly being added and such great support from the Blizzard staff, the monthly fee is hardly a thought. I'm building a new system partially just to play this game, and hope it is successful for a long, long time.