Simple question about WoW from a WoW newbie

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snowplow:
By zones do you mean the subdivisions of the continents that show the suggested level you should be at?
so does that mean each of these basically has its own quest chain?

Yes, and yes.

snowplow:
I'm in the draenei starting area and the overarching plot seems to be the spaceship crystals screwing up the local wildlife, with many scattered sidequests in between. Would I be correct in understanding that other areas have a similar approach, in that there is one overarching plot per area with many scattered/irrelevant sidequests in between?

That was true for Vanilla, Burning Crusade, and Wrath. But supposedly cata got rid of most of the side quests to focus on a more tight story for each zone. (I haven't played Cata) Azuremyist Isle is still a Burning Crusade zone, they didn't update it.

snowplow:
Also would you care to explain more about the lore that shows up in the individual areas? There hasn't been much in the way of lore so far, and starter accounts max out at level 20. Do other areas go in depth into the warcraft universe or is it more "kill 8 murlocs and bring back their grain; reason: they stole it."

A lot of it does boil down to "kill X of Y". WoW is really massive in scope so the lore isn't really fed to you all at once, bits and pieces that add up.

There are a LOT of zones in WoW, it would take a long post to list them all.

If you're really interested in the reading the lore, but not playing the game, then look up the wiki.

http://www.wowwiki.com/Portal:Main

some examples:

http://www.wowwiki.com/Ashenvale

http://www.wowwiki.com/Hellfire_Peninsula

http://www.wowwiki.com/Netherstorm

http://www.wowwiki.com/Storm_Peaks

To rephrase what's already been said, since that seems to be the theme of this discussion, WoW very rarely has a plot, and even more rarely can that plot be remotely considered compelling. But what it does have is a very interesting world, which presents itself through highly atmospheric zones with lots of small (or lengthy) quest chains that further that atmosphere.

In that sense, the Draenei starting zone might have been the worst one you could have picked to start with. It's not that interesting because the Draenei aren't that interesting. Their zone isn't that interesting. There's no real history to any of it, especially to someone like you who knows lots of bits about the world, but none of that knowledge is going to be rewarded in the two Draenei zones.

I haven't touched WoW in years, but I can distinctly remember why I loved it back in the day. As someone who was in love with that world, coming out of WC2 and WC3, I found exploring it simply fun. If I saw a mountain in the distance, I wanted to see if I could find a way to climb it, and if there would be a quest giver at the top when I did. And if there was, what sort of shenanigans he might be up to.

The human zones from 1-30 have (had? Don't know what's going on since Cata) some really cool arcs, including the Defias Brotherhood, and going off to the different lands, Redridge, Duskwood, Westfall, to see why they haven't been helping the Alliance muster up an army. The Forsaken stuff from 1-30 is great, too, lots of stuff with the Plague and the Scarlet Crusade.

But you have to want to like this stuff. If you're not predisposed to enjoying what the story on its own terms, then it's never going to start winning you over.

I'd suggest looking into particularly well made zones (compared to the Draenei? That's any of them), but I'm not sure which ones that is anymore. Does the starter edition give you the Worgen? Their zone was supposed to be super atmospheric, with an inordinate (by WoW standards) amount of plot.

The Main Story line is usually in line with end-game and higher level players.

Leveling wise each zone has several "quest hubs" where a group of NPC usually associated with a Faction in the game have quests. Most NPC have faction titles under their names so you can look up their faction's story. Quest usually related to a story with that faction. Vanilla was a mess quest-wise, but Cataclysm clean some of that up.

snowplow:

skywolfblue:
There is no one grand overarching "story".

Each zone has it's own questlines. There's plenty of very interesting story, lore and plot there, but it's multiple self-contained stories rather then one big giant "Main Quest".

snowplow:
Also aside from the promise of a plot, I don't have any other reasons to keep playing, since I'm not a fan of the gameplay.

I wouldn't recommend it then. What makes WoW great is having fun with a bunch of online friends. If the gameplay comes off as boring then plot alone won't make it interesting to you.

Altorin:
each area has its own plotline. There are a lot of boring quests, but each area has its own major questline which is quite interesting if you let it be.

By zones do you mean the subdivisions of the continents that show the suggested level you should be at?
so does that mean each of these basically has its own quest chain?
I'm in the draenei starting area and the overarching plot seems to be the spaceship crystals screwing up the local wildlife, with many scattered sidequests in between. Would I be correct in understanding that other areas have a similar approach, in that there is one overarching plot per area with many scattered/irrelevant sidequests in between?

Also would you care to explain more about the lore that shows up in the individual areas? There hasn't been much in the way of lore so far, and starter accounts max out at level 20. Do other areas go in depth into the warcraft universe or is it more "kill 8 murlocs and bring back their grain; reason: they stole it."

Alhazred:
Vanilla WoW doesn't have one main storyline, but there are a few major ones that start appearing around level 50-60, that link into the raids and dungeons.

So would you say the most interesting quests only start to appear in the endgame?

Sorry if these questions seem annoying to you guys, Warcraft 1 and 2 were my very first games so I'm rather fond of the warcraft lore (though I think WoW turned it into a generic fantasy setting). I would like some closure on the plot threads begun in Warcraft 3 though.

I thought the Draenei starting area was a terrible waste of time, if you want some story check out the Undead starting story, I thought it was pretty awesome, you get involved in a war, against were-wolfs! (The Alliance Worgen). The cataclysm expansion pack that supposedly changed everything really didn't change anything involving the Burning Crusade expansion (the Draenei and Blood Elves) or the Wrath of the Lich King expansion (The Death Knights) so those starting experiences are pretty lame in comparison, I never played Warcraft 3, but I remember my friend had "Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne" and I know for sure those plot points are in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion (lvl 70-80) and I think in the much lower level Eastern/Western plaguelands

The Eastern/Western plaguelands are part of the standard leveling area path for the undead, but I am unsure whether or not your lvl 20 cap will get you there

pure.Wasted:
To rephrase what's already been said, since that seems to be the theme of this discussion, WoW very rarely has a plot, and even more rarely can that plot be remotely considered compelling. But what it does have is a very interesting world, which presents itself through highly atmospheric zones with lots of small (or lengthy) quest chains that further that atmosphere.

In that sense, the Draenei starting zone might have been the worst one you could have picked to start with. It's not that interesting because the Draenei aren't that interesting. Their zone isn't that interesting. There's no real history to any of it, especially to someone like you who knows lots of bits about the world, but none of that knowledge is going to be rewarded in the two Draenei zones.

I haven't touched WoW in years, but I can distinctly remember why I loved it back in the day. As someone who was in love with that world, coming out of WC2 and WC3, I found exploring it simply fun. If I saw a mountain in the distance, I wanted to see if I could find a way to climb it, and if there would be a quest giver at the top when I did. And if there was, what sort of shenanigans he might be up to.

The human zones from 1-30 have (had? Don't know what's going on since Cata) some really cool arcs, including the Defias Brotherhood, and going off to the different lands, Redridge, Duskwood, Westfall, to see why they haven't been helping the Alliance muster up an army. The Forsaken stuff from 1-30 is great, too, lots of stuff with the Plague and the Scarlet Crusade.

But you have to want to like this stuff. If you're not predisposed to enjoying what the story on its own terms, then it's never going to start winning you over.

I'd suggest looking into particularly well made zones (compared to the Draenei? That's any of them), but I'm not sure which ones that is anymore. Does the starter edition give you the Worgen? Their zone was supposed to be super atmospheric, with an inordinate (by WoW standards) amount of plot.

Actually the Draenei were a late addition to Burning Crusade. Their whole starting zone area was made for the Pandaren. They had to make the far-fetching story of taking a ship from the Twisted Nether and making it crash-land on Azeroth to fit with the area they had already created.

SWTOR has plot, other than that MMO, u wont really find one in an MMO

There is no real plot but there are some interesting quest lines. I only really liked the game when I was playing with a friend of mine.

The plot kinda exists, Illidan gets some stuff in outland (Burning Crusade, level 58+), Arthas gets a lot in Northrend (Wrath of the Lich King), but it's mostly "we're setting up a camp to storm the Lich King's rear lines, so we need you to kill 8 spiders, gather 10 herbs and so on", 50 quests down the line later "we're advancing through Icecrown so we need you to kill 8 skeletons, gather 10 abomination guts and so on"

There is a little sense of plot progression through WotLK with the introduction of phased areas - this basically means that certain small zones change as you do quests in them.

A lot of the plot elements are revealed in dungeons and raids (especially in WotLK).

Basically the plot is there if you really look hard for it, buried deep beneath "kill x of y" quests. But don't expect anything like a regular game.

Hell, I've played WoW since well before WotLK, and I've had a constant subscription up all through WotLK and I still missed half of the plot points and "quests".

Some of the content no longer exists, so some plot lines are no longer accessible, or some of it happened as a very short lived event (the undead invasion that sparked off the simultaneous horde and alliance attacks on Northrend, the battle between Garrosh and Thrall, etc)

Baldr:
Actually the Draenei were a late addition to Burning Crusade. Their whole starting zone area was made for the Pandaren. They had to make the far-fetching story of taking a ship from the Twisted Nether and making it crash-land on Azeroth to fit with the area they had already created.

I didn't know this, but it doesn't surprise me in the slightest. The zone has basically zero connections to anything else outside of the game. It exists in a vacuum, with maybe a few slight nods to level 65 content in Outland.

The Blood Elves, who debuted at the exact same time, by contrast have TONS of connections to the stuff going on in Forsakenville. It made their zone quite enjoyable.

Most of the amazing story lines from 1 - 60 no longer exist unfortunately. There were some really epic quest chains that had amazing stories. Heres looking at the fallen hero of the horde. Anyone who remembers that chain from vanilla and did the whole thing will know how fantastic that story was.

Cataclysm's "tight" story to me was just shoving me in a series of linear events and left no room for choice or exploration and caused me to quit after 6 or so years of playing.

Once upon a time WoW had great stories. Now they have one mediocre story per expansion and that is it.

There is no overarching plot from level 1-85. Each zone has 1-3 stories, but they don't usually carry over to the next zone. So for example, in the Badlands you're acquiring a Black Dragon egg, in Stranglethorn Vale you're dealing with the Kurzen uprising. Each zone has a few stories like that. If you're looking for a story like most single player RPGs have, you're going to be disappointed.

It's an MMO. Other than SWTOR, all MMOs have mediocre to bad story elements.

WWmelb:
Most of the amazing story lines from 1 - 60 no longer exist unfortunately. There were some really epic quest chains that had amazing stories. Heres looking at the fallen hero of the horde. Anyone who remembers that chain from vanilla and did the whole thing will know how fantastic that story was.

Cataclysm's "tight" story to me was just shoving me in a series of linear events and left no room for choice or exploration and caused me to quit after 6 or so years of playing.

Once upon a time WoW had great stories. Now they have one mediocre story per expansion and that is it.

I disagree. 85% of the Vanilla quest were lack-luster and had no actual story tied to them. The new linear quests are more story driven. They feel more epic and chained together. It improved a lot of Zones.

Baldr:

WWmelb:
Most of the amazing story lines from 1 - 60 no longer exist unfortunately. There were some really epic quest chains that had amazing stories. Heres looking at the fallen hero of the horde. Anyone who remembers that chain from vanilla and did the whole thing will know how fantastic that story was.

Cataclysm's "tight" story to me was just shoving me in a series of linear events and left no room for choice or exploration and caused me to quit after 6 or so years of playing.

Once upon a time WoW had great stories. Now they have one mediocre story per expansion and that is it.

I disagree. 85% of the Vanilla quest were lack-luster and had no actual story tied to them. The new linear quests are more story driven. They feel more epic and chained together. It improved a lot of Zones.

Oh i will agree that a HELL of a lot of vanilla was very mundane questing, but the epic quest chains to me were truely epic... the ones like the one i mentioned previously that spanned 15 - 20 levels depending on how well you grouped. Loved this for all of the Azshara lore as well.. which is all lost :(

And another one that springs to mind is the Battle for Darrowshire quest line... ahh memories.

Not to mention the amazing AQ quest lines... and

Overall the new ones are very chained together true, but you don't have to hunt for anything. It's all laid out in a straight line for the entire way through.

OOOOOoooh and the class specific lvl 60 epic quests. Can't forget those... Helping hunters with their MC quest... Priests with the Bene quest chain... The Warlock Dreadsteed and crazy Doomguard quests... Paladin mount chain... Shaman epic helm chain, the quest chain that started in Winterspring and UBRS to get the epic helms and the like... Soooo many awesome story/chain questlines back then.

No quest lines from the expansions have been truely memorable for me, though if i had of been endgame raiding in BC, i think the black temple chains would have come close.

I also miss the dungeon design of vanilla. Places like BRD which had so many little hidden treasures that you really had to know what you were doing to even get certain bosses/named mobs to spawn, for instance... the guy with the key to the dark coffer. And things like tribute runs in Dire Maul...

Ahhh... now i'm just reminiscing on all of it :(

snowplow:
I recently started playing the starter (lol free) edition of WoW, and I would like one (or more) of you WoW players to clarify:

When exactly does the main plot/storyline actually reveal itself? I'm currently level 13, doing a bunch of variations of "kill X monsters, gather X monster parts, talk to this guy, kill this thing" quests. There are some quests that aren't terrible, but so far the majority has been pretty crappy like this. It doesn't help that there is no voice work.

I'm asking because the end bosses of some of the expansions are storyline related, such as Arthas, Illidan, Kel'thuzad, etc. but so far there is absolutely no overarching plot or anything. I would kind of like to go through the storyline since I played Warcraft 1, 2, and 3, but if I'm going to pay $15 per month I absolutely need to know if the quests get better in the future. Also aside from the promise of a plot, I don't have any other reasons to keep playing, since I'm not a fan of the gameplay.

TL;DR - Is there a plot? when/where is it?

Also as an aside, are all MMO's like this? I won't lie; I can't really justify paying money for this unless it gets better. I started with WoW because its the highest rated and most popular, but IMO its several levels below most singleplayer RPG's.

It doesn't get any better, just more of the same. There is no plot, it's all "go collect 20 bear asses" for the entire game. If you don't like how it is now, just stop playing now because it doesn't change.

Clive Howlitzer:
I will let you in on the big secret. There is a very interesting plot that is going to show up to you as you go on. Here it is.

Except SWTOR. Oh and the first part of Age of Conan.

snowplow:
I recently started playing the starter (lol free) edition of WoW, and I would like one (or more) of you WoW players to clarify:

When exactly does the main plot/storyline actually reveal itself? I'm currently level 13, doing a bunch of variations of "kill X monsters, gather X monster parts, talk to this guy, kill this thing" quests. There are some quests that aren't terrible, but so far the majority has been pretty crappy like this. It doesn't help that there is no voice work.

I'm asking because the end bosses of some of the expansions are storyline related, such as Arthas, Illidan, Kel'thuzad, etc. but so far there is absolutely no overarching plot or anything. I would kind of like to go through the storyline since I played Warcraft 1, 2, and 3, but if I'm going to pay $15 per month I absolutely need to know if the quests get better in the future. Also aside from the promise of a plot, I don't have any other reasons to keep playing, since I'm not a fan of the gameplay.

TL;DR - Is there a plot? when/where is it?

Also as an aside, are all MMO's like this? I won't lie; I can't really justify paying money for this unless it gets better. I started with WoW because its the highest rated and most popular, but IMO its several levels below most singleplayer RPG's.

As many other people have stated already... there isn't really a "main" plot or story. There are a bunch of small stories, mostly contained within the quests in each zone of the continents. But speaking as someone who both enjoys a decent plot in a game and has been playing WoW for about five years now... if you're looking for a cohesive and tightly-knit narrative, you should probably look elsewhere. Unless you want to take your time and read everything while leveling/questing, you won't catch most of the stories. And if you try doing dungeons, you'll find that the average player is extremely impatient and usually wants to rush to the end of everything.

I would honestly say that the best part (and simultaneously worst part) of WoW is the community. There are a vast number of tools and trolls and just plain angry people in the game, yes, but there are also a large number of guilds filled with friendly, helpful people who just like to chat and make friends. The same can be said of many MMOs, sure, but I do feel that WoW has built such a sturdy pedestal by having rather polished mechanics. The gameplay in itself is boring, but the mechanics behind the game are certainly highly refined (though they just can't seem to get scaling right...)

But to get back on-topic: If you're looking for an epic story that keeps you riveted to your seat, WoW won't do anything for you.

MMO story telling is fundamentally different from single player story telling.

The shift towards ultra-linear "YOU are the hero" storytelling is one of the worst things to be happening to MMOs right now. WoW's new content and SWtOR are the worst offenders, resulting in flat and lifeless zones that only exist as the backdrop to one overly specific storyline.

There's plenty of good writing and interesting storylines in MMOs, but it's a different kind of experience from singleplayer games, or at least it should be.

MMO's arent story centric if you require stories to be consistent and linear. In the case of WoW, individual zones and quest chains typically have pretty cool stories involved in them, but the world as a whole doesn't really have an overarching "story" unless you consider the theme of each given expansion to be one.

For the most part any stories you get from a quest chain or zone will wrap themselves up entirely in that zone, or have one more follow up chain later down the line. In terms of your experience so far? Depending on the race you chose the starting zones can be a bit dull, so it does get a little better I suppose. Although I doubt it's gonna matter to your type, the level 80-85 zones do have longer and more fleshed out storylines, but again, once those finish they are just simply done.

Think your in the wrong genre man.

The plot is more like the setting for the world of Azeroth; you don't witness that many major developments except in raids. If you want the story for Warcraft just look up Warcraft 2 and 3 and you'll be pretty much caught up.

The most charitable answer I could give is that the overarching plot is the general state of affairs in Azeroth. The major quest lines in each expansion is the latest chapter in said plot.

The idea behind an MMO is that you're an individual carving out a place for yourself in the world. Unfortunately, that can be a difficult thing to do in a game like WoW, where it's been around so long that trying to start fresh here makes you feel less like an individual and more like you're the latest person in a long line of people who've all done the exact same thing; i.e. beaten the same boss, rescued the same town, discovered the same mystery, and so on.

If you really want to feel more significant and like you're part of a storyline, your best bet is to join a roleplaying guild. It's really hard to get a sense of significance from WoW's in-game story content, but you can get a good sense of it when playing with other players who're all working together to create a plot for their characters.

Lord of the Rings online has it's Epic quest lines, which is basically a story. I'm not going to comment on how good of a story it is, since I don't remember (I haven't done any of the content in ages) Though I can promise you that there's a bit of a twist that'll probably make you feel like punching a hole through your wall.

snowplow:
I recently started playing the starter (lol free) edition of WoW, and I would like one (or more) of you WoW players to clarify:

When exactly does the main plot/storyline actually reveal itself? I'm currently level 13, doing a bunch of variations of "kill X monsters, gather X monster parts, talk to this guy, kill this thing" quests. There are some quests that aren't terrible, but so far the majority has been pretty crappy like this. It doesn't help that there is no voice work.

I'm asking because the end bosses of some of the expansions are storyline related, such as Arthas, Illidan, Kel'thuzad, etc. but so far there is absolutely no overarching plot or anything. I would kind of like to go through the storyline since I played Warcraft 1, 2, and 3, but if I'm going to pay $15 per month I absolutely need to know if the quests get better in the future. Also aside from the promise of a plot, I don't have any other reasons to keep playing, since I'm not a fan of the gameplay.

TL;DR - Is there a plot? when/where is it?

Also as an aside, are all MMO's like this? I won't lie; I can't really justify paying money for this unless it gets better. I started with WoW because its the highest rated and most popular, but IMO its several levels below most singleplayer RPG's.

There aren't really any story arcs that are over arcing into a sort of "main storyline". WoW just has hubs that have their own storylines and end with leading you into the next quest hub.

This system of local questlines is really 95% of the game as far as story goes so yeah... and yeah, most MMO's do this.

SecretNegative:

Here's the thing, you do not play WoW for the story, you do not play it for the gameplay, you play it because you can hang around with friends.

This. I've been playing since 05...The only reason I'm still playing now is raid nights with my friends and boyfriend.

Wrath was really the turning point for WoW. And MoP is't looking much better, at least on the beta...Just more dumbing down.

Every zone has it's small story line.

snowplow:
By zones do you mean the subdivisions of the continents that show the suggested level you should be at?
so does that mean each of these basically has its own quest chain?
I'm in the draenei starting area and the overarching plot seems to be the spaceship crystals screwing up the local wildlife, with many scattered sidequests in between. Would I be correct in understanding that other areas have a similar approach, in that there is one overarching plot per area with many scattered/irrelevant sidequests in between?

Exactly that. Each area that is delineated on your map (and can be seen in game as a pretty severe and immediate shift in environment, jungle to desert, etc) has its own standalone quest line. The quality of each in vanilla varies fairly wildly, but it was generally somewhere between decent and good. I'm not sure what Cataclysm did to them though, as I quit at the end of WotLK. Outlands and Northrend were both excellent from a storytelling perspective.

snowplow:
Also would you care to explain more about the lore that shows up in the individual areas? There hasn't been much in the way of lore so far, and starter accounts max out at level 20. Do other areas go in depth into the warcraft universe or is it more "kill 8 murlocs and bring back their grain; reason: they stole it."

If you actually read the quest text and sit through the cutscenes etc, they flesh things out fairly well. The quest objectives almost always come down to "kill X things because things" or "collect Y doodads because fuck murlocs" etc, but they do a good job of explaining why you should be doing it for the most part (again, in Outlands and Northrend). I'm told Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms was revamped to be more in line with that in Cataclysm, but I have no first hand experience to speak of it.

snowplow:
So would you say the most interesting quests only start to appear in the endgame?

Absolutely. The really interesting/meaty storylines all tie into the end game in some way. In vanilla, the best storylines were dealing with Nefarian in Blackwing Lair and Kel'Thuzad in Naxxramas, BC had Illidan in Black Temple, Kil'jaedan in Sunwell and Magtheridon as the storytelling highlights, and Wrath boasted the entire Icecrown Citadel as excellent storytelling bits.

snowplow:
Sorry if these questions seem annoying to you guys, Warcraft 1 and 2 were my very first games so I'm rather fond of the warcraft lore (though I think WoW turned it into a generic fantasy setting). I would like some closure on the plot threads begun in Warcraft 3 though.

I definitely agree with you here. I'm a huge fan of warcraft lore, and WoW does a decent job building on it. It wasn't much of a focus in vanilla until you hit the end game, but the expansions really put some effort into their storytelling and it shows.

Grey Day for Elcia:

Clive Howlitzer:
I will let you in on the big secret. There is a very interesting plot that is going to show up to you as you go on. Here it is.

The Old Republic is nothing but plot.

So you're saying it's ass? I would agree.

Honestly? go to WoW Wiki and read up about the burning legion the scourge and go from there, constantly clicking on the little blue name tags of stuff. You'll learn more that way than I did from playing for 6 years.

I love WoW even if I don't play it nearly as much as I used to, but their way of telling their story is basically a book that you have to go to several different libraries to get each chapter for.

So yeah, WoW has an amazing lore (In my opinion) and it's what keeps me going. But it's damn hard to get into, especially if you haven't played any of the Warcraft games.

Later zones such as Icecrown, Storm Peaks and Dragonblight do tell some good stories, especially the Wrathgate questline in Dragonblight and the quests about Arthas' past in Icecrown.

Also in Cataclysm the quests are a lot more linear but they allow it to tell a much more coherent story throughout your adventures in the zone, believe me, it gets better. If you're looking for some decent-ish stories earlier on try places like Darkshore, Western Plaguelands and Eastern Plaguelands.

Nimzabaat:

Clive Howlitzer:
I will let you in on the big secret. There is a very interesting plot that is going to show up to you as you go on. Here it is.

Except SWTOR. Oh and the first part of Age of Conan.

I haven't played either but I mean, a lot of MMOs do have stories attached if you read them or watch their attempt at cutscenes and what not. The problem is it is always hard to care because you know it doesn't change anything. MMOs are very much about the status quo. Everyone else is saving the world at the same time you are but in the end, nothing in the world changes to reflect what you have done. Granted, I haven't played a lot of the newer MMOs that came out int he last...3 years or so? It may have changed.
It just doesn't do it for me.

Clive Howlitzer:

Nimzabaat:

Clive Howlitzer:
I will let you in on the big secret. There is a very interesting plot that is going to show up to you as you go on. Here it is.

Except SWTOR. Oh and the first part of Age of Conan.

I haven't played either but I mean, a lot of MMOs do have stories attached if you read them or watch their attempt at cutscenes and what not. The problem is it is always hard to care because you know it doesn't change anything. MMOs are very much about the status quo. Everyone else is saving the world at the same time you are but in the end, nothing in the world changes to reflect what you have done. Granted, I haven't played a lot of the newer MMOs that came out int he last...3 years or so? It may have changed.
It just doesn't do it for me.

In SWTOR your choices have a significant effect on gameplay. Some Light Side choices mean you have to redo a quest because you gave away your spoils to someone who needed them. My Sith Warrior let some Republic guys live so I actually get support in my quest to kill a fellow Sith Lord. Some Dark Side choices make things a lot simpler (and are damn funny to watch). Honestly in SWTOR the gameplay is so WoW clone and the story is so good that you're playing just to watch the next part in the story.

Popadoo:
There used to be a story/several storylines, but since the introduction of several expansions it's sort of taken a back seat.

I personally believe it's the other way around.

Vanilla had some minor plots around the zone you were in, with a few spanning over to other zones.
While TBC, but especially Wrath have a very clear, zone wide story that all leads up to stopping Arthas.

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