Eurogamer's Games of the Generation: World of Warcraft

Aside from Dark Souls and Fallout 3, the only other RPG to earn a spot in Eurogamer's Games of the Generation list is Blizzard's MMO World of Warcraft, with a write-up courtesy of Oli Welsh. Here's a snip:
There was only one problem: World of Warcraft. It was too big to fail, and too good to beat. The rest of the games industry, dollars in its eyes, tried to do to WOW what WOW had done to EverQuest, but Blizzard was always one step ahead. In 2008, with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, the game reached its creative peak. Under the designer Jeff Kaplan, the WOW team wove flowing quest lines and challenging yet accessible multiplayer content into a coherent geography and narrative, giving it all a sweeping, elegiac tone.

It was glorious, but it left no room for other games to breathe alongside it, and the genre stifled. If WOW is one of the most influential games of its generation, its influence was not always benign, and few survived to inherit from it. (That's especially strange when you consider that, for a couple of years, every game developer you ever spoke to was playing nothing but WOW and Guitar Hero - another phenomenon in a bubble.)

Although I always enjoyed covering the game professionally, as a player I drifted in and out of it. I had a passionate second honeymoon with Wrath of the Lich King. I boggled at Cataclysm, rolled the druid I had always wanted - but as soon as my review was done, I stopped playing. The game was definitively better than it used to be, more rational, easier to enjoy; I didn't have to walk everywhere because I couldn't afford a mount, or spend hours trying to arrange a simple dungeon run. But it wasn't the same. Experience, won more easily, meant less. It wasn't the game I had fallen in love with any more.

This is a paradox for game critics that barely existed nine years ago: a game can now change for the better in ways that leave you loving it less. And there are factors external to the game at work, too, such as the inevitable process by which a game's community will strip-mine it of all its mystery and wonder until there's nothing left but a wiki.

But do you know what? WOW is still brilliant. (It certainly was the last time I dabbled, at the launch of Mists of Pandaria, and I'm told the latest patch is a peach.) It's a simple, solid role-playing game with exquisitely designed character classes and, in the dungeons and raids, some of the best co-op content you'll find anywhere. All this is set in the greatest virtual world ever built: sumptuous and vast and varied and so strongly characterised that players, years lapsed, still have an indelible sense of belonging, of actual cultural identity. For the Horde!