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Review: 'Burning Crusade' Expands Already Massive 'World of Warcraft'

As if millions of "World of Warcraft" addicts needed an even greater time-sucking challenge, along comes "The Burning Crusade" expansion pack.

This T-rated add-on to the world's most-popular online fantasy game is bigger and better than ever. It's well worth the $29.99 price and roughly $15 monthly subscription fee.

Most stand-alone video games don't even come close to offering the amount of content in this expansion, which requires the full version of "World of Warcraft" to play.

Released in 2004, "World of Warcraft" — or "WoW" for short — redefined the genre of always-on, never-ending Internet fantasy games with a simple interface, easy to grasp quests and a seamless, colorful world.

The appeal varies from gamer to gamer.

Some enjoy the social aspects of teaming up with others and battling giant dragons and other monsters for rare weapons and armor. There's a contingent that would rather engage in player-versus-player combat. Still others prefer the role-player aspects of a game world steeped in a history dating back thousands of fictional years.

But if you're like me, the old "WoW" had become pretty boring.

After several years of playing I had leveled up quite a few characters to 60 — the top level at the time — and conquered some of the game's toughest content, such as Blackwing Lair, Naxxramas and Ahn'Qiraj.

There just wasn't anything left to do. "The Burning Crusade" remedies that situation in many ways.

Most importantly is an entire new world to explore, called "Outland." This floating, fragmented, devastated land is filled with exotic new zones, monsters and quests.

There are two new races to choose from — Blood Elves and Draenei — which gives players even more character choices.

The game also increases the highest level a player can achieve from 60 to 70. Then there are new dungeons with sinister names like Coilfang Reservoir, Shadow Labyrinth and Tempest Keep.

I've been playing casually since "The Burning Crusade" was released a few weeks ago and my main character, a priest, has already reached level 68 with relative ease.

Getting to 70 still involves a lot of repetitive, boring tasks, for example, having to kill 30 boars. But there are some new twists, such as quests that require one or two fellow adventurers, that make up for these mundane chores.

And the experience points and rewards you'll receive are quite good, in most cases easily outclassing anything from the original game.

I've done many quests alone, but to access some of the coolest new areas you'll need to form a party of five. I'm in a guild with over 300 members, so finding a group was never a problem.

The game's integrated system of automatically grouping people never seemed to work, so joining or forming your own guild is probably the best way to go.

Some other "Burning Crusade" features require that I reach level 70 first: I've seen quite a few level 70s already buzzing around on the new flying mounts, which are much faster than the older mounts that were stuck on the ground.

There's just so much to savor, I'm already looking forward to my next adventure.

Longtime "WoW" players will find there's a lot of new things to see and do — even after they race to level 70. And if you've somehow missed out on the "WoW" experience thus far, there's never been a better time to jump in.

Four out of four stars.