Feb 12 2011

Podcast Review: All Things Azeroth

We go from possibly the newest World of Warcraft podcast, Auction House Junkies, to one of the oldest. All Things Azeroth began in January 2007, and this week release their 233rd episode.

The show has two hosts, Medros (formerly of WoW radio, recently of Dawnforge Productions) and Shade (Anne Stickney, lore and other stuff columnist of WoW Insider; also of Internet Dragons). Each episode is fairly long, ranging from 1 to 2 hours. The audio quality is decent (though not as good as I’d expect from Medros, given that he has his own podcast network). There’s obviously no worry about voice confusion, and both hosts are easy to understand. After more than two hundred shows, they of course have a pretty consistent formula – they talk about their week, then news (or just topics in general) interspersed with a couple different listener-contributed segments, and then they close up with listener voice and emails.

I especially like their news coverage, because they go into a nice level of detail, and discussing facts sidesteps the show’s biggest weakness. The first segment, “Ask Moo” – someone answering listener-submitted questions from the “Tauren perspective” – is sometimes funny, sometimes not, and always delivered in a grating voice. Warcraft Less Traveled is a great look at some of the (mostly not-so-much-anymore-) hard to reach and out of the way places in Azeroth. Those interested in exploring the world probably won’t find better inspiration.

But though I’ve been listening to the show for a long time now (well over a year – perhaps two), and there are things about it I enjoy, a couple issues constantly frustrate me while listening.

The show feels like it’s meant to have more than two hosts, because Medros acts more as moderator than participant. He introduces new topics, but very rarely weighs in in a meaningful way. He occasionally forgets himself and really dives into a subject, and those times are great. However, the rest of the time he has little more to say than “we’ll have to see what happens”. It doesn’t seem as though he doesn’t have things to say, but that he intentionally holds back from saying them.

This leaves Shade as the only one really saying anything, and certainly the only one saying anything with passion. While Shade is perhaps my favorite host of all the shows I listen to, the lack of a back and forth discussion is something that her awesomeness cannot replace. Every discussion feels one-sided, and as though more could be said, if only there were someone else to say something…

The other issue is that the show is often heavily lore-based. That makes a good deal of sense, given that Shade is a lore columnist for the biggest WoW blog around, and Medros knows his lore as well. However, they often reach a point where I just could not care less about the lore and wish they would get on to something, for lack of a better word, gameplay related. I like that the world is cohesive and usually gives us good reason to do what we’re doing, but for me the lore is something that happens while I’m playing. It’s part of the game, not its own entity. Long discussion of the lore for its own sake, without being tied to the game in some way, tends to bore me.

The focus on lore also frustrates me because that one aspect of what Shade does is featured so heavily; the other aspect, her raiding, barely comes up at all aside from during the recap of her activities during the week. I’ve been unable to find a show with much focus on raiding – thus far, Outlandish is probably closest. A number of WoW podcasters try to emphasize that their show is different because it’s casual, or for the average player. The reality is that’s not the exception, but the norm.

Still, despite the problems, and the unrealized potential, I’m glad I listen. Go in not expecting to hear multiple points of view being argued, and looking forward to hearing about some lore, and I think you’ll really enjoy yourself.

Rating: 4 stars.