I had previously played the Warcraft line of RTS games and enjoyed them, as well as playing the popular Everquest MMO, so when World of Warcraft was announced, I was intrigued. I applied and got into the open beta test and have played since then, with a few breaks for outside reasons. The graphics are not photorealistic, but have a slight cartoonish look that makes them pleasing to the eye. There are 10 possible races, with 9 possible classes. No race can be every class, but there is a huge number of possible combinations. Each character is also customizable by hair style (horns for Tauren), color, skin tone, facial structure, and for male characters, facial hair. While I would like to be able to say this means you won't ever see 2 characters alike, certain styles seem to be popular.
In addition to the obvious hack-n-slash aspects, there is also a social dynamic that evolves as most of the more advanced content requires a group of players to work together to complete. Sometimes these groups are just random people who happen to be around at the time, other times they are people who routinely get together for these tasks. This requires obvious social skills to coordinate, in addition to a sense of fair play and a willingness to cooperate. That having been said, there is still alot of space for the 'lone-wolf' to enjoy the game in the vast amount of content. The quests available in the game balance between these extremes so that no one is excluded.
Blizzard has worked to continually update and refine the game. They have added multiple areas to the game, but unlike many game companies these additions have been free downloads. They have also added alot of features, such as user interface enhancements, guild banks, etc, that have enhanced game play immensely. Blizzard also includes holiday events, Winterveil (Winter Holidays), Hallows Eve (Halloween), Beerfest (Octoberfest), Valentines Day and several others at appropriate times of the year to match their real world equivalent. With these come special quests and items to match the theme.
The drawbacks that I have found are a tendency to look at the clock and wonder where the hours went, a sizable juvenile population (regardless of their actual age) and the monthly fee. The fee is the same as many other online games, 14.95 per month. The juvenile population seems to wane about 9pm, and is mostly contained to certain areas, so it is avoidable.
Besides being fun and enjoyable, the game doesnt require a state of the art machine to perform well. Though of course a more advanced machine lets you turn on more options, even with all the options turned down the game graphics are still of good quality. The official required specifications are quite modest, indicative of a midrange system from 2 or 3 years ago.