Of all the games to create software-specific hardware for, World of Warcraft seems to be a no-brainer. With over 11 million registered online users and counting, and a plethora of different commands required to navigate your way through the online game, it appears to be a market ready for some tapping.
Enter Steelseries. The Denmark-based computer hardware manufacturer has been releasing mousepads, mice, headphones and keyboards targeted at gamers since 2001, and recently acquired part of Ideazon, Inc. - producer of the well known Zboard gaming keyboards. So today for your viewing pleasure we have Steelseries' foray into World of Warcraft-branded peripherals - the Limited Edition 'Wrath of the Lich King' Zboard, MMO Gaming Mouse, plus the Qck and 5C mousepads.
WoW: Wrath of the Lich King Zboard - RRP $135.00
If you're not familiar with Zboards, they're a rather cool concept. The keysets can be detached from the base and folded up for storage while a different keyset can be inserted depending on what you want to use the keyboard for.
This particular Zboard comes with a limited edition 'Wrath of the Lich King' keyset with a whole section of World of Warcraft-specific buttons along with a standard keyset for everyday browsing/desktop usage. Removing one keyset and inserting another can be done in a matter of seconds with the use of a single latch on one side of the board and a removed keyset folds up into thirds for easy storage. You can also purchase other Zboard keysets seperately for games from the Counter-Strike, Battlefield and Call of Duty series', and even for earlier versions of WoW.
The first thing I noticed about this particular board is that for some reason it has a European layout. There's nothing major about this I guess, but a couple of keys (like the quote marks and '@' symbol) are switched around, and until you get used to it it can be quite annoying. Aside from that, the left two-thirds of the board are fairly standard apart from the fact that almost every key is multi-purpose with alternative commands, such as the F1 - F12 keys being able to be used for two different sets of emotes. Because the keysets have to fold up into thirds, the space bar is split in two - depending where your thumb naturally rests on the keyboard this can also be quite annoying as you can often be hitting the gap between the two buttons accidentally. Running across the top of the board you have the standard set of media and shortcut keys, and on the back of the board you also have two handy USB ports.
The last third of the board on the right is where it gets interesting. Here you have three dozen keys specifically programmed for World of Warcraft including all the different chat modes and PVP functions. The amount you end up using these keys really depends on what type of player you are. If you're sick of always typing out commands in full and can't be bother programming your own macros for everything, then this board can be really handy.
Whilst the WoW-specific keys have a very light, soft touch to them the standard keys have a good, solid, clicky response, and once you get used to the board the sheer amount of time that the pre-programmed keys can save you is enormous. If you're just a casual WoW gamer however it can be all a bit much or you may just prefer the manual method for everything.
WoW: Wrath of the Lich King MMO Gaming Mouse - RRP $185.00
Fifteen buttons. On a mouse. I'll let that sink that in for moment.
The first question that popped into my head about this was "why?" - but remembering that this is a product designed specifically for World of Warcraft, the question becomes "why not?". Why not have a mouse button for the most repetitive commands in the game? After all, WoW is one of those games where there's so many commands and actions, and you just have to have a button for everything.
Aside from a mass of buttons, the mouse boasts:
- Adjustable sensitivity up to 3200 DPI.
- Optical (LED) sensor.
- 20g max acceleration.
- Max speed 65 inches/second.
- 1000Hz / 1ms USB reporting rate.
- Room for 10 profiles each with unique illumination scheme.
- Custom macro creation ability.
- Independant x and y-axis sensitivity adjustments.
Technically, I can't fault this mouse. For accuracy, sensitivity and response it's as good as any other gaming-grade optical mouse on the market today, plus it's ten different shades of sexy to boot - well, 16 million shades actually, as each profile can have a customised lighting scheme where you can choose colour, pulsation and intensity of the mouse's lighting . And it really has no competition when it comes to mice designed to play WoW with. Like the keyboard, how much you appreciate this mouse will depend on what sort of WoW player you are. Casual users will probably only end up using half of the buttons, with one profile, and won't bother with creating any macros. Hardcore WoW fiends, on the other hand, will likely wear every button of the mouse down to the bone, utilise all ten profiles, and squeal with glee at how easy it is to create macros with the intuitive Blizzard-branded user interface.
My only qualm is that it is awkward and cumbersome to use for virtually any other game or application. When browsing I was constantly hitting the side buttons by accident - I hadn't assigned them to any desktop usage but it was still annoying. The scroll wheel is also rather light to the touch and can be nudged accidentally quite often when browsing the web. These aren't huge issues but if you're not going to use the mouse mainly for WoW then there are definitely better options out there as far as gaming mice go.
WoW: Wrath of the Lich King QcK/5C Gaming surfaces -
Now you can't go and get a WoW-branded mouse and keyboard and not get the matching mousepad, right?
The QcK is a medium-sized cloth mousepad with non-slip rubber base, and is a firm favourite with gamers worldwide. This special Limited Edition QcK also comes with a very wrathful looking Lich King emblazoned on it. I've been using the slightly larger QcK+ for the last year or so and I definitely have no complaints about the surface.
The slightly larger 5C, meanwhile, is a rigid mouse pad which, according to Steelseries, "sports a fine detailed textile surface, comprised of a specially designed compressed fiber fabric, which is superheated and then laser cut.
The result is a gaming surface which offers consistent friction, glide, precision and accuracy." Whatever that means, it's over twice the price of the QcK, and has a friendly looking Frost Wyrm adorning it. Between the two, the 5C does seem a little better, but that could just be me convincing myself it's better because it costs more. I'm no pro-gamer by any stretch of the imagination so any subtle difference is probably lost on me.
These products have a lot going for them - high quality construction, top-notch performance, brilliant setup software, elegant and sturdy design, quality packaging and fantastic functionality. But do they cost too much? I don't know, that one is really up to you. If you're a WoW fanatic and you're looking for that extra edge, then yes they're worth the outlay. If you're just a casual WoW fiend, but you've got some spare dosh and want to replace your old fugly hardware, then sure, go nuts. If you're a budget gamer, however, it would be a very tough sell indeed.
Whatever the case may be, it definitely can't hurt to check them out in store if you can - you may find that they've been what you were missing all along.
Our thanks to PlayTech for providing our review samples.