World of Warcraft won several awards from critics upon release, including Editor's Choice awards. In addition, it won several annual awards from the media, being described as the best game in the role-playing and MMORPG genres. The graphics and audio were also praised in the annual awards, with the cartoonish style and overall sound makeup being noted. The game was also awarded Best Mac OS X Entertainment Product at the 2005 Apple Design Awards. Computer Games Magazine named World of Warcraft the best computer game of 2004, and the magazine's Steve Bauman described his "feeling that Blizzard has analyzed every element of every existing game, pulled out the best ones, and then lovingly lavished an absurd amount of attention to their implementation." It also won the magazine's "Best Art Direction", "Best Original Music" and "Best Interface" awards.
World of Warcraft contains a variety of mechanisms for player versus player (PvP) play. Players on player versus environment (PvE) servers can opt to "flag" themselves, making themselves attackable to players of the opposite faction. Depending on the mode of the realm, PvP combat between members of opposing factions is possible at almost any time or location in the game world—the only exception being the starting zones, where the PvP "flag" must be enabled by the player wishing to fight against players of the opposite faction. PvE (called normal or RP) servers, by contrast, allow a player to choose whether or not to engage in combat against other players. On both server types, there are special areas of the world where free-for-all combat is permitted. Battlegrounds, for example, are similar to dungeons: only a set number of characters can enter a single battleground, but additional copies of the battleground can be made to accommodate additional players. Each battleground has a set objective, such as capturing a flag or defeating an opposing general, that must be completed to win the battleground. Competing in battlegrounds rewards the character with tokens and honor points that can be used to buy armor, weapons, and other general items that can aid a player in many areas of the game. Winning a battleground awards more honor and tokens than losing. In addition, players also earn honor when they or nearby teammates kill players in a battleground.
Tras los eventos narrados en Wrath of the Lich King, Arthas ha muerto, y la guerra en Rasganorte parece haber terminado, ya que la Plaga está controlada por Bolvar Fordragon, convertido en el nuevo Rey Exánime, el carcelero de los malditos. Pero entonces, misteriosos terremotos comienzan a sacudir toda la faz de Azeroth, y poco después, comienzan una serie de ataques elementales contra las capitales de la Alianza y la Horda. Estos ataques son el preludio del resurgimiento del Dragón Aspecto corrupto Alamuerte, que las destruirá, extendiendo su dañino poder por los dos continentes. Cinco años después, en los que se suceden los eventos narrados en la novela World of Warcraft: The Shattering, Ventormenta y Orgrimmar están en proceso de reconstrucción, y la faz del mundo en Azeroth ha cambiado por completo tras los ataques de Alamuerte, que han reducido a cenizas algunas zonas y han provocado violentos maremotos y terremotos que han partido literalmente la tierra en trozos, inundando algunas zonas y haciendo resurgir otras. Alamuerte ha vuelto con un solo objetivo, el de destruir Azeroth, y no se detendrá hasta conseguirlo.