For those new to Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, World of Warcraft is a good place to start.

Right from the beginning, WoW drew me in by giving me the freedom to customize my new character. I chose from one of eight races that include dwarves, elves and taurens. Clicking through the samples, I chose the diminutive gnome. Then I chose his class, gender, skin tone, hair, expression and facial hair.

After a quick loading screen, I was treated to a spectacular view of snow-capped peaks. Much like a snowflake, the camera’s view slowly descended in a lazy spiral into a beautiful valley rich in detail. A voiceover offered a humorous story of the gnomes and I was fascinated to see partially buried ruins and trees, heavy with snow, pass before my eyes.

The camera’s view arrived at the forest floor and right behind a familiar-looking figure … me. I was amazed to see the game had already begun and it seemed as though my gnome was going to be the star of a computer-generated movie.

Within the next few minutes, I spoke to a few non-player characters, accepting a quest from one to slay some pesky wolves, and easily jumped into battle. Game play was intuitive and simple to master. All interactions with the game environment could be accomplished with a left or right click of the mouse. After an hour of play, I had completed three quests and advanced several experience levels.

Once I had my fill, Fraser Irvine was able to spare a few minutes from his job at Gecko’z to show me what lay beyond the world of my gnome. From cities crowded with many other players to the depths of dangerous jungles, I was enthralled.

One of the most amazing aspects of the game was watching Irvine’s own character ride a griffon from one city to another. No loading screen here, WoW embraces the journeys and treats you to the sight of your character flying through vast deserts, lush meadows and fiery volcanic fields. At times the view was so high up that all I could see was the lay of the landscape. At other times, the griffon would fly beneath the canopy of the trees, passing just over the heads of players and monsters alike.

My first WoW experience was engaging, entertaining and, well, wow. After sitting for five hours, I had only seen a small part of the world and loved every minute of it.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind before rushing out to buy a copy of WoW: After the one-month grace period to hook new addicts, it costs $14.99 US each month to play online. It works out to the cost of four movie rentals.

WoW’s maker, Blizzard Entertainment, claims the game is playable on a 56k dialup modem, but lag would definitely be an issue at that speed. Considering the Yukon’s distance from the game servers, I would recommend an internet connection speed of at least 100k.

WoW is not very demanding for most systems, but, to really enjoy the game, prospective buyers should make sure they have at least the minimum requirements. All the specs can be found on the game box or at the official website at www.worldofwarcraft.com.