World of Warcraft: Classic brings back an experience that most players have been craving for about 15 years. This past month has been an incredible journey that I have thoroughly enjoyed partaking in. In Part I of our review I bought a ticket to the nostalgia train and brought you along for the ride. In Part II, I reflected on the state of the game after the initial hype had started to die down and attempted to offer some tips for new and returning players. In this third and final review, I want to break down at its core what Classic offers players today and hopefully arm you with enough knowledge to make your final decision on trying out the game. This is our World of Warcraft Classic review.
An Experience for Old and New Players
As I stated above, World of Warcraft is nearly 15 years old now. Classic brought back an experience that veteran and new players alike can both thoroughly enjoy. It holds so many memories for old players and monumental events that new players never got to experience. I touched on a lot of this in Part I of our review. It is important to remember that, and let it sink in moving forward. World of Warcraft: Classic is a tricky beast to pin down in terms of reviewing because it is somewhat controversial in the gaming world. It was instrumental in paving the way for future MMOs and “WoW clones” but does it hold up to the standard today?
Too Little Too Late?
I think it’s time to truly face the music. MMOs have unfortunately gotten pretty stale as of late. Maybe it’s because we’re getting older and just don’t have the time or patience to deal with Korean grinders, but every new release seems to just be a quick cash grab. Publishers have fallen out of favor with the public. We have been scorned far too many times by games claiming to be the “next-gen MMO” only to be left high and dry when they’ve pulled the wool over our eyes.
Success and Nostalgia
World of Warcraft is pure nostalgia for many players. And I think this concept of nostalgia single-handedly nearly tripled the number of subscribers currently playing the game. We’re tired of being lied to and disappointed. In the wake of so many unfortunate failures of games, World of Warcraft: Classic promised to bring us home again.
Fun Factor & Gameplay
Is World of Warcraft: Classic fun? It depends on what your definition of fun is. For veterans I would say yes. Hell yes. If you like challenging, it is extremely fun. For newcomers to the game, it really depends. Nostalgia won’t be impacting your game experience so it all comes down to preference.
Since the game is so dated, you are dealing with a mind-numbing combat experience. Many players started with WoW combat and became used to it. Any “action-based” combat that might have been brought into the fold from shiney new MMOs was a pleasant surprise and improvement on the typical combat system. Because of this, going back to the old WoW combat wasn’t difficult for us. For newcomers, it might prove to be a little boring. You are essentially stepping back in time, before combat was as engaging as you find it in more modern MMOs today. If dated combat doesn’t bother you, then I would argue that there is still far more for you to sink your teeth into that still makes the game fun.
A big draw to the combat system in Classic is the return of the talent trees. Talent trees were all but banished from Retail WoW, and gives a sense of customization to the class you’re playing. There are always going to be builds that optimize for certain situations or damage output, but I’ve always found experimenting to be half of the fun. If you have enough gold to respec later down the road, of course.
In Classic, you are given a choice to toggle on the environmental graphics from 2004, which is fantastic, but something still feels missing. Many would argue that the original Vanilla/Classic experience is rooted in its terrible 2004 graphics and if you can’t get past the login screen because of the graphics, “then you’re bad, and probably won’t even get past level 10.” I don’t think that’s the case at all.
In my first article, I talked about this type of individual some so I’ll spare you my rant on that, but what I will say is that there is nothing wrong with giving people the option to opt in and out of better graphics. In Retail WoW, you already have the option to revert back to the previous character models if you really want to, so with the technology there, I find it a little confusing as to why they wouldn’t offer the same option in Classic. I think experiencing the world through the eyes of new graphics and textures would have been an amazing experience, akin to a WoW Remastered.
Appreciating the OG (Original Graphics)
There’s something to be said about experiencing the game, really experiencing it through its original intended graphics. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for it. I loved going back through Stormwind and Brill and seeing how different the buildings looked. (The structure of buildings is a whole other ballpark for graphics, I realize that, but what I would have been interested in is keeping the integrity of the old models with some slight updates.) But, I’m all for choice as well when it comes to character models and environment textures. It feels like a missed opportunity to provide a new, unique experience, that still holds true to that nostalgia we were all looking for.
Oh good lord the music. When I first booted up my client and logged in to hear the old music, I immediately had chills. One of my favorite things about World of Warcraft has to be the soundtrack. Even when I’m at work or doing some creative writing, oftentimes I’ll pull up a World of Warcraft album on my music player and just let it run through the songs as I write. The music of WoW is so wonderfully immersive, and iconic. Blizzard has invested so much into the music itself, defining themes for specific zones, areas, and encounters, that you could probably close your eyes while running through the world and just by the change in music know what you’re getting yourself into.
Replayability is another tricky topic to handle. While it could be argued that Classic has high replayability, there are so many other contributing factors to take into account when reviewing it.
Let’s start with the content originality. For players that have already experienced the Vanilla content, they are replaying the same game that they have already played through once before. What you desire to achieve in MMOs is going to affect how you view its replayability. If you love to collect items and gear, I’d argue that you’ll find Classic fairly replayable because of all the old gear and weapons available in the game you can collect now that aren’t available in Retail. This gives players a unique opportunity to go back and acquire the items and mounts they missed out on.
If you enjoy learning about lore, quests have also changed substantially over WoW’s progression. In Classic, you’ll find yourself maneuvering through quest lines whose plot seems to have shifted dramatically and will be surprised to find new and old characters missing. So while there are definitely some elements of replayability here, it depends entirely on your relationship with World of Warcraft going into Classic.
What Could Have Been
From the view of a long-time player of World of Warcraft, I’ve had a blast playing through Classic, meeting old friends again, and re-living some of my favorite parts of the game. We still do not know the extent of Classic and if they plan on releasing many expansions after it or stopping with Vanilla. This greatly concerns me for Classic’s longevity. While I’m fairly certain many players would be just fine with Classic stopping with Vanilla, at some point we have to ask ourselves how long the lack of content can hold our attention. Eventually, we will reach the end of Vanilla, and have to ask ourselves: Where do we go from here?
Looking to the Future
Part of me wishes that Blizzard would have taken this opportunity to find some way to merge Classic with some of the elements that we love about the game today such as transmog and better graphics. If I recall correctly, even back then, transmogrification was called for frequently amongst players who were tired of having to carry around a cosmetic set just to look decent.
Classic is an exact copy of the game and experience we had when it first launched, but while we can replicate some of those memories and reconnect with old friends, I just don’t think it’s possible to completely re-immerse ourselves in that world. We already know what happens next in the story. We have touched the sky and dived down into the depths of the deepest oceans. There are no more surprises to be had here. Because of that, if we do not have any more content updates, I worry that the game will grow stale and players will once again start to drift towards newer releases.
Who Did It Better?
One game that did this extremely well is Runescape. Okay, stay with me here, I know, that Runescape. But if you’ve played any amount of Runescape at all you’d know just what a fantastic game it is. It has an extremely rich story, with amazing writing, simplistic combat, memorable music, and nostalgic memories. Sound familiar? When Jagex decided to bring back Old School Runescape (OSRS) they didn’t just stop at copying and pasting Runescape Classic. They began to improve upon what was there by adding new content, quality of life updates based on community polls, and balancing the game further. Players flocked back in droves, upset with the current state of Runescape 3, to relive their childhood-and it is still going strong several years later with a dedicated community.
So while Blizzard brought back an old faithful companion for the players that wanted it, I just find myself wishing that they would have done more with it. There was so much potential, especially with using Chromie as a scapegoat, to experience other parts of the story, straighten out their plot holes, and maybe market World of Warcraft to the next generation of players.