World of Warcraft: Classic released on August 26th, 2019, to an eager audience that was more than ready to come home. Though it has made some considerable strides in the 15 years since its release, a large majority of the fanbase has been itching to get back to the good old days. WoW Classic was Blizzard’s answer to their cry and has successfully dwarfed (I refuse to apologize for this pun) all other content on Twitch since its release. There are so many layers to peel away when attempting to compare the Vanilla, Classic, and Retail experience. For the sake of nostalgia and to give it enough room to breathe, this review will be broken up into three parts. With that out of the way, strap on your boots and grab a nice, cold glass of refreshing spring water. This is Part I of our World of Warcraft: Classic review.
Note: This is Part I of a three-part review. Stay tuned during the upcoming weeks for my reflection on the state of the game in Classic and my final review!
The OG Experience
I have to start off this review by being completely honest. I wasn’t there at the very beginning. My career in WoW started at the tail-end of Vanilla, a little ways before the transition into Burning Crusade. While there are many things that I did get to experience, there are also several world-shattering events that I missed out on. A few of these may make some of you cringe. The opening of AQ, the infamous Blood Plague, the excitement of Molten Core, and the significance of Hillsbrad Foothills were all events that I didn’t experience to their fullest. I share a lot of similar nostalgia and memories with other players that were there in the beginning, but my journey was a little different. Once upon a time, I used to be embarrassed because of it. Now, I’m just not convinced that these things make or break a player’s Vanilla or Classic experience. To this day, WoW is still one of the most popular and game-changing MMOs to date. -And there’s a distinct reason for that.
A dark forest, tinged with vibrant purples and blues, with a dark purple sky and trees that stretch all the way to meet it. Spirits, or wisps, waft back and forth through the tree branches and emit a gentle tinkling sound when you touch them. A voice attempts to guide you through the forest, helping you to plant your feet firmly on the ground, but you aren’t familiar with this story. And, that’s okay. Because while the history of your people is important, this is now your story.
Why return to Classic? In short, to re-live the shared experience of exploring a world, story, and characters that I loved. The World of Warcraft I know today is far removed from the version that I played when I was younger. I miss the challenge, fearing for my life out in the world, and when crafting professions actually meant something. Most of all, I think I miss the social aspect. With the deployment of the group finder, we no longer have to put in work to find parties. Today’s WoW (Retail WoW as it’s now being called) feels more like a single-player game, with multiplayer elements.
Just what we need: another Night Elf.
I can vividly recall that initial feeling of creating a character and diving headfirst into Azeroth during Vanilla. Like many others, I was instantly drawn to the enigmatic night elves. I was wowed by the cinematic of the beautiful shape-shifting druid I had seen in commercials. Eventually, I ended up going with a night elf hunter for my Vanilla career. I didn’t know then what I know now. My precious nightsaber, lovingly named Pooka, would eat through my burlap wallet in no time. Or, she would threaten to leave me high and dry in a fight. Apparently the hefty portions of fish I was feeding her just weren’t cutting it. In the beginning, I wasn’t too concerned with faction pride. I just wanted to enjoy the ride. But by Ashenvale, I was.
In Classic, I decided I would go back to my tried and true Night Elf. This time, I decided on rogue as my class. At least for a little while. (Admittedly, I do have a Forsaken Rogue on an alternate PvP server. Screenshots in the next article will feature her more prominently.) Today, I have played the World of Warcraft story from both angles, and consider myself to be pretty Faction Neutral. Something, however, pulled me back to that Night Elf. I wanted to recapture that nostalgic feeling and to re-immerse myself in the world I knew before once more. If I was going to do this, I wanted to do it right. Might as well start with the first race I ever played.
In Vanilla, the first time I truly felt a sense of dread in the world around me was when I was questing in Ashenvale. As many folks are probably finding out by now, we didn’t have a quest tracker addon. The world was new, and I was enchanted by the sheer size of it all. Eventually, I found myself treading deeper and deeper into the forest until I emerged in a field of emerald dragons with a portal at the back. You can probably guess that this is where my current trek through the woods ended. That day I learned about skull portraits, golden dragon borders, and the “pathing” of mobs.
Wandering through Teldrassil
For old time’s sake, I found myself wandering through the same grove this week to capture a few screenshots for this article. Funnily enough, when the emerald guards first phased into my view, I experienced that same stomach-sinking feeling as they charged towards me. All they had to do was breathe on me, and I was a goner. There was the element of danger I had been missing for so long. Running back wasn’t quite as bad, being a Night Elf wisp. But being a Night Elf in this part of the zone is also hazardous to your health. Currently, I play on a PvP server. Being so close to a Horde outpost, on the weekend, when folks have nothing better to do than track down level 11 noobs who have no business being there for screenshots, was just not a good idea. Still, it was invigorating. The older zone had life breathed into it once again, and it just felt right.
The lack of mobility in Classic and Vanilla is ultimately what gave us a strong foundation for our nostalgia. Being forced to run around on foot until you sold enough scrap and body parts to purchase your first mount meant something. Not only did it make trips between quests quicker, but it was a status symbol. You worked your tail off for that mount and felt like you had accomplished a great feat when you finally purchased it. Not having mounts starting out could have felt tedious and frustrating. I’ve experienced Teldrassil far more times than I’m comfortable admitting, and was concerned that after all these years I would have gotten bored with running around.
Walking a Mile in My Leather Boots
The difference in being forced to run on foot in the new expansions of Retail WoW, and walking around on foot in Classic and Vanilla, is that now we just don’t have the option to fly. For the time being at least, I absolutely love walking around on foot. Don’t get me wrong, I’m beyond excited for my nightsaber mount. However, walking on foot forces you to slow down and take in the world around you. I feel ten times more immersed in my environment when I have to run through the forest on foot, watching my back for enemy gankers and dangerous mobs, than if I set my mount to auto-fly and flew over the zone. That brings me to my next observation during my first few days in Classic. I’m not sure how often this gets said, or if it’s said nearly enough, but so far the Classic community has been fantastic.
I haven’t felt this strong sense of community since my early days of playing World of Warcraft. At this point, it genuinely feels like most folks are on the same page and want to re-live the best parts of their glory days. General chat is full of people looking to trade items, group up for content, and offer helpful tips for newcomers. Many crafters are even offering their services for free in exchange for materials.
The Case of the Missing Group Finder Tool
While it may have added some quality of life to our experience, I truly believe that we lost some of the social aspects with Retail’s inclusion of the group finder. It feels so wonderfully strange in Classic to receive random invites to groups when I’m grinding mobs in a field or to team up again with strangers to complete quest objectives. (You kind of need to, with how tagging works in Classic.) In Retail, you don’t need to do that.
Most content is easily soloable, or you can advertise in the group finder for assistance. While it has its uses in some places (like making it easier to group up for a dungeon), I much rather prefer communicating the old fashioned way or running into folks with a similar goal while out adventuring.
A funny tradition that seems to have held over from Retail’s past few expansions is the forming of lines to complete quests. During the first few hours of Classic, there were so many people in the starting zones that it was nearly impossible to complete any of the quests. Even in groups, this made killing that one named mob for a quest unbearable. While some folks didn’t “respect the line”, plenty of others did, and it turned a stressful situation into a fairly entertaining one. After waiting for hours in a queue, what were a few more minutes standing in line to complete a quest?
The Journey Continues
So far, in my own meager opinion, World of Warcraft Classic has entirely lived up to the hype. I honestly couldn’t be happier with the state of things as they are now. For me and many other returning players, it genuinely feels like coming home, and we couldn’t be more excited. My rose-colored goggles and I are having a great time so far. I’ve been taking my time running around, making new friends, and picking flowers. Don’t you dare judge me, they’ll be worth a lot later. Hopefully. Tomorrow will be a different story, as I fully turn my attention to my beloved Forsaken and her retconned storyline. If you’ve stuck with me so far, I sincerely hope that you’ve enjoyed our trip down nostalgia lane and that some of the screenshots pictured above will inspire you to update your subscription and give Classic a try. In the next article, my nostalgia will be taking a backseat and I’ll be focusing more on some of the tips I have picked up new and returning players to the game, as well as updating you on the status of my Classic journey.