Getting into World of Warcraft in 2022 seems like a daunting task, but getting into World of Warcraft Classic in 2022 is even more so. But with Wrath of the Lich King coming up in a month many a person will at least think about trying it.
Don’t you worry ESTNN’s resident self-proclaimed MMORPG expert Lahftel has somehow stumbled into Azeroth to give you the kind of reporting and scathingly lukewarm hot takes you deserve?
World of Warcraft Classic in 2022 – Prelude
Before we even start this, we might have to do some explaining and also give some context. World of Warcraft is only the most famous MMORPG in the world and conjures all kinds of images into people’s heads who don’t even know what a video game is. It is undoubtedly one of gaming’s most important titles for its legacy alone. Now, almost 18 years after its initial release, the Live version of World of Warcraft is a very different game. For better or for worse, and opinions are split.
Now we could go into this from the perspective of a hard-boiled World of Warcraft veteran who could now list all the changes that happened and make a logical comparison. But everyone else has already done this. Instead, we decided to give World of Warcraft Classic a re-examination in the month leading up to the launch of Wrath of the Lich King Classic if someone completely unfamiliar with WoW or a returner should give it a go.
After all, many consider Wrath of the Lich King to be the peak of World of Warcraft and it was undoubtedly the peak of its cultural relevance. And the gaming analyst that I am would pin this on the fact that online gaming especially was vastly different from what it was today. But who cares about that, right? Is the game fun, yes or no?
My credentials are as follows, I have been playing MMORPGs for a long time, but I’ve never really touched WoW. This comes down to a helpless addiction to Final Fantasy XI that then transitioned into a long-winded love with Final Fantasy XIV. So my experience with western MMORPGs outside the occasional stint on RuneScape is limited at best. But I will not go into this with any preconceived notions of what an MMORPG is supposed to be. Because as long as it has multiplayer with hundreds of people and RPG elements, it’s an MMORPG for me. So without further ado, let’s get into it.
Some of the problems I encountered before even starting my journey might not exist for you. Classic is a game spread across many servers, if you’re playing on EU you are blessed and or cursed to have an entire region split across multiple servers and multiple languages. And if you’re unlucky like me, you’ll roll your character on a server that has a population of 100 players at best. So you have to do some research, with WoW’s faction system, one of the main selling points of the game being already one of its biggest detriments.
I would’ve loved to play on a PvP server and witness some of the shenanigans I’ve seen in some YouTube videos. But that World of Warcraft Classic doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Most servers have a horrific imbalance in factions that if roll on the wrong server unprepared, you’ll probably end up leveling solo until you’re getting ready for the endgame raids. Hopefully, that will change with the new wave of players that’ll flood the game. After all, this is the lull at the end of an expansion and everyone’s already geared to the max.
So after informing myself and making a deal with our Editor David, I decided to roll a character on a moderately balanced PvE server on the alliance side. At this point, I should probably note that my exposure to Warcraft itself has mostly been through playing Warcraft 3 a long time ago on a friend’s copy. And the intro of any race I tried does an excellent job at explaining what is going on since Warcraft 3. So I rolled a Night Elf Rogue, thinking I might use my long ears as alternative weapons should my daggers break.
Teldrassil, that tree that hopefully will never have an unfortunate accident that might spiral into political complication and a Battle for Azeroth. From the start I have to praise the game right here, might be that I can run the title easily on the highest resolution and for some reason even raytracing is possible but World of Warcraft just looks good. There is just something about a game with a solid art style that even textures from 20 years ago can’t distract from.
So you take up your tasks and start questing away, questing in World of Warcraft is a funnel for experience points and better equipment. Unlike Final Fantasy XI (and you’ll read me comparing the two a lot) those quests tend to be really straightforward. Go over there and kill 7 spiders, go over there and kill boars to get me their hides. So far, not many of those quests have broken out of this formula. Which would not be so bad if the stories they told were more interesting. Most of them boil down to just giving you context why a task needs doing.
There are some quest chains, yes, but they usually tend to just fizzle out and serve to tell small and local stories. They are not bad, they serve their purpose quite well but having recently concluded a binge of Final Fantasy XI, again a game that was released two years prior, there is a distinct lack of immersion here. But I also understand that many players don’t really care about what is going on.
Simple is Good
Compared to MMORPGs of today, World of Warcraft Classic is rather simple and straightforward. You pick up all the quests, figure out where to go, and do them. And sooner or later you’ll get into a groove that lulls you in. It’s simple and effective. Quests are never too long, so they don’t get frustrated unless you are not used to the kind of game that exchanges time for value. Progression comes fast enough, at least in these early stages. And it’s quite enjoyable. Instead of short bursts of super intense gameplay, I’m more reminded of playing something like Dangerous Elite.
You only pay half attention while questing, click the things, press the buttons, and read occasionally. You’ll get nowhere fast, for now, and you just have to accept the time commitment. Have to hoof it for 5 minutes to a quest objective only to run back to turn it back in? Best make that trip worth it by checking off as many tasks as possible on the way there. This kind of low-impact game design is really a lost art. And it’s the kind of thing I can easily see someone doing who wants to unwind from work or school and listen to some Podcasts or watch a movie. A meditative background lull.
I can’t really speak on how World of Warcraft’s classes work and their inherent depth, but I’ve recently played two MMORPGs that are considered slow but very technical. Rogues are really straight toward. You spam your one standard move, use your stun when it comes off cooldown, and allocate combo points you get for each landed hit to other skills that either give you a nice attack speed boost or do big numbers. Once you’ve leveled sufficiently, you’ll get stealth and a backstab.
Hitting that backstabs as an opener from out of nowhere or after landing a stun is very satisfying. There is this girthy crunch usually followed by big numbers and half a health bar just being gone that makes me really happy. Currently, I’m sitting at level 16 and have a few skills in my arsenal. Most of them boil down to doing damage, avoiding damage, and running away, and I only have to manage my HP and Stamina meter to keep going. Like the quest, this is very straightforward and just works.
But I also start feeling like I’m very nimble after one or two fights I typically have to sit down, eat a slice of bread, and think about my life choices. And especially when you have to kill up to 20 of a type of enemy, that can hamper that flow state I described earlier, as I now have bursts of just doing nothing instead of mindlessly doing tasks. But there is salvation!
An Unexpected Companion
Now, usually, I tend to keep to myself, I’m not unsocial by any means. But if a game allows me to do things alone, I tend to do them alone or find companions if I need some. And while questing solo is possible and very enjoyable, I did not expect to make a friend the way I did. While I was doing my Rogue thing and killed what struck me as overgrown owls with anger issues, I came across a Night Elf Druid who will remain unnamed. After seeing them struggle with a bunch of angry owls they had accidentally attracted, I swooped in for a daring rescue and murder.
I had just completed a quest that required me to defeat a sort of “miniboss” and something told me they were on the same quest. Without any words exchanged, I was invited to their group and asked if I still need to kill the big boss owl. I didn’t, but I offered to help nonetheless because I don’t mind stabbing things if that means someone has it a little easier. What started out as just a casual helping each other turned into a three-hour-long adventure.
It’s safe to say that we completed almost all the quests in Teldrassil together from this point onwards. By first heading into a cave full of nasty imps and then into yet another cave, in which we added a third to our ranks. And so team Clean Up was born, and we face rolled through this mini-dungeon with the kind of lowbrow humor that only the elderly can appreciate. It was great, and it has been quite a while since I just randomly decided to spend a whole evening with a stranger as we progressed through our tasks.
And I have to appreciate World of Warcraft for this, in other games you just get a group going to set out and do a task. But not in many, you just find a stranger on the side of the road and decide to take their hand and start skipping through the woods. And remember. This is a really, really tall tree. So teaming up with someone and leaving a trail of destruction and murder in your wake is unusual. It was great, and I hope I get to spend more time with that stranger in the future because unlike me, they seem to know what they are doing.
So after spending the latter half of an entire day mindlessly carving a path from Teldrassil to Darkshore I slowly feel myself getting comfortable with World of Warcraft. I understand that the speed of this game isn’t up everyone’s alley and despite its age, it is still very enjoyable. Unlike Final Fantasy XI, everything is just smooth and efficient. The quests and flow are laid out in a way that you’re always progressing towards something. But with this efficiency, there is also a lot of charm lost on me. I would love it if the game was more in my face about the places I visit and the people I interact with.
Instead, World of Warcraft seems to be designed to force players into interactions with one another. Be it to do quests or just have something to chat with as you make a long march from one quest to another. And I understand that back in 2004 that was still quite a novelty and quite different from being bombarded on Discord all day or watching YouTube videos on a second screen.
This also extends to the world of… Warcraft, as back then, these huge maps and seemingly world were surely impressive. And even by today’s standards, it is a pretty world to get lost in. But again, unlike Final Fantasy XI, it does little to really drag you in. Players want to PvP or progress and get to the next zone. But I slowly get the feeling that Teldrassil and Darkshore will probably stop existing as soon as I move on to the next area. But I understand that they are two different games for very different players, and learning to accept that is part of this journey.
I’m actually excited to continue my ventures into Azeroth and really looking forward to trying out that Death Knight class that’ll drop with the Wrath of the Lich King pre-patch. But I might continue my journey as my puckish Night Elf Rogue. You’ll be reading all about this World of Warcraft Classic in 2022 here on ESTNN.