Classic WoW: Rose-tinted nostalgia or a necessary change to modern gaming?
Updated: Mar 28
Classic World of Warcraft launched with an absolute roar at the end of August, topping Twitch numbers and perhaps shocking those with the infamous mantra of "you think you do, but you don't..."
So, put yourself back to the night of the 26th August. Sitting in front of your computer, waiting for the servers to come up. More name reservations opened up a few hours earlier and you snagged every name you could've wanted, all 10 character slots filled. You have your beverage of choice on a coaster near the mouse on your desk and you're chatting with friends, both new and old, about how hyped you all are for Classic. Mine was a strawberry and lime cider.
The clock strikes the hour. The servers go live, it's a scramble to get in, but you get there. Or do you? Classic's launch was so incredibly hyped and popular that many were left staring at a "waiting in queue" screen. Tens of thousands, potentially hundreds of thousands worldwide were unable to log into the game, facing queues of up to 15 hours. While I will place some of the blame at Blizzard's feet for woefully underestimating how popular Classic was going to be, I can't help but place some blame at the feet of these players stuck in the queues. When Blizzard realised that their rather paltry number of servers was far from enough, they advised players to move to the less populated servers that they had just opened, however this is not the greatest solution as if my experience is anything to go by, people scrambled to get the names they wanted and wouldn't want to risk losing these by moving server.
Regardless, once players did get in, they were met by... well... an absolute horde of players, pun very much intended. Seriously, there were countless players in the starting zones at launch, even with Blizzard implementing their layering technology into the Classic launch. It was a complete mess, but a glorious mess at that!
Fortunately for me, I got in without a hitch, thanks to my Medium population server, so I managed to get right down to it. I will outline my initial impressions and answer the question of whether or not Classic lived up to the hype.
In short, yes it did.
At the time of writing I have played countless hours in this first month. I have a level 40 paladin, a level 20 mage, a level 20, hunter, a level 20 druid, a level 20 rogue, a level 5 priest and a level 5 warrior. With the exception of weekly events in The Crew 2 and the odd game of Gears 5, Classic World of Warcraft is all I have played for the whole month. I have already named myself "King of the mid level characters" due to my collection, though this I could have foreseen as I am seeking to create my own crafting empire on my server. This brings me to my first point as to why I prefer Classic to retail.
Crafting matters in Classic. I don't just mean while levelling, where it is an incredible help, but also at end game crafting retains its usefulness. We have items such as the Arcanite Reaper, a fantastic axe for any two-handed axe user, Hide of the Wild, which is best in slot for healers pre-raid, and engineering as a whole is just plain useful, from bombs in PvP to jumper cables for that emergency ress on the healer after you feigned death to avoid wiping, allowing the whole group to circumvent what is often a lengthy corpse run. In retail, you don't really miss out on anything if you completely ignore your professions and I don't like that.
Secondly, the levelling process is vastly superior. This comes from two aspects for me and I will cover both. First, it's harder. Pulling two mobs at the same time is a serious consideration for most classes, as I found from levelling my rogue. You really need to use every tool in your arsenal as you level up as you can't just pull an entire murloc village and AoE them all down; if you pull an entire murloc village, you're going to end up as fish food. Second, you're not treated like some sort of immortal saviour of Azeroth like you are in retail. I find it far more immersive starting as a level 1 character and just being a novice, entrusted with killing some wolves and delivering messages. I don't have NPCs basically grovelling at my feet as some sort of world-saving champion of the Alliance/Horde. At higher levels you start to deal with some serious issues, but it's still a different scale to how the retail game treats the player character.
This actually brings me onto the next point that I loved about vanilla WoW over retail WoW; the community. I felt a sense of community as I played vanilla WoW that I just don't feel when I go and play retail. The lack of mob tagging combined with the general difficulty of vanilla means that players will actually group up in the open world. In fact, just before doing the quest in the screenshot above, I grouped up with a rogue to clear a mine of kobolds. We actually grouped up. Two random people who didn't know each other and they grouped. I then grouped up with two more people so we would all benefit from the kill for another quest later down the line. You never see this in retail, or if you do it is incredibly rare. In vanilla, this organically happens all the time. It actually feels like an MMORPG, as opposed to this pseudo-singleplayer experience we see in retail. This sense of community is further strengthened by a lack of dungeon finder and LFR (Looking For Raid), forcing players to interact if they wish to complete group content, as opposed to just clicking a button, waiting for the queue to pop and then silently running the content before leaving, never to see those players again. While you can make the argument that you can also do this in retail WoW, nobody does this and I reckon you would be hard pressed to find dungeon or raid groups outside of end game raiding or mythic dungeon runs; even then, I think this is only because the dungeon finder and LFR doesn't extend to these difficulties, however all through the levelling process this is the norm.
All in all, I feel that Classic World of Warcraft is a necessary refresher for the gaming industry as a whole. Its success shows developers that we don't just want the super competitive instant gratification of modern games. I'm hoping that, at the very least, Blizzard take this as feedback for the retail version of the game and carry over some ideas. I do not want them to transform retail into Classic, I think that would be a mistake, but there are some things that Classic does better and some things that retail does better. All we need is a union of the best parts of both!