It is almost impossible to review an MMO game since typically they are a living, organic experience. Each update will build on the previous experience by adding, removing, and renovating gameplay and if you throw expansions into the mix the game will move further and further away from an initial experience making any review outdated the second you hit publish.
However with the release of WoW: Classic last year we were given a unique opportunity to relive how cool we were back in 2004.
Initial attempts aborted
So I was one of those that queued up on Day Zero to access WoW Classic, and the experience was this:
- Long ass queue to get in to game
- Literal queues to attack mobs
- Quest after quest of killing slightly different coloured raptors
The starter areas would have 100’s of eager players queuing up to kill Farmer Hogger, or X flavoured Raptor, or to collect Y Potion. It was a chore to be honest, so I dropped out and played “Regular WoW” for about a month. I know we are here for Classic so I’ll keep this brief, but the experience is chalk and cheese. In Regular I was lvl 80 after 3-4 days playing and I had ran through almost every dungeon on offer up to that point, and to the best of my knowledge I died once. However with the tedious in-game wait for quests I decided to leave Classic for a few months until things settled down.
After the initial explosion of interest, everyone that was interested in the game got to level 60 joined guilds, and will only visit lower levels to level up an alt with guild help. It means new players to the server are abandoned and the grouping element is almost none existent. In 2004 I played as a healer or a tank, so which ever character I was on I could easily get a dungeon or find somebody to play with. On the Server I was on cities such as Orgrimar sat empty. The Crossroads, South Sea, Ironforge, all major population hubs were empty, it means trying to do a an instance was next to impossible.
Luckily 10 or so real world friends decided to give WoW a lockdown whirl, so off we ventured as a group. Questing together, and as a group we even managed to do Ragefire Chasm.
However once the baby wheels are taken off and when you leave your the starter zones the game mechanics start to creak. Venturing to the major hubs such as the Crossroads the dull grind really hits you. At a bare minumum it takes 10-15 minutes to walk from starter zone to the next area, some quests will have you running from 25 minutes before you’re allowed to take a flight path back to where you started. It isn’t exploration, it is grind. But you do it, as that’s the quest. Go to X kill a number of lions, gather their testicles, take testicles to a geezer in a city to make a potion, go back to place where you had to kill lions, and now kill a slightly different lion and collect their testicles for another potion. That is almost entirely all the quests you do. Rinse and repeat in a different location, but the quests never change.
To break this up you’re given the option to do instances, and back in the day I quite enjoyed them they had a challenge, but as time went on they were restructured, refined, and mechanically improved. You want to try Wailing Caverns or the other instances but you’re stuck killing 600 savannah lions until you find a group.
In regular WoW I pissed through every dungeon. Each one would take 10-20 minutes. In Classic, expect to set aside a minimum of 4-6 hours for a dungeon. That’s how long it took me to clear Wailing Caverns with a full party at the higher end of the level requirement. I don’t know about you, but 6 hours is longer than I have patience for when it doesn’t feel like you’re moving forward. Sure I’ll frequently play games for more than 4 hours, but other games the plot advances, you level, you dip in and out of matches etc. Here you’re marking the kill order and slowly grinding you way through with next to zero feeling of progression. You just hit the spells in rotation order, rest between fights and move to next group of enemies and that’s it.
Corpse runs are also a fucking ballache in Classic, because 100% chance the starter enemies have respawned once you die and get back to the dungeon. Meaning any death more than 30 minutes into an instance means you should just call it, as by that point everything will have respawned. But due to low populations and few players at your level you have probably invested 1-2 hours just trying to find a viable group so giving up at one wipe feels insane. So you plod on, determined to beat the instance, but you’re not having fun doing it.
It is around this point our friend circle started to drop out of playing. The grind just wasn’t fun, the instances were bland, and the quests were all samey. For us the novelty of playing together in WoW was wearing off.
I guess the biggest problem with WoW: Classic is that the gameplay is archaic. The loop of kill, loot, return to town sell loot, run to next town, get quests has been refined and improved. The most common criticism of Regular WoW I see is that it is too easy, but this ease is highly addictive with a drip feed of instant and gratification that keeps you going. Classic, while this addictive loop worked in 2004 it doesn’t work for me any more and it didn’t work for any of my mates. I don’t mind a quest to collect 20 wolf paws, but it fucks me off no end if I have to kill 50 wolves to collect 20 paws. This is something Regular addressed by increasing drop rates, added on top slower respawns in Classic it means collecting 20 paws could take you an hour, one hour killing the same wolves before your given a quest to kill 20 slightly different wolves just isn’t a fun mechanic. In Regular you’d have 5 quests in the same area, with a similar enemy, so while it might not drop all the paws you need it might drop the wolf testicles, or the quest will update on the hoof meaning you’re not going back to town, the quest continues out in the field. You’re always progressing. Classic is a grind and simply wasn’t fun to play.
People wanted this, and the higher end of the realms are busy on some servers but if you’re new to a server expect empty starter zones, expect rock solid quests and frankly a lot of tedium.
Pros: Lots to do
Cons: Frankly, it is really dull, actually very little depth possible in character design as stats need optimising.
Dave: Probably like a high 70 or low 80. It’s still a solid MMORPG. I realise it’s suppose to look and feel dated but, I couldn’t stand it for very long. If Regular WoW didn’t have the crazy buff (speed level bollocks) then I imagine I’d still have a sub
Jonny V. I’d give it 50%. Just becomes too much of it is a slog at 20+ and therefore is only fun to play with others and playing with others requires a significant time commitment. But hey. What do I know.
Joe: got it at first, but it quickly became like a job. Lots of walking. 69%
Back in the Day:
Once boasting 12 million subscribers and winning every award possible WoW became an unstoppable juggernaut rarely scoring below 93%.