With World of Warcraft Classic’s release date drawing ever closer, Blizzard opened up the beta to more people, in order to perform a stress test. While I wasn’t online for the 2 hour scheduled test, thanks to its middle of the night timeslot, I was able to get into the beta later that day.
Players were free to explore but our characters were capped at level 5, with quests after that simply rewarding gold. With my schedule for the day cleared I decided to have a run at both the Alliance and Horde starting areas and see how authentic the experience really was.
My World of Warcraft account dates back to time of the original game. While I didn’t play from the day of release, I did log in and start leveling well before the launch of The Burning Crusade, the game's first expansion.
Back then I played as Alliance for one reason and one reason only, they had Paladins. When the game was first released, there were only 4 races and Horde Paladins and Alliance Shamans didn’t exist.
Your choice of character could determine your faction.
When opening up the Classic Beta, one of the first things you see is that old 4 race character creation screen. The game has come a long way since these humble beginnings. As I scrolled through the races and classes I was immediately taken back to a time when the undead looked truly horrific.
With my brain strolling down memory lane, I decided to recreate those first days in game. After randomizing a name and looks for my human paladin, the first character I ever created, I set off in search of Kobolds.
The human starting zone is Northshire Valley, located in Elwynn Forest. As I saw the opening cinematic those visions of later day Stormwind brought all the memories flooding back. One of my earliest memories of the game is wandering out of the confines of the starting zone and into the wild world. I had just escaped the confines of Goldshire, with its duals at the crossroads and those elves dancing on the mailbox, when I stumbled upon Stormwind.
Stormwind city is still in my opinion one of the most intricate and well thought out cities in the game. Even though I’ve been a proud member of the Horde since we got paladins, Stormwind remains one of my favorite cities.
For those who have only played the post-Cataclysm game I’d suggest you go and take a look, whatever your faction. It’s a beautiful city with shops, winding streets, a canal and a dungeon right in the middle of it all. It was everything I remembered, but before I could visit its walls to reminisce, there were Kobolds to dispatch.
The first thing you 'll notice about Classic is that it offers a different pace of life.
These days the first 50 or even 100 levels fly by in the blink of an eye. Back then we only had 60 levels and each one was well and truly earned.
Not only did the levels require much more experience to complete, this bar having been reduced severely over the course of subsequent expansions, but getting experience was a rough job.
I expected the starting areas to be full of new players, this was a level 1-5 stress test after all, but there are no adjustments for this in Classic. These days mob spawning is quick, thanks to dynamic spawning, which makes sure areas of increased traffic aren’t waiting ages for respawns. Back in the old days however we had to wait, a lot. That is assuming we found them at all, since we had no markings on our maps to guide us.
While I was trying to liberate Kobold from candle and collect all the Defias’ Brotherhood’s bandanas, I realized how much the classes have changed.
My Paladin had an aura. These were area of effect buffs which boosted the abilities of you and your party or raid members. They were removed back in Mists of Pandaria so it was strange to see them again.
Most classes have undergone huge changes over the years and newer players may struggle to adjust to the skills, spells and talent trees we had back then. It certainly seemed like some newcomers were having issues with Hunters in particular, who in the original game had no pets until level 10 and needed to buy and store arrows. The changes are mostly less obvious in these first 5 levels, but when Classic opens in August players will begin to see just how much their favorite class has evolved over the years.
Once I’d experienced the joy of the Alliance starting zone I deleted my character and started again, as a Troll Priest. The class changes are less obvious with the priest but while leveling I experienced a moment which summed up what I remember of the game back when it all began.
I’d gone into the cave in the starting zone to find and dispose of some familiars. While I was mid-battle another mob spawned and began attacking me. Two mobs at once was too much for my very fragile cloth wearer.
First I ran out of mana, an experience which I can’t even recall in recent memory. Then, thinking quickly, I hit the attack button and started lashing out at the mob in desperation. The next thing that happened completed the experience. The screen gave me the message “your skill in maces has increased to 2” and then I died.
If you’re expecting perfection you’re in the wrong place. Classic isn’t perfect. It’s messy, chaotic, and incredibly frustrating.
It turns out getting back to basics has some major drawbacks.
Leveling will take time and dedication. These days it goes by so fast we don’t take the time to think about those early quests. Classic will make you stop and smell the roses. If you can embrace the simplicity, quirks and all, you’ll find a beautiful game. Expect to find entwined storylines, stunning cities and some creative ways to play, thanks to the incredibly flexible talent tree. Just remember to level your weapons skill.
World of Warcraft Classic is due for release on August 27.