Classic World of Warcraft has received a firm release date of August 27, 2019. Fans have been requesting this for years now, but many people who play WoW today did not experience the game in 2004 and may be in for a bit of a shock with how different the experience was in its early launch.
Leveling In Classic
It needs to be said straight away: leveling up will feel drastically slower that it does today for a number of reasons. First, there are no account-wide, experience-boosting, stat-scaling Heirloom gear. Every piece of gear you find will now matter much more than before. While using today's Heirloom gear, you feel like you can solo mobs forever without the need to stop and rest. In Classic, most characters will take longer to defeat mobs, and you may need to eat or drink after each fight, especially if you are a caster because that lack of stat-scaling gear translates to less Stamina and main stat for each class.
In addition, you need to move quickly, or at least not stay in one spot for too long. If mobs respawn while you are in combat, surviving a 2-1 is almost always a death sentence and then a long run from the graveyard back to your body, which is now likely in the middle of mobs. So pull carefully, learn to love crowd control once it becomes available, and watch where mobs patrol and spawn.
Quests are going to feel slower as well. First, because combat will take longer, but also because by default there is no built-in Quest Helper like what exists in the game today. Eventually, add-ons may become available, but by default players will need to rely on what the quest says in its description, which is sometimes vague or altogether not accurate.
If there is no useful add-on available, players might find themselves tabbing out into their browser to check out sites like Vanilla WoW DB, which is a testament to the early efforts of the community working together to make questing a little easier. Quests can be searched by their name, and then some of the most valuable information is seen by scrolling down, in the comments archived from as early as 2004, from players who provide insight into the actual location of a quest's objective.
As you level up, you will need to return to your class trainer and pay to purchase higher, more powerful ranks of your spells. Sometimes players would forget to do this for long periods of time, while other times there was a strategy to using lower ranked spells because of the decreased mana cost or casting time, or simply because they did not want to spend the gold. Always keep an eye on your funds during those early levels, because nothing was more frustrating than running to train only to see you are too broke to afford a new ability that could make leveling easier.
Classes And Talents
Death Knights, Monks, and Demon Hunters do not exist as player classes in Classic, while Paladins can only be used by the Alliance and Shamans only by the Horde. Older players who began as Alliance would occasionally be mesmerized by the appearance of a Tauren, slamming their element-infused totems into the ground with strange effects. The other restrictions for classes can be found here.
Put bluntly, talents were nothing like they are today, and this will be most felt in the leveling process. The level 10 talent specialization that exists today will not be in Classic. That was implemented in the “Cataclysm” expansion, and it blew most older players away with how different leveling became.
Here is the Classic talent calculator for a Warlock. If you want to level as a Destruction Warlock today, you can do so as of level 10 with a number of powerful, fire-themed abilities. In Classic however, all Warlocks will feel almost identical across the different talent trees in the early stages, regardless if they are putting points into Affliction, Demonology, or Destruction. This will be true until about level 40 at least. While today you can get “Conflagrate” at level 10, in Classic you will need to reach level 40 without deviating at all from the Destruction talent tree. As you do level, placing points into the talent tree feels terribly underwhelming. For five levels in a row, you may be adding to a box that states “Corruption deals 2% more damage” until you finally get to the next tier of talents.
Some guides online say that you should diversify your talents as you level, placing some into each tree, but this is a terrible idea and was never a viable strategy in the original game. Instead, go fully into one tree until you unlock the powerful ability at the end, and then invest your final 20 levels worth into another tree as you level from 40 to 60.
When you do finally reach a level where there is a noticeable difference between talent trees, you will come to find that there is no dual specialization. If you are playing a Fury or Arms Warrior while questing, but a guild mate or friend asks you to Tank for them, and believe me, they will, you will reach a point where you simply cannot afford to do so because of the gradually-increasing gold cost to reset talents. With that said, it was common to see people respond to Looking For Group spams in the chat with "I'll Heal/Tank if you pay my respec cost." We will probably see that again. Do not be offended if you see tanks and healers saying this if you ask for their help in dungeons, otherwise you would be asking them to pay their own gold in order to help you.
No Mounts, Get Your Steps In
Mount training is available at level 40, and Epic Mount training at level 60. Both are expensive, and if you have read online that Paladins and Warlocks get a free class mount, that is a half-truth. It is a “free” mount after spending a large amount of gold on specific items that you need to complete a long quest chain that will take a lot of time and make you travel all around the world. It is a satisfying acquisition, but it is not free by any stretch of the imagination.
Until then, get used to running. Flight paths will save you time, but they are not cheap. You will soon reminisce about the hundreds of account-wide mounts available outside of Classic. From the moment you begin playing, you should aim to have 40 gold saved up for that initial mount and its training. Another terrible feelings in the game was hitting level 40 and not having enough gold to train, so you would be forced to keep on jogging everywhere.
The leveling process in Classic will definitely feel slower than it does today, but that is a feature, not a bug. Some players will certainly rush all the way to the end in an attempt to get into the endgame raiding content, but those players do not represent the majority. If a player gets into Classic with the goal of enjoying the World of Warcraft as it was before Crusades were Burning and the Lich King was Wrathful, they will have a great time from the moment they set foot into this time machine that goes live in late August.