World of Warcraft Classic Review: Putting The RPG Back Into MMORPG

In honor of World of Warcraft’s upcoming 15th anniversary, and in response to pleas from players, Blizzard has released Classic. Available to anyone with an active subscription, this version of the game resets the game back to its original state back in 2004. Further new content will then gradually roll out, all the way up to and including 2006’s 40 man Naxxramas raid.

Playing World of Warcraft Classic is an experience unlike any other. While most old games can still be played with a console from your attic, the original version of WoW was something many thought we’d never see again. As an ever-evolving MMORPG, earlier versions were thought to be gone forever - until now.

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Classic takes players back to a time when things were slower-paced and harder work. But for many, this experience is what made us fall in love with Azeroth to begin with. Being able to take a trip back through time is reigniting the fascination I originally felt for this MMORPG way back when I first began to play.

The fact that new realms are continually being opened and players are reporting long queues to get in suggests I'm not the only one desperate to trek around the Azeroth of days gone by.

A Whole New World

The biggest and most drastic change that players who came to WoW in 2011 or later will notice is that the world looks very different. This is because Blizzard used the Cataclysm expansion, launched in December 2010, to revamp both Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms. This change included a total overhaul of both looks and quests. Reverting back makes Classic a very different experience.

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In the years that followed Cataclysm, the world around us was slowly fixed and drastically changed. Capital cities have been most affected by this, becoming larger and more complex as the years have passed by. Walking into the original Orgimmar, in particular, is a very surreal experience. While it still looks fantastic, it’s far smaller than the city we know today.

For those of us who played back in 2004 - 2006 the nostalgia is real. For me, it’s like jumping into a time machine. I was instantly taken back to when my teenager was a tiny baby and I used to rock her against my chest while fishing with my free hand.

Back in those days, WoW was my way to relax and unwind as well as a means of socializing when having small children kept me tied to the house. Those memories are very powerful but the Classic experience is more than just evoking them.

A Journey, Not A Destination

One of the main differences you’ll notice is that questing has also changed. These original quests are often longer, frequently more frustrating and definitely far more widespread. There are no helpful hints and players are given very few instructions. In Classic, you’re forced to engage with both your world and the quest text.

These days it feels like leveling is a rush. Players quickly grind through content, often skipping entire zones, racing to get to the level cap. Classic goes back to when WoW was all about the experience.

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It takes a long time to level, several days of gameplay to be precise, and this is very deliberate. The focus was not on end game content but on the journey to get there. Exploration was encouraged, short cuts were minimized and players were engaged in quests and goals which felt rewarding and satisfying to complete.

If you want to race to end game, then you’re likely to find the game frustrating, especially since there’s not much to do once you get there. While Classic will have raids, these are mostly 40 man epic events and are an experience unlike any other.

However, at this point in the game, no one is even talking about raiding because it’s a long way off. If you want to know exactly how long, Warcraft Tavern has you covered: they estimate that if you put in 20 hours a week, you can expect to hit level 60 in 2.8 months.

As a result, Classic is definitely not an experience for those who just want to rush through those early levels. It also has some other intricacies which players are likely to either love or hate.

An MMORPG that’s still an RPG

One of my biggest gripes with the modern game is that many of the RPG elements have fallen by the wayside. Classic takes me back to when you truly felt more immersed in the world around you and when everything felt far more realistic.

The biggest changes in this respect are also the smallest ones. These include things like having to buy arrows to replenish your bow, needing to learn how to use a weapon to avoid being parried and having a pet that requires feeding.

All these elements have been removed and many more similar small changes have been made over the years to streamline the game and make it easier to play. For those who enjoy these RPG elements, Classic adds them back in.

More Flexibility But With Limits

The final big change is the talent and spell system. In Classic, you’ll unlock a slightly daunting and sprawling talent tree. Instead of a few choices between three different but and very similar spells you’ll see numerous options you never believed possible.

This system is both a blessing and a curse. It gives way to some amazing and truly unique ways of playing, including my personal favorite the “Shockadin,” which was incredibly fun to play in PVP late in the original game.

However, it is also limited since re-speccing costs money, increasing to up to 50g, and gold in Classic is very difficult to get. This means that most players will choose a spec and stick with it, often leading to a shortage of healers and tanks for dungeons since they can’t quickly and easily respec to level.

The Experience

Whether you enjoy Classic will depend entirely on how you prefer to play. Personally, I am loving it. I’m enjoying the return of those quirky RPG elements, having to think about mana, and really challenging myself.

If you are seeking an MMORPG which is more difficult, slow-paced and immersive then Classic is for you. While it isn’t without frustrations, such as very slow respawn times and not being able to play Horde as a Paladin or Alliance as a Shaman, many of the changes bring a richness which has long since been erased from the game.

So if you need me I’ll be in the Barrens, looking for Mankrik’s wife and trying to earn enough gold to be able to buy a mount - once I get to level 40 of course.

5 Out Of 5 Stars

World of Warcraft Classic is available to download and play for free via the Battle.net app for all currently subscribed players.

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