Are you ready to play the most anticipated MMORPG from 2004? It turns out that, yes, many of you are. The frenzy over World of Warcraft Classic is probably nowhere near its zenith yet, as the announcement of the server has sparked enormous amounts of conversation among the community.
While we most likely have a while to go before Blizzard’s time travel machine is complete, it is not too soon to start thinking about the logistics and reality that a legacy server will entail. The existing emulator community and a look at the past development and operation of vanilla World of Warcraft can give us an idea of what WoW Classic will be like, although Blizzard’s vision may differ in format, business model, and features.
What will it be like to jump back to the first year or two of World of Warcraft and play that version of the game? It’s going to be a drastic shock to veteran and new players alike, especially those who might have forgotten how MMOs used to operate back in the day. Here are 10 things to expect when you log in to Classic for the first time.
1. Combat will be slow
World of Warcraft is, by no means, a fast-paced action MMO these days, but the current version is lightspeed ahead of vanilla’s combat. Auto-attack will still be the meat-and-potatoes of many encounters, with special skills all sharing the same global cooldown, leading to a stately, measured pace of combat. Time-to-kill was a lot longer back then, and very few classes were pulling packs of mobs to burn them down with AoE in a few seconds flat.
2. Inventory space will be at a premium
Not that players have ever had enough inventory in World of Warcraft to satisfy them, but it was particularly dire at launch. Just about everything had to be thrown into bags, including mounts, pets, keys, and reagents for certain spells. And Arthas help you if you happened to roll a Hunter or Warlock, because your inventory would be taken over by ammo and soul shards out the wazoo.
3. Skills will need to be trained, leveled, and even quested
You know how there are those useless class trainers standing around in the game these days? Once upon a time, they actually had a purpose, which was to serve as a skill vendor. Once they leveled up, players would head back to vendors to buy new skills and additional ranks of existing skills (and you could choose to slot older versions of skills if you so desired). To make things more interesting, there were some skills that you couldn’t buy but had to go through a special quest to obtain. Sounds cool, but usually these were a pain in the polygon behind to do.
4. Some classes will be broken or underpowered
Probably the biggest shock to modern WoW players will happen when they see the earlier incarnations of their classes. By and large, there was no balance here; some classes were definitely OP while others were broken and borderline useless. This was especially noticeable in groups, as Druids (for example) pretty much only existed to Innervate Priests, and Paladins were little more than buff machines.
5. The world will be smaller and more barren
With only two continents making up the launch game, World of Warcraft wasn’t so much “world” as it was “a bunch of zones quilted into a Frankenstein monster.” Many zones on the continents weren’t present yet, and the ones that were had less content (especially the higher in level one went). The upside? Players on Classic will see the pre-Cataclysm versions of these zones and hear the original music. That might cheer some folks up who are still holding a grudge over the changes that Cataclysm brought.
6. Travel will be painstakingly slow
Hope you are the patient sort, because just about everything in World of Warcraft Classic is going to take a lot of time — including getting from point A to B. For forty levels, you’ll be doing nothing more than trotting on foot across the world, occasionally using boats, zeppelins, and hearthstones to facilitate travel. Even when you do cobble together 90 gold for your first mount, it’s not going to be the zippy ride that you enjoy today (heck, even summoning a mount takes seconds longer in vanilla than it currently does!).
7. Quests will be anemic and underwhelming
There’s no question that the questing system was the centerpiece of why World of Warcraft became a smash hit at launch. It refined what was previously a scattered and somewhat obtuse and awkward approach in other MMOs, offering easy-to-understand mechanics, a regular hit of rewards, and a more driven purpose than merely wandering and farming mobs.
Still, the launch quests are not going to be the refined experiences that the game enjoys today. There weren’t enough of them, especially after level 20, and some were far more frustrating than enjoyable to pursue. Ask anyone who spent hours farming goretusk livers or zhevra hooves about the “fun” factor of early WoW quests.
8. Dungeon crawling won’t be as accessible
While there will be several classic dungeons at launch, heading into one will prove to be an adventure in its own right. With no looking-for-group tool, no meeting stone summoning functionality, and elite mobs guarding the often twisty-turny way in, simply getting a group together and to the front door is going to require more coordination and effort. Small price to pay to see the old Deadmines again, right?
9. Talent trees will be a thing again
Remember talent trees? Blizzard brought these over from Diablo II and increased their functionality, giving players more of a say about how their characters were developed. With one point per level and those coveted top-tier abilities waiting for your level 40 character to enjoy, talent trees dominated a lot of the vanilla theorycrafting before Blizzard redid them like fifteen times.
10. Barrens chat will introduce Chuck Norris jokes to a whole new generation
Kids these days have no idea what Barrens chat was like. They’re about to find out. God have mercy on their souls.