First impressions of WoW Classic – from a total World of Warcraft newbie

    
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The gaming world is abuzz with excitement over World of Warcraft Classic. Players around the world are gushing with nostalgia over this trip back in time. I, however, have never held a World of Warcraft subscription until last week, and now I’m taking my first steps in pristine, vanilla Azeroth.

How and why did I end up here? I am a victim of peer pressure, nearly 15 years too late.

At the beginning of 2005, almost all of my friends were playing RuneScape with me. By the end of the year, they had basically all left for World of Warcraft, but I stayed behind. I stayed in RuneScape mostly because its subscription was cheaper, but also because, at that point in my life, I preferred the sandbox elements of that game to the dungeon- and raid-centric World of Warcraft.

Since then, I’ve played just about every MMO except WoW, but I’ve also never gotten to play with all of my friends in one game again. In fact, I’m lucky when I know one or two people from real life regularly playing any MMO I play. Now it’s 2019, World of Warcraft Classic is launching, and most of them are returning for it. I’ve really missed the experience of playing games with them, so this time I have decided to join them.

For some reason, I wanted to play on launch night. Intellectually, I knew this was going to be a bad experience and a terrible first impression. The massacring of kobolds, wolves, and anything else required for a quest is well documented. I got in early and I still sat in a queue for over an hour, and when I finally did get in and made a character, I had to attempt to log in about 30 times due to the “World server is unavailable” error, while the servers were clearly up because I was talking on voice chat with my friends who were already logged in.

Everything would be much more convenient if I just waited a few days or weeks. After all, the game isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and I’m not a rush-to-endgame person in any MMO. And yet there’s something intoxicating about being there for the day one rush. Even though I have zero nostalgia for this game, it’s fun simply being around those who do, reading Goldshire zone chat as players rave about how they’ve missed this experience. Competing for spawns is less than ideal, but there’s something special about being a part of a mass of hundreds of players all experiencing this together in real time.

It’s strange rolling a character in a game that I have never played, and yet having a really good idea of how each class plays. I’ve heard so much over the years from ex-WoW players about how Class X from this game is just a clone of Class Y from WoW, or how much better the healing mechanics of such-and-such from WoW work than the healers in this game, that I already had a pretty good idea of which ones I wanted to play.

I wanted to experience both sides of the legendary conflict between the Horde and the Alliance, so I rolled a Human Paladin and a Troll Shaman. One facet of Vanilla that I was glad to see that Blizzard did not carry over was the restriction to one faction per server (on PvE servers, at least). I normally like support/tank hybrid classes (which you’ve probably already guessed since I picked two of them), but I found the lowbie Paladin experience extremely disappointing.

By the end of the first night, my Pally was level 6 (in my defense, it was slow going the first night due to the sheer number of players competing for kills), I had a variety of buffs, a heal that took so long to cast it wasn’t useful for solo play, a bubble that prevents incoming or outgoing damage, and one cooldown that consumes one of my self-buffs for damage. Apart from that, I was stuck autoattacking.

And it doesn’t get a whole lot better from there. I could see that, even in a group, this was going to be a very boring leveling experience compared to progression in some other MMORPGs. I can only do so many buffs. Give me something to do while I wait for them to expire. It just seems like a poor design choice, given every advance made along the way since original WoW released (or even given WoW’s other classes!). I know that Paladin, at least early on, isn’t much of a DPS class, but I expected to have at least some damaging abilities, but apparently not – and this is something I’ve seen stressed in guides too, that vanilla Paladins are slow levelers that do better with a buddy. I ended up ditching my Human Paladin in favor of a Gnome Mage for my Alliance character.

The Shaman was a lot more fun from the start. It plays a lot more like a caster with some support abilities. The Shaman’s totem mechanic is one of the few things from WoW that hasn’t been cloned a million times, and I felt more useful to my group a lot earlier than with the Paladin. This is the kind of class I can see myself leveling to cap. I also really enjoy Troll animations for some reason. They’re so lanky and awkward, but in a way that feels natural for a race of their proportions, not like the animators didn’t know what to do with them.

The fact that quest objectives don’t get marked on my map was perhaps the most frustrating aspect of my time in Classic. To be fair, the quest text generally does a pretty good job of giving directions, but not always, and they often require the player to remember where they picked the quest up so they can follow the relative directions. I did eventually end up following Justin’s suggestion and installed the Questie addon. Some people may want a pristine vanilla experience, but I happen to believe that there are some features that were added for a reason. And if the number of times I’ve seen Questie’s name pop up in zone chat is any indication, I’m not alone. For me, wandering around until I find the specific rock I need to look under isn’t immersive; it’s just frustrating.

My complaints about quests and the Paladin aside, the game really has aged pretty well, even to someone like me who’s playing without nostalgia goggles. For all my grumbling about autoattacks, I do generally enjoy the slower pace of life in Classic. I’ve always preferred slower, more tactical combat to the frantic, button-mashing action combat so many games lean toward today. After initially breaking my habit of trying to hop on my mount every time I wanted to go somewhere more than a spell’s throw away, simply hoofing it (Tauren pun intended) everywhere I wanted to go was just fine with me. Classic has many timesinks that annoy me, but I don’t see walking and fighting more slowly as one of those timesinks.

I’ve always applauded Blizzard for making the decision all those years ago to go for a cartoony stylization with bright colors and exaggerated proportions rather than feigning realism. Sure, some of the trees and buildings will hurt your eyes if you look too closely, but overall, WoW’s graphics have aged much better than many of its contemporaries. They don’t look realistic, but that’s OK because they were never supposed to look realistic.

The flagship feature of World of Warcraft is supposed to be its dungeons, so no newbie experience would be complete without a few runs through Ragefire Chasm, right? One night I had a couple of hours, so I started spamming Orgrimmar zone chat and the LookingForGroup channel with “12 shaman lfg rfc”. Someone asked if I could heal, and I said I would certainly give it a try.

Healing was actually surprisingly chill. Given that my mana pool was pretty low at level 12, I mostly put down my totems and stood back and watched until the tank (or DPSers) started taking damage, maybe tossing in a DoT or two if things were going well. At one point, the Mages and I had to ask the tank to slow down and make sure we had mana before pulling. “Oh yeah,” he replied, “too much time in Retail.”

We wiped twice. Once was my fault because I put down my AoE fire totem and it broke the Mages’ crowd control. The other time was just a bad pull, and there wasn’t a whole lot anyone could do. Everyone was nice about it (or at least didn’t say anything), which is always a good sign. I was surprised that, when we died, our ghosts spawned at the graveyard outside Orgrimmar and we had to run all the way back into the middle of the city to get back to the dungeon. For some reason I was expecting to spawn at or near the entrance of the dungeon.

I was also surprised at how simplistic this dungeon was. I probably shouldn’t have been, since it’s an introductory level 13ish dungeon, but if there were spells to interrupt or fire to not stand in, I was blissfully unaware. I guess there was one boss that did some AoE, but other than that it didn’t feel much different from open world play. We cleared out the whole place, including a handful of optional branches for quests, in about two hours.

It was a fun experience, and it left me wanting more. I’m definitely looking forward to trying some of the higher-level dungeons and seeing for myself if WoW’s group content really is worth all of the hype it’s gotten over the years.

This has been a fun experiment, but sadly playing WoW Classic hasn’t made a total convert out of me yet. I’m happy to see others enjoying it, but quite honestly, I think there are better games out there in 2019 that I don’t have to pay a subscription for. Timesinks like corpse runs and slow zeppelin transport that are designed to keep you logged in (and by extension paying a subscription) longer without actually progressing seemed normal in 2004, but now they are painfully obvious to anyone who has grown accustomed to games with more modern designs. That said, I know many people have a higher tolerance for timesinks and a lower tolerance for cash shop shenanigans than I do, and this is definitely the place for those gamers. I think that’s just a difference of opinion, and one that I can certainly understand and respect.

World of Warcraft Classic is by no means a bad game. It has aged remarkably well, and I can see why so many people want to go back to the old days. But it’s just not something I’m personally interested in playing long-term. This shouldn’t be surprising, I suppose, because Classic was never aimed at me; it was aimed at the people who were there the first time. I’m just a tourist. Unless something changes, I plan on playing for the rest of my 30-day subscription and maybe letting it renew once. Then I plan on wishing my WoW veteran friends well and going back to playing something else. Even if it’s not for me, I’m happy that they got the Vanilla experience they had been craving, and I’m glad I got to experience it with them.

Massively Overpowered skips scored reviews; they’re outdated in a genre whose games evolve daily. Instead, our veteran reporters immerse themselves in MMOs to present their experiences as hands-on articles, impressions pieces, and previews of games yet to come. First impressions matter, but MMOs change, so why shouldn’t our opinions?
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Jiminy Smegit

While I appreciate the buffs they bring, paladin is just about the worst choice for a first class to play. Its like saying you hear that eating food is fun, ordering an expensive steak and then stabbing the knife and fork into your eyes.

I think people want different things from games these days and the things you list as inconveniences are things I rather like. Zeppelin rides add a sense of scale to the world. Corpse runs, whilst not fun at all, add incentive to not behave like suicidal lemmings in a dungeon.

Too much convenience destroys any immersion.

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styopa

Fantastic article, thank you.
Great to hear the perspective of someone who is as close to a tabula rasa on wow as can be.
Your views were tremendously interesting. Glad you got the chance to see “what it was all about” although to be fair, I personally would love to hear your opinion now playing current retail as well.

I didn’t think when you said paladin “oh dear, they’ve picked the dullest class in a game people insist is intrinsically dull…”
Anyway thanks.

xpsync
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xpsync

This is a good example of why i don’t want to spend much time posting here anymore.

First! Bree you’re always saving me, so glad you deleted my posts :) not being sarcastic, grateful they disappeared. They went directly against the rules.

The thing i must remember is this is a news site and not really a fan site when you are really into an mmorpg. Its happened to me on several occasions and now again with classic, this article is a perfect example.

Who wants to read long drawn out reasons why someone doesn’t like what you love? Not me. Then spend time trying to explain the intricacies they will most likely never grasp as deep down they have very little interest to understand anyway as it’s just not for them and that’s fine.

And an opinion is an opinion and that is a fine opinion/article.

Personally, I’d much rather read people with the love, the fire, the devotion, the excitement armed with the deep understanding of what makes an mmo a true mmorpg, that would be a much more intriguing read and a topic worthy of discussion.

Anyway, delete this post if you feel that’s fine, I’m more here to apologize to you and everyone who works this site, and for everyone to know i have done so. Btw still subbed 😊 just classic is literally inhaling all my time, it is a time for one to surround themselves in the love of all the happy people so grateful we got an mmorpg world back, finally!!!

My passion runs high and hasn’t been this high since mmorpg’s died well over a decade ago, dramatic exits are not my thing, and in fact that would be my first. Was it a good one? :) lol Completely bathing in the mmorpg love is what I desire atm, it’s that simple.

tbh the whole classic explosion is something I didn’t even predict, the magnitude of what is happening and the overwhelming acceptance from young and old players, all celebrating the return of what was taken from us so many, too many years ago is deeply inspiring. Honestly felt this site should have embraced this high-profile celebration more, but I forget it’s a mmo news site and a damn fine one at that, the best one tbh.

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Bruno Brito

You gave up on SWG:L?

Bree Royce
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Bree Royce

xpsync, it’s all good – no hard feelings. FWIW, I think people should in general just walk away from posts that are going to make them mad. I try to myself. In this case, though, Colin found things he liked and didn’t. Most of us can get crazy passionate about games we love, but it’s not gonna be every game – it’s the genre that brings us here together, not one specific title. :D

I think that veteran MMO players – that is to say, people who remember MMOs before WoW – are in a weird position here, since we both remember original WoW from having playing and also know how much it changed the genre afterward, and not always for the better. That, on top of Blizzard’s abysmal last couple of years, makes it hard to embrace it as the second coming. To many folks, it’s just another WoW expansion or progression server for an old game that’s having a rather big moment in the sun. This is part of why Colin’s perspective was so valuable!

Cyclone Jack
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Kickstarter Donor
Cyclone Jack

If you enjoyed RFC, then keep going. Classic had some very well crafted dungeons, even if most boss fights were fairly straightforward. Deadmines, Shadowfang Keep and Wailing Caverns, while still low-ish level dungeons, can be very fun and challenging.

And if you truly enjoy running dungeons, then you owe it to yourself to make it to Blackrock Depths. It may feel like a huge, daunting task that I put before you, “Level 50!? Are you mad?”, but I swear to you that it is 1000% worth it. Classic BRD is an experience that cannot be conveyed by mere words or by simply watching a video.

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Coldrun ??

The context of WoW matters a lot. I loved vanilla when it came out BECAUSE it was so easy and full of quality of life improvements.

I spent the prior 4-5 years playing EverQuest, where soloing was incredibly difficult outside of a few specific classes, dying was punishing, you barely saw any quests…

And along comes WoW.

-TONS of quests, that give experience and are clearly marked on the map.
-No more five minutes of meditating to regenerate mana – just buy some cheap water and you’re back ready to fight!
-Healer or tank? Soloing is still no problem, and far faster than EQ.

Over and over, the game kept hitting me with things that made life so easy.

——–

All this is to say: when you’re coming from a context that already has improved the quality of life so greatly, I certainly get why classic WoW wouldn’t have the same draw.

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Akagi

I think your impressions are affected by playing other, easier and more streamlined MMOs that are made for a broader audience. This is why you couldn’t enjoy it.

My first MMO was WoW when I was 16 during the summer vacation. I was bad at English and I had to pay a lot more attention to quest text and everything seemed like an adventure to me, because I’ve never experienced such a game before in my life. Every step of the way I felt like I made progress.

My first character was a Night Elf Hunter an as soon as I left Aldrassil (the place where you start), I saw some satyr asking me to kill animals for him. I did his quest, but then I reached the town of Dolanaar and was greeted by some Night Elf woman who somehow knew I helped that satyr. She was unhappy with my deed and offered me to “Seek Redemption”. At that time I had no idea of the mechanic of “one quest can trigger another one” and since it was my first experience is such a game, I actually started to feel anxious, like I did something wrong and I was afraid it might affect my future experience with the game, like every NPC becoming unfriendly to me or something… these were my concepts at the time. So I was really eager and quick to redeem myself.

I had a lot of fun doing the quests to get my pet, at the time I had no idea my class could get a pet, so the prospect really thrilled me and boosted my excitement off the charts. When I got my pet, I felt twice as strong, the mechanic of where you had to feed him also immersed me. (now I find it a bit of necessary bother)

Then I contacted some player in Westfall who was my level and he instructed me how to get to him – swim through the ocean along the coast from Menethil down south. I saw that abandoned house that’s sort of like an easter egg, I reached Westfall and immediately became my most favorite zone (still is). I met some people that turned out to be IRL people from my city that I personally knew, it was so amazing, we grouped together, quested in Westfall, at around level 14 they decided to cross the river into Duskwood and we went into the Raven Hill Cemetary, immediately a horrifying skeleton level ?? with a red name attacked us and we ran back, they probably were indifferent, but since it was my first experience, I was scared shitless. Combine that with the contrast of Westfall – yellow and bright with Duskwood – dark and gloomy and you know where I’m coming from.

Also in Westfall as I was level 13 the server kept crashing and I kept trying to log back in and play. The next morning I woke up and my character was butt naked only with a few silver coins. I bought the cheapest weapon I could and worked my way up to gearing myself up once again. When that happened, I didn’t feel discouraged, I was motivated to recover myself from that situation. It was part of the adventure that I remember dearly from back in the day.

Overall, since it was my MMO experience, I took everything for what it was and enjoyed it. I see why you can’t enjoy yourself and that’s fine, the game is probably not for you. That’s your review of it and while I don’t agree with it, I accept it.

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Jeremiah Wagner

Sorry , but classic Wow is not a mmo that you can do early impressions for at level 12. I would not even feel good doing it at level 30. You won’t even have 1/5 of your skills , no world pvp. No BGs, no real dungeons. You actually did not get to experience anything to even give a first impression.

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Akagi

Word.

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Bruno Brito

Sooo…the journey is not important to have a first impression?

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Loopy

I disagree. MMOs should not be judged solely on the late game activities, especially given how slow and tactical the leveling phase is in Classic. I think it’s fair to judge the early game too, and doubly so by somebody who hasn’t played WoW before.

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styopa

To be fair, I’d say the same thing about ffxiv as well: before 25 it’s “baby’s first mmo” and you only START to get a hint of the flavor of a class by 30.
I would say on wow you should at least get to 30 as well. No, at that point you’re not running BRD, but 17-24: The Deadmines
17-24: Wailing Caverns
22-30: Shadowfang Keep
24-32: Blackfathom Deeps
29-38: Gnomeregan
…are some epic stuff, even for only-developing characters without their full kit yet.

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Jim Bergevin Jr

Loopy and Bruno have it right. You can absolutely do first impressions on an MMO – that’s exactly why it’s called a “first” impression. MMOs are a complex beast, and doing a full review is something that would take quite some time. But that is not the intention of this article.

It doesn’t matter how good a game’s latter stages are if the early stages do not captivate people. If a game doesn’t grab me within the first 30 minutes I begin playing, then it is unlikely I’ll continue to play after that first session.

Techno Wizard
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Techno Wizard

So how is layering?

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Carebear

Timesinks like corpse runs and slow zeppelin transport that are designed to keep you logged in (and by extension paying a subscription) longer without actually progressing seemed normal in 2004

I dont think that was the intention… what keeps you subbed is the journey, the friends, the community. Traveling through the world designed for immersion and to chill out between grind and questing.

What is made to keep you subbed is daily quests that control your progression… pathfinder achievements and other abominations..

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teppic

Also the corpse runs were considered casual in 2004 since in other games you’d lose your gear and experience and have a much longer run. The corpse run was supposed to make death something you actually try your hardest to avoid. Saying it’s to extend subs is a bit silly.

Yangers
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Kickstarter Donor
Yangers

I’m in the same place – never played WoW ever and a bunch of mates dragged me in.

It has made me appreciate modern mmo’s so much more.

Classic is, well, awful. The combat is bad, the graphics are bad, traveling around is bad, the quests are mostly bad, leveling is bad.

Almost every single aspect of the game is annoying, and un-fun.

The ONLY thing that has been interesting, has been grouping for dungeons and the way stats work. Dungeons were tolerable because you were with friends, and stats on gear is really good when you get an upgrade – and upgrade really makes a difference.

The game seems singularly designed to slow you down, and extract more subscription time out of players.

That will be the only $15 Blizzard gets out of me.

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Tee Parsley

Did not care for the original. Lasted about a week. Especially, the poor lore and writing left me quite uninterested. But then, I wasn’t a fan of Warcraft, or any of the Blizzard games. Whatever special sauce they put in their games just didn’t work on me.