WoW Classic just celebrated its first year of operation, and what a year it’s been! Back in the summer of 2019, I was rediscovering all sorts of old school features and details from the game while being strangely entranced by it.
Since the crazy busy launch and explosion of servers, WoW Classic has settled down into what appears to be a respectable population that has enjoyed the quirks and settings of the stuck-in-time MMO. It didn’t break the internet or anything, but it didn’t die out, either. In fact, it seems like WoW Classic’s really benefited from being an alternative to World of Warcraft retail when folks are bored waiting for the Next Big Thing to drop.
Today, I wanted to share some observations that I’ve made playing WoW Classic more or less regularly this summer. It’s still a whole lot of fun even in 2020 — and here’s why!
A tighter community
My experience with MMOs is that unusual situations or servers can bring out a greater sense of community in players, and this has certainly proved true in WoW Classic. People seem to have this “we’re in this together!” mentality and adjust their behavior accordingly. The other day I bumped into a player who asked if we could group up to do some tougher quests, and I ended up having a great time and making a new friend in the process.
I hardly ever examine my day-to-day loot in retail WoW because we all know that the good stuff is at the end of specific reward chains or locked in dungeons. But in WoW Classic, it feels like drops actually matter. Greens can be a goldmine, either to wear as an upgrade or to sell for much-needed cash on the auction house. I covet healing potions if I get them, knowing that they might actually save my life in the future. It’s hard to explain why the looting system feels more significant here, except to say that it just does — even if the loot is objectively far worse than on retail.
Talent trees are still amazing
I know I talked about this in my previous top 10 list, but I think it bears repeating — talent trees in Classic are a bedrock of character progression and one of my favorite rediscoveries. Even though we’ve theory-crafted the “best” builds long ago, I still love getting to make choices with each new level and planning out my character’s progression using this visual aid. I kind of wish Blizzard never gave them up.
There’s a timeless design to it
Yes, Classic has all the sharper angles and the less expressive character models, but I continue to be really amazed at how well the game has aged visually. The cartoony design is one of the best decisions that Blizzard ever made for the game, because it takes relatively low polygon objects and infuses them with personality and charm. As a result, I like being in this world rather than repulsed by it.
Gaming at a slower pace
Playing WoW Classic is like downshifting a car and just cruising at a low but comfortable speed. Everything about it is slower and more deliberate, from combat to travel to leveling, but I find that my mind adjusts to that quite easily. I get into this zen state where I just pick one thing I want to do — even if it’s just farming — and then slowly go about doing it. It’s a really nice change of pace from MMOs where you measure accomplishments by how much stuff you get done in an hour.
Outgaming the game
One of the biggest changes from vanilla is our overall experience and knowledge as a community, and as a result, an interesting meta has arisen where players are attempting to outgame the game. Raids full of nothing but Druids attempt to down all the bosses, for instance, or modern goldmaking techniques are transplanted back into this version to see if they work here. It’s kinda cool to see people messing with the format in creative ways.
Danger lurks everywhere
I love me some retail WoW, but unless I’m throwing myself into Mythic+ dungeons, I’m not usually coming up against anything that I can’t handle. Classic, on the other hand, relishes being a stodgy, more difficult relic of an MMO era gone by, and there’s an appeal to that. It does feel more dangerous and doesn’t hold your hand as much, and that’s another nice change of pace from the norm.
The rise of hardcore gaming
While there is no way I’d ever participate in it, I absolutely love that there’s a hardcore sub-community in Classic. These crazy men and women have decided that the game isn’t hard or dangerous enough, and so the only way to play it is to adopt a self-imposed one-life rule. Either make it to level 60 on a single life, or accept permadeath and start over again. It’s a perfect setting for this type of iron man challenge.
Every step of my character’s progression feels significant
Between talent trees, skill ranks, gearing up, leveling up professions, and gold acquisition, building up a character in Classic has many steps, all of which take a lot of time and effort to accomplish. Every new ability I cherish and play around with, and major milestones — actually getting a mount, for instance — is something to celebrate.
Class quests are the real class fantasy
Remember a few years ago when Blizzard was thrashing about trying to inject “class fantasy” into each build? The ironic thing is that the studio already had, and then lost, a perfect way to do this with the quests that it tailored for each class. People still talk about the challenge of getting Druids’ shapeshifting forms or Shamans’ totems from this era, and I do think that the quests help cement your connection with the identity of this class.