Perfect Ten: 10 things to genuinely like about modern World of Warcraft

    
33
Perfect Ten: 10 things to genuinely like about modern World of Warcraft

Over the past year, it’s been an interesting and illuminating experience to ping-pong back and forth between retail World of Warcraft and WoW Classic. Depending on the month, I may like and appreciate Classic more or I might feel warmer toward retail. In fact, this past September I drew up a list of 10 reasons why I felt that WoW Classic is still pretty darn enjoyable in 2020 (and I stick to that).

However, it’s always possible to like more than one thing, and I haven’t thrown out retail World of Warcraft or joined the trendy parade of disgruntled players who can only see no wrong and never any right. There is a lot to justly criticize about the current game, but today I want to share 10 things that I genuinely like about the current iteration of this 16-year-old MMORPG.

The leveling revamp

Let’s plop this very recent development right onto the middle of our conversation table, because I truly believe that the revised leveling system — with its new beginner area, flexible paths, and level scaling — has made bringing up alts in this game truly fun once more. There’s a great deal of excitement in this Patch 9.0 era among players who don’t have to map out where to go for their latest characters; they can just pick a single expansion, have a great time in it, and find themselves at level 50 in a reasonable amount of time. I’m absolutely loving it.

Art and music

Back when WoW was first announced, I became entranced by the thought of an MMO in a world full of Warcraft’s art style. That hasn’t changed over the years, even though the art and music have improved across the board. It’s still a visually and audibly appealing environment in which to game, and these factors are a huge reason why I put up with a lot of missteps on behalf of the studio.

Grouping tools

I’ll tell you one thing I outright despised in WoW Classic: the utter lack of grouping tools. Finding and forming groups to run dungeons (which you then had to spend a whole lot of time traveling to) was such a pain that I quickly said “forget that!” But in retail WoW, finding people to run dungeons or raids is extremely easy, and there are even tools to help put together Mythic groups and parties to handle specific tough challenges on the map. I’m sincerely glad these tools exist, even if they elicit the occasional remark of old school snobbery.

It keeps trying new things

OK, I have a big problem with the “borrowed power” design to character development, and I would not argue with you if you were to complain that the developers never seem to have a firm grasp on where they’re taking the game. But. I have to admit that Blizzard doesn’t always take the easy way out with “more of the same” content that is the standard for other older MMOs. Every expansion and some patches try out some actually new ideas (or twists on established ideas) and features. Some of those work well, some don’t, but I like that there’s a desire to keep exploring a bit off the beaten path to see if there’s an angle that could work better for the game.

There’s so much to do

Like, so much. You can narrow down your experience if you like, but when you take a step back and look at all of the content and features that this game has accumulated since 2004, it’s overwhelming. Recently I got into pet battles for the first time, which I’ve never had time for before. That alone has opened up a whole different part of the game that’s been off my radar, and I feel like I keep discovering stuff like that.

It’s great about guiding you to people and content

Compared to years ago, when it was entirely possible to find yourself at a “what do I do now?” conundrum, in modern World of Warcraft it’s very hard to find yourself stranded without a clue what to do. Both the adventure and guild finder panels do pretty decent jobs of connecting players with content and communities, and many of the game’s standard quests are great about providing breadcrumbs as to where to go.

Transmog collecting

Ever since the game started collecting and storing your transmog unlocks for you, the fashion race escalated in a big way among the community. For many players it’s not about how powerful their gear is — it’s how amazing it looks. It’s certainly been an effective incentive to get players to dive back into older content, just to get all of those thousands of unlocks they’ve yet to achieve. And at the end of the day, transmog allows me to express my (or my character’s) personality in a way that’s probably different than many around me.

Better cutscene animations

I know this might seem like a small thing, especially in light to how uneven WoW’s storytelling has been as of late, but I’ve really been digging how good the look and animation of characters are using the game’s own engine whenever I find myself in a cutscene. Compared to how choppy and crude this all used to be back in, say, the Wrath era, it’s making these story segments a lot more engaging.

Character building offers a whole lot of choices

Making choices, big and small, when I adventure through CRPGs and MMORPGs is one of the biggest draws of these types of games for me, and I like that there’s plenty of ways that I can shape my WoW character. There are 12 classes and 36 specializations from which to start, followed by talent picks, gear acquisition, profession pick-ups, and whatever advancement method that the current expansion offers. I’d love to see more choice, of course, but I can’t deny that at least I have options on the table.

It still feels like a vibrant MMORPG

There are plenty of smaller MMOs that I enjoy, but when I want to head into a game where I’m not going to worry about population shortages or a possible freeze on development, World of Warcraft is always a safe bet. Sixteen years later and people still love playing and talking about this game. I can’t deny that there’s a real comfort in being part of a community like this, and it helps to offset some of the disappointment I’ve felt in recent years when beloved games have been sunsetted and big challengers are slow to arrive.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”

No posts to display

33
LEAVE A COMMENT

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Motherball

In regards to talent choices and character building in classic WoW, I think it matters more depending on the class you choose. For Paladins, perhaps there wasn’t much choice, as some talents were obviously worse than others, but Priest on the other hand had several viable hybrid builds depending on what you wanted to do. So there was more choice and flexibility involved, much of which has been erased over time.

Reader
texyFX

acessibility
arts (rnt the animations simply beautiful, the vistas, the ambient etc.)
balance (specs and token)
collectibility (mounts, mounts, mounts)
convinience*(although still too much Ketting(“keep customers unhappy”), like Corruption Vendor rotation)
diversity (36specs x7x3 talent options x parallel progressions systems(also itemisation), the worlds/zones, mobs, profs etc.)
lore/narrative coherence/RPGness (authentic world, actually i dislike WoW lore)
socialibility
stability
progression (soft nerf/parallel power systems) and challenge

GAMEPLAY

Reader
texyFX

p.s. stability:
overall ignorance on (not exclusive to) WoWs positive stability is representative for gaming culture consense (and attitude) on tech. stability as a quality criteria is exclusively recognized in gaming culture when negative (aka unstable, bugs, lags etc). gaming culture has no vocal appreciation for positive stability, for the battaillons of techies @the farms oiling the hamster wheels…

i know i am going to regret this post scriptum on launch, when 4digit log-in queue will test my patience*. but overall WoW is low on bugs, as Blizzneys fix-time for tech-issues and game-breakers is usually rapid.
it may sound naive, but my trust in Blizzney to handle any tech issue timely is much more consolidated than MS, Apple, Epic etc.

and then there r minor bugs for months, some years, eg warrior order hall flightpoint bug (Azsuna instead of chosen destination). tonite in Icecrown i had to relog 4 times to get the npcs, quest items, to reincarnate (rez) etc.

*every release i wonder y Blizzney doesnt add extra log-in servers to compensate the launch hype rush

Reader
Hareikan

I agree with some of this, disagree with some. Most especially that the character building offers a lot of choice, which is what most commenters seem to take an issue with. Saying that WoW has options because there are x amount of specs in the game makes you sound like Blizzard paid you for an ad.

I think retail talent trees are about as bad as vanilla trees. They still have the same issues. Talent tiers that dont matter because all 3 talents are useless, cookie cutter builds etc.

Your most significant choice is usually picking a single-target ability vs a multi-target ability. A LOT of tiers that, if you decide to look up a guide, have 1 clearly superior ability. There’s no real actual choice because what you pick isn’t really gonna be a massive change. At most you might use a slightly tweaked rotation compared to someone else.

I’m not saying vanilla trees offered better choice, although they did at least let you do hybrid builds. I’m saying that WoW’s customization is pretty average in general. They’re fine but nothing special, especially compared to other games. And choices about how you play your class should come from the class, NOT expansion gimmicks.

Reader
Coldrun ??

I so badly wish FFXIV would take WoW’s transmog system.

Reader
Jack Ong

Wow needs FF14 colour palette system as well

Reader
SmiteDoctor

Looking forward to smacking down some death and darkness with my righteous shield and holy pimp hand!

Looks like you’re missing a few comments there, says there’s 24 but there’s way less in the section.

Reader
cannotweep

It’s barely an MMO, save for big raids or 40v40 battlegrounds, but it’s still the best one. The level of polish is just exquisite.

Reader
Anthony Clark

The list is good except for “Character building offers a whole lot of choices”

That’s just wrong. With the removal of the talent trees character building is now flat. All because the development team couldn’t figure out a way to balance it. It was too hard so they just removed it completely.

Reader
jealouspirate

I think Classic has shown us that talent trees don’t really mean more choice for 99% of players. Everyone just follows the meta.

Reader
Anthony Clark

And they’re still doing that with the new system too.

Reader
Crowe

The ability to be able to select options from the talent tree was pretty much the ONLY thing I actually liked about Classic. I’m not usually a FotM player… I try to figure out what the best way is for me to build a character that fits in with my playstyle.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

I played vanilla since day 1 and talent trees in vanilla are overrated. They offered very little actual choice because 80% of talents were garbage. Most specs followed just one or 2 templates. Their only value was sense of progression with every level.

WoW:Shadowlands offers much more choices. Its not only talents that actually give you a real choice, but you now have to choose covenants, legendaries, soulbinds, transmog among other things. And Shadowlands solved old problems with lack of progression feel by cutting levels and making every level matter.

So yeah, retail is miles better in customization department then vanilla

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

Vanilla offers fake choice.

In a nutshell, when one “choice” is objectively worse than the other, you don’t have an actual choice; you have a puzzle disguised as a choice. A puzzle you can just google up the answer to (as most players will do), and that if you do get it wrong that will make your whole experience worse.

TeoSC2
Reader
TeoSC2

Honestly, I have to disagree with the notion of character building being an asset to modern WoW. Each class is played precisely how Blizzard tells you to, with little wiggle room outside of that paradigm. Professions are not the meaningful choices they once were, and gear is little more than a minor incremental step before the game hands you another deluge of epics.

Blizzard has removed much of the meaningful choices that make a character unique to the player. So much so that Ion Hazzikostas saw Covenants as a means to reintroduce meaningful choice to the players (something that doesn’t seem to be going over too well).

The only way you can honestly differentiate yourself in the game is via transmogs and mount collection. If a new player were to come to me and say “I want a game where I can really craft my character into something unique. I want wide choices with multiple avenues to advance my character” modern WoW is not that game. Outside of the pretty neat new choices to create a character, the game is very narrow.

Reader
cerement

Railroading everyone into their “class fantasy” and then completely redefining that fantasy with each expansion. For me, I just got tired of logging into a new expansion and not recognizing any of my characters.

Reader
jealouspirate

Personally I prefer classes that are designed to be played a certain way. When I log in, I want to PLAY the game, not figure out how to play it. One of the reasons I bounce off games like GW2 or PoE is that it’s so confusing to just figure out how to play my character. I end up experimenting in menus and reading wikis rather than just playing, always wondering if I’m doing it “right”.

WoW strikes a good balance, in my opinion. Each class is relatively easy to pick up and get the basics of, but you have various choices to make through talents that change up your rotation. Talents give you enough choice to have your build focus on single target, AoE, burst, etc. This doesn’t include all the various options you get through expansion-specific features like legendaries. Then you can change your spec to get another whole new playstyle.

TeoSC2
Reader
TeoSC2

And that’s just fine if you prefer a game where character choices are more streamlined / limited. I do want to point out that for many others, theorycrafting is playing the game. So while for you it feels like trying to figure out the game, for others part of the game is crafting the character in a way they choose and seeing how it plays out. Keep that in mind.

Again, the initial discussion here wasn’t whether you should like one way or another. It’s just as valid to say you don’t want all those options as it is to say you do. However, the article’s point that modern WoW offers many character building choices just isn’t true.

And to touch on another element that you commented on to someone else: the talent trees of WoW absolutely offer choice. Even if someone chooses to go to a website and look up a template for talents, it’s still a choice. If players choose to just follow a template, that’s up to them. No different than you choosing to go looking things up on a wiki for PoE or GW2. That was your choice. And player choice is important when it comes to crafting a character.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with what modern WoW does. I am not arguing it’s wrong or shouldn’t be liked. But if someone were looking for character building choices, modern WoW does not do this well. YOU may not like a bunch of choices, and you may not see it as playing, but plenty others do.

Reader
jealouspirate

Eh, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I don’t think it’s accurate to say WoW doesn’t offer character building choices or to say that it offers fewer choices than before. It offers more choice now than it ever has. Choosing between talents in modern WoW has a much bigger impact on your character than the old talents trees of Classic.

Shadowlands arguably has more build choice than ever before with talents, legendaries, covenants abilities, and conduits. Honestly for me it’s so much choice that I wish they’d remove some of it because I find it overwhelming.

TeoSC2
Reader
TeoSC2

My goodness, if they remove any further choices there’d be nothing left to actually choose. I feel like someone who is easily overwhelmed by choice might look at current WoW and say “wow, that’s a lot of choice!” And someone who has played older MMOs and dungeon crawlers would look at current WoW and say “where are my choices?”

Where you see many choices, I see a lack. I see no means to distribute my stats. I see no means to make a meaningful choice about statistics (the game handles that for you). I see no means of side progression (player housing?). You see where I’m going? Now to you, that all likely sounds horrible. Too many decisions getting in the way of “playing the game.” To me? That IS the game.

What you consider tedious, I consider fun. It’s the difference between Duplo legos and Technic.

Reader
styopa

It’s laziness, basically. One might charitably say that they’re doing it because it’s what the marketing drones claim the public wants. I think that’s probably a lie.

If you have an open-world, sandboxy, simulative game not everything’s going to be razor-accurate FAIR.
In this goofy, misguided pursuit of fairness, (probably for pvp I believe) they’ve honed off all the edges and corners so that we’re all just one dimensional little chesspieces – “different” from one another, but in very simply quantized way.

Nobody worries about “balance” in a side-scrolling game because you have a very limited set of options and choices. Is that more fun? Is that what we want when we play an “MMORPG”?

Because it kind of seems like the extrapolation of what they’re trying to do.

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

High end raiding and mythic dungeons too. Blizzard doesn’t want to end in a situation where players decide a number of classes just don’t cut muster for high end content, so they try to get the numbers within a few percentage points for each and every spec of every class.

This is one of the reasons I nowadays prefer to avoid games that promote raiding as their best content, including WoW. It’s been over 8 years since I last logged (or paid a subscription).

Reader
styopa

Genuine question: what MMO doesn’t promote endgame-as-the-only-game-that-matters?

Offhand, all the triple-AAAs I can think of do. WoW, ESO, BDO, GW2, FFXIV. I guess EVE would be the exception, but even there the “content” that seems to matter are giant PVP matches….almost the PVP equivalent.

jimthomasUS
Reader
jimthomasUS

Great article and thank you for focusing on the positive aspects of WoW!

I agree 100% with your last point. I want to invest time in a world that will be around for years to come. Yes, there are plenty of issues with WoW but managing the business is not one of them.

A point that you didn’t touch on was that WoW is a paid subscription only model. I’m a bipolar gamer so I need to be careful on this point. I also like the fact the truly the best models are the ones that have to be earned by completing the most challenging gameplay.

Really a great list that made me think about why I play as well :)

Reader
angrakhan

I would add to that list all the QoL improvements over classic.

Crafting material tab in the bank that lets you deposit all crafting mats from your bags with one click.

The flight master whistle lets you explore and not have to “dig out” when you’re done.

Guild finder lets people find guilds and guilds recruit without relying on external tools such as forums.

Instanced quest interactive items and resource nodes so you’re not having to race other players to the nodes.

Reworked mob tagging so that players from the same faction can easily help each other without needing to group. World bosses and elites can often be done co-op across factions. All this improves cooperation in the game and eliminates a big source of friction from classic. I find it makes people way more friendly in general.