Casually Classic: What’s the point of playing WoW Classic in 2021?

It's classically something.

Welcome to Casually Classic, a new column here on Massively OP dedicated to examining World of Warcraft Classic from the vantage point of a hopeless casual. I’ve been playing WoW Classic off and on since its 2019 launch, which has generated a lot of observations and topics that I’d like to share with you.

So before we get into today’s discussion, I want to quickly establish what this column will not be. It’s not a replacement in any way for Eliot’s excellent WoW Factor (in which he’ll continue to tackle both WoW Retail and WoW Classic). Nor is it an analysis of the MMO from a high-end raider’s perspective. I feel like there are plenty of expert veterans out there who already spend gobs of time talking about raiding, the meta, and gaming the economy.

That’s not me. I’m just a weird, doofy Gnome who levels up slowly, curses the zone design of Ashenvale whenever I visit it, and enjoys revisiting this world that I fell in love with back in 2004. I figure that I’m not the only player who’s not part of the cutting edgelord pack, so why not talk about the game from this perspective?

So for a debut column, the question that seems the most appropriate is, “What is the point of playing WoW Classic in 2021?” It’s not a controversial question, mind you, but rather more of a curious one.

After all, we’re talking about a version of an MMO that came out back in 2004, a version that people have played, analyzed, and optimized to death. We were in the vanilla era for well over two years, and by the end of that there were no surprises left. There certainly aren’t any 17 years later.

WoW Classic also seems to be built on a foundation of gimmick and fads. Throwback legacy servers usually are, after all. It’s “new” only for a short time before transitioning back to being an old hat. Blizzard itself originally assumed that such a server type would have a limited lifespan once players grew discontent with the old design and slower pace of gameplay (after all, we think we wanted it, but we didn’t, right?).

There are other angles to this question, such as the myriad other options out there — including retail WoW — but I would rather cut right to my answer here. What’s the point for me playing WoW Classic in the here and now? Because it’s fun. Because it’s relaxing, enjoyable, and has helped me rekindle a flame for WoW that had been guttering for years.

It’s funny, because originally I really didn’t care at all for the notion of WoW Classic. I’d been there, I’d done that, and I wasn’t really jazzed to return. But my attitude changed when I started to realize what Classic represented. World of Warcraft has, for both better and worse, become an MMORPG filled with a whole lot of clutter. There were scads of systems and content that was all piled on top of each other. Many of us had grown with the game and so became accustomed to this clutter over time to the point where we didn’t even see it any more.

Then WoW Classic came along and took most all of that clutter right to the curb. It cleaned out a room and gave it back to us as clean and sparsely decorated as the day we first moved into it. If you’ve ever done this to your work or living space, you know how immensely freeing and refreshing a feeling this is.

That do-over helped to pull me into the game, but what’s kept me coming back day after day was more than a content jettison and a fresh start. I genuinely do enjoy the slower pace and tougher landscape that’s in here. It’s not impossible, but it’s not “hit one button and AOE a half-dozen mobs down in five seconds” either. I loved marking progress by single levels, single talent points, a new bag, a piece of green gear with a few extra stat points.

And I appreciate how Classic is taking me on a tour of Azeroth circa 2006. So many great memories have resurfaced from playing this version of the MMO, and I haven’t really felt the loss of the better graphics or snappier combat. In fact, I think it’s such a testament to the skill of the original WoW artists how much these colorful and stylized graphics hold up today.

So yeah, I feel like there’s a point and a purpose to playing today. It most certainly helps that Classic has a future in stepping into The Burning Crusade this year, which is a topic we will definitely be talking about in future weeks.

I’ll hand this over to those of you playing WoW Classic right now. If someone asked you what the point of playing this MMO is in 2021, how would you respond?

Stepping back into the MMO time machine of WoW Classic, Justin Olivetti offers up observations and ground-level analysis as a Gnome with a view. Casually Classic is a more laid-back look at this legacy ruleset for those of us who’ve never stepped into a raid or seen more than 200 gold to our names.

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Chris Hammerberg
10 months ago

I was a beta tester. I’ve played since pretty much the beginning up until the last expansion or two.

Classic I think I played that for a couple weeks only because I was partnered with one of my old guild members. It was more of a nostalgia type of thing. But without those very same people that I enjoyed the game with I found that it felt empty.

I had no desire to be a guild leader again. I had no desire to lead a top-tier guild ever again the work that’s required it’s just daunting.

This game to me is just dead both sides retail and classic. There is a nostalgia point to it but the reality is is that the game itself has been suffering from what I call cancel culture for a really long time. The moment the designers caved is the moment the game started to fail. The moment they made everything so simple that it was a one or two button play that there weren’t any true and honest choices that didn’t force everybody to be a cookie cutter evolution. The moment that raw dps overtook every aspect of PlayStyle.

there hasn’t been anything new introduced into this game since it was first built. There’s been refinements to make it simpler to make it easier. Easier from a point of a person controlling their character harder from the point of running the game reliably on anything but a mid-high tier system.

When vanilla wow first came out you could play it on any scrub machine just fine in fact you could play it on dial-up and it would work. You wouldn’t be lagged out you could do just about everything on the most simplest of connections DSL one way.

I’m glad people have found their nostalgia to be able to go back and try and relive some of those days. But even the slight changes they’ve made to classic makes it undesirable on the grand scale.

I’m 100% sure that every time somebody logs in they think themselves this will be the day this will be the day that maybe they’ve added something some new dynamic…That’s what everybody’s waiting for maybe not from blizzard but from somebody.

10 months ago

My wife and I met in WoW many years ago so I was pretty sad when SL launched and she’d finally had enough of the changes that she put the game down for good. I soldiered on but eventually came to the same conclusion that, as a casual player, retail just wasn’t really made for me.

And then while looking for a new fantasy MMO to play together (we have STO for sci-fi) I mentioned the upcoming BC Classic and she blurted out “WoW is just the best there is, why don’t we try Classic?”

That was a few weeks ago and now we are absolutely loving our time durdling our way through Classic and finding the toons we want to play. It’s not hard, really, but it demands your attention while you’re playing and rewards you in little ways constantly as you’re leveling. There’s a sense of satisfaction when you accomplish even the smallest goal or pull yourself out of the most dire situation (don’t go in caves if you can help it) that retail just no longer provides.

Songs for Children
10 months ago
Reply to  Spaceboy

Very well said.

10 months ago

Burning Crusade was when I properly jumped into WoW. Before then, I was piggybacking off a friend’s account right around the server-wide resource gathering of the ‘ Gates of Ahn’Qiraj ‘ Event. Dwarf Paladin then, and once Burning Crusade came out I jumped Hordeside to be a Blood Elf Paladin.

I don’t have much nostalgia for Vanilla-era WoW–aside from suddenly having to take over for said friend one night to heal through Gnomeregan, fun times that when I had zero experience beforehand with the game or healing as a whole. But Burning Crusade?

My first (subscription based) MMO. The first time I ever really joined a guild that wasn’t just ‘friends and friends of friends out-of-game’. The first time I ever tanked (and had to learn from scratch by doing Heroic Dungeons). And first time I ever tried a raid (and Karazhan is still my #1 raid in terms of enjoyment). There is a… whole lot tied up there. I won’t be able to relive all of that, of course. But I legitimately loved every bit of time I spent playing.

And you know what? I look forward to remaking my Blood Elf Pally, so that when I do ‘Escape From Durnholde Keep’, I end up looking like James Hetfield as my then-Guild Master joked about with the ‘disguise’ buff you get as Horde there. I look forward to soloing Ragefire Chasm at lvl 20, and Shadowfang Keep at 40, and all the work I did to pay for my Paladin mount. And the Paladin-specific Quests that came with it all–including having to hunt down a Rogue to help me break into the Plaguelands area I needed to go for it. I look forward to playing Chess in Karazhan and memeing about ‘dont stand in the fire!’. Or the ‘secret’ boss there. I get to start with Engineering from the beginning, rather than Jewelcrafting as I originally did–I love gimmick stuff and Jewelcrafting has literally none of it past Vanilla-job levels. Engineering though? Nothing but gimmick!

There’s no point in me playing Vanilla WoW. But Burning Crusade? That was my jam, and I want to run through that game and world before they utterly destroyed Sylvanas’s ‘evil mastermind’ character, before they torn down the Azeroth I knew and loved running the dozens of alts I had through (seriously, I had alts both Horde and Alliance for every class). And before a certain ‘Hellscream’ had any possible character development torn from him in favor of making him a cheap and disposable ‘Villain of the Month’, for many many months straight to come.

That would be the point for me. And once early-runs start for Bloodelves and Draenei…? I might finally pick World of Warcraft back up again. I’m not going to have two servers worth of alts, obviously. But Draenei Shaman and Bloodelf Paladin? Oh yes. Yes I will have those at the very least.

Zandohaha .
10 months ago
Reply to 

“There’s no point in me playing Vanilla WoW.”

Why? I didn’t start until TBC either and I’ve loved Classic. Still playing it since the start.

Its still pretty much the same mechanics it had in TBC. So I don’t understand why you need to have played the content before to enjoy it again. Its still very much the same game.

The whole “it’s just nostalgia” crowd have been proven completely wrong. I don’t understand why people are still thinking about the game purely in these terms like you are.

10 months ago
Reply to  Zandohaha .

Read (and reread) my full post. I played Vanilla WoW casually, but my attachment to it was minimal. It’s a fine game, but I have literally zero interest in the content within it–especially its endgame. And, again, if you bothered to actually read you’d have seen I’d played plenty of Vanilla’s content on both sides. I’ve seen Horde and Alliance from 1-60 on several characters of several races that I leveled up during The Burning Crusade’s original launch. I know the races I want to play and the classes if I pick the game back up. And guess what buttercup?
Vanilla WoW doesn’t have Paladins Hordeside, nor Shamans on the Alliance.

And no, I didn’t say “it’s just nostalgia”. I said my nostalgia for Vanilla is low, and admitted its strong for The Burning Crusade. Just like I also listed what I’m looking forward to playing through again. You don’t know what I think, you hardly even seem like you actually bothered to guess at what I think. You just broadly painted anyone who wasn’t immediately glowing about Vanilla Wow as being dismissive of it.

And also no, the two are nowhere near ‘mechanically similar’. I played Retribution on a Dwarf Paladin during Vanilla wow, and my Blood Elf Paladin was Retribution in TBC. There was a good bit of difference already mechanically from the start, and once Retribution got a big shot in the arm during the Sunwell raid update? That difference got much, much bigger. Just like if I wanted to do raids? Heeey… I don’t need to find 39 other people or deal with larger guilds. I can settle for 10-mans and smaller guilds.

10 months ago
Reply to 

I started to play wow in MOP all the way to retail. Now I mainly play classic because I love the old classes and game mechanics more. Not nostalgia.

10 months ago
Reply to  Strixxx

Good job, bub. Never claimed it was ‘nostalgia’.
I preferred the way my favorite classes played during The Burning Crusade and Wrath. They don’t play quite the same way, or were otherwise unavailable, in Vanilla.

Zandohaha .
10 months ago
Reply to 

Classes in TBC get a few new abilities but are incredibly similar. So one, poor reasoning. Two, stop taking everything so personally and going off in a huff.

Bruno Brito
10 months ago
Reply to  Zandohaha .

Wrong. Several QoL on classes changed the way they play. More specifically, Paladins and Shamans have way more defined gameplay and are viable in any spec. If i well recall, Paladins get Consecration as baseline at 20, which means they’re not forced into the 11 points in Holy. Just that changes a LOT of what’s open to you.

If you wanna talk about people being personally, then realize that 1- Seishi was talking about their PERSONAL experience, and 2- don’t talk about stuff you clearly don’t understand.

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10 months ago

The WoW of the classic era really was a world. The latest incarnation doesn’t feel like a world to me.

10 months ago

Great idea for a column! Just wanted to throw my hat into the ring of “casual WoW Classic player.” I raided and did all that back in the day, but now I’m just a guy with a family who plays the game because he likes to be in Azeroth and drink nostalgia juice.

I get with TBC on the horizon, some might think “well, why even bother? TBC soon, I’ll be behind anyways.” I’ve run into this. I really think people need to remove the concepts of “being behind” and just play the game for themselves (for once). Especially if you’re looking to be casual. I think there’s a stigma that Classic means you can’t play casually. I don’t think this is true, and there are a lot of things you can do at a casual pace. One thing I’ve done recently is explore the nooks and crannies of zones that I might’ve missed back in the day.

10 months ago

LOL, why even ask something like this? People play it because it is fun for them to do. Same reason people play any game, including old games, over and over, despite knowing everything about them.

10 months ago
Reply to  Rndomuser

Except that I’ve personally run into people who haven’t played WoW Classic in a while, are thinking of playing, but are asking questions like “won’t I be behind?” and “the economy will prevent me from buying anything” etc. So there certainly are people out there asking these questions.

I know friends who played WoW over a decade ago, kind of left the game behind, and saw WoW classic as a way to possibly rekindle a lost love of a world they missed. These aren’t people who know everything about the game. Heck, after coming back to Classic, as someone who has played Retail constantly, it was an eye-opener to return to Classic and discover how poorly I played it back in 2004 onward.

10 months ago

Great idea for a column. Looking forward to reading future entries!
I stopped in Classic around level 30 a few months ago, but with BC announced and this new column, I might go back!

Scott McCulloch
10 months ago

WoW is my favorite MMORPG, and Classic is a superior MMORPG experience to retail. Classic feels like a proper RPG with a sense of place, community, and progression. Retail has become more akin to a single-player action RPG where there is stuff happening all the time but it’s rather empty.

Loyal Patron
10 months ago

I didn’t really start playing wow until a few months before Legion. I had set up a free account and played for a couple of hours prior to that. So I had no nostalgia for classic. But classic is the only version I’ve played since it launched in 2019.

The reason being, is that I find the retail version overwhelming. There’s way too much going on, too many stories and quests that I have no clue about, as I didn’t move along with each expansion. I played legion and bfa to their max levels and then just stopped. I haven’t bought shadowlands yet. My plan was to get it when I reached 60 in classic which still hasn’t happened so I’m happy to keep plodding along there.
I’m finally beginning to get to know the two main regions now.
When playing retail it was just nameless grass zones, fire zones, jungles etc.

Anthony Clark
10 months ago

WoW Classic = WoW 1
WoW Retail = WoW 2

Similar, but very different game mechanics.