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?