With the launch of World of Warcraft Classic’s Burning Crusade this past week, the door has been (mostly) closed on what is now being called the “Classic era” — or what we used to call, simply, “vanilla.” Sure, there are some toons and hardcore guilds left to dwell in a world stuck in time, but a vast majority of us have moved on to Outland.
For me, I’ll never look back.
Oh, I had a great time in both the original vanilla period and over the past two years of WoW Classic, don’t get me wrong. Leveling felt like a genuine accomplishment, and I fell in love with the old world design of Azeroth all over again. But it was also the most unfriendly WoW environment for any casual to experience, and moving into Burning Crusade is a massive relief.
A lot of what I re-learned in WoW Classic is how the game wasn’t really designed for the solo adventurer. The devs back then were heavily influenced by the old school MMO pattern of expected groups and raiding focus, so while vanilla would technically let you get to the max level and get so-so gear, you’d hit a hard wall after which there was no progression or growth. If you weren’t a part of a raiding guild — and I never have been — endgame was the end of the game. Might as well reroll.
This time around, there was a lot of sight-seeing, a side excursion into crafting, and the general fun of being part of a large nostalgic community coming back for one more ride. Again, I don’t regret it. I had a whole lot of fun, but by the start of this year, I was ready to be fully done with it.
You know how we’ve been talking about how WoW Classic can’t replicate exactly how it was back in the day? That’s not always the case; in certain situations, it’s eerily similar to how it was in the past. Both vanilla and WoW Classic functioned in almost the exact same way (in retrospect) as primer to get us pumped for the much more streamlined expansion to follow. When I entered Burning Crusade Classic, I felt this palpable joy of “finally” getting to the good stuff. Getting to a place where a casual player isn’t at such a disadvantage.
The difference between Classic and Burning Crusade is extremely noticeable, especially with how zones are designed. The sprawling, messy, unorganized world of Azeroth — which had its charm — is traded up for the more concise and purposeful Outland. We’re not spending half of our time on pointless travel to complete quest chains, as most quests are handed out in hubs and take place in the immediate world around them. There are more flight paths and conveniently located dungeons, which also cuts down on wasted game time.
And the loot… I’m serious, I felt tears prickle the corner of my eyes when I started to get actually good gear to replace all of the questing greens I’d had for ages. Sure, raiders are still going to have the better stuff, but now I don’t feel as far behind.
Of course, Burning Crusade isn’t the most casual friendly expansion. In fact, in retail WoW, it’s considered one of the worst expansions to go through when you’re given the choice. I keenly feel the absence of the LFG tool when looking to jump into a dungeon. As I sit there spamming LFG chat and zone chat with requests, I cynically wonder when all of this famed “socialization” is going to kick in. Just feels like driving a car without A/C through a Nevada desert while someone is telling me from the backseat how much better road trips were without that convenience.
In any case, the first week of Burning Crusade pumped me up with so much enthusiasm and enjoyment for Classic. It seems like most people around me are rushing, rushing for attunement and level 70 and all that, but I’m personally content to savor this expansion one bite at a time. We have the foresight of knowing what the next two years will hold, so I’m in no particular rush to be done with the meal on Week Three.
I’d love to hear your experiences and observations about Burning Crusade so far! Sound off in the comments and let us know how many times the Fel Reaver stomped you flat.