Second Wind: Final thoughts on returning to World of Warcraft in 2024, from community to dragonriding


At long last, we’ve reached the fourth and final part of my series detailing my experiences returing to World of Warcraft after six years away. It’s been a mixed bag so far as I sung the praises of an improved endgame, grumped about current class design, and complained about Dragonflight‘s messy story.

Today, I’ll talk about dragonriding, some changes to the tone of the game’s community, and my overall thoughts on the game as a whole.


I’m surprisingly ambivalent about dragonriding. What I find strange is that dragonriding (or dynamic flight, as it will be known when The War Within extends it to existing mounts) is what broke Blizzard of its war against flight, despite all of the criticisms of flight being far more true of this model than they ever were of the old one.

When traveling with the old style flying mounts, I’d often stop along the way to gather crafting mats, kill rare mobs, take screenshots, and generally explore. Sometimes I’d fly around just to see what I could find.

Dynamic flight is far faster — at top speed, almost three times as fast as the fastest traditional flying mount — and the momentum and vigour mechanics heavily penalize you for pausing, so you’re strongly incentivized to just bolt from one objective to the other, ignoring everything in between. By the time you even notice something interesting, it’ll probably be in your rearview, and you can’t go back for it without completely killing your momentum. It makes me feel disconnected from the game world in a way conventional flight never did.

On the other hand, the speed is quite handy when you want to travel a long distance in a short time, and the animations are very well done, so it can be fun in its own way. But I think it says something that I went back to mostly using conventional flight as soon as I’d unlocked Dragon Isles Pathfinder.

Still, if this is what it takes for Blizzard to finally accept flight is a key part of the game, I’ll take the bargain, even if the studio’s logic continues to baffle me.


One thing that wasn’t immediately obvious upon my return was that there seems to be have been a pretty big change in the quality of the community.

WoW has always had a very toxic community, and when I last played in Legion, it was worse than ever. Public chat channels were a 24/7 onslaught of political dumpsterfires, naked racism, and pretty much every form of grossness imaginable. It got so bad I had to shut off virtually all public chat for the sake of my sanity.

I meant to do the same upon my return, but I kept forgetting as I swapped between characters and wrestled with the revamped UI, and it increasingly slipped my mind. And then I realized a few weeks had gone by without me seeing any bad behaviour in the public channels at all.

More time has passed since then, and I’ve still seen naught but peace and calm. I’ve even been doing a fair bit of PvP (purely for the sake of some transmog sets; I hate WoW PvP), and even there I’ve seen almost perfect civility. I can’t overstate how big a change that is. In a decade or so of playing WoW before my break, I never once saw a battleground team fail to devolve into toxicity if they started losing. Never.

So far the only bad behaviour I’ve seen are one or two inappropriate character names, and one time in a battleground when an enemy player I was fighting started taunting me with a chicken emote. Not sure how diving directly into the enemy team with my tank character to lock down a healer counts as “chicken,” but I digress.

I’m not sure why things changed so much. Maybe it’s because less people are playing; I’ve noticed there does seem to just be less chat in general, although all player hubs still appear quite crowded. Maybe the increased push towards softening the faction divide and encouraging co-operative open world play started changing attitudes. Or maybe Blizzard finally got serious about cleaning up the community and banned all the Nazis.

I don’t know how it happened, and I guess it’s still possible that I’ve just been super lucky since I’ve been back, but it really feels like the WoW community has turned over a new leaf, and that is a big but most welcome surprise.

Closing thoughts

I’m not really sure how I feel about WoW right now. The improvements to the endgame and the community are pretty huge, but I’m not sure they’re enough to win me back on their own.

I know the conventional wisdom is that WoW‘s story is garbage, that it’s the gameplay that makes it worth playing, but I’ve always taken exactly the opposite view. Previously, I’d always found the gameplay mediocre at best, and it was my love of the setting and its stories that kept me coming back.

But Dragonflight‘s story was bad. Really bad. And while The War Within looks better on paper, and Metzen’s return is definite cause for optimism, it’s hard to have faith coming off such a bad recent track record.

It also needs to be said that despite all the revamps over the years, this is still fundamentally a 20-year-old game, and it’s starting to show that age pretty badly. Going back to WoW‘s combat after playing New World feels like trading in a Ferrari for a geriatric donkey named Clyde.

I also forgot just how much having a subscription fee looming over my head sucks the fun out of a game for me. I feel as if any time spent not pursuing my core goals in the game is wasting money. I constantly feel rushed, pressured, and drained in a way I never do with other games.

I already pre-ordered The War Within, and part of me is still making plans for what characters to play then and such, but part of me wonders whether I was happier when I decided my time with WoW was over and done. I’ll just have to wait and see what I ultimately do when the time comes.

MMOs are constantly changing, and our opinions naturally change with them. That’s why we’re here to give some beloved (or not) games a second (or third) look. Has that game that was a wreck at launch finally pulled itself together? How do the hits of yesteryear hold up today? Let’s find out as MassivelyOP gets its Second Wind!
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