Nearly 16 years ago, Blizzard entered the burgeoning MMORPG market with their smash hit game, World of Warcraft. Building on their popular RTS series Warcraft, and utilising the wealth of knowledge of online gaming from the Diablo, Starcraft and Warcraft series, they created a game that turned a whole generation into gamers. People you’d never expect – William Shatner, Jean Claude van Damme and Aubrey Plaza all recorded adverts for the game, and quickly it became a game that was played by millions. It hit a peak in October 2010 with people anticipating the upcoming release of Catacylsm, a complete re-imagining of the world following a catastrophic event, however, for some, this was a step too far.
Eventually, over time, people started unsubscribing, lamenting the loss of a world they once knew, or getting fatigued with the bloated nature of a game that has too much content. In August 2019, after a steady decline of subscribers over the course of a few years, Blizzard decided to reinvigorate its lost user base by re-releasing the original build of World of Warcraft, promising no changes to it that may have turned players off of the ‘retail’ version of the game. This ‘classic’ version of the game took players back to the original Azeroth that some players – including myself – loved.
When it was announced, I took almost no notice of it – I’d played the original World of Warcraft extensively up until 2009 or 10, but never had a desire to go back to it. The timesink nature of it and the necessity to be beholden to a group of people in order to progress once you hit ‘endgame’ always struck me as being too much effort. Then the pandemic hit, and despite having plenty of unplayed titles in my library, I felt as though I had nothing to play. Nothing had quite snagged my attention for some time, and, after a text exchange with my brother, he suggested I return to the game as he’d been playing Classic WoW since release and, surprisingly enough, it was pretty much spot on to how he remembered it. When I started it up, I was greeted by the memorable login screen from the past, the same music, sound effects.
Logging in, and my transportation to the past was complete. Even the graphics looked as charmingly bad as they were in the original, perhaps a little sharper, but it was as if I’d just returned home after a long semester at university. It was comfortable. Playing the game again, all the things I could remember from a decade ago, it was all very comfortable. Which is exactly what Blizzard would have wanted out of their re-release. A userbase that is inspired by their nostalgia and wanting to play as much of the original game, with the original patches releasing content in a reasonable timeframe to go with it. At this present moment, players are awaiting a new raid – Ahn’Qiraj – with baited breath, as it was one of the jewels of the original release’s crown.
Which sort of brings me on to a slight negative. For all the fantastic aspects that the original World of Warcraft has, and the classic version has retained, there is one thing that Blizzard can never replicate. The knowledge. One of the most enjoyable thing about the original World of Warcraft series was never really knowing what was coming next, and which items would suddenly go from being worthless to being priceless. As everyone already played this game fifteen years or so ago, everyone already knows the best ways of min-maxing, or gold farming strategies. The knowledge of which potions are most useful – and which are completely useless – is widespread and so that greatly reduces the thrill of discovering something.
This might sound like a good thing – no longer will you be stuck on a quest, never being able to find your way, but with WoW it is completely the opposite. Classic WoW is sadly beset with bothersome bots, scripted to kill all enemies in a certain area, pick up herbs or mine all the available nodes. Blizzard have a reputation of being quite slow to react to these bots, although a recent banwave banned over 74,000 known bot accounts, there are definitely still plenty around, and unless they make the banwaves a regular occurrence – at least once a month – then the bots will just return to annoy everyone.
Despite that, not everything in the game is tainted by everyone’s overwhelming knowledge of the game. The best part of WoW is, as it was when it first released, the community. I found the greatest joy in playing the game was after I’d made a few friends in it, joined a fun guild and we were all progressing towards the same goals. Achieving them at the same time, not just trying to improve your own character, but improve the guild as a whole in order to contest bigger and badder monsters in the game. Of course, there are always a few knobheads that want to ruin the experience by ganking you or stealing all the loot, but these are an incredible minority, and in three months of playing now, I’ve had no major issues with anyone.
Would I recommend returning to World of Warcraft, to play the Classic version of the game? You know, I probably would. The patches are dropping with some regularity but always a bit spaced out so that you never have to worry about missing out on content, the community is absolutely fantastic and if you played it when it originally came out, you’ll get a lot of enjoyment out of it. As long as Blizzard can keep up with their banwaves, ensuring the game doesn’t become overrun with gold sellers and bots, then it’s definitely a game that I can see myself sinking a lot of time into.