Two weeks ago, Blizzard launched World of Warcraft Classic to the eagerly waiting hordes. There were huge queues which lasted for hours, but when players were able to finally play, they were greeted with a beautiful recreation of the Vanilla version of WoW. There have been some tweaks, the ability to move the player and target frames around, enhanced options in the settings menu, and the classes aren’t in their original launch states are just a few examples. The result of mashing the old with the new in just the right way is a game which is both frustrating and fun to play.
As someone who never had the “omg I want to go back to Vanilla” bug, I’ve surprisingly enjoyed playing a lot. Just running around the old zones and doing the old quests was refreshing, like visiting with long lost friends. Which considering some of these characters are dead in the retail version, it’s energizing to see them again. The quests themselves aren’t all that special. There are certain ones which are fun and interesting. I’m particularly fond of having the class quests back which were always a unique and interesting experience. However, most quests are let’s go kill x things over in this vague direction or grab something somewhere. There’s even a few which give the player no direction at all to figure out where to go. Weirdly enough I’ve been enjoying the challenge and have avoided looking things up online. However, there are a few things where I asked friends for help because somehow, a giant Kodo is a master of stealth.
My encounters with other players have been entirely positive too. There’s a ton of running around and buffing random players, grouping up to kill things everyone needs, and helping out players in trouble. That last one is my favorite thing. Seeing some player getting dangerously low on health and helping them out, so they don’t die, it’s fantastic. I’ve even had a few people help me out in the same way, and it’s really appreciated. Death isn’t terrible, you don’t lose levels or possessions or anything, but it is often a long run back from the graveyard. I have seen reports of people misbehaving too, but I’ve not directly experienced it. I might be a bit shielded from it a bit since I am playing on a PvE realm, though I do not doubt as I get into the higher dungeons and eventually raiding elitism will rear its head, as it often does. But that’s not today.
World of Warcraft has changed substantially over the years, but the changes are often incremental, and it’s easy forget what changes were made and what hasn’t always been that way. Specifically, I’m talking about attack speeds. I was stunned when I started my Tauren Druid at just how long it takes her to hit things with her staff. This is something I was entirely unprepared for, and it often feels like she’s in molasses. All of combat feels slower in Classic than what I’m used to, and I don’t recall there being changes to increase the speed of combat at any point, though of course I could be forgetting something. This perception of slowness could be due to having so few abilities available and continually running out of mana. Things did start feeling a bit better after I got bear form and could switch to that. However, I’m not sure if I just adjusted to everything or it actually got better.
One of the more bizarre aspects of WoW Classic is it isn’t always the right choice to cast your highest rank spell. Though this is mostly related to healing, there are some DPS applications as well. It is mostly about mana management. It’s incredibly easy to run out of mana, especially at lower levels and higher rank spells cost more mana. So, in a situation where I only need to heal a little bit or do a small amount of damage to something to kill, going for a lower spell rank is the better choice. I knew about this being the case before starting, but I never gave it much thought before playing. In some ways it’s good to be able to tweak spell casts in this way because it takes more thought and effort to choose correctly. However, the downside is my bars have many versions of the same spell, so my UI got a bit chaotic.
I did breakdown finally and install some addons. Before anyone gets all angry about me destroying the authentic “Vanilla” experience, we did have addons back then especially by the time 1.12 rolled around so no I’m not ruining anything. The first one I grabbed was bartender because I can’t stand how the default bars are set-up and the default method of keybinding is terrible. I also grabbed classic plater to better see enemy nameplates and see relevant information without having to target them first. I’m also going to get a bag addon eventually. Addons have been a part of wow since not long after it was released.
As far as graphics go, everything looks similar to how it looked back in Vanilla though I swear it does look a bit better than it did. Unfortunately, I never took screenshots until I started raiding in Vanilla, so I haven’t been able to get some 1:1 shots to compare. I’m not saying it looks like a modern game at all, just maybe a bit more of a view distance than we previously had and some slightly better textures.
Initially, there were queues on most of the realms which had been announced before the opening of name reservations. However, after the first few days passed, the queue times have gotten dramatically shorter, and most realms don’t often see a queue anymore. One way this has been accomplished is Blizzard increased the player caps on the realms so more people could be online at once. This did affect realm stability a bit which is probably why the realms weren’t set to max capacity in the first place. After the raising of the server cap I had my first encounter with lag while playing, previously I hadn’t had any issues. Since they made this change though the realms have stabilized once again so although having the cap lowered made longer queues it was probably the right choice for initial launch.
Blizzard has also been opening new servers and has started doing free character transfers for players on high population realms. The free transfers are nice, but it is frustrating only having the option of one server. Of course, this is done because they are trying to direct the players to certain low population realms, but it would be nice if players were given some choice because if you wanted to change to a different type of realm you couldn’t use the free transfer. Which I’m sure is an edge case, but it would also probably get more people willing to change.
There’s also the problem of players being afraid to change realms because they don’t want to end up on a very low population server once the initial rush on classic is over. So the mindset of dealing with queues now to not have the pain of not being able to find people to play with might be worthwhile. Plus no one knows to what level everything will stabilize out. It is possible the overall Classic population might be enough to sustain only a few servers, and it’ll be a few months before anyone has any real idea about that. Unfortunately, it is all a bit of a guessing game for both players and devs because neither knows how everything will shake out. On the upside, considering Blizzard had more servers ready to go so quickly during launch, it’s probably a safe bet they are already planning for the eventuality the playerbase of Classic drops off or sustains.
Over this past weekend, I experienced some extreme lag while playing and had trouble logging back in after getting disconnected. This is of course due to the DDoS attacks which have been going on. I don’t have a whole bunch to say about it other than they seem to be working on it. Outside of these attacks I have had no issues with disconnects or lagging, except the day after they raised the server caps, while playing Classic. So, overall it seems very stable.
It’s going to be a few months at least until anyone knows how much staying power Classic will have. A lot will probably ride on how quickly we move through the different phases. Too rapidly and the playerbase won’t be able to keep up and could become discouraged. Too slowly and people will quit out of boredom. Plus, Blizzard doesn’t have the standard cushion of players needing to figure out how fights work and learning the mechanics because none of these are new fights and they don’t have the same complexity as modern fights do. Blizzard has said they want every realm to be down to one layer before they bring in Phase 2, so I’d guess we’d be looking at a couple of months before Phase 2 happens at least.
Overall World of Warcraft Classic is a solid effort and a ton of fun. Like I mentioned previously, I never wanted to bring back Vanilla and yes, there are some things which have been annoying me. Like having to face my target when I Moonfire or clicking on a quest item out in the world, but someone else clicks first and gets it. I’m not sure how long I will keep with Classic, but right now I am having fun and only logging onto retail for raid nights, which says a lot.