Nostalgia can be a comfort. It can be fun. Yet nostalgia usually isn’t something that takes much time. It’s an old logo on a t-shirt, a movie you revisit once a year, a well-worn novel that never leaves your bookshelf. Part of nostalgia’s comfort comes from passive enjoyment.
World of Warcraft Classic, though, is anything but passive. It’s a recreation of World of Warcraft’s state soon after launch, and that recreation demands plenty of players. Anyone looking to dive in for more than a moment will need to spend time doing a bit of research. That includes active World of Warcraft players. The game has changed a lot since its original release, and the familiar tricks you use today probably won’t work in Classic.
During my demo, players in chat conversed about the fact a single quest, one that asks you to go kill bandits, takes 40 minutes to complete. There’s nothing else to it, mind you. No story, no exploration, no tricks or mechanics. All you’re asked to do is go to a mine and slowly murder enemies until you’ve killed the satisfactory amount. Then, run back and turn it in. Done.
It’s old-school, and there’s good reason why modern games try to spice up quests or, if they can’t do that, simply make them shorter. Classic is boring. I almost enjoyed my first 15 minutes, but the hint of a smile on my face disappeared after my fifth time circling the same stupid, ugly mine. As I slogged on I found myself doing what most bored MMO players do to pass the time. I opened YouTube on another monitor.
I’m not surprised. This is what I expected. I played World of Warcraft at release and I remember what it was like. Still, I’d hoped that my patience would be measured in hours, not minutes.
Well, it’s not all bad
Alright. It’s boring. Yet there are a few high points, and they’re mostly things the modern World of Warcraft experience lacks.
The demo spawned my Gnome in Westfall, where I immediately picked up quests and opened my map. Modern World of Warcraft would point out the location on the map, but Classic doesn’t. While it didn’t take me long to figure out where I had to go (partially because I remembered), it’s been a long time since I felt even slightly lost in Azeroth. The modern game’s design certainly doesn’t leave players with much mystery.
Then there’s the inexplicable joy of the talent tree. I understand why Blizzard eventually axed them. Talent trees don’t make sense in a game where players quickly find optimal choices. What they do offer, however, is an illusion of customization and choice that modern World of Warcraft lacks. It’s a reminder that even today, over 14 years after its release, Blizzard hasn’t found a role-playing progression system that can be all things to all people.
What I noticed most wasn’t a game mechanic, though, but a mood. A mood of peace, of chill. World of Warcraft has become unchill. Everything is constantly on fire and oh my god, did you just see the giant man stab the planet and the lady do the thing to the tree and the zappyboi say the words and and and… and it can be a bit exhausting. Blizzard updates the modern game at such a breakneck pace that even veterans don’t know everything and players have to dig deep into fan sites like Wowhead to unearth ancient knowledge about quest lines a few patches old.
Classic is chill. Go kill some bandits. You get some bandanas. Go gnaw at a copper node with your teeth. Or something. Whatever. Classic doesn’t care, and it’s not going to change.
Visit, but don’t stay
Which brings me back to my original complaint. It’s boring.
There’s not a lot going on, and what’s going on isn’t interesting. Sure, you’ll start to pick up the story and see more entertaining quests if you commit many, many hours to the game, but this is and always will be Classic. It’s not going anywhere, not even to an end-game credits screen. Eventually, you’ll find yourself standing on top of level 60 and, looking down from that lofty peak, say to yourself, “Well, ok. I guess that’s it.”
But I can forgive that. Blizzard says Classic will be included in a World of Warcraft subscription, so it’s not pitched as a separate title. It a nostalgia ride you can enjoy for a few minutes or to its end, as you desire. World of Warcraft Classic is a distraction. It’s a fine distraction. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking it’ll be more, as you’ll surely be disappointed.
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