World of Warcraft Classic
Though the original game is more than a decade old, World of Warcraft Classic still achieves that great addictive hit of MMO gameplay that makes a player feel like they are part of a living world. The components of what make WoW Classic so successful are still present in most aspects of the modern game, so Classic’s stand-out experience might not be obvious to someone new to the Warcraft series as a whole. WoW Classic is so different from the modern game because of the original implementations of the game’s systems, which have a massively different gameplay feel than the modern game played today. But the game packs more punch than just its gameplay: read on for my full review.
1 - Visuals
WoW Classic is 15+ years old now, and despite all the good things I’m going to say about how the game operates, its age really does show in the visual department. Almost all games today blow the graphic fidelity of Classic WoW out of the water easily, but for what Classic WoW is, it really is a phenomenal looking game. Characters are distinctive and easy to discern (quite important in an MMO) and the cartoonish style of World of Warcraft gives a certain charm to the visuals despite their age. It’s apparent how grand and beautiful the game can still be with a proper set piece like so:
To wrap up: the graphics are good for what they could’ve been but terrible for what they’re being compared to. Modern games blow WoW out of the water visually, which is why if you’re playing Classic, you’re not playing for visuals. When all’s said and done, WoW Classic gets a 2.5 for Visuals.
2 - Audio
The audio in Classic WoW really isn’t dated in the slightest. Much of it isn’t grand orchestral pieces, but when the powerful music pieces do come up (such as in raids,) they provide great immersion through the ambience of the tracks. The tone set by the music in Classic WoW is perfect; from the eerie silence split by growing moans in the Plaguelands to the small hums of the forest in Ashenvale, the tracks in the game really bring in a sense of atmosphere that few games are capable of. Sound effects and voice acting is often well-done and many of those examples of sound effects and voice acting can still be found in the modern game today.
WoW’s audio has been top-notch since the start, giving it a 5.
3 - Story/Progression
World of Warcraft isn’t really a single narrative, at least it isn’t yet. Later expansions would focus on singular narratives about the struggles of the Horde and the Alliance over the course of that timeframe, but Vanilla was just a tale about adventurers finding their way through a perilous world on behalf of their newly-crafted nations. Each zone has a different story about different events in Warcraft history: from the dunes of Tanaris holding the troll city of Zul’Farrak to the remnants of Lordareon from Tiris Fall to the Eastern Plaguelands, the story is a whole world and its conflicts. Instead of getting one main narrative, especially with the raids in end-game content, there are stories about different threats across the planet to the civilizations our heroes represent.
Though it doesn’t have a main narrative, the many different stories in zones and dungeons and raids give players different insights on the world and are at least engrossing enough to keep you interested if you care about the story of an MMO, giving WoW Classic‘s story a 3.75.
4 - Gameplay
World of Warcraft may not have started the MMO genre, but it came to define and dominate it up to this day, despite the many contenders who have since risen to some level of success. WoW Classic has the original vision (excluding earlier insane patches in Vanilla WoW’s history) of the MMO’s exemplary class-based gameplay. You have a choice of the following 8 classes: Warrior, Rogue, Priest, Warlock, Druid, Shaman, Paladin, and Hunter. Back in Vanilla, the Paladins and Shamans were faction-locked classes, with the Paladins available to the noble Alliance and the Shamans for the savage Horde. Each faction has their own races which have specific classes that they can play, and each class has its specific niche in capabilities in all forms of content.
This is where WoW Classic gets quite a bit of its acclaim: the game was made to be played as a complete experience where the game had an end as opposed to the season-based gameplay of modern WoW. Leveling was tough and long, with each enemy a sizable-enough threat that many characters could easily die if they engaged too many enemies at a time. The name of the game is grouping up, and is the most intended way to play Classic in its original design. Group content can often be long and require time dedication, but the payoff in this decade-old game design is that the rewards are tangible. A new piece of gear in Classic of an especially high quality can become useful for you more than 10+ levels down the line in a game with a maximum of 60. You can easily observe in Classic how your character ascends in power from gear along with the additional abilities you get access to through leveling up, each upgrade enticing you to seek hungrily for the next. Each class is a completely different gameplay experience with talents and gear-choice offering you alternative playstyles that you can change between within each class.
However, this is all provided you have the gold to change your talents, which brings up the age-old subject of unfriendly game design. Things like paying 1000 gold for a 100% speed mount, paying gold to reset your talent points, spending 30 minutes on flight paths and so on are all old-game aspects that most players would probably prefer to see gone, nostalgic for the Classic experience or not.
WoW Classic is, after all, a 15-year-old game that clearly had unfinished aspects to it even at the time, so it’s not surprising to see the things that players wanted refined were eventually changed over time. Classic, however, will not remove those aspects of retired gameplay that no one really enjoyed, so you have to take the good things with the bad more or less as they came back when the game came out. WoW Classic has fantastic gameplay, but when taking into account how player-unfriendly it is relative to games today, it just simply isn’t for everyone.
It earns a 3.75 in Gameplay for having a robust system that is still addicting in its base parts to this day, even if it has changed in its implementation since then, especially in the quality-of-life changes that have taken place since Vanilla’s release.
5 - Context
World of Warcraft dominated the scene upon its arrival largely because WoW was considered a “casual MMO” in comparison to games at the time like Everquest. Someone who plays modern WoW might laugh because, in part, Classic WoW is beloved for its jank, dated mechanics and gameisms to the point that many herald memes as a key to its cult-following and commercial success. In reality, many of the obnoxious aspects of Classic WoW were indeed upgrades to the current MMO formula, but were still unfriendly in their own right, and are remembered fondly as a side-effect of nostalgia as opposed to actual appreciation of good game design. Don’t let that make you think that Classic WoW is a bad game, though- far from it. It is an amazingly fun game, though it’s just not built from the ground-up to be as user-friendly for a new player the way, for instance, the Shadowlands expansion is. The game’s hype pushed it from dream to meme to reality despite the belief that nobody wanted to go back to that older style of gameplay- a belief that was clearly incorrect based on the massive financial boon that came to Blizzard off the back of Classic’s success.
The game is one worth playing as a piece of history and nostalgia-fair alone, but the solid gameplay is a reason to find that you quite like playing it and stay hooked. I give WoW Classic’s creation context a 5.
Classic WoW is a great game if you have the time to dedicate and are willing to adjust to the quirkiness of its older-style gameplay. If you find that you like this style of gameplay in your MMO, then WoW Classic will soon have you hooked as a game you slave over day and night to achieve new heights. WoW’s biggest hurdle is its barrier to entry, but once a player has overcome that, they quickly find that the gameplay loop is so satisfying that they don’t want to stop. It’s an instant Classic.