Nostalgia is a dangerous thing, but the success of World of Warcraft Classic proves that people were right to fawn over the past. Blizzard’s official vanilla servers harken back to a time when MMOs were decidedly more challenging and inherently social, making even the act of corralling a group of players and doing a dungeon feel like a grand adventure. But just because Classic gets things right that modern expansions like Battle for Azeroth sometimes stumble over doesn’t mean World of Warcraft has gotten worse over time.
World of Warcraft has evolved and changed so much that the Classic and modern incarnation almost feel like different games—apples and oranges, and all that. But even though I’m having a blast exploring Azeroth as it existed in 2006, there are a few things I miss about modern Warcraft.
Quests that don’t bore me to death
If there’s one area where Classic Warcraft absolutely blows, it’s in the quest design. Those jokes about killing 15 boars aren’t funny when you’re level 30 and staring down a gauntlet of boring, repetitive quests on the 100-plus hour grind to reach max level. And what’s really warped is you feel lucky when you have quests to do because the alternative of grinding by just killing monsters for exp is even worse.
Though many players despise the Cataclysm expansion for effectively erasing the original version of Azeroth, it did deliver a wholly remade leveling experience that was far more enjoyable. Individual zones now have a central story that’s told through numerous, more evenly paced quests, and the objectives are more varied and often involve novel tasks like piloting vehicles or fighting fun minibosses. It makes leveling a character much more engaging, even if the end result is feeling more like I’m on an amusement park ride that is touring me from destination to destination.
Classes that have genuine versatility
I like a lot of the ideas that drive Classic’s different classes. Hunters, for example, have pets that need to be fed in order to stay happy and ranged weapons that require me to stock up on ammo. It might seem like busywork, but managing those resources helps reinforce the fantasy of being hunter. What I don’t like, though, is how simplified some classes are and how little versatility most have beyond their core role.
In modern WoW, every class has distinct specializations that change what abilities I have access to and sometimes what role I play in a group. Paladins, for example, can be healers, tanks, or damage dealers. But in Classic? You’re probably just going to be stuck healing—despite being able to wear that awesome plate armor and swing a big hammer. Though Classic’s classes try to have some versatility, they’re often woefully ill-equipped against others that actually specialize in whatever particular role you’re looking to emulate. The result is it becomes hard to convince your party to let you tank as a druid when there’s a willing warrior who can do it so much better.
Modern WoW, by comparison, treats each specialization almost as a distinct class in its own right, which means a more useful suite of abilities that can be used more often. The balance, while not perfect (as any Enhancement shaman will tell you), let’s you experiment with different and equally valid playstyles.
Better designed dungeon and raid bosses
Though Classic nailed a lot of things its first time around, there’s no substitute for 15 years of practice in making good dungeons and raids. And one thing that has dramatically improved over the years is Blizzard’s ability to make a fun boss fight. In World of Warcraft Classic, bosses often don’t present much of a challenge beyond one or two special abilities and a lot of health points. There isn’t always an elaborate strategy involved; you just run in there and kill them as quickly as possible. It’s why guilds were able to down some of Classic’s first raid bosses so quickly—things are just simpler in Classic.
Modern WoW’s bosses aren’t necessarily tougher than their Classic counterparts, but the fight is usually more involved and requires each person in a group to know what they’re doing. Instead of merely holding aggro, tanks might need to interrupt certain boss abilities or trigger ‘active mitigation’ abilities at just the right time to protect themselves from special attacks. And healers need to always be aware of special debuffs that they can dispel to save their allies.
Modern WoW dungeons and raids also have some pretty inventive obstacles to overcome. During the fight against High Tinker Mekkatorque in The Battle of Dazar’alor, for example, players have to defuse bombs by inputting a special combination of symbols that everyone else in their group can see but them. Though Classic does have some great boss fights, dungeons and raids have gotten a lot better in the expansions that came after.
More ways to express myself creatively
I find it charming that in WoW Classic my character is wearing mismatched, salvaged bits of whatever I can find that has good stats. But at the same time, I miss modern Warcraft’s “transmog” options, which lets me use the appearance of one item while still benefiting from the stats of another. Ultimately, MMOs are a kind of fantasy, and being able to style my character just the way I want is a critical part of that fantasy. It’s fun to make my character look distinct by playing dress up now and again or by showing off a rare piece of gear even though its not useful to me anymore (Herod’s Shoulder, anyone)?
But how I look is just the beginning, I also sorely miss my expansive library of mounts and pets that further distinguish me from the crowd. While I appreciate what an enormous achievement it is to get Classic’s top-tier rides, I wish there was more variety to what’s available.
More accommodating of my rapidly diminishing free time
I love how uncompromising Classic is. Just traveling to a new area can take 15 minutes or more of walking—and god help you if you need to head to the other continent. I also love that finding a dungeon group actually requires talking to people and working together instead of just pushing a button that matches me with a random group who I’ll never see again. At the same time, I just don’t have the same amount of time to play World of Warcraft that I used to, and the truth is I like how modern Warcraft is more accommodating of the free time that I do have.
In general, it’s easier to get around and the design of newer expansions means I can easily pop on for an hour, run a dungeon or two, complete some quests, and make some progress on my character. Sometimes I enjoy the sense of adventure and scale of Classic’s older version of Azeroth, but other times I just want to get shit done. And even though modern WoW might be more accessible, I also like that it provides more options to play the way I want—whether that means a full night of raiding or just popping on to manage follower missions for 15 minutes.