The last time I played World of Warcraft was just over 10 years. Just as the Burning Crusade expansion was coming to an end. In that time, there have been changes to just about every aspect of the game. Combat, questing, progression, you name it. Plus with seven expansions and the newest addition Shadowlands rolling out today, it’s just got bigger.
That being said, I was more eager to jump back in than I’ve been to play most AAA releases this year. I missed playing a good MMO and sinking in hours of playtime with friends. Whether that’s doing huge dungeons and raids or just messing around. So, what do I think?
Brave New World (of Warcraft)
When I first logged in, it’s safe to say I found the world unrecognisable. The world has been destroyed and rebuilt by the cataclysm, key characters have died or returned and new lands and races have joined the fray. It was a lot to take in. I had no idea how characters had changed or the events that had changed the world. Not to mention the countless new continents and hours upon hours of content that was now at my fingertips. Whether it’s Pandaria, Northrend, Draenor or anywhere else, I had a lot to explore.
The Plot Thickens
With the amount of lore and story now woven into the world, players with a thing for narrative will have a field day. Hell, even someone like me who hates stories in games has always had a soft spot for these intricate stories. Naturally, I haven’t experienced them all just yet, that’s a whole other endeavour that’s going to take a LONG time.
It’s been a mixed bag with what I’ve played so far. I’ve spent most of my time playing the Battle for Azeroth expansion with a friend or going it alone in Warlords of Draenor, and I have preferred the latter. Obviously, not every storyline is going to catch my attention. I’ve no doubt that as I play the others I’ll find some I enjoy and some I don’t, but at least I won’t run out of storylines anytime soon.
Diverse and Visually Rich
Where the story was a bit hit or miss, the new areas were much more exciting, much more often. Almost every zone I’ve seen so far was fun to play and explore, always feeding my curiosity. Honestly, I was taken aback by how awesome some of them looked.
The aesthetics and visuals were unique as you would expect, but flying across all of Draneor’s areas for example never failed to make me stop and appreciate the time and detail that has gone into making them as visually interesting as possible. Trust me, if I have run back and forth across an area for a few hours, it had better be nice to look at and explore; partly due to the fact the game has significantly better models and textures than it did 10 years ago.
It’s a testament to the design team at Blizzard who create these places for players to get lost in. That’s not even mentioning things like the better character customization, new races to unlock or a heap of other additions.
The world’s bigger, more alive and more detailed than I’ve seen it before, and I can’t wait to see the rest of it.
Gameplay – Refined and Reforged
I’ll be honest, the real reason I play a game like WoW is for the depth and length of its gameplay. You can easily play for 200 hours and still find something new to do. The intricacies of each class, how they work together and the community surrounding it have always been its strongest aspect for me. With a ton of changes that have reshaped the gameplay since my last visit, it felt like a new game in some ways; a better one at that.
More Compact, More Rewarding
An MMO can be incredibly intimidating for new players. Hell, even I found it scary coming back and I’ve played a lot of them. Thankfully it’s become far more accessible in my time away. A ton of quality of life improvements like a build-in quest tracker makes the whole experience much easier to navigate; more time learning while playing, less stop and start.
One aspect I think put new players off though was the sheer amount of content, and the time it took to play it all. Am I saying it’s bad to have a lot of content? Not at all, but when you had to play through all of it for 120 levels not only can it become a slog, it ends up becoming less rewarding. The huge amount of time you had to put into playing just to catch up with everyone else ended up feeling more like a chore than a fun gameplay experience.
Now, that’s a thing of the past. With the recent Shadowlands pre-patch, everyone’s level has been “squished”, with 60 becoming the new max level. With this, every expansion has also been reworked. Now instead of playing through every single one, players choose which they want to play from level 10 till 50, with levels 50-60 saved for the Shadowlands; this has easily been one of the best design decisions they’ve ever made.
With a more streamlined system in place, it made levelling so much more rewarding. Most levels gave me new spells or upgraded ones I had, and I constantly felt like I was getting stronger and progressing. Not to mention that thanks to the reworks, levelling up is now WAY faster than before, making the journey to top-level more bearable and frankly, more fun.
Learning the Ropes
One of the newest and biggest additions to this comes with the arrival of the Shadowlands, with a new starting area called Exile’s Reach. New players (who haven’t created or levelled a character before) are given a crash course in the basics of WoW. This includes aspects like combat, class specifics and dungeons to name a few, with veteran players able to choose between this new area and their race’s original starting zone. It doesn’t quite cover everything, but it will no doubt help new players settle into the game easier than before.
Though for whatever reason, new players don’t get quite the same amount of freedom as veteran players do. Seeing as veterans get a choice of expansion to play through, whereas new players are forced into Battle for Azeroth. Yes, it gives context for the current story, but I’m all about player choice off the bat so this bugged me; a lot. Thankfully with how quick it is to level up now, you’ll be able to try new characters and expansions without restriction sooner rather than later.
As well as some other additions like detailed in-game tutorials, new players should have no problem getting to grips with Warcraft‘s many systems after a bit of time. But in case you need that little extra help, you can always use the Newcomer’s chat. Until level 20, you can talk with new players or ask experienced players for help or advice to help make sure you’re prepared for the many journeys ahead.
“It’s my Specialty”
With fast levelling and a more streamlined experience, the way your classes play and develop have responded in kind. What was once long talent trees and huge clusters of icons on your screen is now a more precise, and more defined gameplay experience.
Classes are now more defined and more greatly affected by their specialization (or spec for short). Whereas before you put points into a long list of upgrades with a few spells littered throughout, you now choose one at level 10 that dramatically changes the way you play your character. Each spec will fit a certain combat role – tank, DPS or healing – that determines the playstyle, spells, weapons, strengths and weaknesses of your character. As well as learning new spells as you level up, you also pick from three talents every 5-10 levels over 7 tiers that are unique to each spec.
Put simply, this new style of talents and specializations is a far cry from what I remember; but it’s so much more rewarding. Having almost all specializations change your playstyle makes it easy to mix up and adapt to different situations. Plus it’s a nice bonus that it’s easy to change your spec when you want.
The fact you learn new spells more often and have a more defined experience makes playing your class far more fun. I felt myself getting better naturally as I levelled up, learning my spells and rotations, whilst also how I work within groups when it came time to jump into dungeons.
I can’t wait to see what else I’ll learn about my class and others as I delve deeper into the endgame. The game feels nicer, more rewarding, and just better than before. So I’ll be playing for a while, I can imagine.
These special items are available to all classes, spec’s and levels with you, scaling in power as you go. They are the perfect gear for alt characters. Plus, they are account-wide, so you only need to buy them once. I’ve not had a chance to nab any just yet, but I look forward to making levelling my alt characters just that much quicker and easier thanks to these little treats.
It’s always nice to be able to keep track – and sometimes brag – about your exploits in games. The addition of the achievements system is a great way to do that. Naturally, mine is a bit lacking at the moment. Nevertheless, it’s still gratifying to see a record of where I’ve been, what I’ve done and plan what I want to go for next. Plus with some harder, lengthier achievements dishing out mounts and titles, I get the feeling I’ll be working at them for a long time.
Put simply, it’s Pokémon in WOW.
From what I’ve experienced so far, it’s a nice distraction at times if I fancy a change of pace. It’s a bit gritty, and it’s not exactly the deepest and rewarding addition I’ve come across. That being said, I can imagine after some more time with it I’ll get just as obsessed as I do when new a Pokémon game releases.
If you long for the good old days of vanilla World of Warcraft, then you’re in luck. In 2019, Blizzard released WoW Classic, the original game in all its glory. Old textures, old gameplay and everything else from its original 2004 release. Even better, it’s included in your normal subscription. So if you fancy a blast from the past, Blizzard has you covered.
Truthfully I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to this mammoth of a game. I’ve not delved into the PVP, I’ve got a ton of dungeons and raids I’ve never seen, and a ton of plot still to learn. However, with all the changes that Blizzard has made over the years, the game feels more fun than it ever did before. I’ve sunk hours into the game over the past week, and not once have I truly gotten bored of playing my characters, learning the new systems or just exploring in general. I get the feeling I’ll be playing WoW again for a long time.
Now with the Shadowlands waiting, I’m ready for the next phase in this world’s epic saga, and maybe after reading this, you are, too.
Got other opinions or suggestions of things I should do/explore? Fancy jumping back into World of Warcraft yourself? Feel free to let us know in the comments!