World of Warcraft Classic review: Journey to the past

World of Warcraft Classic takes players back to the "good ole days" of Blizzard's hit MMO. But does Classic live up to the hype? Our review.

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World of Warcraft has been one of the few MMO RPGs to survive the massive amounts of online subscription service games that have failed. Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, Blizzard has released WoW Classic. Is the game as good as we remember it? Or is it more unbalanced than a classic Paladin? Find out in our review.

Blood and Thunder!

World of Warcraft Classic is based off an early build of the game. Essentially, WoW Classic solidifies at patch 1.12. Everything is how it was in this version of World of Warcraft, with developers using the original code, graphics and so forth. This means that everything from the 1.12 patch, when the game was released originally, exists exactly the same as it was before in WoW classic here in 2019. Spells and damage mimic the exact numbers they did in the original game and patch.

This attention to detail has made sure players get the classic experience they’ve been asking for. The only thing different is Blizzard is using 2019 server architecture. However, even though Blizzard developers are using current generation sever hardware and software, the queue times at launch and at the time of this review are still 60-120 minutes. Some may argue that this is part of the authentic WoW Classic experience since it was like this for years when the game launched and through its first three expansions. However, waiting for two hours to play a 15-year-old version of a game is unacceptable. I do understand why Blizzard put caps on servers, but it would’ve been nice to see some cross-server integration, if only when your server queue was this long.  I feel like this could’ve easily been avoided, but like I admitted before it does give you the authentic WoW Classic Experience.  

For the Alliance!

WoW Classic review - For the Alliance!

Online MMOs were quite different 15 years ago, and it certainly shows in WoW Classic. Not only was the game a true RPG, but it was also the first time players were able to see the vast world of Warcraft from third or first-person perspective. Seeing the Alliance capital of Stormwind is breathtaking and questing through Tirisfal Glades and walking through the fallen kingdom of Lorderon for the first time since Warcraft 3, was certainly a powerful and memorable experience. Gameplay mechanics were certainly different as well. Hunters, for example, have to feed and take care of their pet if you choose to ignore your pet and not feed it, he would actually run away.

Reagents and items also play a huge part in WoW Classic. Rouges need to carry poisons reagents with them at all times to apply them to their weapons. If you run out of poisons to imbue your weapon, you had to go in-game to a vendor and buy more. The same goes for flash powder which Rouges need in order to use vanish. Ammo for hunters, or group buffs for Druids, Paladins, and Mages. All needed items that had to be consumed in order to use a lot of these abilities. While it certainly is tedious to always have to have a mountain of “class-specific” items in your bags to use, it adds a sense of “role-playing” and realism to the Warcraft world.

Talents were also completely different in patch 1.12. Building off a system that made you feel like you’ve created your own unique character, it’s actually one of the major things I miss the most in retail WoW, that I had been wishing Blizzard would bring back.  Traveling is equally realistic. Having to run from place to place takes up a huge majority of play time, true you still have Mage portals, and Hearthstones, but with no meeting stones, and very few stronghold portals, methods of fast travel are few and far between. Meaning you had to walk or use one of the worlds flight, ship or train transit services to get where you need to go. This includes mounts, which are unavailable until you hit level 40, which in WoW Classic can take a hefty amount of time to achieve and obtain gold to buy.

Time is money, friend

WoW Classic review

Where WoW Classic separates itself from retail is its sense of awards and accomplishments. Over the years Blizzard has made World of Warcraft faster, easier, and more accessible. Adding things like flying mounts, meeting stones, and of course dungeon instance and group finders, which make questing and dungeon running more convenient. These tools are not present in WoW Classic, however, there is a reason.

Retail WoW rewards you consistently and frequently where WoW Classic does the exact opposite. Leveling and getting uncommon items is much less frequent. Its this long heavy grind that adds a sense of greater accomplishment. Since your rewards are so few, each level feels like a huge milestone for your character, each 6-slot bag you find becomes a memorable moment in WoW Classic. Getting your first epic item feels, well, epic due to the amount of time and energy it takes to achieve. It feels earned when your rewards take longer to receive and are not handed out so frequently.

The biggest thing WoW Classic has that retail WoW lost over the years, is the social aspect of the game. No cross-severs, or dungeon raid finder means it relies on players actually looking for groups in chat. Whether it’s for questing, dungeon runs, portals or raids. This system of social interaction is probably the biggest feature of WoW Classic, and since each server is its own closed off world, you’ll likely encounter the same players again and again. It’s by far the biggest and best feature WoW Classic brings to the table.

Have a good one

WoW Classic Review

So which WoW is superior? Classic or Retail? It’s an impossible answer and boils down to personal preference. Directly comparing the two would be frivolous, as they are two completely different games that offer two completely different experiences. Lucky for us Blizzard was kind enough to wrap both Retail and Classic WoW into the same subscription, so you adventurers can choose which experience you want, at no extra cost under one monthly sub. However, as we are in a period of games as a service, it’s worth mentioning that the 14.99 a month price tag of a WoW subscription seems a bit high for what it offers. Compared to Xbox game pass, or even Google Stadia, it’s a pretty hefty price tag for one game, a game that also charges an additional cost for expansions.  

WoW Classic targets the original WoW player base, the same player base that’s been playing since the game released in 2004, so if you started playing WoW at later expansions, like Cataclysm, or Mist of Pandaria, it may not hit you with the same nostalgia as so many other WoW veterans. I guess one could argue that the difference between WoW Classic and retail is, simply put, accessibility. What takes hours in WoW Classic, can take 20min or less in retail WoW.  Which begs the question, does having a more or less accessible game make for a better or worse experience? This is the question I pose to you the reader. Ponder it and let us know what you think in the comments below.

*Editors Note: The queue times in WoW Classic as of 10/2/2019 have been much better. 

Video Production

Greg is the head of Video Production for Shacknews. If you've ever enjoyed a video on Gamerhub.tv, it was most likely edited by him. Follow him on Twitter @GregBurke85

Review for
WoW Classic
7
Pros
  • Nostalgia
  • More RPG than Action MMO
  • Rewards feel earned
  • Social interaction
Cons
  • Long Queue Times
  • Heavy Time Commitment
  • Tedious Mechanics
  • Monthly Subscription Cost is High
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