As promised, following the Blizzcon 2018 opening keynote, the demo for World of Warcraft Classic is live. Folks who are attending Blizzcon 2018 can play the demo on the showfloor, while folks who have the Blizzcon Virtual Ticket can enjoy the game from home. Having redeemed my Virtual Ticket, I downloaded the demo and jumped right in.
World of Warcraft: Classic is everything that Blizzard Entertainment said it would be. It is the launch state of World of Warcraft, with what are likely a few optimizations to get it to run well on modern platforms. (The Social tab resembles current WoW, for example.) Otherwise, Blizzard hasn't touched anything in regards to play. Everything you remember (and have likely forgotten) about the original World of Warcraft is here. For some, this is everything they want in a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game. For myself, it's a reminder of why I don't want to move backwards.
The demo offers an hour's worth of play at a time, and then you have to let it sit for 30 minutes before you can jump back in. You can create a character of any race/class combination that was available at launch, so no Horde Paladins or Alliance Shaman. Once you've created your character, you're boosted to level 15 and dropped in a region depending on your faction: the Horde ends up in the Barrens, the Alliance is left in Westfall. And for an hour, you can dive into everything vanilla World of Warcraft had to offer.
I've already expounded elsewhere on why I think most won't want to go back to starting WoW. There is a strong and passionate fanbase of folks for whom this is the best thing ever, but I think a number of people don't realize how many quality-of-life and mechanical changes have been made in the years since.
I played a Night Elf Hunter for humor's sake and an Orc Shaman, the latter being most of my playtime so far. The first quest I received was "Plainstrider Menace" from Sergra Darkthorn, which required me to collect seven beaks from the local Plainstriders. I picked up a few other quests, but I figured this would be the easiest one to tackle.
First, World of Warcraft: Classic returns to a style of tapping that I was glad Blizzard left behind. A "tap" is when you attack a mob, thus giving possession of its spoils to you. When that mob is killed, regardless of who helps, only the person who tapped the mob gets the experience and loot.
Now, Plainstriders don't give up beaks on every corpse. What followed was me running as fast as I could towards a target in the distance, only to have the target tapped and taken away by another player. Or the opposite way around, I'd see someone running towards a mob I wasn't fighting, and I'd throw out a ranged attack to tap it before they could. I'd also generally leave a mob alone if I saw the grey nameplate, meaning I would get any credit for killing it. In current WoW, I'm more likely to help a player if I see them fighting a mob; in vanilla, not only am I not getting any credit, I'm potentially calling down pain upon myself depending on how strong the mob is. The tapping system turned what would be a relatively quick quest into a 15 minute affair.
Then there are the general mechanical changes. I was playing an Orc Shaman, the class I still mess around with today. Since launch, World of Warcraft has reworked the early leveling experience so there's some semblance of an attack rotation, even in the early game. At level 15, the Shaman's rotation is rote at best, even if you could call it a rotation.
It's death by a thousand cuts for me. Rockbiter Weapon, one of the available weapon buffs for a Shaman, is only up five minutes. Lightning Shield is up for 10 minutes, but each of the three lightning balls are consumed by an enemy attack, so it goes pretty quick. Together, the upkeep for the pair is annoying; there's not any enjoyment from keeping them up, I'm just doing it for survival.
Then there's the totems, a core feature of the Shaman class. I admit that Blizzard may have cut back the totem system a bit much in the modern game, but in vanilla, everything was a jumble. Every totem is its own spell again, even though totems of the same element cancel each other out. Blizzard gave the class the Totem bar during Wrath of the Lich King, which grouped up totems by element and offered an elegant way to access them. None of that is here.
And that's before I even have a chance to touch other systems that are not available in the demo. Running dungeons and raids was a completely different experience back in vanilla World of Warcraft. First you needed to find a group on general chat, then you needed to summon everyone to the entrance, and then you buffed up, hoping you had the reagents needed for the run. It's a much more involved experience that I'm not looking forward to again.
Blizzard may have strayed too far in some areas, but it's hard not to see some of the tedium reintroduced to WoW with Classic. Perhaps Wrath of the Lich King is my sweet spot in terms of older World of Warcraft experiences. What my short time with the demo has proven to me is that launch World of Warcraft isn't what I'm looking for. That said, we're not sure if World of Warcraft Classic will remain with vanilla WoW, or have progression servers that cycle through other expansions. If this is your jam though, I'm happy for you.
We'll see how everything shakes out when World of Warcraft: Classic launches in Summer 2019.