It was a few weeks after the launch of World of Warcraft Classic, and I was navigating my Gnome Mage through the tepid Wetlands. With a click of my keyboard, my character deftly weaved his hands and hurled a magical bolt, dealing the killing blow to a nearby spider.
The fuzzy-legged creature fell and writhed in agony. In any other game, it might’ve been a dramatic and satisfying moment — but this was WoW Classic. That spider was one of thirty I had killed that hour in anticipation of collecting a set number of required quest items. But with a limited drop chance, Classic was guaranteeing me little more than disappointment with each kill.
Crossing my fingers, I looted the spider’s sparkling corpse, and —
Nothing. No drop.
I sat still for a few moments as an epiphany washed over me. As this hour-long spider-massacring marathon had revealed, WoW Classic was never going to respect my time.
So I logged out and never logged back in.
But it wouldn’t be my last time setting foot into Azeroth. About a year later — and amid a pandemic, no less — I reactivated my WoW account with a spare game time code. While I had long-since exhausted my masochistic desire for Classic, I was curious how Blizzard had evolved the contemporary retail version of their game.
And after spending a dozen or so hours catching up on WoW’s Battle for Azeroth expansion years after its initial release, I was floored. Compared to the brutal timesink that is Classic, Blizzard’s retail version is a joyride.
Where WoW Classic never tasks the player with much more than mundane busywork, Battle for Azeroth’s questlines are interweaved with compelling stories and colorful characters. Where an hour of WoW Classic could entail little more than killing spiders, an hour in BFA could be spent bouncing back-and-forth between clearing dungeons (thanks to the built-in Dungeon Finder) and pushing forward in an epic and engaging questline.
And while I’m aware that the expedient design of retail WoW displeases some, it’s great that Blizzard offers their game in two flavours. The coexistence of Battle for Azeroth and Classic is genius: aside from placating both types of players, it also highlights how drastically the game has evolved since 2004.
Chiefly, the juxtaposition of both titles reveals how Blizzard has evolved contemporary WoW to be much more respectful of players’ time. But with Classic, veteran players get to have their cake and eat it, too: if they have a hankering for the brutal-yet-satisfying progression of Classic, Blizzard provides. Meanwhile, those unfamiliar with the punishing days of WoW’s yore can experience them firsthand and get a fresh perspective on the Azeroth of today.
But, as someone who has a limited amount of time to spend on video games each week, contemporary WoW feels like a true evolution of the game in the most optimistic sense. And while I can appreciate WoW’s design roots, knowing that Battle for Azeroth has more to offer me than an hour of killing spiders is exciting, indeed.
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