How I Learned to Love Retail World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft Shadowlands

While I wasn’t as vocal as some parts of the World of Warcraft community in the Retail WoW vs. WoW Classic debate, I definitely had my opinion: I was on Team Classic. World of Warcraft Classic felt more like the MMO I loved; there was a sense of community, a world to explore, and narratives that made sense — and I could participate in all of this at my own leisure.

Maybe sometimes I wanted to knock out dungeons with friends. Other nights were raid nights. Sometimes there was PvP on the calendar. Or maybe I wanted to solely focus on gold-making and attempt to reach the game’s gold cap (I never did, sadly).

Regardless of what I wanted to do, I had the ability to pick and choose. I wasn’t forced to take part in various systems that were foisted upon me by the game. Sure, I was missing out on content in Burning Crusade, but that was mostly due to my own personal responsibilities and the fact that the guilds I’m in are smaller and far more casual.

Over time, however, World of Warcraft evolved into a game I no longer recognized. I really felt the burnout during the Firelands raid in Cataclysm. Don’t get me wrong, Firelands is great, but man, that shade of red got really old really fast. I quit, cold turkey, the day Dragon Soul, the expansion’s final raid, released.

WoW - Firelands

I’ve never gotten over the feeling of betraying my guild, but any attachment to the game was due to those people, not the content itself.

I had a cup of coffee with Mists of Pandaria, and I explored the first tier of raids in Warlords of Draenor, but something felt off. Between Garrisons, daily dungeons via the Looking For Group tool, the disconnect between myself and what seemed like a disconnected world, and myriad other things, World of Warcraft just wasn’t the same game it once was.

The release of World of Warcraft Classic brought me back into the franchise, and I was in love all over again. I wanted to explore, adventure, and experience everything Azeroth had to offer with old friends and new.

Of course, something else had changed: I had all of this free time now. I wasn’t working nights after going to school all day, nor was I limited in my availability to play the game. As a result, I grew hungry for more, not quite satisfied by everything Classic had to offer.

Enter the Shadowlands pre-patch.

Obviously, some of the other areas to quest and level in feel dated (I’m looking at you, Outland), but that’s to be expected; the content has hardly been touched since it released back in 2007. Even so, the fact that I can pick and choose which expansion to level in thanks to Chromie, Warcraft’s favorite time-bending dragon, combined with the fact that each zone scales to my level, means I can play the game however I’d like. Sure, dungeons are still blasted through without anyone ever saying a word, but then again, isn’t that almost always the case for any action-RPG or dungeon crawler?

I already discussed my thoughts on the new starting area, Exile’s Reach, which I really enjoyed. Still, I was concerned about whether or not my enjoyment of the game would continue after that.

Well, I’m currently working on my fourth character, heading toward the current level cap of 50, and I don’t see any signs of stopping.

World of Warcraft Shadowlands

World of Warcraft has evolved away from the traditional scope of an MMORPG — a gigantic world filled with mystery, ripe for exploration with freinds — to more of an action-RPG. My spell/ability rotations feel more involved and modern. Acquiring gear feels more like a dungeon-crawler than an MMO, which removes some of the “feels bad” moments of seeing bad gear go to waste that nobody in a party wants. Plus, the storytelling in the game’s newer zones is absolutely top-notch.

The best part? I don’t have to take part of any of the game’s “mandatory” checklists to ensure I’m keeping my gear up to snuff.

I dipped my toes in the water of Battle for Azeroth after the 8.3 patch. To say I was completely overwhelmed would be an understatement; I had so much to do. And that was before getting to the point where I was doing daily and weekly quests. This wasn’t a video game; it felt like a chore.

And yes, World of Warcraft Classic does have plenty of “chores” in terms of various reputation grinds, but they’re not really necessary, nor are they yelling at me every time I log in. I can still play the game how I want and partake in the content that I want to partake in. (Blizzard has said a lot of right things regarding the game’s systems, but I really hope that we don’t get a surprise list of chores once we hit level 60.)

World of Warcraft - Bastion

World of Warcraft has changed with the times, and, thanks to Shadowlands, it’s looking like a bona fide modern online RPG. This is ultimately what it needed to do, and I’ve fallen in love with how World of Warcraft plays since the 9.0 patch.

Whether or not I continue to enjoy Shadowlands once it fully releases will ultimately depend on how good the content is. For now, I’m excited about the the future of both in Retail World of Warcraft and World of Warcraft Classic. And it feels really good to be excited about WoW again.

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