Nostalgia Lane: The Burning Crusade

burningSix years ago to the month, World of Warcraft released its very first expansion pack.  At the time I was a year away from becoming a blogger, still living in my old apartment, and enjoying my first year with my wife.  Sometimes I can’t believe how fast time passes, how these things that happened *years* ago feel like yesterday.

I was getting nostalgic for WoW lately, not enough to make me want to play it, but nostalgic in the sense of “I miss the old days, not what the game is now even though I know it’s technically better.”  WoW at the turn of The Burning Crusade felt like an incredible, magical time for the game.  It had become established as the premier MMO with a massive following, and I had just hit level 60 with my new Gnome Warlock who I had named Syp.  When we heard the news that there would be an expansion, everyone went bananas.  I mean, the game had never had one before.  We really didn’t know what to expect.  And we’d been slowly going stir-crazy in the same zones for over two years at that point.

There was a big to do at the portal gate in Azeroth prior to the expansion, and players such as myself who participated were treated to a tabard that shot out sparks every minute or so.  A cool little doodad.  Then came the night of the release.  It was one of the only — and the very last — times that I ever went to a store for a midnight release to get my copy.  My wife thought I was nuts.  I probably was.  It was cold, being January in Michigan, and I had to stand in a line outside with a whole bunch of strangers who made me profoundly uncomfortable.  As soon as I snagged my copy, I rushed hope to install it and make my new characters.

I was reading something on WoW Insider not too long ago where the author was bashing TBC as not that great of an expansion in retrospect, which I guess was his opinion and okay.  But he did say something that rang true, which is that whatever expansion WoW players first encountered seemed like it became the expansion that defined their experience and memories of the game.  I was probably more of a vanilla WoW player than anything, but TBC definitely left a huge impression on me.

Going through the dark portal to Outland for that first time was… incredible.  I took many, many screenshots.  Outland was so alien of a place, but it was new and exciting.  Up to that point in WoW history, the quest flow of the old world wasn’t the best, especially in the higher levels, but Outland featured a much more refined hub-quest model that provided enough XP and kept things moving.  Within a day, we all replaced our old gear with new (“green is the new purple” was the catchphrase of the time).  A bazillion people were in the first Outland zone, which made questing difficult (but not impossible).

I alternated with Syp and a brand-new blueberry space alien hunter named Ghostfire.  Those new races still seem exotic to me, even as they’ve long since become the old guard.  I loved the Draenei look and alien tech aesthetic, and I do wish that I had stuck with my Shaman that I also rolled back then.  Those totems looked wicked cool.

TBC created so many memories for me.  Who didn’t fall to death in Shatt a few hundred times?  Or didn’t complain about the poop-scooping quest?  Or wasn’t kind of in awe of the beauty of Nagrand?  It was the only expansion of pretty much any MMO where I became, temporarily, a raider.  Kara was such a fun instance to explore with a 10-man group.  Again, it feels like all of that was just yesterday.

Even with the new areas and tighter quest flow, TBC wasn’t without its flaws.  I still don’t think that Outland meshes well with the rest of the game, zone-wise, especially with all of the subsequent expansions.  I still maintain that flying mounts was a big mistake that trivialized exploration and content, a stance that feels backed up by how the devs had to keep coming up with excuses to “ground” us for the new expansions so we wouldn’t just fly over challenges.  The music was so-so, probably my least favorite of all of the expansions.  And the dailies were not enjoyable at all.

Wrath of the Lich King was a fine expansion and a lot of fun to return to later on, Cataclysm got my attention for about a week before losing it, and I sincerely doubt (but never say never) that I’ll see Mists of Pandaria’s content.  For me, The Burning Crusade was THE expansion of the game during my career there, and I still can’t believe it’s been six years.

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17 thoughts on “Nostalgia Lane: The Burning Crusade

  1. That’s already six years ago? Daaaamn…

    But yeah, I was still in high school when TBC hit, and I remember the day it launched clearly. My homework went undone for weeks, as I crawled through Outland and leveled a Blood Elf alt. Good times, man, good times…

  2. I was a BC baby. I had played a few months before release but it wasn’t until BC that I got into the game and had my 1st max level character. I was very casual back then so I don’t have many end game memories of BC and it wasn’t until Wrath that I became a raider. I recently stopped playing WoW. Mists just didn’t bring back the love of the game I once had. I should have logged my warlock out at Nagrand. It was my favorite zone and I spent so much time there because I loved it so much. I will always have a love hate relationship with WoW and I’m sad I have to say goodbye.

  3. Like you, I don’t think I’ll be going back to WoW. MoP’s Pandaren starting area was just more fo the same ol’ same ol’. I’d been playing vanilla for about 7 months when TBC came out. I didn’t even have a max-level toon (much like today I’m a slow-leveling altoholic. I’d pre-ordered but didn’t attend the midnight release. (I did for WotLK, and you’re right. Those people are Weird!) Luckily we had an icestorm that day and my office closed down, so I was able to grab my copy on the way home and install it. Amazing stuff, when I finally got to 60 and saw Outland I was blown away, (the SKY!) Then 70, I was able to raid Kara with my guild, and was working toward the Sunwell. I still haven’t seen the inside of the Black Temple, or several other TBC raids. I don’t care whether it fits in with the rest of the game—though I think it does. It was a great expansion, and I’d love to go back to those days when it was new.

  4. One of my best memories of TBC was running to Hellfire Citadel with you & a certain night elf hunter that had you on follow while she was afk. She got back to her keyboard just in time to see you pop into flight form as she hurtled off the cliff, and a very long and extremely loud tirade of expletives followed on vent. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard in my life.

    I agree though, TBC was amazing. Vanilla, TBC, & Wrath were the height of the game IMO. Cata & MoP have been bland & forgettable.

  5. I loved TBC as well. It really had the raiding come together in a meaningful way. I mean, it’s nice that the game has become so much more accessible, but I really loved the still closed off and grueling nature of raiding during TBC. With the changes they did make, it became a far cleaner and more fun experience (especially limited to 25-men).

  6. TBC was one of the best WoW expansions before the whole game devolved into an MMO Farmville. Hardcore raiding was at it’s peak during TBC.

  7. TBC was my favorite time in WoW by far. My guild used to do half-soused heroics on Friday night, and someone would always fall off the platform outside of The Mechaanar, plus the raids were awesome. I don’t miss WoW, exactly, but I do miss those old times. (And as for flaws, I never quite liked the design of Shatt.)

  8. Yes Shatt never really seemed like city to me. On the other hand, it seemed specifically designed with flying mounts in mind.

  9. TBC was my favorite expansion. I played at launch but stopped playing after I got a max level character. My small group was hitting walls on what we could do, and we just didn’t have a lot of interest in 40-person raiding.

    TBC showed that Blizzard had hit its stride, and had learned from the previous mistakes made in vanilla. They added depth to the classes, so that each class wasn’t a one-trick pony. I still remember being in shock when someone sent me a tell asking if I wanted to tank an instance as a Druid; they finally made feral spec viable to play! And Karazhan was a tremendously fun and easy-to-approach instance; I hate grinding and repeating stuff, but I looked forward to playing in Karazhan. Our group decided to get into raiding, and for the 4 of us it was easier to get into 10-person groups and not feel lost in the crowd. We did some other further raiding, but mostly after the complex attunement system had been removed.

    What I didn’t like about TBC? Faction grinds. Factions felt a bit thrown in for vanilla, but TBC brought the repeatable quests and faction grinds to an art form.

    However, I didn’t find Wrath that compelling. It felt like they nerfed Druid flexibility to give Death Knights the advantage. There was a ton more faction grinding, and my heart wasn’t into raiding anymore. I went back during the free weekend for Cataclysm briefly, but I’ve only seen MoP in screenshots and the Storybricks CEO playing. :)

    But, yes, how time passes….

  10. I appreciated the alien feel of Outland, the increase in both scope and depth and the sense of a bigger conflict beyond the Horde and the Alliance. But at the same time, the lack of significant differences between the factions and the lack of aerial combat meant that the connections to players outside your guild started to degrade. It was very easy to start treating the non-instanced world as a single-player game or worse: Background noise. The “real” game was in instances and raids. And while that part of WoW was better by at least an order of magnitude than anything seen before, that split was the beginning of a transition from an MMORPG to an MMO.

  11. TBC is still my standout favourite time in WoW. Yes I played too much, but we had an awesome guild of players that had come out of a few RL friends all playing together as we levelled. It was a magical time filled with a lot of nostalgia. I still look back on those nights in Karazhan with a lot of fondness. I dabbled with Wrath, didn’t last long past hitting 85 in Cata and am really not fussed about MoP. WoW was the first MMO where I began the journey whereby I now know that I am destined to play the healer in whatever game I go into.

  12. I started playing about four months before BC, and yes, I loved it too. :) Not everything was perfect as you said (I agree that flight was a big mistake in the long run for example, even if it was fun for a while), but most of it was great. I loved the Draenei starter zone and remember rolling up a mage with some friends and levelling as a four-man team that we referred to as “The Blue Man Group”. Heroics were genuinely fun for the entirety of the expansion, and getting into raiding via Karazhan was exciting. And of course BC had the original Zul’Aman and its bear run! Good times.

    When I quit the game, I logged out sitting on top of a cliff in Nagrand.

  13. I doubt anyone will see this comment so long after this post was put up, but I was sitting here just thinking about how much I missed BC, and wondering why, when it hit me-the game was actually challenging. Kara was fantastic, because it took more than 30 mins to run through (though it was admittedly a little long at 4 hours+), and you actually had to CC, snare, and be alert in order to run through it. Remember the Prince fight? If two people died from the infernals, it was over. EVERYONE had to pay attention. I’ve leveled to 90 and done some raiding in every expansion, and nothing is difficult anymore (and I know they have hard-mode versions, but I don’t have the time anymore to join a guild and get into that content)-I’ve killed raid bosses, hitting two buttons and not trying hard at all (as a DPS). And heroics? You remember how hard Shattered Halls or Tempest Keep was? You had to have CC, you had to pay attention, and you had to be at least semi geared. Now, you can pull two mob groups at a time with blues, and AoE them all dead in seconds. Where is the fun in that? It’s like playing ball against kindergarteners.

  14. After WotLK the game changed a lot, TBC and WotLK were the last epic expansions. With the merged servers – all communities died, the game lost the social element. Then they removed all group quests, all elite mobs…all hidden quest hubs… the entire adventure was removed from the game, now it feels like solo level grind with occasional easy-mode instance with random strangers…It is pale shadow of the epic game it was :(

  15. I agree with the above post 100%. The adventure in WoW has been long lost. I remember the days of going on long epic quest chains, quests that took time and got you really involved with then game and other players. Now everything is instant gratification, no real sense of accomplishment, no sense of danger, and merely a dead husk of what it once was. It seems to get watered down and simplified further with each subsequent expansion.

    BC raiding was about as epic as it got, and sadly will never be at that level again. It wasn’t just about difficulty level, it was about overall design and attention to detail. A shame really, they took a once epic and thought provoking game and turned it into a mind-numbing and uninspiring grind.

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