7 things I do actually hate about WoW Classic

Playing WoW Classic is an exercise in sorting out the good nostalgia from the “oh man I totally forgot how much this sucked.” While I’m enjoying my simplistic adventures over there, I can freely admit that there are 10 things I’ve (re)discovered that I definitely hate about this version of the MMO:

1. Travel in general

Getting anywhere in this game is soooo slow. You have a one-hour cooldown on a single Hearthstone. Flights are far more pokey than the modern versions. You have to wait until level 40 to get a mount. There’s often only a single flight path PER ZONE. So this all translates into a whole lot of time jogging across huge areas trying to get to where you want to be. No thank you.

2. Respec costs

Oh yeah, totally forgot how much gold I’d have to dump into respeccing a talent tree if I mis-clicked a point or wanted to respec. It ramps up in cost — and you really need that gold for somewhere else.

3. No transmog

How did we live without transmog for this long? There are some attractive costume pieces in Classic, but you don’t get to wear them because it’s always stats > looks here. That’s not fun.

4. Really lame quest rewards

It’s very typical for Classic to spend a whole lot of time and effort on a single quest… only to be given a pittance of money and some XP. Or just the XP. Getting gear upgrades and useful rewards is extremely rare, making most quests not worth doing.

5. Dull music

There are some very iconic WoW Classic tracks, to be sure, but let’s be honest: most of vanilla had a painfully generic, ambient, synth score. It’s not really this masterpiece you think you remember.

6. No LFG

No LFG system means I’m not running dungeons. Period. Waaaaay too much time to set up dungeon runs for any sort of payoff.

7. Inflexible group roles

And if I needed another reason to eschew dungeon diving or raiding, it’s that Classic’s class setup means that you are pigeon-holed in a single role from the moment you click on that character create button. There are no options in a group; you do whatever the devs decided you should do. I didn’t like that in FFXIV, I don’t like it here.

My pre-Shadowlands mission: Allied race acquisition

If you’ll recall, for the past few months I’ve been playing on a brand-new World of Warcraft account, which has been both liberating and somewhat annoying. It’s been fun to “start over” and build up a new account, but here and there I realize that I really miss certain acquisitions that I spent a lot of time working on — like my Lucid Nightmare or Grove Warden mounts, for example.

Now that Shadowlands is barreling toward us, I asked myself the question, “Do you have everything you need or want going into this expansion?” For the most part, the answer was “yes.” I have two level 120s (soon to be level 50s) with decent gear, a few nice mounts, and a song in my heart. But the fact that I have zero allied race unlocks on my character creation screen bugged me, and I decided to do something about that.

Initially, I jumped back onto my Druid with the full intent of taking advantage of Blizzard’s double reputation gains all September and try to grind out these factions. But then as someone reminded me, with the pre-patch, the studio is removing all of the rep requirements! I had completely forgotten that announcement.

So that simplified things immensely. Now all I needed to do for each allied race that I wanted — specifically, Mechagnomes, Kul Tiran Humans, and Dark Iron Dwarves — I just needed to go through certain questlines. That’s doable. That’s easy to chunk up and handle over the next month. So that became my mission.

I’ve also been writing down a list of other objectives that I’d like to get around to doing sooner or later. I probably will roll an alt in the post-pre-patch era to do a full run through Legion and pick up the allied races there. I definitely am going to be switching over my Druid or my Death Knight to become an Engineer, seeing as how much I’m enjoying that in WoW Classic.

In any case, I’m never so content in gaming as when I have clearly defined goals set out that are of my own design rather than foisted upon me by the studio.

WoW Classic: One mob at a time

So far, my current approach to WoW Classic has served me very well indeed. Yes, it’s a streamlined, basic experience where all I’m doing is farming mobs and ore in a particular location and then heading back to Thunder Bluff at the end of the day to sell, repair, and craft. Rise and repeat, perhaps in a different locale the next time around.

As dull as that may sound, it’s been very restful and even enjoyable. “Satisfying” is the word I want here. I get the nostalgic flavor of Classic, don’t have to spend half my time running to and from quest objectives, and can zen out on the repetition of kill-loot-repeat while enjoying music, podcasts, and TV shows. It’s low-energy gaming with a combat system that requires very little in the way of frantic maneuvering while I’m in the middle of it.

It may well not keep my attention for the long term. I can see this getting scaled back to very sporadic gaming sessions, especially after Shadowlands releases. There’s certainly no immediate incentive to hitting the level cap, as I don’t care to do the raiding thing.

Instead, as I’ve said before, my personal goal is to max out engineering, create all of the devices that I want from that, and do a dozen or so quests that reward me with gear that has useful effects. This kind of farming actually helps with engineering, since I always pick areas that have a lot of mining nodes. Two grinding birds with one stone! I’m flush on materials, and I like coming back to town to see what I can build next.

The only problem that I can see here is that I keep running out of inventory. I’m going to need to invest in some serious bank space, but I also have to be saving up for my level 40 mount. Even if auction house sales, I’m only 25 gold at level 20, and I don’t want to fritter that away on a few more bank bag slots. So I have to make a lot of tough choices what to keep and what to sell, electing to keep just enough stacks of various mats that I can make what I might need in the future.

WoW Classic’s best capital city is Thunderbluff. Fight me.

While on the regular WoW servers, I’m all-in on Alliance, in Classic I’ve been walking the Horde path initially for a change of pace and now because of a great guild. And I’ve been finding many things to appreciate about this faction, not the least of which is what I now consider to be the best capital city of the Classic’s six: Thunderbluff.

I think Thunderbluff really gets overlooked, even on the Horde side. Orgrimmar is far more popular, to be sure, and has the absolute fullest of services — plus a dungeon to boot. Undercity gets a lot of visitation as the only Horde city in the Eastern Kingdoms. But good ol’ TB kind of comes off as redundant, a nice place to visit for starting Tauren but not really needed afterward. It also has an unwelcome reputation of being a place where you can die if you step off the many, many high ledges, so there’s that.

Yet in my experience, Thunderbluff is one of the best-designed cities in terms of both aesthetics and services. For starters, we have the Native American/summer camp theming, which I absolutely love. It’s a visually warm and welcoming place that I’m always glad to come back to at the end of my day’s adventures.

Even better than that, the bottom tier is cram-packed full of useful services that don’t require a lot of running to find. In one tight circle, you have an inn, a bank, the auction house, a forge, an anvil, repair vendors, a stable master, and a few other trainers/vendors. The flight path is up a short stairway, and the other tiers are nearby with additional services.

The only real drawbacks to TB is that it doesn’t have some of the expert services — say, Engineering, which I’m currently training. But I don’t mind making the occasional trip to Org for that and keeping TB my mainstay, because it’s worth it to me to have a quick-and-easy setup for the start and end of my sessions. It’s also why I’m pretty much sticking to Kalimdor as I’m grinding my Hunter to 60.

WoW Classic: Breaker Breaker!

There’s an awful lot that I’ve forgotten about vanilla World of Warcraft that WoW Classic is all but too eager to teach me. Like how easy it was to die, or how you actually need food and drink to get them bars back up, or what travel was like when there was only a single flight master per zone.

And I totally forgot what Hunters used to be like sixteen iterations ago. Like pretty much everyone, I started off with a Hunter in vanilla, but after a while I migrated over to the Warlock as my main. I only started a serious Hunter back up in Wrath, so my memory has large gaps in what I remember Hunters as being and what they actually were.

But then I watched a video last week explaining some of the intricacies of the class, and suddenly my memory unlocked all of these little details that I had put away, particularly in regards to how the class was much more focused on the care and maintenance of pets. There’s feeding pets, collecting skills, training them up, loyalty levels, and so on. I had TOTALLY forgotten than you could mix-and-match skills to create a build for your companion, and I’m kicking Blizzard that they let that idea go. That’s so cool.

As rekindled interest soon led to action, I had created a Troll Hunter to re-experience the class and see at which intersection nostalgia and reality would meet. I didn’t want to be super gung-ho with this toon, so I made her with some possible leveling structures in mind.

Particularly, I wasn’t going to do quests. If Classic has taught me anything, it’s that while quests are good for XP, they’re generally horrible for rewards and involve a lot of time crisscrossing the world. That gets tiresome. Since I’ve actually liked just mindlessly farming the most in Classic, I figured this character would be perfect for that. I’d just farm mobs, farm minerals, and work up Engineering.

I did, however, make a list of quests that do have some useful rewards that I want to do at some point, but there’s no rush with that. In the meanwhile, I’m running around the Barrens with my floppy feet and a wolf pet that I named Breaker. Wolves seem like a good Classic pet — able to equip some useful skills, including one that has group buff usage, and boasting a nice balance of tankiness and damage. And I like dogs more than cats, so there you go.

I polled my guild the other day about why they’ve chosen the class that they did for Classic, and pretty much all of them said that it was the class that they played extensively back in vanilla. So maybe they did know what they wanted all along, eh Blizz?

Shadowlands can’t seem to get its act together

There’s no doubt in my mind that World of Warcraft players are beyond ready to pull the eject lever on Battle of Azeroth. Pent-up frustration and a general sense of “this all didn’t work out as intended” has created a migratory mindset in the community that is desperate to move on to new and — hopefully — better lands.

The problem is that Shadowlands doesn’t look like a stable landing zone for the community. At least, not yet. Oh, I see some genuine potential here. The afterlife theme and zones seem really interesting and something I would like to explore. The new leveling scheme and introductory zone is getting some praise. I’ve read some positive reports of how fun the Torghast infinite dungeon is. And at the very least, it’ll be not-Battle for Azeroth, which is the very low bar that is now set.

But even coming at the expansion from the perspective of a casual player who’s like, “Yeah, I’ll have some fun there,” even I can’t ignore that there are some large red flags being thrown up. At this point, less than two months to launch, Blizzard should be refining content and testing it to get every last bug out. Instead, it’s scrambling to rework systems and address the great community unrest over the central covenant system. That’s… not a good sign.

And I don’t really feel bad for Blizzard, because this is a mess of its own making. It can’t stop trying to rework classes and progression with every expansion, yanking out old systems and tossing in new ones. People are tired of the switcharoos and look back at previous eras where the talent trees only got slightly reworked between expansions. If Blizz would create and then stick to a progression system that could be built up with each new expansion, I think it’d have a lot better reception with the community than to do artifact weapons and then heart of Azeroth and then essences and now covenants and soulbindings.

Have a vision, have a plan, and stick to it. That’s what Blizzard needs. Instead, it’s slamming around all over the place trying to make everyone happy and succeeding nowhere. For those of us softly parachuting down into Shadowlands, it’s disconcerting to see this mess happening underneath our hanging feet.

Yeah… I do hope the devs’ll get it together soon, but it’s not looking that likely. And that’s going to suck some — but not all — of the joy out of unwrapping a brand-new expansion.

WoW Classic: Living as a zombie

When you’re playing WoW Classic, you usually have a lot of spare time to think. It’s not a fast-paced game that’s throwing a ton of stuff at you all the time, is what I’m saying. So when I’m not listening to a podcast or watching some TV off to the side, I’m usually dissecting parts of the game and analyzing elements.

What’s really bubbled up in thought during this run — which is my longest WoW Classic run to date, by the way — is what it means to be a Forsaken character. We’ve had this race in since launch, so we’ve lived with it so long that we don’t really think about it much, but… isn’t it kind of weird? I mean, out of all of the original eight races, one happens to be angry, sentient zombies. Not a lot of MMOs offer that kind of experience.

It definitely offers some opportunity for what I call “mental roleplay,” which is when you’re getting into the mindset of your character without really changing anything you do in the game. Just soaking in the character’s being, internalizing it somewhat.

And I find it delightfully strange to be in the headspace of a Forsaken. The modern baggage of Sylvanas aside, it really is a pretty interesting race with a massive chip on its shoulder and the added burden of being former members of one race that have been reborn as the decayed and desiccated version of another. Even in vanilla, there were some delightfully macabre character creation details, such as faces missing skin, parts of one face stitched onto another, jaws missing, and (in my case) a leather strap trying to hold one’s skull together. The hair is plastered down as if a corpse was floating in a creek and bones are popping out everywhere (to the detriment of my outfit).

I really enjoyed doing the first two Forsaken zones to aid in grasping that identity. A whole game full of graveyards and Halloween vistas would’ve been amazing, but nah, sooner or later we’re thrust out into the sunshine and flowers.

I have really enjoyed the racials that come with Forsaken, possibly more than I ever have in the past. Will of the Forsaken is a well-known PvP skill, but I have almost never used it in PvE situations to date. However, having the ability to go underwater for several minutes without worrying about breathing is nice, and then there’s the ability to cannibalize corpses of humanoids.

I find that last skill so hilariously dark that I’m surprised it made it into the game. Hold on fellas, my health is low, let me munch of the flesh of this elf here. Yum yum. And it’s actually HIGHLY useful in Classic, because health regen isn’t that fast, and here’s a fast skill that doesn’t take any prep, just opportunity.

Well, at least I’m amusing myself as I level up through the 20s.

WoW Classic and the revival of loot

I find myself thinking a lot about loot in WoW Classic. After all, it’s not like the game is really challenging my brain with a multitude of stories and objectives; there’s plenty of time to examine various UI elements, so after I’m done pouring over my talent tree for the 45th time, I usually pull up my inventory and keep it open while I grind out mobs.

I want to see what loot drops, because there’s something about WoW Classic that makes loot *matter* in a way that it often doesn’t on retail. It’s not like great stuff drops all the time in Classic — just the opposite. It’s very very rare to get anything good to sell on the auction house, nevermind actually use yourself, but it’s certainly exciting once it does.

Most mobs are like playing a slot machine where the payout is 98% of the time going to be nothing or just little bits to sell to a vendor… but you keep pulling that lever for the time when a surprise green drops or you find something to help with a profession. At level 12 in Tirisfal Glades, I’m ecstatic when a piece of gear drops — white or grey, mind you — that gives me just a couple more points of armor. No stats, just a sliver of additional protection. But hey, it’s an upgrade, and that’s something to celebrate.

Bags? Oh, if a bag drops, it’s the Best Day Ever. In the first dozen levels of the game — about 6 hours of play — I’ve only seen two six-slot bags drop. Just two. But both were received with the kind of fanfare that epics on the retail servers don’t even see. Those bags are useful and needed and will make a big difference in my character’s future.

The first really good drop I’ve gotten in my character’s adventure was a staff. Again, not a staff with stats on it, just a stick to hit people with. But it was really awesome because it was a Farmer’s Broom, and that came with a unique look to it — an actual broom. I got a huge kick toting this around on my adventures, even if it wasn’t helping me. With a broom on my back, I’m unstoppable.

I guess one of the things we really forgot from vanilla was how incredibly stingy World of Warcraft was with its loot back in the day. Today’s WoW showers you with tons and tons of stuff, and people have collections of mounts and pets in the hundreds. My WoW Classic character doesn’t even HAVE a pet. I wanted to get a cockroach from Undercity, but one cost 50s, and that represented most of the money I had in the entire world. It wasn’t worth it.

But maybe that stinginess helped to inflate the importance of the loot and gear you did get. I know my guild still announces green gear that level 60s find, just in case someone else at endgame could use it as an upgrade. Let me repeat that: A piece of green gear can be an upgrade at level 60.

I also use my inventory as a timer to let me know when I should head back to base to unload, sell, repair, and head back out for another round. I don’t think I ever worry about inventory on retail, but here, every slot is precious.

All I’m saying is that it’s really interesting how artificial limitations and scarcity kind of makes loot matter a lot more in this version of the game than in retail.

Shadowlands is ‘go’ for launch!

For a while now, Blizzard’s been very cagey about any sort of release date for Shadowlands, saying only that it was going to come out in the last quarter of the year. I’ve seen a lot of predictions on this, but I have to say that most of them put the expansion somewhere in the November-December range.

But now we know the truth: World of Warcraft’s next expansion is coming on October 27th, two months from now. That also means we’re going to be getting the pre-patch sometime in September. Things are going to start happening quickly now, which is good considering how long it’s been since WoW’s last content update (that would be back in January, or “The Before Times”).

The end of October sounds pretty good to me. That gives the beta more time to fully cook and hopefully smooth out the rough spots while letting all of us get used to the new structure of Patch 9.0. Right now, I’m fully in Classic, but when the pre-patch hits, I’ll definitely want to check out the new customization options and perhaps work on a new character and some Scourge invasion events.

However, I really don’t see a full-fledged return to retail until Shadowlands launches for real. I have plenty of other stuff to be doing that I don’t need to unnecessarily dither around in retail if there’s no greater purpose for it. And now I have a date to arrange my gaming schedule in the fall around.

I like it. We’ll have that, Fallout 76’s One Wasteland, and Torchlight III’s launch coming, and I’m all about enjoying the buzz of hype — especially after a rather long and event-less summer season.

WoW Classic: Dead and loving it

Weirdly enough, this past week I found myself drifting right back into the open arms of WoW Classic. It’s just that playing regular World of Warcraft feels so pointless right now as we wait for the pre-patch, and this actually seemed inviting. Plus, I didn’t have any Classic characters on my new account and thought that it might be nice to have at least one sitting around.

So I made yet another Undead Warlock. I can’t really imagine playing many other classes in Classic than a lock. It’s got everything I want — survivability, pets, self-healing, self-resurrection, utility, and the ability to easily juggle mobs in combat.

Of course, starting out is kind of rough for the first 10 levels until you get your voidwalker and your full roster of three DoTs. I spent those slow, plodding levels soaking in the sounds and sights of Classic’s landscape.

There’s something deeply charming and nostalgic about Tirisfal Glades , even though I wasn’t a Horde-aligned player back in vanilla. I just made a ton of Forsaken characters because I loved the Halloween vibe of it all. Nothing here is warm or inviting; it’s a land perpetually soaked in decay and shadows, and that makes it thrilling and fun to explore.

I’m not in a rush to go over to the other continent, in other words.

I actually fell into a bit of happy fortune on my third day of play. I was heading over to Orgrimmar to train up staves — it’s so weird that Warlocks don’t start with the staff skill — and I bumped into a nice Mage who buffed me up. I asked her about her guild, and before I knew it, I had fallen into the presence of a really warm and bubbly company.

They got me outfitted with enough bags that inventory won’t be a problem, but I am more happy to have some folks to jaw about Classic with and share the details of my travels. Social chat seems more necessary than ever in this game because of its slow pacing.

But you know what? The pacing is a refreshing change of pace. It’s not rush-here, rush-there, do-a-million-dailies. It’s just… you know… set a goal. Work on a single quest. Farm some mobs for a while. Level up a tradeskill or two. Take some disturbing closeup pictures of the local mobs.

I’ve been in Tirisfal Glades for a week now and I have no immediate intention of leaving. There’s more to be done, and I’m trying to get my mining skill up to 75 before I go to help fuel my need for engineering materials.

So yeah. Right here, right now, this really hits the spot. I’m still juggling this game with LOTRO and SWTOR, but it’s easily the most laid-back experience I have any given night. I put on some music or a TV show and jog around the place like the spectre of death that I am.