I want to say, up front, that the whole WoW Classic experience has been great.
I think we got about the most authentic, full server, vanilla experience that Blizzard could realistically have been expected to put together. Launch night remains a crazy amazing experience to me even now.
My play time in ManicTime shows that I played more WoW Classic from its launch until now, than any other game. EVE Online isn’t far behind and, somewhat surprising to me, retail WoW isn’t that far out of the running, falling in third place, but vanilla Azeroth clearly kept me invested. That “all I want to do is play WoW Classic” feeling I was having while impatiently waiting for its launch was not a false sentiment.
Spending the last twenty months or so playing has been a lot of fun. I got to revisit a lot of things I remembered and was reminded of many more things I had forgotten.
And, in just 21 months, I managed to get three characters to level cap. That doesn’t sound like a huge achievement, but it was certainly better than I did back in original WoW.
It was interesting to compare advancement rates with my group character, Viniki, and my (mostly) solo characters, Wilhelm and Tistann.
Leveling up with a group that will run instances with you makes the level curve pretty smooth. A few places we had to go out and do some remedial leveling work, but for much of it we could go from instance to instance.
Solo though… the infamous level 40+ flat spot in quests and leveling was real.
Of course, some of that has to do with how vanilla handled quests. The idea of a quest hub had clearly not jelled the way it would in Outland. Blizzard was quite optimistic in places assuming that people would find quest givers in a back room or off on the edge of camp or way off on their own. And the number of quests that need you to slay the right mob at the right level to get the right drop to start a quest… well, I will say that my solo characters had very different experiences leveling up.
Seriously, while a lot of core quests were obviously the same, I somehow ended up not getting identical drops or pops or whatever. And that doesn’t even take into account how differently my two main solo characters, a paladin and a hunter, play over all.
The hunter is still the master stroke class, complicated and easy, a strange mix of being able to get away with a ton of things with a pet and traps yet being hobbled by that ammo bag, pet skills, and the need to keep the pet fed. It is a complex system that I doubt any major studio would commit to in an MMORPG again.
As for the paladin in vanilla… well, no major studio should do that again. I was never as happy playing him solo as when I went into an area with demons and undead. At last I could use my ranged attack.
As for my group character, I have said this before, but it bears repeating; Blizzard clearly had no single plan for instances. The designs were all over the map. There were very linear runs where you would finish the whole thing in one run, slaying several bosses along the way. And then there were instances that they clearly expected you to spend time with, making multiple runs.
We went to Blackrock Depths a dozen times before we had finished every quest we had related to the instance and had defeated the final boss. That was an epic series of runs, and all the more so doing it as a group of four. No instance like that waits for us in any of the later content.
That said, I think our group is about done with the full on WoW Classic thing now. It was fun. I am glad we went back and ran as many of the instances as we did as well as having a chance to do the solo route with a couple of characters. There are still some thing to wrap up, but I don’t think there is much left within our capabilities to explore that would change my feelings on the whole thing.
I’m good with moving on to Burning Crusade Classic, but I am also glad Blizz is keeping around some WoW Classic servers for those who want to experience it and just in case I want to go back and live it again. (Though I do think they’ll need to do some fresh launch servers at some future date. But, with Blizz, they can probably afford to hold off for five years or so just to let the nostalgia pressure build up into another big event.)
When the update hit last week I moved all of my key characters forward into the new patch. We still have instances to run in old Azeroth, but the road forward towards Outland is the one we will be taking.