Reflections on Outland after Burning Crusade Classic

Here we are at the very tail end of the first Burning Crusade Classic experience, where we got to try and relive something akin to the way things were back in 2007 when the expansion landed and gave us something new to do.  Tomorrow it will be Wrath of the Lich King Classic, so there are only a few hours left for Outland.

Through the Dark Portal

I will say that the adventure was a bit of a surprise, at least relative to the initial WoW Classic experience.  Or maybe it was just an odd juxtaposition.

I came into WoW Classic wondering if it was going to be as good, fun, engaging as it was back when I started playing in 2005.  And somehow it managed to meet those expectations.  I mean, it certainly reaffirmed some of the negative bits as well… that level 40-ish content drought was as painful as I remembered… but it was a lot of fun and I am glad we went back to play.

With Burning Crusade Classic the question was more whether or not it was as annoying or awkward or grindy as I remembered it.  And it too confirmed my long held sentiment about the expansion.  I have complained about it in the past, and I was able to go back an experience the root of those complaints.

However, I will say that as far as WoW expansions go, there is a LOT of content in Outland.  I very much get the sense that the design of TBC was a reaction by the dev and design team about how they were going to keep players busy in a ten level expansion after they had consumed a 60 level initial game in two years.

Everything is slower, every quest means killing more mobs than you would have in Azeroth, every skill improvement takes just that much more effort, and the experience bar moved very slowly all the way through, making sure you felt like you had to do all the many, many quests that each zone contained.

I have joked in the past that about the Outland motto being, “If killing ten rats is good, then killing twenty must be even better!”  But having been into it again, it was clearly more a matter of “If we don’t keep the players busy, they’ll leave!  So we had better slow them down as much as we dare!”  And the same goes for crafting.  While I have leveled up all my harvesting, my crafting lags far behind.

I think that in later expansions, once Blizz had discovered end game content beyond raiding and giving players horizontal objectives and daily quests that were not dull and repetitive, they didn’t feel the need to cram quite so much into every zone.  It feels like there is about two expansions worth of overland content in Outland, that they could have split it in half and had us run through ten levels on that, then given us the other half for another ten levels.

Of course, the winnowing of the run to level cap reach its absurd end with the Shadowlands expansion, where you could get there in under a month of casual play and the next 23 months of the expansion was all alts and end game.

Except I never bothered with the alts and the end game for non-raiders was boring.

So Outland at least has content.  There is no lack of that.  The problem is that once you ease up on the slow xp crawl to make it feel like you’re actually making some progress with each play session, there is too much content.  Easing the XP curve means being done in the first three zones pretty much.  Maybe four.  But Netherstorm and Shadowmoon Valley, those get skipped.

I wonder how the Outland experience is in retail WoW after the level squish?  Is playing 50 levels of Outland better than 10 levels?  All I know is that an accelerated experience probably sold the expansion short.

Otherwise it was all very much a step on the evolutionary path of the game.  Blizz decided that maybe one flight point per zone wasn’t necessarily enough, though they stuck to that in some zones.  And that trend would continue until we got a flight point per quest hub pretty much.

In hindsight, for all of my criticism, it was good to go back and play through some of the expansion, if only to revive memories.  I wish we could have managed more dungeons, but being a group of four is a limiting factor there.  And it will be all the more so in Northrend.  Prince Keleseth will be a huge barrier for us.

Then there are the general problems of WoW Classic, such as the draw distance, which never ceases to annoy.  Also, what is Blizzard’s plan now for the classic path?  It sounds like all servers will more forward to Northrend and, if the signs are correct, to Cataclysm.  That will be a bad move, but we’ll get to that discussion later.

So enjoy the last day when Outland is the peak destination in WoW Classic.  I still have to play there, having alts that I might want to level up.  But that will come later.  Tomorrow I’ll have two characters ready for the cold north.

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