For all my appreciation of Vanilla WoW, I realised instantly that I, too, had been spoiled by the incessant streamlining that WoW and other MMOs have performed over the years. I immediately looked at my mini-map to look for quest icons, but of course this being Vanilla WoW, there weren't any. I actually had to walk around Northshire Abbey and look all the NPCs in the face to see if they had an exclamation mark over their head or not. Once I had picked up my first couple of quests, I habitually opened up my map to look for the quest markers telling me where to go. Nope! Vanilla WoW expects you to read the quest text and to actually look at the world around you. I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that I also got confused briefly because some items that I was supposed to pick up from the ground weren't indicated by giant sparkles... Fortunately it didn't take long for me to adjust and to pull my eyes back towards what was going on in the world around me instead of being entirely focused on UI overlays.
Cue heroic music...From a gameplay perspective, my first couple of levels were hilariously bad, though this was at least in part due to the fact that I chose to roll a paladin; on a different class it wouldn't have been quite so pronounced. For those who don't know/remember: in Vanilla, paladins started out with a buff and a heal... so when it comes to fighting, you can literally do nothing but auto-attack for the first few levels. My pet tank looked over my shoulder with a frown (as he only started playing during Wrath of the Lich King himself) and I broke out into hysterical giggles as I assured him that Vanilla WoW and just auto-attacking everything was totally awesome.
8 damage! This is going to take a while...In all honesty though: no, I don't think that particular design decision was very well thought-out, however I do think that it made sense back then to start things off slowly for the benefit of complete newbies to the genre. I distinctly remember being confused by simple things such as orientating myself or figuring out what my two buttons actually did when I was true WoW noob myself.
Fortunately it didn't take long until I got an attack move (judgement, on a ten second cooldown), even if that would remain my only offensive ability for quite a while. However, already at level four things got interesting in a different way. I was sent across the river to the vineyard full of Defias, and those guys were deadly. Their aggro range was considerable, they hurt, there were multiple patrols and several locations where mobs were grouped up in packs of two or three, not to mention that they were all pretty densely packed to begin with. My ability bar may have been nothing to write home about, but I was extremely focused on my surroundings, trying hard to dodge patrols and making sure to run away or at least back off far enough to cause any adds to evade if I overpulled by accident. Instead of being all about the second-to-second gameplay of hitting your buttons, the Vanilla WoW levelling experience is all about tactical movement. I really enjoyed going back to this style of play and feel confident in saying that this was not an inherently worse levelling experience than WoW has today, but simply one with a very different focus.
Once I had made it to Goldshire, I wanted to learn how to mine. Nope! Why would miners hang out in the middle of a forest? Go to Stormwind and talk to the dwarves there, they are all about mining. In other words, this was my reminder that Vanilla WoW still put "a world that made sense" ahead of gameplay convenience in many respects. Another reminder came when I failed at mining my first copper node and had to try again. Why of course, you don't always succeed when you try something new for the first time, makes perfect sense! Ore was hard to come by in general because I had forgotten just how sparse mining nodes used to be in the old world before the Cataclysm revamp. I'm not going to pretend that all those little things didn't also result in minor annoyances, but minor was all they were - and at the same time they created all kinds of challenges and goals you could work on aside from questing. When was the last time that taking a break from questing to leg it all the way to your trainer was a genuine thing that you planned around? There was gameplay in overcoming these minor obstacles that is missing from today's World of Warcraft.
Fail. :(Finally, the social side: I think I had more chats with random strangers during my hours in Elwynn than I had in my last three months of playing WoW on live servers. I grouped up to kill Goldtooth and Hogger. A friendly gnome mage offered me some bags, an offer which I gratefully declined since I had been extremely lucky and had found four six-slot bags (!!!) relatively early on during my questing. A random person from general chat exchanged some whispers with me on the subject of experience gains in a party. And I got invited to a levelling guild, though I respectfully declined that as well as it wouldn't feel right to me to join a guild when I'm not sure how invested I'm going to be in this project. But it was nice to receive a personal, genuine guild invite from someone, compared to the constant, addon-based auto-invite spam that was running rampant on the live servers last time I played.
Just meeting other players out in the world was generally a positive experience, even when we didn't talk or group up. Occasionally there was competition for mobs, but since they were so densely packed in most areas, there was no real shortage of things to kill and it was just a relief to have someone else cut a path through the area and reduce the number of threats. Meeting people on the road also meant "drive-by buffs" - I was quite happy every time I met a priest or a mage in particular. With how tough I found the mobs to fight, every little stat increase was appreciated. My own five-minute paladin blessings didn't feel like a great gift to return, what with their short duration.
When you're knee-deep in kobolds and all you have is a shovel, any company is welcome.So how has this whole "emulating Vanilla WoW" experience been holding up from a technical point, considering Dodgy Kebab's video review in which he repeatedly called Kronos "flawless"? Well, it wasn't completely flawless: I ran into a couple of kobolds that were stuck in a wall and a few copper nodes in a cave that came up as "invalid target" every time I tried to mine them. I can't say that I perceived this as a huge negative though, considering that those things are the kind of bug that occasionally showed up on the original Vanilla WoW servers as well. So far, it's certainly been a good recreation of the Vanilla experience - including the fun.
Oh, and this.