The (Lack of) Allure of Classic Wrath

Ever since I decided that I definitely wasn't going to bother with Wrath of the Lich King Classic, I haven't really been keeping up with the latest news about it. However, with the launch being only a few days away now, it's been kind of hard to escape the subject as someone who's still involved with and plays other versions of WoW.

My old levelling buddy decided to resubscribe and run endless AVs on all his alts to gear them up just before the expansion, which has been kind of baffling to me. Bloggers I follow who don't always play WoW have jumped back into Classic for the Wrath pre-patch. Blizzard's promotional emails have been trying to lure me in with interesting behind-the-scenes videos about subjects such as designing the continent of Northrend, death knight class design, or the making of the Wrathgate cinematic.

WoW's official social media accounts have seemingly been all Classic, all the time for the past week or so. Today I marvelled when they shared a video called "Wrath of the Lich King Classic Journey Trailer", which looks pretty amazing. I learned that it was done by a fan called Hurricane, whose work I'd actually encountered years ago in promotional materials for the private server Kronos, such as this AQ trailer. His style is very distinctive as he drains a lot of the colour out of his videos (presumably to make WoW look more "serious" or adult), which is actually an artistic choice I don't agree with as I think WoW's bright colours are a big part of its charm, but that aside he definitely does some fantastic work and it was actually nice to learn who'd created all these amazing clips that I'd seen previously.

To get back to the subject of Wrath however, Blizzard is even offering people a free mount for retail if they complete the death knight starter zone in Classic... and I have to admit that was probably what pushed me over the edge. I mean, I'm playing retail at least casually now, right? And getting a throwaway death knight through the starting zone takes like no time at all, right? So I re-installed Wrath Classic today and created a night elf death knight on my old home Hydraxian Waterlords. The server was actually meant to be on the chopping block back in August, but for some reason Blizzard changed their minds about that, and after previously emptying the server out by offering free transfers away from it, there are now free transfers available onto it from selected realms. Have I mentioned yet that Blizzard have really fucked up managing server populations in Classic?

Anyway, I was actually surprised to find the server not completely dead, with some chatter going on in the LFG channel, including some server personalities whose names I recognised from back in the day but who I thought had transferred away. Still, I wasn't here to socialise but rather to get a job done.

I'm kind of relieved to say that the whole experience did not leave me with an overwhelming urge to suddenly play Wrath Classic after all. I know people are gaga over death knights because of how OP they were at launch, but for me the class never really did that much personally, probably because melee dps is my least favourite role. I mean, it felt okay to play, but not amazing.

In a similar vein, I can appreciate on an intellectual level that the death knight starting zone is a pretty well-crafted experience, but playing through it doesn't exactly fill me with joy - or any other emotion really. (Except that part where you have to execute the prisoner; that one still tugs at my heart strings every time, not gonna lie.)

Instead, I often found myself cynically noticing small flaws or inconsistencies, such as that several quest givers addressed my character as "Unknown" (but who reads quest text anyway, right), or that the Battle of Light's Hope Chapel was a rather annoying affair in practical terms that involved mobs getting punted all over the place and evading all the time. When I arrived in Elwynn Forest, I also had to chuckle at the fact that Brewfest was being celebrated right next to a Scourge invasion. The descent into nonsense starts with small things...

Anyway, I got my mount and I'm glad I satisfied my curiosity. All the hype was starting to affect me, but that little play session was a good reminder that I decided not to get invested in Wrath Classic for good reasons. I hope that those who do decide to play it have fun, though I maintain my suspicion that a large chunk of the community will soon find out that what many consider WoW at its peak does perhaps not hold up as well on repeat as they remember. But I guess we'll see.


  1. I never liked the "redemption" ending for a DK, and I've seen tons of them rolling up to SW and telling Varian "We're all good now!" and he goes "Okay!" like an idiot.

    Ergo, I have never bothered creating one and never will. Just like I won't create a Monk or Demon Hunter, ever. Not that because it's not a "Classic class", but because Blizz tried too hard to make things, well, dramatic and edgy. Maybe not so much with the Monk, but there were so damn many of them everywhere when Mists dropped that I grew incredibly sick of them. Kind of how now, on the cusp of Wrath Classic, had I not been invested in a Paladin from original WoW Classic I would probably have not created one either. Kind of like "it was a miserable, grindly slog of an experience leveling a Pally in Classic, and now when Ret finally gets some love and attention people come out of the woodwork to play them? REALLY?"

    As for when Wrath Classic drops, I suspect that when most of the big servers start hitting huge queue times people won't be quite so enamored of these megaservers.

    1. I found that I actually wrote a post back in 2009 that was literally called Why I don't like death knights"! Though my attitude towards them did seem to soften a bit after a while.

      Monks are not dramatic and edgy! They just spin and punch things. But I get that instinctive dislike for whatever's the "flavour of the month". It's been different for me, getting introduced to both monk and demon hunter at the point where they are just classes like any other.

      Demon hunters are super edgy for sure, but at least you don't spend your starter experience doing evil as someone else's mind slave, so they've got that over death knights.

  2. This is a weird one for me in that Wrath was my introduction to WoW and far from feeling streamlined or dumbed down from the earlier versions, I was surprised by how slow and serious it was. Having never played before but having heard many reports from peole who had about what a silly, frivolous, childish game it was compared to just about any other mmorpg you care to name, I was expecting something that wouldn't hold my attention for a week, let alone the six months I did spend there.

    Now I've also played Classic, which is the closest we're going to get to having a time machine, the whole "WoW is for kids" argument makes even less sense. Classic wasn't as slow or grindy as Classic EQm sure, but I still didn't make it to max level because of the pacing towards the end, just like I never made it to the cap in Wrath.

    Anyway, with all lof that in the background, I would probably be quite excited to revisit my own first experience in WoW right now... except I am not giving Blizzard any money. It's disappointing, although not in the least surprising, to see the way everyone's flocking back as if everything's been put right, when it patently hasn't. I'm waiting on the Microsoft deal to go through before I re-assess my own position on playing WoW again. Until then I'm not even willing to log into my free account, although of course I could change my mind at any time because humans.

    1. Is there something specific you'd need to happen before you'd be willing to give Blizzard money again (e.g. Bobby Kotick's departure)? Or is it just a gut feeling kind of thing?

  3. That's a really good question. After I posted the comment I thought about exactly that and also what it is that makes me feel uncomfortable about going back... and I came to the conclusion that it's all about doing what I said I would do. In other words, it's entirely about me, not about Blizzard at all.

    I can't even say with conviction that I know where things stand there now. I have been keeping tabs on it's going but only by reading the regular news reports on the kind of sites that cover this stuff. I don't know any more than that. My impression is that a lot of smoke was blown and Blizzard made some easy-to-make concessions and apologies before hiding behind the screen of the takeover and kicking the problem down the road. But that's just an impression. I'd have to do a lot more research than I have any interest in doing to find out more.

    No, the real issue from my perspective is that I've said publicly that I wouldn't play Blizzard games again until it felt comfortable to do so and that I would probably feel comfortable when the takeover had happened. Leaving aside why that would make me feel comfortable about playing, which is sonething else that deserves some rigorous critical analysis, it's clear my real issue is being seen as someone who does what they say they will do, not someone who chops and changes according to convenience. You'll note I say "being seen as" not "being".
    Whatever the reason, the upshot is that I definitely don't yet feel comfortable about playing so I guess I clould just have answered your question with "Yes, it's a gut feeling". It's always been my experience that those are the feelings to follow. If something feels wrong, probably best not to do it, especially when it's something as trivial as playing a video game.

  4. The run up to Wrath Classic highlight to me how much I've changed in how I play Wow. When I originally started I didn't know anyone who played so I was a solo player. It wasn't until mid to late BC that I really started being involved with a guild and doing raids on a consistent basis. Of course, as is all too common with guilds, each expansion seemed to kill the guild I was in so I'd end up soloing for a time while chatting with a few folks that I was able to keep in touch with. It wasn't until Cataclysm (Dragon Soul, specifically) I ended up with a group of folks who've I've ended up playing with ever since.

    Which is all a long-winded way of saying that part of my lack of interest in revisiting the Classic versions of Wow is the fact that I find myself unable to sustain a motivation to solo the game again. Without those folks who I enjoy playing the game with I find I just don't want to commit long term to any version of the game. Sure, doing a short-term goal with the Wrath pre-patch was fine, but even that event -- that I loved in the original experience -- just didn't hold my interest. :/

    Quite a change for game that used to be my 'home MMO' where I would always seem to end back up at, if only to putter around.

    1. People definitely matter a lot. I can have some fun playing an MMO solo, but the ones that have stuck for me long-term have always involved some sort of guild or community.
      There isn't anything about Wrath that would excite me into wanting to play it solo either. If I just want to feel some nostalgia for the Northrend zones, I can get that particular fix in retail too.

  5. Hydraxian is still alive. Groups can be formed, albeit very slowly, and guilds are active and recruiting. But I'd say it's only 10% of it's original playerbase now, with the rest being populated by a couple of servers being merged into it (other RP servers). Almost all my characters are still there and I've been playing it this week but Wrath doesn't have the allure of the classic game for me. Still, I'll probably get Padwell to L73 so that I can re-experience The Wrathgate, WoW at it's peak - that, alone, is worth re-experiencing Wrath since it's no longer in the main game.

    1. Have you considered playing on era at all? There isn't an active RP realm, but I've found the regular PvE cluster to be pretty chill too.

      And ah, the Wrathgate... another one of those things where my personal opinion is probably quite different from that of the majority. It's a cool cinematic, but I remember the first time I did that quest, it bugged out and the cut scene didn't play; the area around me just phased from snowy to burnt and I was extremely confused. Looking it up outside the game afterwards just didn't have the same impact.

      I think the follow-up, Battle for Undercity, is hugely overrated as well. I even wrote a whole post about that back in 2010, heh.