There’s no shortage of people who will happily take the time out to reminisce on the golden days of World of Warcraft, myself among them. It’s been a long journey, though mine hasn’t been nearly as rigorous as some. Throughout the years since the game’s release I’ve taken my share of breaks, and I never quite committed myself as thoroughly as some of my circle of real-life friends who played or the friends I made in-game. I would always reach a point where I stopped to do a mental inventory of my priorities and realize I was making the game too important. This would usually follow by an abrupt freeze on my subscription and a long break from the game.
The release of an expansion was always the catalyst for my return, upon which I would grind to the new level cap and start raiding and participating in PVP. However, within a matter of months I would do my inventory thing again and drop the game like a soiled baby, rinse, wash and repeat with every expansion. There might be a month in between expansion releases where I would re-subscribe again in an effort to satisfy my itch to play, but I wouldn’t stay hooked for very long.
The game’s draw has steadily waned over the years for many reasons. For one, the game is huge now. Well, it was huge before, but not to this extent. Pre-expansions, the world felt expansive yet familiar. On the course of leveling to 60 you spent a fair amount of time in most of the game’s zones and got to know them on a personal level. You got familiarized with their landmarks, their characters, their mobs, and so on. I never felt that same sense of place in the expansions.
There’s also the fact that the fundamental experience itself, despite Blizzard’s improvement and streamlining of questing, raiding, PVP, and otherwise, has not changed a whole hell of a lot. Mechanically the game has not changed a lot and in particular the combat hasn’t evolved over the years. At the same time newer MMOs have introduced many innovations that make WoW feel antiquated.
Despite the game’s aged state, after playing Mists of Pandaria for a week now and treading through the old world again as a Pandaren Monk, I’ve realized that the original continents of Kalimdor and Eastern Kingsoms still retain much of the magic and mystique I felt back in the day – even with the Cataclysm changes. This does not speak to the new high level content which I experienced a bit of with my Draenei Priest before deciding to roll a fresh Pandaren.
The starting zone for the Pandaren has become one of my favorite starting zones and is heads and shoulders above the Goblin and Worgen zones in terms of creative art direction and interesting quest lines. The Eastern style architecture and music forms a very unique atmosphere unlike any other zone in the game, but I suppose that’s not surprising for a zone that takes place on a giant turtle’s back.
The lower level zones may not be teeming with life as it used to since most players are busy grinding through higher levels, but with a few friends or even alone a grandiose adventure still awaits new explorers. The world maintains its charm and the satisfaction of leveling your character is ever present and just as addicting. Also as I mentioned, Blizzard has made some important improvements to the game making it so that finding a group for nearly any dungeon is an easy task. Remember the days of having to spam for groups in Capital cities? Those are long gone since you can use the Dungeon Finder tool to find teammates not only in your own server but across other servers as well. There’s also the most recent content patch which completely revamped the skill and talent system, so even if you decide to roll a class you’ve experienced before it feels like a fresh experience.
World of Warcraft may be long on the tooth for many players who joined the game early on, it may not possess some of the innovations that newer MMOs have since introduced to the genre, but it’s still one of the most beautiful and engaging virtual worlds available. I’ve played many of the new top shelf MMOs that have been released over the years and if I had to recommend an MMO to a new player today,it would most certainly still be World of Warcraft.