I spent a lot of time playing World of Warcraft when it released, too many hours to even be healthy. I played every single day and logged hundreds of hours within a few months. I loved every second, from raiding to looking things up on thottbot during school hours. It consumed and drained me and I quickly took to enjoying my time in Azeroth more than in the real world. My social life suffered, my grades declined, and overall I was on the brink of a meltdown. I then and there decided to lay off WoW for a little while. Expansions came and went and I never found the ability in me to return. With the release of Legion that all changed and I decided to dive into the magical realm again to see if it’s worth returning to Azeroth.

My first few minutes in WoW were unexpected and exciting. I decided to start fresh and make a few new toons to see how the classes felt, and how the world has changed. Wanting to see some new content I started as a Pandarian mage. When I entered the Pandarian area I was immediately surprised to see how beautiful it looked. After 13 years, with some polishing and graphic updates, the game still looks good, and Pandaria is a gorgeous addition to WoW. The cartoony graphics that came out in 2004 still worked and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the visuals held up and continued to keep the original feel, while updating them to keep it modern.

It took no time before I was back in the swing of things. I quickly remembered skills and basic rotations and was questing and leveling up quickly. Much faster than I remember even at lower levels. It took barely any time to get to level 10 and I was surprised by not only how fast it was going but also how much fun I was having. The leveling in Legion is so much different than vanilla, but somehow manages to feel the same. The usual fetch, kill, and escort missions are still the staple of leveling, but there are also new mechanics and mission types that break up the monotony. Even though a majority of quests are the same basic type, it is still fun and I found myself not realizing I had spent hours playing, which is something WoW has always managed to do for me. Although the leveling feels basically the same, with a few additions, it is still fun and with the faster leveling it feels like a bit less of a grind.

After starting a few new characters, checking out their starting areas, and messing around in the world, I decided to use a boost and see the new content to truly see how the game has changed. I quickly decided on a Demon Hunter and was off to explore the Legion areas.

With my level 98 Demon Hunter I had no idea where to begin, After the opening cinematic took place I was able to jump in and start learning this foreign class. The first thing that took me by surprise was the mobility of the demon hunters. I went havoc for DPS and I was completely blown away by how quick and agile I was. I have never played a class quite like it in World of Warcraft. This is something that stuck with me throughout my time, so far, with this class. I felt awesome slicing and dicing and constantly moving compared to the classes I played in vanilla that would sit back and cast spells. I love being in the middle of the action and constantly moving and using spells on the fly. Playing as a demon hunter has been the best experience of any class I played in vanilla.

As I was finally ready to set out into the Legion areas I quickly realized they had done something I never thought WoW would do. Out of the five new areas, they were all available to me. In the old days certain areas were set up for different player levels, and I wasn’t sure how to progress. Then I found out that the areas in Legion are actually scalable. I was able to pick out where I wanted to start and go from there. It was a very surprising move from the eyes of someone who hasn’t played since the base game. It was done much like Guild Wars 2, which also had scalable areas, and I was not sure how I even felt about that. It just didn’t feel like a move Blizzard would take and it changed how a fundamental part of the game worked.

But it did work, and it worked well. Having the ability to control where you wanted to level up was great and each area felt refreshing from the mountain tops down to the forests below. I had a great time exploring each region and the scaling enemies kept things challenging but also allowed me to level how I pleased. Each area also has a questline that tells, for the most part, a great story and kept me coming back until I had finished all the quests for that region. There are still areas locked away with level 110 enemies but for the most part Legion allows you to go where you please and level up how you want. This was a huge change that really helped bring me back to WoW. I didn’t feel constricted to certain areas as I leveled and gave me a sense of freedom that was truly enjoyable. This is where I started to learn that now was a great time to jump back into WoW after my long hiatus.

The leveling in Legion is so much slightly, but manages to feel the same. Leveling is mostly about getting and completing quests and although some questlines have you doing new and unique things, for the most part it is repeating the same basic quests over and over felt the leveling from 100 to 110 was much faster, and more enjoyable from when I leveled 50-60 in the base game.The quests seem to be spaced out perfectly for getting up to max level and there were only a couple times I wasn’t sure what to do or where to go. There was always good lore and good storytelling no matter what region you were in and I never got bored which, compared to vanilla, is a good thing. There are also more new mission types, like taking on waves of enemies, or using cannons to blow them up, but most missions still fell into the standard categories. Overall I felt going from 100-110 was much less of a grind, and more of a journey which really made me glad to be back in Azeroth.

In the days of vanilla having a great weapon was always a necessity and constantly trying to farm the perfect weapons could become tedious. That was all changed with the introduction of artifact weapons. The idea of building and changing a weapon to your spec and playstyle is refreshing, and it works extremely well. Always having a great weapon was a joy during leveling and I felt an attachment to mine. It became an obsession to try and constantly tweak and upgrade as my journey went on, but I never felt held back or that my weapon was not good enough for my level. I also really enjoyed the fact that you can change the look of your weapon and change its color. It allowed you to not have the same looking weapon as everyone else that was the same class, and overall the artifact weapon system was something I learned to not only love, but also changed a portion of the game that used to be annoying.

Just like your weapon I learned you can change your appearance by transmogging it, while keeping the stats of the equipped gear. This was both a blessing and a curse. How you looked was everything in vanilla WoW and everyone wanted to have the highest tier raid sets available. You could easily see the hardcore players by just looking at them as they ran by. I remember raiding all the time to try and get that right piece of equipment to make me look powerful. At first I loved the ability to totally change your appearance and be able to customize your armor to almost anything you can imagine (there are tons of options you can collect) but I also had a hard time because they was no unison of the best players. Everyone seemed to look great and even people with the highest available gear changed its looks. I felt like having the same gear amongst the best players gave a sense of accomplishment and everyone knew that they had conquered the hardest content, whereas now that has, for the most part, gone away. At the same time I think the transmog system is a great way to add personality and customization to your character and although I am torn on how I feel about it, it is something that works well and adds a little more dimension to the game.

Although I understand why they did some things I also feel WoW has dumbed down the game since I played. No longer do you have a spec tree that you can freely choose from, but now you pick your spec and get spells from that one specialization. I feel like this is great for min-maxing and helping new players, but it also takes out some of the ability to create your character how you want. You also now automatically get skills while leveling, whereas in vanilla you had to go to a class trainer and pay to learn new skills and spells. You can also use gold now to buy game time, or buy game time and transfer that to gold using the auction house. This is a great idea and allows people with excess gold to pay for their monthly fee, but at the same time allows people to pay real world cash to get gold in the game. I remember the gold farmers in vanilla and how badly Blizzard was trying to fight them, and now it seems like they are doing the same thing, which is disappointing. To be honest it was disappointing to have some of the challenge and control over how you play to be taken away from vanilla. Although I got used to it after awhile, it still felt like it was set up for more casual players, than hardcore players like vanilla was.

One thing that really bothered me, and still does, is how toxic the WoW community can be. As soon as a questline required it, I started looking for a group to take on a dungeon. After a little bit of research I found out about the group finder and quickly put myself down as a DPS. After 45 minutes of waiting I was finally put in a group and sent into the dungeon. I let everyone know it was not only my first time in this particular dungeon but my first time playing in a group in a long time, and I was kicked within a minute. They didn’t even give me a chance. After a bit of a break I queued up again and waited. Once in a group I told them the same thing and they said it was ok. Less than 10 minutes later I was kicked because my DPS was too low. I understand that you need to be able to hold your own but how are you supposed to learn the mechanics if no one gives you a chance to learn? So I thought “third time’s the charm” and queued again. Once again I was kicked before the first kill.

It took me 11 tries before I found a group willing to work with me. I have never been so frustrated and put down. The groups before this one had called me every name under the sun, some I even had to look up, and it was the most off-putting experience I have had to date. It’s a shame because once things got going the dungeon was really fun and I loved doing it. After making a few friends and joining a guild that focuses on dungeons I had a much easier time finding good groups that were not elitist like I had encountered previously, but even now with experience I get kicked for no reason other than not killing a boss fast enough, or even being blamed for stuff other people did. It is really sad that that mentality has taken over a part of World of Warcraft, and made it harder for new players that are looking to learn.

That being said, with the right group dungeons and elite team, encounters are great fun. Each dungeon felt unique and interesting, with mechanics and things to learn all around. It was enjoyable going into the encounters and learning when to silence enemies and when to put out all the damage you possibly can. Although it does not seem to be quite as fast as questing, running dungeons is another way to earn XP and level up. I found myself mixing the two as I went to keep things fresh and fun and was able to keep leveling without feeling bored or having grind fatigue. Grouping up can be some of the best experiences of the game, which is why it is such a shame that people are so quick to call you names or kick you, especially in an MMO.

There is so much content still left to explore, and I can not wait to see what all the world has to offer. Although some things have changed that were disappointing, overall I was very impressed with the game that I had dropped over a decade ago. For everything that has changed that I felt was not for the best, new systems and mechanics have been introduced that I love. This is possibly the best time to rejoin WoW, or start playing for the first time. WoW is a game that requires a lot of time to truly get the full experience and it is still $15 dollars a month so I personally feel driven to play quite a bit to get my moneys worth. WoW is still as fun and addictive as it was in 2004, and my experience with Legion has been mostly positive. I cannot wait to continue my journey and see what lies ahead for me in Azeroth..