With servers for World of Warcraft (WoW’)s first expansion, The Burning Crusade(TBC), on the way, you might be considering jumping into WoW: Classic for the first time to see what all the fuss is about. After all, TBC is hailed by many as the golden years of Warcraft, and the hype surrounding its upcoming launch sometime in the summer is hard to avoid.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of 10 basic things you should know before jumping into WoW: Classic. The reigning king of MMORPGs has changed a lot in the past 17(!) years, and the game back then was a different beast entirely, holding very few resemblances to the current game in Shadowlands. This piece assumes two things; that you’ve played WoW before and you started playing from Cataclysm onwards, as this expansion represented a fundamental design shift for the game.
Character Creation Is Far More Limited
The character creation process has been expanded continuously over the years, with Shadowlands elevating it to another level. Don’t expect anywhere near the same level of customisation in Classic. While the older models definitely have their charm, there are only basic customisation options for the things you’d expect such as hair, facial hair, and skin colour. Whereas some races in Shadowlands have upwards of 20 hairstyle options, expect around 5 in Classic.
There Are Far Few Races/Classes To Choose From
If you include Allied Races, Shadowlands has a whopping 33 playable races to choose from, while Classic only has 8. For the Alliance you’ve got Humans, Dwarves, Gnomes, and Night Elves. For Horde there are Orcs, Trolls, Tauren, and Undead to choose from. Draenei and Blood Elves will be brought in during the TBC pre-patch.
Furthermore, you won’t be able to play a Death Knight, Monk, or Demon Hunter, as these were all released as part of later expansions. The Race/Class combinations are far more limited, too. You won’t, for example, be able to play a Human Hunter or Tauren Paladin – it wasn’t until Cataclysm that more Race/Class flexibility was implemented.
Levelling Takes A LOT Longer
In Shadowlands, it probably takes the average player about a day of playtime to reach max level, and far less time if you rush things. Far less of the game is focused on levelling now, with the real ‘meat’ being at the endgame.
Expect levelling in Classic to take between 6 and 8 times as long as Shadowlands. While endgame in Classic is certainly a big part of the experience, there is significantly more emphasis on levelling due to the comparatively little amount of endgame content when compared with more recent expansions.
Classes Play Extremely Differently
We could spend a lot of time talking about the differences between old-school and modern class design, but for the sake of time, we’re only going to discuss it briefly here.When you play Classic, you’ll be playing the prototypes of the classes you’re familiar with today. Although a lot of the core spells and identities remain the same, the Vanilla iterations of the classes are much slower.
Procs are virtually non-existent, and rotations are far more basic. While the classes in Classic are still fun to play, just be prepared to be pressing fewer buttons as you go about your business!
There Is No Dungeon Finder
In Classic, getting a group together to run a dungeon takes more than a simple click of a button. The dungeon finder didn’t make its debut until late Wrath of the Lich King, which means you’ll be manually putting your groups together with the help of Trade Chat, Zone Chat, and LFG Chats on your server(and running them with guldies, of course)!
No dungeon finder also means no teleporting to your dungeon! Just like for M+ runs in Shadowlands, you’ll need to meet your group at the dungeon entrance. However, unless you’ve got a warlock in your group who is prepared to summon, you might be in for a long trek to the dungeon entrance, as summoning stones outside of dungeons were not a feature until TBC.
New Gear Is Incredibly Important
While loot upgrades are important in all RPGS, including Shadowlands, their importance rings especially true in WoW Classic. The stat differences between enemy mobs is vast, and that two-handed mace that felt incredibly powerful at level 23 will feel much less impactful at level 26. It also means that getting new gear while levelling feels great because more often than not it will be a significant upgrade.
Travel Takes A Long Time
In Shadowlands, you get your 60% mount at level 10, 100% mount at level 20, 150% flying at level 30, and 310% flying at level 40. In Classic, you won’t receive your 60% mount until level 40, which in itself will take you as long as it would to fully level 4-5 characters in Shadowlands.
Basically, you’re going to be doing a lot of running in Classic. Remember that you will have to run to your dungeons, and some are in fairly hard to reach places depending on your faction. Getting to Shadowfang Keep as a level 20 Human, for example, is quite the trek!
Even when you do finally unlock your epic mount at level 60, the lack of portals means that, unless you have a mage around, you’ll be making full use of flight paths, boats, and zeppelins to traverse Azeroth.
You’ll Probably Die Quite A Lot
If you go into a 1v1 fight in Classic – presuming you are on full HP/mana, you will win the fight easily. 2v1 you will probably be fine, unless the mobs are a few levels higher than you. Some classes will be fine 3v1, but most will struggle. Pull anymore than that and you’re toast, unless you’re over levelled or overgeared.
Most mobs in Classic are pretty densely packed together. That means getting a 1v1 fight can take some planning, especially in caves, towns, and other settlements where mobs are squeezed in next to each other like fish in a barrel. A lot of mobs – usually humanoids but occasionally others too – will run away when they get to low health, and before you know it, the whole cave of spiders is after your insides.
So yeah, you’ll probably die quite a lot while you’re levelling through Classic – certainly more than in Shadowlands’ levelling experience.
You’ll Have A Lot More Downtime
Resource management isn’t really part of the 1-60 experience in Shadowlands. While many classes do have resources to manage – such as soul shards or maelstrom – running out of these resources does not result in downtime.
If you are playing optimally in Classic, you will likely be pausing after every few pulls for a glass of cold milk or swig of melon juice to restore your health and/or mana. While this can be mitigated somewhat through First Aid, mana users should expect to run out of their precious resource quite often. That being said, Priests and Warlocks get off easier than other specs!
You Will Meet A Ton Of People!
One of the side-effects of Shadowlands’ modernisation of the genre is that to do a lot of content in the game, you don’t really need to communicate much with other players. Levelling is easy and lightning fast, meaning that you’re never stuck in one place for long and thus don’t have the time or inclination to band together with other players. Likewise, unless you’re running M+, there is no need to interact with other players to put together a dungeon / PVP party; simply click a button in the Group Finder and you’re good to go.
In Classic, you pretty much need to work with other players if you want to succeed. While soloing your way to 60 is possible, it isn’t advisable. Certain quests – especially those ones in areas with densely packed mobs – are made 10 times easier with the help of another player. Thankfully, because levelling is much slower and players spend longer in each area, you’re likely going to have players to group with when you need them.
Similarly, there’s something about manually getting a group set up, travelling to the dungeon entrance together, and fighting through the longer and harder versions of WoW’s dungeons that creates more of a bond between players that Shadowlands ever could.
See you in Azeroth!
Although WoW Classic is almost two decades old at this point, there is still so much to love about it. If you never played WoW back in the day, or are looking for something else to play during the Shadowlands drought that will still scratch that itch, we recommend giving Classic a try. Who knows, you might even convert!
Kristian (or Kris for short) is a copywriter by day, button presser by night. Based in the UK, Kris loves any game that allows him to swing a sword, fire an arrow, or sling a ball of fire, but ultimately he's not too fussy. On the rare occasion Kris isn't writing or gaming, you'll probably find him in the bath with a good book.