Far back in the middle of the last decade, I was swithering badly over a major gaming life choice: to WoW or not to WoW. All my friends were doing it and were constantly telling me about it – trying their best to coerce me to join. My steely willpower to resist lasted just 3 months until one Saturday morning I awoke and with deliberate deliberateness, I got in the car, drove down to the nearest EB Games (I lived in Australia at the time) and with that strange baw-tightening tingling you get when you know you’re about to embark on something profound, I bought World of Warcraft and a game subscription card.
The rest, as they say, is history. My obsession with WoW lasted two and a half years, with any other games getting nary a look-in. When major real-life choices stemmed my adventures in Azeroth to a point where it wasn’t worth paying for anymore. My /played stat was reading a touch over 110 days but now I’d emigrated to the UK, got engaged (that’s right, I had still managed to get a GF in that time) and frankly even with the recently released first expansion pack The Burning Crusade that had flying mounts (flying!) I was finding it a grind. A grinding grindering grind of Grindingham from Grindingshire. So with 2 level 70’s and a couple of 50+ toons left sitting in their respective inns, I logged off for good.
Fast forward 6 years – you are allowed to imagine at this point a heroic mixed montage of real life and gaming events to the backing track of your choice, my preference would be some sort of Van Halen number – a wedding, a honeymoon, the purchase of an Xbox 360, a real life rock band, Grand Theft Auto IV, a child, SarcasticGamer, drawing comics, Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, change of jobs, moving house, Starcraft II, Magic the Gathering, Skyrim, another child at the same time as changing jobs AND moving house, BigRedBarrel, Diablo III, a second and third Xbox 360, and a big job promotion. Right up to the point about 2 months ago where an offhand conversation with a work colleague about World of Warcraft planted a seed…
Last night one of my toons dinged lvl 80 somewhere in a dungeon and I was having the best time I’ve had playing a computer game. Ever. Blizzard, in my lengthy absence, have re-crafted a lot of the game content through patches and various expansion packs (3 of them to be precise) and in my humble experience have made the game FUN again. So along with new playable races (kung-fu pandas!), classes, the ever increasing level cap – currently sitting at 90 – and new skills and professions – what has changed in the game that has made me fall in love with it all over again?
- Free to Play until lvl 20: Blizzard have released the Starter Edition, free to download and play with a level 20 cap for your character. There are certain limitations on your starter edition account, for instance you cannot join a guild, have pet battles or use the auction house but it still gives you a jolly good idea of what you’re in for.
- Questing and Advancement: playing the single player game – known as PvE (player vs environment) has been rejigged now to be a much more rewarding experience. Quests give you better gear and more experience. The experience scale has been adjusted so advancing is much quicker than it used to be and I found myself dinging at a very pleasant rate – so much so that you don’t have to run around all the areas in the world that are compatible with your character’s level just to do the quests to try and level up. there are many areas I’ve still not seen because I haven’t had to. This pleases me very much as it leaves those parts of the game for my alts to explore instead without me getting bored.
- Cataclysm was an expansion pack that changed a lot of the game world and was a good opportunity for Blizzard to reset a LOT of the quests that were in the original game. Much of the original game landscape has changed as well with that storyline so in my experience a lot of the areas I’ve visited are great to see again from this perspective. For instance, an area called Thousand Needles that was once desert is now completely underwater and indeed the Shimmering Flats raceway is still there if you go diving.
- Dungeons, Raids, Battlegrounds and the Casual Player: Entering dungeons and raids can now be done straight from the player interface with quite a comprehensive encyclopedia like GUI that is automatically filtered to whatever class you’re playing at the time to show you what gear drops can be gotten etc you can select to queue across multiple realms for a random dungeon or specific ones with the click of a button. Battle ground have their own GUI where you can also queue with the click of a button wherever you are in the game world.
- Gold Gold Gold: It seems to be much more easily made nowadays. My characters have had no issues with being too broke to get the resources they need in-game. Of course the auction house is still going strong and can now be accessed outside of the game directly through the website or through the armoury phone app. So you don’t even have to be logged in anymore to keep track of things.
- Guilds: being in a guild nowadays brings benefits to your toon, as guilds have a sort of leveling system that rewards its members with perks. For example moving 10% quicker on your mounts than guildless toons or gaining more experience when killing monsters. There are many many more and too much to list here, but believe me it’s worth joining one.
- Pet Battles!: Gotta catch them all – this is a recent addition to the game and a surprisingly addictive mini game where you collect pets in the game world and pit them against other wild pets or even other players pets PvP style. You can level them up with experience from battles from which they can gain up to 3 abilities to use when fighting. Different types of creatures have strengths and weaknesses when battling certain other types of creatures and it’s quite a knack and a lot of fun advancing through this mini game. Another good thing about pets is that they are tied to your account not just your character so if you re-roll then your pet inventory is available to your alts.
- End Game: I’m not there yet so can’t possibly comment with any authority but as mentioned raiding is more accessible and one thing the last patch (5.4) added was an area called the Timeless Isle which is an area for lvl 90 players. It has no quest givers as such but players collect coins to spend on local rewards. The point being that players simply throw themselves into the experience battling monsters, bosses or solving puzzles. Something I’m very much looking forward to.
There is a plethora of other little things that have been improved over the years. For instance the interface/GUI now has a LOT of the mods that I used to spend a lot of time downloading and configuring and updating after every patch are now built into the production version. I’ve not felt the need to mod my interface at all this time around (yet). One very handy improvement is that quest tracking and help built right into the map screen showing you the general areas to go to. No more wandering around aimless spamming the general chat with n00b questions about where to find stuff.
This article of course is by no means a comprehensive guide to all the changes and quirks but more a reflection on the highlights of what has made me love this game again, there is a lot more to explore and discover but that’s something that I’ll enjoy doing over the coming months. So if you’ve not ever dabbled in WoW or were like me and given it up, then I’d say there has never been a better time to dust of your armour, polish up your daggers and get stuck in.