Back when World of Warcraft released, I didn’t have dual monitors and four browsers open to keep track of email, Twitter, streaming services and whatever else. I had one monitor and having a browser open meant less RAM was available for gaming. WoW Classic reminded me of this as I started a new Tauren Shaman, visiting Mulgore once again.
I have been playing high-level characters for a long time, long enough that I had forgotten the slow start with its regular rhythm. Even then, I hardly ever have to start fresh. My characters are quickly equipped with multiple heirlooms, bags, money and mounts. Now I can no longer do that and here I am, once again reading quests to get directions, because there is no big floating arrow pointing out where I should go next and what to kill and collect there. I need to find that out on my own. Even hovering my mouse over an enemy doesn’t tell me that yes, this mob needs to be killed for a quest, or drops items for a quest. You have to kill them to double check, or read through the quests again.
It isn’t just my lack of a mount or having to read quests that makes things go by slower. After spending so much time killing whole packs of mobs at once, I was quickly killed a few times, rather unceremoniously I might add, when two or three monsters were in combat. The damage the enemies were doing far outpaced what I was doing to them, and trying to heal in combat and watching my spell’s progress get pushed back with every landed enemy hit meant I was in for a grisly end and a jog back to my corpse to revive.
One of the arguments about wanting to go back to “how things were” is related to game difficulty and playing Classic, I can say for sure that things are a lot harder. Mobs take massive chunks out of my health bar with every hit, travelling into an enemy camp means I have to watch for patrolling enemies and be careful about where I rest while things respawn. I also can’t just go hit an enemy someone else is fighting to get quest credit, not without trying to make a party first. Creeping into a quillboar village, not knowing exactly where to go to find the chieftain or some other quest item, adds a level of exploration that I normally don’t feel while questing. Add in the high likelihood of a bad pull resulting in death and the experience feels a lot tenser and exciting to pull off.
The region channels in the beta are relatively quiet, probably due to a smaller player base, but when they do light up, I am reminded of my first time in some of these older zones. People asking if a specific rare has been spotted or killed by anyone recently, players requesting a hand in a questing area that has particularly nasty mob pulls and priests and druids mentioning where they are to provide others with a buff to make things that little bit easier.
However, it is easy to break the illusion too. All that time spent methodically killing through a village can be frustrating if you don’t find your quest objective soon enough, and that creeping thought that you could just hop into a browser window and search for the location slowly whispers in your ear like an Old God promising you what you think you want most. The slow pace feels welcome at first, but after a while my mind started to drift, as it does all too often, thinking of other things. Suddenly my second monitor is back on, a podcast or audiobook has been loaded up and I am back to splitting my concentration across several mediums. Oh look, my friends are about to start a game of some deck builder and are looking for another player. The magic of the nostalgia is still there, but it is getting diluted because while I really enjoyed what I was doing 15 years ago, a lot has changed in the last 15 years. I have changed and like a piece of wood that has been shaped by the effects of time, the fit in an old peg hole isn’t as perfect as it used to be.
There is so much I still want to try and do, trips down memory lane with friends. But as someone playing a beta alone, I can’t help but think of the friends that I used to play Vanilla WoW with. Some have moved on in life, no longer playing MMOs. Others switched to the Alliance meaning we can never play together again and I respect their choices, but I am not ready to head over to that side yet. Some others I have lost complete contact with, and I can’t help but wonder where they are and if they are okay, my heart hurting a bit at the thought of so many nights spent together exploring Azeroth that just… ended one day. And I guess that is the joy of playing something that has so many memories attached to it: the good memories come along with the bad ones.