World of Warcraft Burning Crusade Classic Review: True to Its Roots
“Aside from a serious lack of player flexibility, Burning Crusade Classic is a rewarding MMORPG that is high-asking but is careful to tip generously.”
Robust leveling experience
Rewarding RPG elements
Lack of helpful mechanics
Some design decisions show their age
The opportunity to revisit an iconic MMO like World of Warcraft after witnessing the growth, decline and reinterpretation of its entire genre is not often. So what did I find while playing World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Classic, an update to a game that once devoured my life as a lost, lonely teenager? The same thing I missed when I moved on: Community. And then I lost it. Again.
World of Warcraft’s 2004 pop culture hit introduced players to fierce level grinds, sprawling PvP, and intricate, coordinated raids on bosses hideouts. It was a coming-of-age for the MMORPG genre that got it firmly into the mainstream. The Burning Crusade expansion years later challenged players to do it all all over again in a sprawling new zone with more bosses, bigger backstories, and even bigger weapons. It sounds easy; actually almost unnecessary. But it was exactly what the players wanted more of. And it worked.
Burning Crusade’s storytelling methods are basically non-existent in the face of modern day MMOs, but the core experience is still a craze. At least it was for the first week or two.
A great start
Burning Crusade Classic begins like it did back then. As it should. The players sprint to the Blasted Lands south of the Eastern Kingdoms and storm wildly through the Dark Portal. The iconic gate was the starting point of Warcraft history in the 1990s, and when you trudge back through it with an army of friends and future allies, it never gets boring. It’s just a shame it’s so damn hard to stay with them after this lovely moment.
With no server downtime leading to the grand transition from Vanilla WoW to Burning Crusade Classic, Blizzard has really nailed the execution required to expand this gigantic MMO like the grand adventure that it is. Blizzard has had a ton of disastrous online releases over the decades, but this wasn’t one of them.
We were able to relive the iconic moment without any problems when waves of players stormed forward together and their passion for continuing the search that began years ago fueled their foray into the unknown. Hundreds went in, and server sharding – a method of temporarily dividing players among smaller servers – kept the first zone, where we were supposed to spend a dozen hours, from being overcrowded.
Blizzard has had a ton of disastrous online releases over the decades, but this wasn’t one of them.
Same game, different experience
Although I didn’t originally start playing World of Warcraft until the Wrath of the Lich King expansion was just around the corner, some of my fondest memories come from the 60 to 70 experience presented here – the struggle to get the Hellfire Peninsula something exploring early at 58 a disdain for the Zangermarsh zone and a growing reverence for the vast green plains of Nagrand.
All of these memories came back as I spent two weeks rediscovering the place I called home as a teenager. The good, the bad and that which arrives differently after years with countless other supposed “WoW killers”.
As fantastic as the hype and the structure of walking through the Dark Portal were, the fatal error has shown itself once again. The enemy? Nostalgia.
After the initial onslaught of players making their way through WoW Classic, the few who were late for the party struggled to make it to the top. They were brought in by the hype, but spat out by Blizzard’s group-based hardcore game design. And it happens again.
With work and other responsibilities barely halfway through my leveling experience, it has already become much more difficult to find people on my level to run the expansion’s 16 hyper-specific dungeons. Without them to replenish my experience points, I fight alone and do hundreds of repetitive quests in slightly different locations until I reach level 70.
When I get there, I don’t have any social connections that bring me into the group content that players are leveling for in the first place. It’s a curse. Those who are lagging behind will be forced to keep falling. And who knows how many will be left to do level 70 content when casual gamers like me catch up.
Create the problem, forget the solution
It’s not that leveling is impossible without a few dungeon runs, but it’s getting old. And lonely. As time goes on and as the player base continues to shrink, we’ll think about what could have been done to address the problem.
What World of Warcraft has always done well is delighting players with basic RPG mechanics. Leveling up can take some time, but that “thing” and every kill or search for it always feels rewarding. It can be tedious and unnecessarily time-consuming, but whether it’s a new skill here or a rare random item, you will be constantly fed cakes along the way to the frosting.
As much as the classic experience is why we’re here, the dual-spec feature from the Wrath of the Lich King below is a quality of life feature that should definitely have been brought forward. It could have made a world of difference without poisoning the well.
Most classes can fill two or all three of the usual roles in a group, but the “talent” system ties them to being viable in only one and makes exchanges increasingly expensive. The dual-spec feature basically gave players a secondary loadout to switch to if needed, and offered the ability not only to take on a different role if a group required it, but also to change their play style, so as not to get bored by pressing the same buttons day after day.
The system had no drawbacks. It was just respect for a player’s time. And when you’re playing a class that caters to four different classes at the same time, it’s annoying not to be able to be who my next team has to be.
[/pullquote]After returning to Burning Crusade Classic, I am reminded again of the magical modern MMOs that I have missed.[/pullquote]
World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Classic may lack the hard-hitting story beats of most other games in its class, but the depth of its RPG elements represents old-fashioned values still sorely missed in other MMOs. It’s just a shame that some key tweaks haven’t been brought forward to address the issues that the inevitably smaller player base is likely to encounter much sooner than the original version.
Whether you fight, craft or collect, your actions always serve a purpose in the Burning Crusade Classic campaign. Everyone can feel like they are either contributing to their own guilds and groups or to the server as a whole. Leveling up can feel sluggish at times, but talent points, meaningful equipment upgrades, and a clear endgame objective create an RPG experience that still makes it a game worth experiencing if you have the time, too when it’s more demanding than we normally tolerate games like this.
Retail gamers can still see Burning Crusades Outland almost bit by bit without this release, but for veterans of the franchise revisiting the title will feel like coming home after a decade. As it should. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t last nearly as long this time.
Is there a better alternative out there?
If you prefer more flexibility in the use of time, Final Fantasy XIV is still a better option. The community is nice and creative, and you can play any role you want and level up in different ways to get there.
How long it will take?
It takes about 18 months for Wrath of the Lich King Classic to inevitably get around to bringing World of Warcraft Classic back to its peak. Until then, more raids, new gear, and bigger stories will appear in the coming months.
You should buy it
Since it is technically only the price of a World of Warcraft subscription, absolutely. It’s incredibly rare to have the opportunity to travel back in time with an ever-changing MMORPG. Experience history. You probably won’t get a third chance.