World of Warcraft is one of the longest-running and most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) around. It’s seen spin-off card games, movies, and novels too. Since its inception in 2004, there have been six expansions, the latest being World of Warcraft: Legion that released in 2016.
2018 promises to be a big year for the game with creator Blizzard announcing plans to release a new expansion called Battle of Azeroth. Furthermore, there’s World of Warcraft: Classic which brings back vanilla servers, allowing you a taste of what the game was before its many updates and additions. With almost 15 years of lore, gameplay changes, and visual additions that have no end in sight, is World of Warcraft still worth getting into? We took a dip into the World of Warcraft and its latest expansion — World of Warcraft: Legion — to find out.
Like most MMOs, World of Warcraft begins with you choosing your character race - from humans, orcs, elves, and pandas or pandaren as the game calls them. Then you select your character class, ranging from the usual ranged sorts like the mage and the hunter to the damage-dealing variety such as the paladin and the warrior. Certain classes like the druid — which lets you transform into a cat — and bear are limited to specific races like the night elf, troll, tauren, or worgen.
You can choose between playing the game from the very beginning or jumping into World of Warcraft: Legion. Trying the former in 2018 is an act of attrition as we soon realised for a host of reasons.
For one, the old school presentation of text and dialogue with the odd voice over or two hasn’t aged well and makes progressing through its sprawling locales a chore. It doesn’t help that the first few quests amount to killing a set number of enemies in a list, with little in the way of cut scenes or cinematic presentation to push you forward or keep you invested in what’s going on. Compared to its contemporaries like Final Fantasy XIV and The Elder Scrolls Online, there isn’t anything too compelling to keep you coming back. The dated visuals don’t help matters either.
Though some may believe that this is still the best way to play World of Warcraft, by working your way up to the latest expansion, growing from level one to level 110, it’s not exactly feasible for everyone. This is because the colossal amount of time needed for the entire journey, and the rather mundane quests you need to finish along the way make it feel like a chore.
With each expansion, the story-telling, quests, and environments improve, sometimes leading to big changes to the game world. For instance, some environments received a complete tonal shift after World of Warcraft: Cataclysm wherein non-playable characters now talk about a big dragon that was in an area instead of having local experiences to speak of. It was pertinent for 2010 when Cataclysm was a big deal in World of Warcraft lore, but now it seems dated.
Unless you have the inclination and like-minded friends willing to join you for the journey, we wouldn’t recommend playing World of Warcraft from the beginning. Instead, you’re better served starting with last year's World of Warcraft: Legion if you are looking for something that fits in well with modern sensibilities.
World of Warcraft: Legion has cinematics, cut-scenes, quality voice acting that combine to deliver a compelling narrative which is complemented with reams of text that you can peruse through if you so choose. Plus, World of Warcraft: Legion lets you boost a character to level 100 immediately (or after a trial period if you so choose) so you aren’t locked out of what it brings to the table - polished quest lines, an epic story, and new gear.
Throw in a host of talents, abilities, and artefacts that gain experience as you do, and you’ll soon notice that despite a host of intricate systems and mechanics, Blizzard manages to dripfeed them well enough that you never feel overwhelmed. This is crucial in making World of Warcraft: Legion accessible to newcomers and lapsed fans alike.
Our time with World of Warcraft: Legion over the past few weeks was drastically different compared to starting from the base game. From epic city sieges for us to partake in and brand new locales that we could explore, the variety on display made it far from a grind that most MMORPGs tend to be. And if you’ve spent anytime with Heartstone, you’ll notice some nods to Blizzard’s card game here too ensuring a sense of familiarity.
However, we would suggest to give the base game a try for free, which it is until you hit level 20. If its keyboard and mouse heavy trappings gel well with you, consider grabbing World of Warcraft (and ever expansion prior to Legion) at Rs. 699 ($20 in the US) and World of Warcraft: Legion at Rs. 1,999 ($50 in the US). They’re both discounted frequently to Rs. 499 and Rs. 1,499 respectively, which makes them cheaper than most big budget PC releases in India. Until you factor in the monthly subscription cost of $15 (around Rs. 950) to keep playing the game after the first month. Unlike other MMORPGs like Guild Wars 2 and The Elder Scrolls Online, you'll need a subscription to keep playing when your initial month is up.
Thankfully, getting through most of what World of Warcraft: Legion has to offer takes about a couple of weeks. If you can keep that much time aside, it’s well worth checking out. And if the endgame content such as raids and Mythic+ dungeons catch your fancy, only then should you bother with a World of Warcraft subscription.
With all this in mind, it will be interesting to see what Blizzard brings to the table with Battle for Azeroth. Till then, if you’re curious to see what World of Warcraft has to offer, World of Warcraft: Legion should have more than enough to keep you busy.