The year is 2007. You’ve just gotten home from high school, crank up Rihanna’s Umbrella, and plug in your iPhone 3G. You rush over to the computer, boot up Windows XP, and launch World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade. Activision Blizzard follows up on the success of World of Warcraft: Classic with The Burning Crusade Classic, bringing one of the most hyped expansions of a generation to a brand-new audience.
It’s been 14 years since the monumental launch of the first expansion to World of Warcraft. The Burning Crusade expanded and improved on nearly every aspect of the vanilla release, and it’s no different with The Burning Crusade Classic. Activision Blizzard rebuilt the expansion from the ground up using a modified version of the retail engine. With this comes better visuals and bug fixes, but not without adding its own unique exploits and bugs, leaving the product feeling a bit rushed.
Levelling from 60 to 70 took me around 80 hours, and I would say that the average player could expect the same. However, levelling in World of Warcraft has always been its own experience, and new players shouldn’t simply rush through it. Quests are divided between levelling zones, offering a fairly linear path to levelling that doesn’t open up until the last two levels. Personally, I’ve never been much a fan of levelling in any MMO, but I do see the necessity: it teaches players the role and nuance of each class within the game. Knowing the ins and outs of your class becomes increasingly critical as you push into end-game content, and players who rush there without learning the basics will quickly find themselves excluded from the community.
The Burning Crusade Classic is an authentic MMORPG experience, and this is reflected in the focused dungeons, raids, and PVP experience. Almost every area in the game requires you to meet players who match the content you’d like to complete, which will help you form groups or even guilds to tackle more challenging content in the future. Regardless of the route you choose, there’s a heavy emphasis on player interaction, and if you’re not familiar with your class, players will be quick to call you out on it. This can be good and bad, coming from retail, where it’s more acceptable to keep the experience solo even when doing group content. That’s not to say there aren’t players who won’t help you learn, but you will have to specifically seek those players out.
My first steps through the dark portal were exhilarating, the quests were fun and engaging, and my first dungeon groups felt incredible. These experiences have not been replicated by any other game within the genre in the last 15 years. Unfortunately, a lot of that fun dissipates when you’re around level 63: you move zones, and your friends slowly get ahead or fall behind your level. As a result, I found myself solo levelling for the majority of my journey to level 70. This is where The Burning Crusade Classic’s faults become glaringly obvious. The questing experience is dominated by kill, fetch, and escort quests, and while the storylines are unique and engaging, there isn’t much to break up the monotony of the outside world. Dungeon runs can be used to level when questing becomes too much of a chore, but certain classes will have an easier time finding groups than others. If you’re a tank or healer, you’ll find a group almost instantly. However, as a DPS, you’re likely to get fewer dungeon groups, forcing you to quest to 70.
If anything has been improved on the retail version of World of Warcraft, it’s the levelling system. Activision Blizzard saw what didn’t work in classic and streamlined the experience for Shadowlands. I know we’re in a #somechanges territory, but I wouldn’t be mad to see a revamped levelling system.
Dungeons, Raids, And The End-game
As a veteran MMO player, I’ve experienced the highs and lows of the genre, seeing many games imitating WoW and ultimately failing. The best in the genre always create their own niche, and there is something uniquely satisfying about World of Warcraft‘s dungeon and raid systems. A dungeon requires one tank, three DPS, and one healer. These five-player experiences are great for levelling, but more importantly, they are one of the main avenues for gearing your character. These dungeons take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes to complete and never get old. The standard versions were just challenging enough to keep me engaged, but the leap to heroics was where the real challenge began.
Heroics in The Burning Crusade Classic are no joke; not only do they require boss and dungeon knowledge and coordinated groups, but everyone needs to have unlocked the unique key for the set of the dungeons. These keys require players to be revered with the local faction before entering a heroic dungeon. I personally love this gameplay element, as it ensures the players queuing know the dungeons well enough since they have had to run them dozens of times before entering a heroic.
Currently, the only raids available are Gruul’s Lair, Magtheridon’s Lair and Karazhan. The latter is the entry raid for all players reaching level 70 and requires only 10 other players to complete it. While it is less of a challenge than Gruul’s and Magtheridon’s, Karazhan is the most nostalgic for me personally. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a challenge to be had here, but it’s more of an entry to raids in general, offering a way to gear up your characters while learning about raid mechanics. This is the closest World of Warcraft has to a tutorial for raids, and while it does require a lot of external research, most players will find themselves able to clear this content without much struggle.
The other two are 25-man raids focused on killing just one or two bosses. These raids are not easy and have crushed many PUGs during the last couple of weeks. The difficulty is a dramatic jump compared with anything from Classic, with the exception of Naxxaramas, and it shows what put the original release of The Burning Crusade on the map back in 2007. However, later in the expansion, with the release of Serpent Shrine Cavern and Tempest Keep: The Eye, raids will maintain a 25-man default and become increasingly difficult to clear. These raids stand the test of time, and to this day, there’s no other MMO that can measure up to World of Warcraft‘s end-game.
Is PVP Competitive?
World of Warcraft has always been a strange game for PVP, and that’s no different here. There’s a sense of chaos within battlegrounds that leaves them feeling less tactical and more frantic. Arenas in The Burning Crusade always felt tenser, causing a single wrong move to lose you the match. Several factors leave PVP feeling lackluster and unbalanced. For example, the Horde faction has dramatically better racial features, while the Alliance has useless and unnecessary PVP for the most part. Class issues also give a skewed expectation of what PVP can be, with classes like Rogues being almost unkillable due to a 1- or 2-second hit delay once they leave stealth. Issues like this can cause some fights to feel completely non-interactive, leaving players with no choice but to accept their inevitable death.
Bugs and class balance will be addressed in the near future, but as it currently stands, it’s far from a rewarding competitive experience.
Is It Just Nostalgia?
Throughout my 150+ hours in The Burning Crusade, I’ve found myself continuously impressed by how well the content has aged. Unlike World of Warcraft: Classic, The Burning Crusade Classic still feels fresh as it expands the experience and gives players almost too much content once they reach 70.
Activision Blizzard has something extraordinary on its hands with The Burning Crusade Classic. End-game raids and heroics show what made World of Warcraft the true juggernaut it was in the early 2000s. It is flush with content, and we still have five raids to be released within the next two years. World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Classic gives fans exactly what they’ve been asking for and is a great entry point for anyone looking to get into the franchise.