WoW: How New Leveling Killed My Desire to Play Retail

Before getting to the heart of the matter in this little humor post, a bit of contextualization is necessary. Like many players dangerously approaching their thirties, WoW was the first big video game hit of my life. I still remember on my way home from college fantasizing (that’s the right word) about my future travels in Azeroth, as well as the journeys I was about to begin, “embodied” virtually in my personal. Wow, that was my first real online experience too. I literally became aware of the omnipotence of the Internet and the fact that people could be connected in fantastic worlds.

All this to say that no other video game in the world makes me more nostalgic than WoW. The satisfaction of making your character stronger, teaching him new techniques and rubbing shoulders with increasingly formidable monsters and cases is something I’ve never been able to find anywhere else.

mood ticket

This article is a mood post. It is of course very subjective, and only reflects my “intimate” feelings on a question.

Sesame, do not open

And then the years go by. I am forced to let WoW go for a while, although the MMO continues to inhabit my thoughts, in a more distant way. And a few years later, a handful of months after the release of MOP, I find myself reinstalling the game. My very first impression is magnificent. The graphics have become sumptuous and I happily immerse myself in the world of WoW.

But very soon another feeling begins to tickle me. The levels follow each other at full speed, and the development of my character no longer gives me as much pleasure as before. No need to open my quest log to read, RPG style, the exciting missions available to me, where to go and who to defeat. Everything is indicated on mini card, which has become an advanced portable GPS. Dungeons, once sacred instances from which you emerged exhausted but happy, have become equipment turbo-boosters. No more saying hello or connecting with other adventurers. The group will automatically create, then split up and you will be teleported to the next dungeon. And repeat again. The small taste of completing a dungeon has turned into fast food-like force-feeding. We chain. Time flies. No time to linger.

World of Warcraft

And I haven’t told you yet Sesame. Small “bonuses” that bring your characters directly to level 50 or 60, on the edge of the content of the latest expansion. So there leveling is completely dissolved in space-time. Complete the pleasure by learning to discover his character and his class step by step. This is delivered turnkey, ready for new cases. So of course sesame is optional and Blizzard doesn’t require us to start our adventure at level 50. But they sealed the chest to the increase in levels, arduous but oh so exciting.

Waste of wonderful worlds

I re-read the beginning of my post and I admit it’s a bit of an old grump thinking that “it was better before” etc. But let me explain why from my point of view it was cool to level “the tough manner”. Besides the “satisfying” side of improving your beloved character level by level, there is also the challenge of guarding Azeroth and its wonders.

When my father asked me as a teenager “how big” was the world I was traveling around virtually, I replied that it would literally take me several dozen hours of walking with my troll to cross just one continent. And he was stuck. Well ok: a few years later I learned that I was exaggerating a bit, as Kalimdor is actually only 20 kilometers from north to south.

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft

But still: kilometers and kilometers of magnificent landscapes. From freezing tundras to dry deserts, through dark swamps and lush forests. World of Warcraft is also a fantastic world with incredible depth. All dotted with NPCs, each with a story, anecdotes and secrets. And I pass on the verse about the architecture of the cities, the detailed decorations of the objects present in the buildings, and of course the colossal bestiary of each small region. World of Warcraft is, as the name suggests, a world, a real one. Carefully crafted over nearly two decades by highly talented developers. But we tend to forget that when we teleport from dungeon to dungeon at the speed of light, not taking the time to do a quest because “too long and not worth enough in EXP”.

The Titan became the two-headed hydra

So what’s left of the WoW of my teenage years when each new expansion sweeps away dozens of regions to explore at once? When each new continent is emptied and then all the previous ones become obsolete? When it becomes possible to climb 50 levels without leaving Orgrimmar, by chaining identical dungeon runs?

It is with WoW Classic, in 2019, that Blizzard gives an answer to all these questions (and to all old nostalgics like me). A return to basics, certainly exciting, but which can also be read as an admission of weakness. Directly related to failing to create a single great gaming experience that satisfies veterans, casual gamers and newbies alike.

Personally, I would have liked to have reveled in each expansion at my own pace, without being forced to rush through the opus that I hadn’t had time to practice when they were released. The gaming experience on Retail seems horribly truncated to me. And it’s a shame, because it seems to me that every expansion has its share of tasty details and sumptuous regions that are too quickly buried after the induction of a new opus.

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After long weeks of waiting, players of the classic version of World of Warcraft can finally rejoice: the Wrath of the Lich King expansion finally has an official release date! The “Happy Travels” experience bonus is also making waves!

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