I’ve never really talked about it, but I have a lot of nostalgia for Blizzard games. Granted, I never loved them as much as everyone else did. I always thought their games were really good, but not god-tier amazing. But my love for their older games is undeniable.
Which makes the current state of the company really sad. And hilarious. And infuriating. But I don’t want to focus on the negative today.
World of Warcraft has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I remember when I was a really little kid, I’d sit and watch my parents play vanilla WOW together and just be amazed at how amazing the world seemed. Then, when Wrath of the Lich King came out, I was finally old enough to play it myself. Granted, I didn’t get properly hooked on it until Cataclysm, when I created a Worgen warrior named Barte (I miss him, not gonna lie). But I always had an appreciation for the game.
Looking back, this game was a huge thing in my family’s lives. My parents would play it together all the time (and they still do, now that Classic is a thing), my older brother and I would often go through dungeons together, and every now and then, on a really good day, all four of us would play (my little brother and older sister never got that into it). To me, WOW wasn’t just a fun MMO. It was what I played when I wanted to spend time with my family!
Then Mists of Pandaria came out. Sadly, I don’t like mobile games. So my affection for the game immediately vanished.
And I know I’m not alone in that. Millions of players abandoned ship when the kung fu pandas were introduced to the game. Honestly, I have no idea how they still have enough players to keep making new expansions! The game has changed so dramatically that it’s completely unrecognizable as the legendary experience that took the world by storm!
Thankfully, WOW: Classic is out, so you can go back to that classic vanilla experience if you should want to. And given its success, I have no doubt that they’ll create similar servers for the previous expansions. Maybe soon, I’ll get to re-experience the glory days of Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King with my family all over again! But that’s a topic for another day.
Today, I want to ask the question: when should WOW have stopped? In another timeline, where Blizzard stayed focus on making good stuff over making money, at what point should they have stopped making new content and moved on? Essentially, when was the peak of World of Warcraft?
There are many versions of WOW to choose from, including:
- Burning Crusade
- Wrath of the Lich King
- Mists of Pandaria
- Warlords of Draenor
- Battle for Azeroth
And the upcoming Shadowlands. But that hasn’t come out yet, so I can’t talk about it. Also, we’re well beyond the peak now, so I wouldn’t even consider it.
As I alluded to earlier, I feel like Pandaria was the point where WOW permanently changed for the worse. And from all I’ve seen/heard about the three expansions that came after it, it didn’t get any better. So, I’ll basically only be looking at the first four versions. Out of vanilla and the first three expansions, which one presented the best WOW experience?
You might think I’m going to say Cataclysm. After all, that was the one that really got me hooked on the game. But you might be surprised to hear that I honestly don’t like it all that much in hindsight. Looking back, there’s one major change introduced in Cataclysm that damaged the game forever: the Dungeon Finder.
Yes, I know it was technically introduced in Wrath of the Lich King. But they made it far worse in Cataclysm. Mostly by adding the Raid Finder on top of that.
In ye olden days of World of Warcraft, if you wanted to go into a dungeon or raid, you had to put in the effort to pull a party together and do it. You needed to talk to people in your friend circle or guild, set some time aside, gather at the dungeon location, then go in and actually do it. And that was a lot of fun! It built a lot of connections between the community! Plus, it made the world feel truly alive and interesting! If you wanted to do a dungeon, you actually had to go and find it!
Then the Dungeon Finder came along and murdered all that. All you have to do now is select your role and wait for the game to put you into a group for you. Because of this feature, the point of leaving the main city of your race/faction disappeared. Don’t believe me? Log into WOW right now if you have an account and go to the main city. Notice how literally all of the players are hanging out there. Now, go to a dungeon entrance; any one will do. How many people are waiting there? Is the answer no one? Of course it is! Why wait at the door when the game will automatically party you up and take you there?!
Not to mention that the story itself really isn’t all that interesting. Deathwing as a villain, while he certainly looks cool, really isn’t all that intriguing. He’s just a big dragon that wants to destroy the world. Kind of boring. Plus, his boss fight kinda… sucked. It was boring and bad and tedious and I hate it.
Granted, the opening cinematic is one of my favorites. But that does little to affect the game itself.
So, no. I won’t say Cataclysm was the peak. Oh no. Personally, I think WOW should’ve stopped at the one right before that. To me, peak World of Warcraft was expansion #2: Wrath of the Lich King!
This expansion is absolutely incredible! It has one of the best stories, the best new area, and the best new dungeons and raids! Plus, it introduced one of the most fun and interesting classes in the whole game: the Death Knight!
No joke, that was my favorite class in the game. The only reason I didn’t play one was that my dad already did and I wanted to focus on group diversity.
My main argument for WotLK is the villain: Arthas. This dude is incredibly important to Warcraft lore. For fuck’s sake, he was basically the main character of Warcraft 3! His descent into madness and evil is one of the most memorable and well-written stories in the whole franchise! Everyone who played that game knows and loves (hates?) Arthas!
Plus, he was established to be one of the greatest threats to Azeroth in that game. Remember Illidan, the final boss of Burning Crusade? You know, the final boss of the first expansion? Yeah, this guy beat that dude’s ass at the end of Warcraft 3! Of course he’d be the follow-up!
Arthas is an incredibly memorable character, one that made for an amazing villain and boss fight. Plus, his area was one of the most fun and challenging to explore in the whole game! The frozen wastelands home to the Scourge is one of the most visually striking areas there is! It felt like the whole continent was his castle, one big obstacle standing between you and the Lich King! It was awesome!
The end of this expansion also wraps up the story of Arthas in a really satisfying way! Warcraft 3 players were left on a pretty brutal cliffhanger at the end of that game. But now? Not only do they themselves get to bring Arthas to justice, they also get to see the end of his story at long last!
And call me crazy, but I feel like level 80 is the perfect cap for an MMO. It’s such a satisfying number. It’s high enough to seem monumental without being stupid, you know what I mean? Like, 90 was kinda odd and 100 was just boring. 80 just seems like the magic number. The perfect place to cap a player off after all their adventures.
Looking back, I feel that this was the perfect place for WOW to be deemed complete. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. Blizzard’s eyes had too many dollar signs in them, so they kept going. And the inevitable happened: people lost interest and abandoned the game.
Nothing can last forever. No matter how hard Blizzard tries, eventually WOW will have to die. It doesn’t matter how many Classic servers for previous expansions come out. It doesn’t matter how they change the current game. Sooner or later, one day, people will move on. They’ll find a new game. Hell, most of them already have.
Question is: should they have ended it sooner rather than later? Would WOW have been better off ending at its peak rather than descending into the shit? Personally, I think so. Imagine what Blizzard could’ve done with all the time and money they spent driving this game into the ground!
Maybe we could’ve gotten Warcraft 4! Or maybe they could’ve started a new MMO out of one of their other games! Could you imagine how sick a Starcraft MMO would’ve been? Or a World of Diablo? Fuck, maybe they could’ve started a new franchise! Maybe we could’ve gotten Overwatch earlier! Maybe that version wouldn’t have ended up falling apart by the end! Who knows what could’ve been?
Whatever it was, I wish we were in that timeline. Cause the current Blizzard timeline fucking sucks, dude.