World of Warcraft: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
By Meredith Watson (MerryQuiteContrary), OnRPG Journalist
To date there are three expansions for the World of Warcraft series and one in beta. While they each offered many different features not all expansions were created equally. Each expansion offered features that worked and were well received while others were met with criticism and yet there were some features that were just downright ugly.
World of Warcraft
The original game was released in the US on November 16, 2004 and in EU on Dec 6, 2004. It is known by its players as classic WoW, vanilla WoW or sometimes old school WoW. Parents will often tell their children stories of when they were young and had to walk seven miles to school in the snow, with no shoes, uphill both ways. That is rather like the classic WoW player. On any server across the game you can find the vanilla player regaling other players with tales of yesteryear and that is because WoW was a considerably different game then than it is now. Some would even say classic WoW was more difficult to play.
The subject most vanilla players will often broach is raiding. Raiding was no easy task. Raiding required 40 players plus stand bys as someone would invariably not attend that night’s scheduled raid. Prior to the raid a lot of farming for materials had to be done, in preparation, for items like potions. There wasn’t the overload of information on boss tactics that there is now. Often times it was just trial and error but the sense of accomplishment was great when the raid succeeded. However, the downside to raiding or even quest rewards or dungeon loot was the itemization of gear and weapons. Pointless stats were commonplace.
Patch 1.4 brought in the honour system which was a system based on honour contribution gained and ranking. The honour system rewarded the player with PvP titles and gear specific to the player’s rank. Patch 1.5 introduced Alterac Valley and Warsong Gulch. Previous to these being in the game world PvP was the order of the day with impromptu battles breaking out in Crossroads and Tarren Mill most often. Patch 1.7 gave the players Arathi Basin.
The game was in its infancy and therefore prone to bugs and serious latency issues. The world server was often down and emergency maintenance was par for the course thereby making questing, instancing or raiding quite difficult.
Vanilla WoW was time consuming. Everything the player wanted to do in game took time and commitment. As an example, prior to 1.3 and the meeting stones being introduced each player had to find their way to the instance or if they were lucky there would be a warlock in the party who could summon. Since mounts weren’t available until level 40 most of vanilla WoW was spent on foot.
Was it harder? While that question is the topic of many a forum post the answer is subjective. There will be a vanilla player somewhere in game that will happily give you his or her answer to the question.
The Good – Raiding was epic and there was a real sense of achievement. World PvP. Battlegrounds.
The Bad – Bugs, exploits, latency issues, and downtime. Itemization of gear and weapons.
The Ugly – Gold farmers. Everywhere. Ninja looting.
The Burning Crusade
The Burning Crusade (commonly known as TBC) was released on January 16, 2007 and introduced two new playable races: the Draenei and the Blood Elves as well as the new planet Outland and its self-proclaimed leader Illidan Stormrage. Previous to TBC, shaman were a Horde only class while paladins were exclusive to Alliance. TBC saw Draenei shaman and Blood Elf paladins. Many features were added with TBC including a level cap of 70, jewel-crafting as the new profession, many dungeons, seven new zones, and the neutral city of Shattrath. For a lot of players though the main feature was flying. Flying mounts became available at 70 and allowed the player to explore Outland in all its glory.
Prior to patch 2.0.1, the player, in order to find a group for a dungeon, would have to rely on his guild mates or use one of the public chat channels to advertise they were looking for a group. With 2.0.1 came the Looking for Group Interface Tool. The LFG tool allowed the player to select from a drop down menu of specific dungeons or quests. This tool would later become the Dungeon Finder.
TBC was the expansion that gave the players arenas and a revamped honour system. Gone were the vanilla PvP titles. Though the player could still display their highest rank achieved. Blizzard tried to recreate the world PvP that was prevalent in vanilla, before battlegrounds, with TBC by including world PvP events in Outlands. While many participated in these events, the overall vibe of vanilla world PvP was not achieved.
Raiding was still more or less for the hardcore in TBC but it was now more accessible to the moderate raider. The raid sizes were reduced to 25 and 10 which led to some grumbling from certain quarters but by and large was a welcomed change. More outside information was being used now in planning boss fights which were becoming more complex. Raids really had to work as a team in TBC as they did in vanilla but it wasn’t uncommon for some members of a 40 man raid to be on auto follow and afk.
Finally, near the end of TBC, with patch 2.3 guild banks were added to the delight of everyone.
The Good – LFG tool, guild banks, flying. Smaller raid sizes.
The Bad – So-so world PvP.
The Ugly – Blood Elves. Patch 3.0.2. (technically WotLK content patch but it was released a month prior to WotLK)
Wrath of the Lich King
Wrath of the Lich King (or as this writer likes to think of it – Wrath of the L33t Kids) was released on November 13, 2008 . WotLK introduced the new continent Northrend, raised the level cap to 80, the hero Death Knight class was added, as well as more dungeons, zones, and the neutral city of Dalaran.
In addition to the above listed features, WotLK added the first PvP zone, Wintersgrasp. Wintersgrasp is a siege warfare based PvP zone in Northrend. The player must be level 75+ to join the queue for the battle which happens every couple hours. In addition to the siege warfare there is a dungeon, Vault of Archavon, which is only active for the faction that is currently in control of the zone.
WotLK is a prime example of Blizzard listening to its player base. One of the complaints from the players in vanilla and TBC was that the casual player was at a disadvantage for raiding because they didn’t have the time to commit to raids yet still they wanted the goodies that raiders had.
With Blizzard trying to make raiding accessible for everyone, raiding reached an all time low with the introduction of the casual raider. Everyone was now able to get pre-raid dungeon gear whether they had intentions of raiding or not. Raiding became PUG-able. No longer did it require the teamwork and dedication of the hardcore raider or moderate raider. Anyone could do it and everyone did. Dalaran would end up being a sea of players clad in Tier 9 to Tier 10 gear all looking identical. The only difference being a slight colour change in the gear denoting how the player obtained it.
WoW has always had an elitist group amongst its players but with the advent of the add-on Gear Score in WotLK, elitism was taken to a whole different level. Gear Score essentially calculates the level of the player’s gear; however, some viewed it as a measurement of a player’s skill causing controversy in WotLK. Remember high school? Apply that mentality to the WoW community during WotLK and it about sums up the Gear Score debacle.
The Good – Wintersgrasp. Graphical improvements. The new look of undead quest hubs.
The Bad – PUGs. PUG raiding. Elitism. Gimmicky quests.
The Ugly – Gear Score. Achievements.
The most maligned expansion thus far, Cataclysm was released on October 12, 2010. Blizzard did something innovative here by destroying their old world and changing the way the game is played. Innovative,yes, but not to everyone’s liking. With Cataclysm came two new player races the Worgen and the Goblins as well as a level cap of 85, five new zones, and flying in Azeroth to name a few features. For all of Blizzard’s intention of breaking Azeroth and giving the player’s something new, many players are finding it dull, too hard or just more of the same.
Blizzard has seemingly perfected phasing in Cataclysm and while questing is linear it is still quite enjoyable with notable quest lines such as those leading up to Cities in Dust. The problem, however, is in how fast the player levels. Cataclysm feels like the player is being hurled towards end game.
Raiding, like regular dungeons, in Cataclysm is leaning towards the quickest route possible with the casual raider complaining they may have to put in a bit of effort. The casual raider was created and then spoiled in WotLK. With Cataclysm, Blizzard wanted to use more elements of TBC than WotLK much to the dismay of those that had their heyday in WotLK or started playing at that time.
The Good – Undead quest line. Phasing. Zone revamps.
The Bad – Leveling is far too quick. Dungeons very short.
The Ugly – Not making use of Shattrath and Dalaran.
Blizzard has realized the mistakes they made with WotLK and tried to resolve them with Cataclysm. While Blizzard hasn’t quite succeeded in this yet, possibly with Mists of Pandaria we can all put WotLK behind us and get to kung fu fightin’.
What is your favourite expansion? Do you have your own list of the good, the bad and the ugly? Tell us what you think.