With Blizzard releasing official Classic World of Warcraft servers, Vanilla WoW is about to reach a much broader demographic than ever before.

It is very likely that a lot of retail players that never tried anything like it will give it a try whenever there is some downtime on retail, and it would be quite fair to say that those players are in for some big surprises.

Games were very different back then, and in most ways, Classic World of Warcraft is nothing like retail today.

Today we will take a look at some of the differences that are likely to shock the modern gamer.

11. Raid Roles & Class Imbalance

”Welcome, you are here to buff the superior classes.”

Raiding on retail will have you choosing between healing, tanking, melee or ranged damage. So you might be shocked when you learn what roles a lot of classes had back in Classic World of Warcraft raiding.

Classes were a lot more niche than they are today and a lot of classes were brought only for buffs, debuffs or 1 specific ability. Let me throw in a few examples.

Druids were inferior healers to the Priests and Paladins in every way, but you would still see them in every raid group back then due to their unique ability to resurrect people while in combat, and of course, their innervate ability which could help the priests restore their precious mana.

Warlocks were a decent damage dealer but still not as strong as Mages or Rogues, at least for most of Vanilla. However, they had more utility on offer than perhaps any other class and was, therefore, an essential part of any raid. They brought the ability to summon people, create Healthstones, and even Soulstone healers or tanks so they could be brought back from the dead if they died. Furthermore, they had a unique ability called ”Curse of the Elements” which essentially increased the damage that target would take from frost and fire spells, and what class use that type of abilities? That’s right, the best-ranged damage dealer in the game, the mage. Even though Warlocks did decent damage, they would forever be brought on for their incredible utility and ability to make the mages even better.

So choosing a class for Classic World of Warcraft is not just about deciding whether you want to do damage, heal or tank, but rather which niche you wish to fill.

10. Gold is Valuable

”Repairing my Armor will cost how much!??”

Image from the Office tv showFor most retail players, gold has never been a real issue. Sure, you might not have had enough gold for the latest 5 million gold mount, but apart from that, you aren’t exactly short on it either.

In Vanilla World of Warcraft, bankruptcy was a real thing and something I personally experienced quite a lot. Seeing that red set of armor on the right side of the screen, indicating that you had to repair it and then open your bag to see 2 gold and a few silvers was a death sentence. You then had to choose which pieces were most important if you had to go on questing and then pray to god you never died again.

Granted, I was a complete beginner back in those days, and I didn’t have a profession and probably didn’t spend my gold wisely but if you end up dying a lot while leveling you might very well have to declare bankruptcy.

I am sure that this won’t be as big of an issue for the modern gamer that will look up the best professions to choose and best places to level for gold farming etc. But do not underestimate the value of gold in Classic World of Warcraft. Even for the trained Vanilla player, the 1000 gold for the epic mount is no small amount and is why a lot of maximum level characters ran around with regular mounts back then.

9. Loot Rarity

Uhm, whats DKP?” 

Image from Southpark Warcraft episodeToday you might feel incredibly unlucky if you go through an entire raid without getting any loot. Well, get ready to change your mindset or go to bed angry a lot because loot was a whole other kettle of fish back then.

Raid bosses back then dropped 3 pieces of loot each, divided between not 25, but 40 players and on top of that a lot of the loot were class specific. So going through a few raids without getting an upgrade was to be expected, but on the plus side, you were so incredibly happy when you actually got something you could use.

8. Class Rotations & Wierd Abilities

”So, I just press Frostbolt?”

You might consider Havoc Demon Hunters or Beast Mastery Hunters to have it way too easy on retail and they are often referred to as so-called ”faceroll” specializations for being too easy.

However, their rotation would likely be considered the most complicated of all the classes if they were implemented in Vanilla World of Warcraft. As most damage classes had a rotation consisting of 1-2 abilities and spamming 1 ability for 10 minutes on a boss was not uncommon.

That being said, it’s not because the classes didn’t have a lot of abilities. The spell books were actually filled with exciting flavor abilities and niche spells. Warlocks are a prime example here, and they had an endless array of weird flavor spells that might not have been that useful but definitely helped make the class feel unique. Such as Ritual of Doom, where you and your party members attempt to summon a Doom guard from the Nether, and if you succeed one of your party members would die at random. After which the Doom Guard would have to be enslaved by the Warlock, or it would just wreak havoc on the environment.

That might not be the most useful spell, but it was incredibly fun and does it add something unique to the game.

In short, the spells and rotations are pretty much the opposite of today. Much less complicated rotations but a sea of flavorful niche abilities.

7. Mana & Resource management

Guess I’ll just stand here and do nothing for a while..”

Apart from Arcane Mages and healers to a certain extent, no one experiences mana issues on retail, and the mana issues they suffer are far more manageable than back in the days.

You see, back in the days, your spells had different ranks because you learned new versions of the same ability as you leveled up. Higher ranks did more damage but also cost more mana. This meant that the highest level version of spells often cost you too much mana to use in long fights or you would go out of mana within the first minute of an encounter.

This meant that players had their bars filled with different ranks of the same spell as a way to manage their mana and using the highest rank was extremely rare for healers in particular.

This also resulted in a lot of weird tricks for players to make sure that no drop of mana was wasted. Healers would jump at the last millisecond of their cast to prevent it from going off if the person they cast it on was already topped off.

Mana was also the reason that a lot of specializations didn’t work. You might have heard that most damage specializations were utterly useless, such as Shadow Priests, Elemental Shamans, Balance Druids, etc. However, as an example, Shadow Priests did great damage over short periods of time, but they would go out of mana a lot quicker than the equally dangerous mages or Warlocks, which meant they were rarely used.

6. RPG Elements – Weapon Skills, Ammo, Soul Shards

”Yes! What a cool new Polearm I just got, time to farm some weapon skills!”

You see, back in the days, there was something called weapon skills. They worked much like professions and skills was gained by using a specific weapon type and successfully hitting an enemy, and without proper skills, in a weapon type, you wouldn’t be able to hit anything.
So while leveling it often wasn’t worth the hassle to equip a new and better weapon, at least if you just wanted to level fast as it would often kill you to level a weapon skill against mobs that granted experience.

What most people did was equip a level 1 grey item of the same level type and then go nuts on mobs that were at a lower level, so neither would kill each other and then go away from the keyboard for a while.

”Inventory is full.”

If there is one thing, every Wow player hate it’s having a full inventory and coming from retail to Classic World of Warcraft you are indeed in for a shock.
Not only did most bags max out at 16 slots but your bags were filled with class-specific reagents and weird gimmick items.

Especially Warlocks and Hunters had it rough. Having at least 1 bag slot used up for ammunition or Soul Shards but often having to use up some of the regular bags for those items as well.

Remember, raids were 40 people back then and everyone needed a health stone, and each Healthstone required a Soul Shard. This often resulted in Warlock having every single bags lot filled up with Soul Shards and having to farm them an hour before raid time after which he would have to craft as many Healthstones as possible and then fill the bags once again to have enough for refills.

5. No Transmogrification

”How can I play when I look like this!?”

Screenshot of my Paladin without TransmorgTransmogrification is one of the most beloved features of current World of Warcraft and likely one that players will have a hard time to live without. Being used to looking exactly how you want in any gear and suddenly look like a homeless person dipped in mixed paint is tough.

Transmogrification certainly has a lot of positives to it, such as making old content semi-relevant and giving a reason to visit past expansions. Collecting appearances has even become the main progression path for some people and allowing for different ways of playing the game is always great.

That said, there are also a lot of positives to the world before transmogrification. Gear rewards felt more meaningful, and getting a piece of gear that was not only an upgrade but also looked cool was a fantastic feeling. Herod’s Shoulders from Scarlet Armory comes to mind.
Transmogrification diminishes the value of gear rewards across the board and players who initially have a hard time playing without transmogrification might find themselves enjoying the game more and feel more motivated to grind for rewards.

4. Things take a LOT of time – traveling, leveling, dungeons, etc.

”Better Call in sick..”

in-game screenshot of Deadmines in Vanilla world of WarcraftFor those that played Vanilla World of Warcraft, it must be quite shocking to see that there are quite a lot of complaints about how slow you level up on retail since the last leveling update. To be fair they have to level to 110, and you pretty much have to be at the maximum level to enjoy the game, but still, they are in for one hell of a surprise when Classic hits.

You got a fraction of the experience you get from mobs today, and they also had a much longer respawn time, mobs were a lot harder and could actually kill you. On top of this, most classes also had to drink and eat between mobs and to make it all worse there was not nearly enough quests for you to level up with quests alone.

Now, that’s only the leveling part of it. Pair that with the fact that you have to walk everywhere until level 40 where you might be fortunate enough to afford a 60% riding speed mount. Lastly, flight masters had abysmal pathing back then and would take you halfway around the continent to fly you 2 zones away.

The bottom line is, everything takes a lot longer, but that is also what makes every accomplishment feel worth doing so this might end up being the most pleasant surprise of all. You genuinely immerse in a world when you can’t just fly or portal your way around Azeroth.

3. Quests

”Where is Mankrik’s Wife”?

Today we are used to having markers on the map showing us where to go when we pick up a quest, but back in Classic World of Warcraft things were a bit different.

Instead of markers on the map, you might get some direction, such as ‘to the south-east” and at times you won’t even get that. A classic example is an old quest in the Barrens called ”Lost in battle”. Which tasks you with finding Mankriks Wife somewhere in the Barrens but with no real directions, this made the quest almost impossible to complete without surfing the internet for answers and the quest became quite famous for it.

However, it is not only directions that are scarce in Classic World of Warcraft but also quest themselves. When World of Warcraft was released, there were not nearly enough quests in the game to get you to level 60 so farming mobs for hours to level up and hope for a few new quests is a very common activity in Vanilla.

2. Difficulty & Danger

”Kill 8 Murlocs? Should be doable in one pull, right?

Screenshot of Elwyn forest in World of WarcraftRetail players are quite used to taking on huge groups of enemies at once with ease, and one of the biggest surprises in store for Retail players are without a doubt the descent to being mere adventurers when being used to play as heroes of the Horde and the Alliance.

Mobs were balanced quite differently back then, and most classes were unable to take on multiple foes at once and dying while leveling was anything but rare. Not only did the mobs hit much, much harder and had a lot more health, some would also flee and call for aid when you got them to low health. This made it so that pack mobs such as Murlocs are among the most dangerous you will encounter in World of Warcraft Classic, and you better make sure you can finish the target once it gets low before the entire tribe descent upon you.

This tougher leveling experience meant that most classes would have to eat and drink in between most kills, which in on itself might sound crazy to someone who started after the release of Wrath of the Lich King.

1. Server Community

”Wait, World of Warcraft is a Social Game?”

in-game screenshot from when Nostalrius was shut downIt’s no secret that a lot of players enjoy current World of Warcraft as a kind of pseudo single player experience, as features such as LFR and LFD has made it possible to complete most end game content without speaking to a single player. And cross-realms has to a certain extent removed the incentive to socialize as you rarely see the same player twice in months, at least on most realms.

This is one of the most significant differences between the current game and its Vanilla counterpart, and one of the reasons a lot of players miss the old version of the game.

You’ll have a reputation

Since there were no cross-realm functions, you often ran into the same players, and you could probably name a few of the big players from the best guilds because you always inspected them when you saw them to drool over their epic gear. Some you might have even heard of through word of mouth and nothing else.

This also meant that there were consequences to your actions as people would remember you. You might become well known as a great tank, or for having a lot of enchanting recipes, or maybe even for being a ninja looter.

Your actions and your reputation would affect your time in Azeroth, for better or for worse.

You’ll make friends in no time

Let us say you want to do a dungeon while leveling. Today you click a button, and after some time you will have a group up and ready to go. You will then be teleported to the dungeon and go on to do a dungeon that requires little to no effort to complete.

Now, let us say you played an Alliance and wanted to do Scarlet Monastery back in Classic World of Warcraft.

You would first have to either return to Ironforge in search of party members or hope that you could find some in the general chat of your current zone. After finding a few members, you might start questing together while looking for the last 1 or 2 members or chat a bit to pass the time.

Once your group was full, you would have to take the flight to Southshore as that was the closest located flight path you would have at the time. Then you would have to travel on foot from Hillsbrad to the northeastern corner of Tirisfal Glades. Then you would finally be ready to do the dungeon which also required more social interaction than today as crowd controlling mobs and planning was quite crucial for a successful run in Vanilla.

Turns out that having to work together in several ways over a few hours is a more effective bonding experience than joining a dungeon through a button.

There is a reason people today can still name a bunch of people from their original Classic World of Warcraft realm, and this is definitely one of them.

Final Thoughts

Current World of Warcraft and it’s Vanilla iteration are two entirely different games and cater to vastly different play styles. Both games have huge advantages over the other, and there is no ”best version”.

That said, Classic World of Warcraft is sure to bring more than a few nostalgic feelings to people who miss the more social and roleplay oriented game, and the game can’t come soon enough.

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