by Lewis Burnell on Jan 09, 2018
On Monday I realized that when looking through by Battle.net transactions, I’d been paying my World of Warcraft subscription for the past 12 months, without ever having step foot in Azeroth. In fact, the last time I played World of Warcraft was back 2014. While it’s my own stupid fault for not realizing that I’m now £120 lighter, having ignored a somewhat obvious recurring subscription (I daren’t look back any further than the past twelve months), Blizzard were kind enough to not only partially refund my payments, but also award me with additional free game time.
As far as customer satisfaction goes, I’m more than happy with the outcome. The potential to play World of Warcraft however, now that I’ve paid for it, is an offer that’s a little too tempting to pass up.
Like many who played World of Warcraft at launch, I sank thousands of hours into the game. I left purely because of the lure of Guild Wars 2 and its promises of Dynamic Events and immersive combat. Despite the beauty of Guild Wars 2’s world and its active combat, I would argue it largely remains an inferior product.
The newly designed characters look incredible.
Though I won’t turn this article in a Guild Wars 2 bashing contest (I still very much admire the game and spent many happy years playing it), it’s evident after only a few moments back in Azeroth, with a freshly minted Warlock, that it’s as moreish and enticing as it ever was. While the combat is undoubtedly slower than its modern peers, and its visuals clean and simple - certainly in older zones - there’s a polish and approach to play that’s undoubtedly comforting.
In many ways, and perhaps something I’ve only recently come to realize, is that its combat plays out similarly to a MOBA such as Heroes of the Storm, in the sense it’s all about cooldown management and positioning, rather than having free aim. While that sounds inferior to the likes of Guild Wars 2, most MMOs which promote their active combat only provide an impression of free aim, with many abilities still remaining targeted. Even the much lauded “dodge” mechanic, as seen in many modern titles, is little more than an i-frame; something Blizzard adeptly added to World of Warcraft with the Monk class.
Getting over my perceived combat hang-ups (a large part of my reluctance to return to WoW) I’ve quickly come to the realize that my abandoning World of Warcraft was born of seeking something new, rather than WoW being something poor. Yes its had to change its approach to questing, gear, dungeons and group finding (largely as a result of the competition), but what exists right now is undoubtedly great.
Even in my short time with Legion, I’ve already been blown away by the quality of storytelling and the stunning in-game cutscenes. While I won’t spoil what happens, there’s no doubting Blizzards ability to grab your attention. Having been out of the loop for many years, I instantly want to know more; more importantly, I want to play more.
Orgrimmar still looks great, even if The Barrens is looking a little dated compared to the new zones.
If you’d have asked me six months ago whether I’d be playing World of Warcraft again, honestly I’d have laughed. I was of the opinion that The Elder Scrolls Online and Guild Wars 2 offered so much more (certainly when it comes to combat), and little would have swayed me. And yet, it’s an opinion that’s missguided. Will World of Warcraft’s combat suit everyone? Absolutely not. In fact, some likely can’t return to something slower paced or which doesn’t provide a sense of mobility. That said, it’s evident from my time away from World of Warcraft that the genre offers little over it.
The latest zones in Legion are exceptional, and at times stunning, while its seamless world remains a huge attraction. New character models are amazing, while the quality of items and their appearances really do excel. Does it have all the same faults as it did before? At least some. Even if it does, there’s enough content here to keep me going for months and at a relatively small price per month - without F2P paywalls - it seems a fair deal.
I may live to regret this column and find myself out on the other side in a few months time, nursing a hangover, wondering what came over me. For now, I’m going to plod through the story and enjoy what’s in front of me.
Would you ever go back to World of Warcraft?