WoW Classic: It’s not a hard game, but it does reward player skill

As we continue to see mountains of feedback about Classic via blogs and forums, one topic keeps coming up that is being misunderstood and/or misrepresented: the difficulty of WoW Classic, either as its own entity or compared to Retail.

I’ll focus this post on pre-raiding Classic because that is currently what most of the conversation is about, and because in the previous post I already touched on raiding a bit. Let me start by being very clear; its not difficult to hit level 60 in WoW. Literally anyone can do it given enough time. The same goes for any singular piece of content; there isn’t a quest so ‘difficult’ that people can’t complete it. There isn’t a dungeon that remains unconquered by the majority. Pre-60 there is NOTHING in WoW that would be a challenge to anyone serious about a challenge in videogames. WoW has nothing remotely close to being as difficult as say hitting Challenger in League of Legends, or even beating the average single player game on the highest difficulty.

With that said, one major reason why Classic is fun is because it isn’t faceroll easy. Starting right at level 1, you simply can’t run into a group of mobs solo and expect to survive. When you are doing at-level content, you are always at least aware of where mobs are, about what you are pulling, and what keys you are pressing. Now don’t get confused, once you do those things, killing a mob or two is ‘easy’. But that itself is the point; you have put in the work to get a decent pull, so your reward is being able to kill said mob without too much fuss. That ‘simple’ combat is also its own strength; you really don’t want the most basic aspect of your MMO (combat), that you hope people experience for hundreds if not thousands of hours, to be tiring or require near-constant button mashing.

A game can require both some thinking and be relaxing, and that is exactly what most of the combat in Classic is (or can be).

There is another aspect of this conversation that I feel many are missing; just because at-level combat is simple, doesn’t mean that the game never requires you to play better, or that you can’t challenge yourself and be rewarded. If you player better-than-average, you can tackle higher level quests/mobs, which means you level fasts. If you are above average, you can complete a dungeon at a lower level, getting more value out of the drops and again progressing faster. Crafting isn’t ‘hard’, but putting some thinking and networking into it means you can progress it faster, get more useful things from it more consistently, and also be a bigger help to your guild.

The opposite is also true in Classic; if you aren’t paying attention or generally play below-average, you will progress slower. You will die more often which delays you. You will cause dungeon wipes or will only see success once you are higher level than is intended. If you don’t do some basic planning around crafting, you will most likely see it as ‘worthless’ because you can never craft anything useable for your level.

And again, even that below-average player will eventually hit 60, eventually max out a crafting skill, and eventually beat every dungeon. But that’s not the point. Difficulty in WoW isn’t about absolutes. It’s not about whether you can beat a dungeon or hit the level cap. It’s about how long is that journey? How many failures/deaths did it take you? How much success did you see going above at-level content consistently? Classic asks all of that, and just as importantly, rewards those who do play better.

Classic is really hard when you are level 20 trying to solo complete a level 24 quest that requires you to kill higher level mobs in tight pack. Or at least can be hard if you do try it solo, and at level 20 instead of at 24, and you don’t have a guild providing you with at-level crafted items and dungeon drops. If you do, it’s easy, but at that point look at how much effort you have put in to make the game easier?

That’s not a game I’d call easy.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Combat Systems, crafting, MMO design, Rant, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to WoW Classic: It’s not a hard game, but it does reward player skill

  1. bhagpuss says:

    “A game can require both some thinking and be relaxing, and that is exactly what most of the combat in Classic is (or can be)”.

    100% agree. I know you don’t have much time for EverQuest, but “Classic” EQ, on which Vanilla WoW was partly modelled, was exactly that, although with the slider tipped further towards “thinking”, which is one of the reasons WoW overtook it so quickly in the mass market.

    I would absolutely not class myself as a “better-than-average” video gamer. I am hopeless at most genres. I also have no raid skills in MMORPGs. I do, however, know how to level a character from scratch with no outside assistance. I’ve been doing it for 20 years.

    I spent an hour last night in Wetlands, farming Level 23-24 gnolls for Wool with my Level 20 Hunter. It was fun, engaging and profitable. I got enough wool to send to my Warlock to make us both several 8-slot bags. Tonight I took the Warlock (Level 11) out to level up a bit and he was doing quests involving targets level 12-13.

    I have to admit my general solo leveling skills are rusty – spacial awareness, how to manage adds with very limited resources, how to split pulls, ditto (WoW gives far fewer tools for this than some other MMORPGs of the period). Also the consequences of death are much lighter, meaning there’s a tendency to stay with a dangerous situation too long before bailing (also the relatively short leashes on mobs mean I tend to run late – sometimes too late).

    Those skills soon come back, though, and solo and group play is far more etertaining with them. Not that I don’t enjoy being a near-invulnerable whirling dervish of death in other games but having to engage the brain at least somewhat does make for more compulsive gameplay in the long run.

  2. zaphod6502 says:

    People are actually complaining about the difficulty level? Due you have a link? This is the whole point of Classic to not be faceroll easy.

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