One of the big surprises related to WoW Classic for me has been my enjoyment of playing alts. Back in Vanilla I only had my Orc Warrior, and later had a lvl 19 twink undead Rogue. But I never got a second character even close to 60 originally, and when I came back for TBC I also only leveled a single character (goat Shaman) to the cap. Back then my focus was on raiding, helping to run a raid guild, and doing the million little things to make raid progression happen.
Right now in Classic I have my human rogue at 38, a human Pali at 15, a gnome Warlock at 13 (might retire him), and now a night elf Hunter at 14. I don’t care much about reaching the end-game of raiding, in part because I’ve seen it, but also because it ‘doesn’t matter’ this time around. I know it also didn’t matter back then, but it felt like it did. There are no illusion of the sort this time around. The journey IS the game this time around, and what a wonderful journey it is. One that feels different on each alt, even if they overlap in some of the quests and dungeons they run.
Each alt also offers a different view into what makes Classic work. The hunter is my latest character, and I’m somewhat obsessed with him right now. I’ve always liked pet classes in an MMO, and the Classic hunter is pet-class perfection. The need to feed them, the fact that they eat different things, the skill training, the decision to focus your hunter as a beastmaster or a marksmen, the fact that the hunter isn’t a pure ranged dps class, even just the fact that one of your bag slots is a unique ammo pouch that can also be upgraded. So many different mechanics, and they all come together to make playing a hunter feel like you ARE a hunter, killing bears because you need the meat for your pet, or you go fishing because your cat can eat fish, which itself is a huge bonus for taming a cat vs a different animal.
Taming rare spawn pets is itself a game within the game, and one that is exclusively of interest for just that one class. Every other class sees that rare spawn animal as bonus loot; a hunter sees it as a valuable find to tame. All in the same world, without the whole thing being overly staged or force-fed to everyone. Hunters are also on a constant loop of taming something new to learn its skills, and then passing those skills off to your ‘favorite’ pet. It’s another unique class gameplay loop that just works.
All of these mechanics matter and you notice them because Classic isn’t faceroll easy. If everything scaled and you could succeed with minimal effort, you wouldn’t feel the push to keep your pet strong, to make good decisions on talents, and to ensure your gear is staying decent. But because even in the teens the game does challenge you, you care about all of that. It feels good to get more comfortable controlling the pet, of knowing when to heal it vs when to continue dealing damage to end a fight. Plus the pet being an agro magnet if not controlled correctly is a challenge that is again unique to the class (and Warlock I guess, if using melee pets).
In my last play session I had a quest to go into a cave of Nagas and pick some mushrooms. Typical stuff. But I was entering the cave a few levels lower than the mobs, and the density was tight. This made it basically impossible to progress, especially because the ranged Nagas wouldn’t move, but sending in the pet would draw additional agro and lead to death. So I grouped with another hunter, and even with the two of us the entire trip into the cave was a death dance of killing Nagas fast enough to keep pace with the respawns, all while pushing further in to get what we needed. The final item you need is guarded by two mobs that are significantly higher, and we ended up sacrificing our pets to loot what we needed and attempt to run out. We died halfway out of the cave, and then just escaped after our rez, jumping out of the cave and down a waterfall to safety. Classic creates moments like these all the time, especially if you let it (don’t always do at-level or below content).