“Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.” –Marcel Proust
I recall a time when I once played World of Warcraft with my mates on a private server: this was back when I was still in secondary school. After setting up a character and getting acclimatised with things, a handful of us would group together for exploration and quests. Since then, I’ve not returned to Azeroth, and World of Warcraft has undergone many changes. With KonoSuba and Bofuri still fresh in my memories, my curiosity to return was piqued, and so, having already set up a Battle.net account to try out Destiny 2 a year and a half ago, I decided to give the current iteration of World of Warcraft a go by running the Starter Edition, which limits players to reaching level twenty and carry a maximum of ten gold. Within the parameters outlined by the Starter Edition, I built back my mage and delved into familiar places. In the time since I’ve last booted up World of Warcraft, Deathwing had devastated Azeroth in Cataclysm, permanently changing many maps forever. My return to Elwynn Forest saw a burned out farmyard by the Northshire Abbey in place of a once-verdant field, and as I completed quests, I wondered how much of Elwynn Forest had been modified in the past eleven years. Most of Elwynn Forest is still the verdant and well-travelled hub that I’d known it to be, but Westfall and Redridge Mountains have seen some changes. Exploring familiar, yet different places, I soon hit the level cap for my mage, set about gathering the gold needed to purchase the basic riding skill and a mount and set off to explore different parts of Azeroth. It was upon arriving in Loch Modan that I realised the Azeroth I remember was gone: the distinct Stonewrought Dam is destroyed, and the loch’s contents have spilled out into the wetlands below.
Eleven years earlier, I had also begun exploring the warlock class; one of my friends, who was almost always on, suggested that I create a Horde character, and so, I rolled a Blood Elf warlock. Levelling up my warlock in the Eversong Woods and Ghostlands proved to be immensely fun: even more so than the mage, which I picked for its focus on damage per second (DPS), the warlock is suited for unleashing damage in different forms, whether it be through damage-over-time (DoT) affliction spells, the work of powerful minions or directly from destruction spells. With one Alliance mage at level twenty, I decided to re-live the original experience and recreate my old Blood Elf warlock. Travelling through Eversong Woods and the Ghostlands again, I found myself simultaneously impressed and feeling nostalgic: the orange light and Elvish architecture in the Blood Elves’ starting areas, and the cool blue light of the Ghostlands remain as aesthetically pleasing as they did when I first played World of Warcraft. In no time at all, I got my warlock to level twenty, as well. Getting two characters to level twenty took me a few hours of two weekends: the experience was much more streamlined and quick than I remember (originally, it took me a month of playing to reach level twenty), and subtle changes to the user interface, character animations and models, plus better lighting and visual effects, were also noticeable. However, World of Warcraft as I know it now is also completely different than the experience I remember: talents have been simplified, spells are now grouped into categories that increases one’s specialisation into a role at the expense of versatility, and thanks to Deathwing sundering Azeroth four expansions earlier, parts of Azeroth are now unrecognisable.
Screenshots and Commentary
- This post is a first; I’ve never written about World of Warcraft before in any official capacity here previously, and I note that I’m not a skilled or experienced player in any capacity. I’ll reminisce on my experiences of old in a series of later posts, but my first return to Azeroth in eleven years saw me return to Elwynn Forest and Goldshire. Originally, I had rolled a Gnome mage, but because of its location, my friends suggested I make Goldshire my home so it was easier to party up. Goldshire is a bit of a hub for players, and it was fun to see all of the other players with their fancy gear here.
- I begin my journey without heirlooms, and therefore, sport a much more modest appearance. Returning to Elwynn Forest and its familiar quests brought back memories of a much simpler time, and immediately upon returning, I set off to find a lost necklace and sort out a challenge two lovers were facing. The starting quests haven’t changed and add a great deal of immersion into the world-building: players begin their journey helping out the people living in their areas, and as word of their deeds gets out, reputation improves, bringing more exciting quests and favours along the way.
- Out of the gates, besides being thoroughly impressed with the water effects, I found myself a little confused: in the World of Warcraft I remember, when I first rolled a mage, I distinctly remember starting out with the Fireball spell, a staple that does direct damage and damage over time (DoT). By comparison, World of Warcraft presently opens players with Frost Bolt, a spell that does less damage compared to a Fireball of a similar level, but reduces enemy movement speed by half.
- It turns out that, rather than buying spells from the mage trainer, spells are now automatically learned as one increases in level. I’ve heard that World of Warcraft has reduced the grind considerably in recent years, and in Battle for Azeroth, the current expansion, one can easily reach level twenty in about four to six hours depending on how quickly they go through quests. In Wrath of the Lich King, I remember it took upwards of about two to three weeks for me to reach level twenty, averaging about thirty minutes per evening on weeknights. One of the reasons behind this is that Flight Masters are now much more common than they had been before: where before, I was running around between destinations on foot, I could now fly.
- Because of my schedule, evenings are when I find the time to play World of Warcraft, and so, all of my pictures of Elwynn Forest in this post are set under the evening skies. My favourite parts of Elwynn Forest are found near the lakes and the rivers separating the different areas, which have a familiar beauty. It took me about an hour and a half to reach level thirteen, after which I had unlocked a quest that would send me to Westfall.
- Westfall is adjacent to Elwynn Forest and in earlier expansions, is an expanse of arid wheat-covered plains set under a faded blue sky. Since the events of Cataclysm, there’s a vortex of energy in the middle of the map now that certainly wasn’t there before. I remember the area for being covered with swarms of Defias crooks, and spent a bit of time levelling here with one of my friends, who rolled a Night Elf rogue. The Deadmines can be found in Westdall, and I will be returning in a later post to write about my experiences in soloing it.
- Redridge Mountains is the other area bordering Elwynn Forest: under the protection of Stormwind, Redridge Mountains is dominated by Lake Everstill and red rocks all around. Besides a large tower guarding the Three Corners on the path leading to Lakeshire, Redridge Mountains remains as I remember it: gnolls dominate the north edge of the map, and I remember moving into the area after emptying Westfall of quests.
- One feature that I do like about World of Warcraft as it is now is the idea of region scaling, where the enemies and quests in an area scale to match the player’s level. By dispensing with low level quests, players are assured of earning experience once they enter an area, and the quests themselves remain a reasonable challenge as enemies level up with the player.
- Besides keeping things fresh for the player, region scaling also opens up more of Azeroth to players, and so, players running the Starter Edition have a greater variety of areas to explore. However, some areas remain inaccessible for players at level twenty: directly north of Redridge Mountains are the Burning Steppes, an intimidating land of charred rock and lava for level forty players that I only ever passed over while riding to Ironforge back in the day.
- I hit level twenty for my mage after blasting gnolls in the hills above, including an elite enemy. Elites normally give me some trouble, but fortunately, a bunch of players had already entered the cave, and must’ve had the same quest. We combined forces and melted the elite, allowing me to complete my quest. I would hit the gold limit soon after, and purchased the basic riding skill, plus a horse for swifter transportation.
- The other class I played was the warlock: compared to the mage, whose range of spells make for a powerful DPS class, crowd control and party support (generating regenerative food items and portals), warlocks are purely DPS oriented, specialising in either direct damage (destruction), DoT (affliction) or crowd control (demonology). I elected to run the Blood Elf because their lore would suggest that a Warlock would be quite suitable.
- The Eversong Woods, where Blood Elves start their journey, is one of my favourite places in Azeroth for its beautiful eternal autumn colours, with rich hues of red, orange and gold, set under violet skies. The Blood Elves are supposed to be fallen elves whose powers were dependent on the Sunwell, which was destroyed in a war long ago, and to sate their appetite for magic, the elves turned to dæmonic energy. They were subsequently cast out, formed their own society and joined the Horde.
- If memory serves, I created a Blood Elf warlock because one of my friends had been running a Horde character and wanted me to have a Horde character available for partying: World of Warcraft divides the different races into Horde and Alliance, which are warring factions of the Warcraft universe. Members of the different factions hate one another on principle, and it is difficult for Alliance characters to freely explore Horde territory (and vice versa): at lower levels, players wandering into enemy territory will be melted on sight by the guards, so it makes sense to have another character for the sake of exploration.
- One aspect of the Eversong Woods I particularly liked was that the quests were placed relatively close to one another, and further to this, the quests are steeped in lore that brings the Blood Elves’ story to life. The human quests, by comparison, have a much more mundane and ordinary feel to them. As World of Warcraft introduced new expansions and races to play as, I found that the new starting areas have increasingly interesting and well-designed stories that didn’t involve an inordinate amount of travel.
- Initially, warlocks begin their journey with a pair of shadow magic-based attacks and the ability to summon an imp minion that can deal fire damage. As far as I can recall, the ability to summon an imp wasn’t immediately available to warlocks; one would’ve needed to find a trainer and then spend coin to learn the skills. Similarly, summoning minions and using more powerful spells required the use of soul shards that occupied inventory space. In today’s World of Warcraft, players gain access to the imp early on, and soul shards are automatically generated by some spells.
- Upon passing level ten, I began unlocking quests that brought me into the Ghostlands, one of my favourite low-level areas of World of Warcraft. Tranquillien is the only town here, being a Blood Elf settlement that serves as a hub similar to Goldshire. The area’s haunting blue palette is a result of the Scourge, which created a massive scar cutting both the Ghostlands and Eversong Woods in half, and unlike the latter, the area is not entirely reclaimed yet: droves of undead rule the land. Upon finishing one of my early quests, I ended up scoring an epic upgrade to a quest reward.
- Items in World of Warcraft are sorted into quality, similar to how The Division handles item quality: rarer items have increasingly powerful stats, and one of the goals of lower level players are to begin collecting the “rare” (blue) items. At higher levels, players begin hunting down “epic” (purple) items. In World of Warcraft, epic items are the end-game target for most, being earned from drops in raids. On the other hand, The Division’s system is more of a quality system: at the endgame, one’s entire load-out will consist of the gold “high-end” items, which are equivalent to World of Warcraft‘s epic items.
- As I continued levelling my warlock to level twenty, I began building out a wider collection of spells and decided to switch over to the destruction specialisation, which favours raw damage above all else. With an arsenal of high DPS and AoE spells, the destruction warlock is unparalleled at melting enemies with fire and chaos spells. This is the way I prefer to play, and even though I was limited to weaker spells, I had no trouble dealing with Knucklerot and Luzran, two elite abominations. In the old day, I would send my voidwalker to tank damage from these monsters while blasting them with spells from afar.
- World of Warcraft‘s current iteration replaces Shadow Bolt with Incinerate as its main damage spell for destruction warlocks, and the fire effects were particularly impressive from a visual standpoint. Although World of Warcraft dates back to 2004, and the graphics have not changed too wildly from what it was sixteen years ago, Blizzard has been regularly improving the game with improved player models, lighting and effects. As it is now, it was immensely fun to chain Incinerate together with Immolate and Conflagerate on enemies to blast away large chunks of their health. Being able to use Drain Life to top off my health or stave off death while my minion held a monster’s aggro was also valuable.
- In no time at all, I reached level twenty with the warlock and unlocked a Felsteed as well, bringing my second character to the limit set in the Starter Edition. Returning to World of Warcraft brings back memories, although it is clear that Battle for Azeroth is very different than Wrath of the Lich King, which is the version I played through back in the day. With this post in the books, I do have plans to continue writing about World of Warcraft, and for now, I will be returning in the near future to write about Sketchbook ~Full Colours~. As well, I’ve made some headway in Halo 3 since it was released two days ago, and later today, SUPERHOT: Mind Control Delete will be releasing. I’ll be writing about Halo 3 as soon as I wrap up the campaign, and then turn my attention towards Mind Control Delete once August rolls around.
With World of Warcraft‘s Starter Edition, I ended up with a short-lived but comprehensive reminder of what made World of Warcraft so entertaining for me back when I was a student: exploring the different areas of Azeroth had been the main reason behind why I found the game enjoyable, and while World of Warcraft does allow me to explore the regions I spent the most time in, the current expansion, Battle for Azeroth, has changed up the locations I know to a non-trivial extent. Further to this, while World of Warcraft does have some level scaling to increase the accessibility of certain areas and make for a swifter levelling process, many areas in World of Warcraft remain quite inaccessible to a level twenty character. Because I wish to explore the Azeroth, Outland and Northrend more extensively, I’ve opted to spin up a private server as my friend had done eleven years ago. On this server, I will be running Wrath of the Lich King, which was the newest expansion that was available at the time. It will be fun to go back through and revisit locations that I once spent hours with my friends in, both for exploring and running quests. The private server will allow me to go through World of Warcraft at my own pace: besides exploration of the different areas, it would be fun to see if I can solo some dungeons and raids on my own. What lies ahead will a fun journey, and a trip down memory lane – I intend to occasionally return and write about some of my adventures through World of Warcraft as it was during an older time as I explore sides of Azeroth, both familiar and completely unfamiliar to me. However, before I embark on this journey, there is one more stop I made in the Starter Edition of World of Warcraft: I will also be writing about my experiences with running a Pandaren monk on the Wandering Isles, something I’d been wanting to try out since watching the cinematic for the Mists of Pandaria expansion back in 2012.