The return of World of Warcraft to its roots has been a long time coming, with many fans having previously piled onto unofficial vanilla (original release) servers to get their fix of WoW gone by, until Blizzard pulled to legal plug on them that is. Blizzard’s rather famous response to fans requesting vanilla servers was “you think you do, but you don’t”. So was Classic really what fans wanted? Now that the hype has died down, have the vanilla servers gone quiet? Well, I’ve been playing since launch to find out.

From the moment World of Warcraft Classic was announced, a large rift formed in the game’s fan base between the Classics and the Retailers. The Classic fans assert that retail (the current live version of World of Warcraft) has been ruined by the extreme dumbing down of the mechanics, the constant time and rep gating, the addition of a money milking cash shop with level boosts, and the changing of high level gear acquisition into a casino roulette, among other issues. The retail fans on the other hand see classic as an un-streamlined, long, monotonous grind to max level with little end game, a boat load of bugs and a void of the many player comforts added since the games original launch, like looking for group/ raid, specialisation switching, flying mounts and the numerous other advances made over the years.

According to the retailers the current version is the ultimate version of World of Warcraft, whereas according to the Classics, the game has traded off its character and vision over the years for a mainstream market. So who is right? My opinion would be both and yet neither. Retail is now a very different beast from what vanilla was. Playing classic, after all those years in retail, has highlighted to me all the complexity that has been removed from the game. It was quite amusing to hear a hunter player ask why their pet disappeared, when they didn’t realise they had to feed it to keep it from running away. The gaining of talent points every level is also a welcome return and, seems to me, to give meaning back to levelling and a feeling of choice back into shaping your character’s specialisation, with the customisation the talent tree offers. All in all, I find feel more sense of ownership over my character in Classic than in retail.

In retail, all my characters now just feel, to me, like carbon copies of other player’s characters. They all play the same, even between most classes. However, there is no denying that retail is a much cleaner game. There are a number of quality of life changes in retail that I miss in classic, from the increase in the number of flight paths, to make travelling easier, to the ability to change spec, which does make it easier to go from soloing to slotting into a party role. Looking for group is a god send to a solo player who wants to go it alone, for the most part, and not get involved in guild politics. It’s true that retail does feel cleaner, more cohesive and without a doubt more polished.

It is my opinion that neither retail nor classic is perfect. As with many things, it all falls down to taste and what a person wants from the game. I, personally, prefer the longer, more meandering route of classic. I had thought the days of me not feeling rushed to hit max level was over, but the moment I jumped into classic, I was off levelling professions, even fishing which I haven’t touched in retail since WotLK. Yes, levelling is a lot slower in classic but unlike in retail, when they reduced the levelling speed in the run up to the BFA expansion, I didn’t mind the slow down because there is so much else to do. True, you could argue that retail has even more to do with extra professions and pet battling. However, in classic the levelling of professions feels more relevant to your overall progression in the game and is a viable way to get good gear, with drops outside of dungeons being quite rare. I levelled skinning and leatherworking to kit out my druid, so I had the best gear for hitting dungeons. In retail, gear drops are much more common, both from mobs and as quest rewards, which makes professions feel like a waste of time.

However, while I personally prefer classic to retail, I can see why many players would prefer the more streamlined version of retail WoW. Spending countless hours levelling up professions just to get good gear, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Getting the gear you need while levelling, in retail, does speed the game up, for many people in a good way. Retail does also have a much better end game, with more raids, daily quest hubs and many other end game improvements. It all comes down to what you want as a player. If hitting the end goal quickly is your motivation then retail is probably a better fit. If you are the type of person who prefers to enjoy the journey, then you’ll likely enjoy classic.

Against retail fans predictions, Classic has not died a quick death after launch. Most servers are still hitting high and sometimes full, at peak times, and there is no shortage of players visible in the questing zones. I really feel that the classic community also needs a shout out here, because the atmosphere is very friendly with people buffing strangers running past and helping out players in need, when mobbed. While in retail, community seems to have become locked to mainly guilds, in classic the game is a community with trade and zone chats active and, on the whole, friendly. The tagging of enemies, forces you to form groups for speedy quest completion which in turn does breed community spirit.

In conclusion, while retail did evolve from classic, it is hard to judge the two against each other, as they both play very differently now. Each has their pros and cons and suit different types of players with different priorities. So which one wins? Well, that’s for you to decide.