Time to talk about World of Warcraft Classic’s Endgame a little, in our Wrath Classic Review: Endgame and Raiding.
Playing through World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Classic has been an experience, to say the least. One with many ups and downs. And while my time in Northrend has been entertaining, for the most part, this collective misery was going around during the leveling process. What should be an enjoyable journey, felt, for many like a chore. At first, it was odd to me, since the leveling and exploring should be the meat of an MMORPG right? The endgame content is just that all-you-can-eat buffet after.
But after a while, I noticed it myself.. the same thing in every zone, over and over and over and over again until you finally hear that sweet release of the level 80 ding. Now you can play the real World of Warcraft Classic Edition for the PC and your peers will finally accept you for having reached peak gaming fulfillment. Today I wish I could go back in time to slap myself in the face and tell that innocent lad to savor every moment of the descent into World of Warcraft. Because once you’re in that pit, there is no going back. Unless you want to make reasonable life decisions, and we all know that that ain’t happening.
So once you hit level 80, progression grinds to a halt. There is one more week to go until the raids open up and you have to gear up unless you want to be one of those freeloaders! Even though I managed to keep up most of the time in terms of damage thanks to my Final Fantasy XIV-installed paranoia. Uptime is more important than being safe and sound, disconnecting from the boss as a melee should automatically wipe the party and remember your ABC (Always Be Casting). This would often lead to me trying my darndest to be as useful as possible, only to get smacked to the Shadowlands by a boss or Elite that didn’t like my attitude.
The Endgame Grind aka “You thought you were done Questing, didn’t You?”
Veterans of the World of Warcraft community will probably laugh at me for this, but I would’ve loved to know that, depending on your class. Some of the reputations you gain while questing are useful outside of rare mounts and access to cool stuff. I thought that most of my problems could be solved by just throwing gold at the auction house. But didn’t realize at the time, however that soon after launch, all the prices would be so inflated that my considerable riches acquired from riding Northrend of the Scourge would just be enough to make my Class even playable, thanks to Runes.
Little side tangent here; I would’ve loved it if anyone would’ve told me how important those runes are to making your class playable. I discovered this by accident while looking up what gear I should be going after for my Death Knight. And on that note, I also love how I have to pay a class trainer a small fortune so that he can tell me 70% of the time just to keep doing what I’ve been doing but harder. Beautiful.
So after discovering I need to grind the reputation with some factions just a teeny tiny, massive bit further to get some of the gear and enchantments, I would need later on. I went to work. Most of your reputation grind can be done in two ways, either by completing the faction’s quests or doing the limited amount of daily quests. Or by wearing their faction’s colors while grinding dungeons (And we’ll get to that).
The daily quests tend to come in three flavors: Kill quests, gathering quests, or the weird and sometimes borderline unplayable ‘minigames’. Being able to grind reputation by doing other things is a godsend, but you might consider your poor life choices and/or open your wallet if you have to grind the frozen Viking giant’s reputation. It takes forever unless you plan to throw money at the issue and you can’t even buy a tabard to get around it.
While I don’t mind a good rep grind for… let’s say, a mount or a rare collectible on top of a story. Usually, you get half a story, the same few daily quests, and the fear that your reputation grind might be rendered worthless the moment you get an item dropped from a dungeon that renders the last three days of dailies worthless. This brings us to dungeons.
While the concept of heroic dungeons seems novel at first, giving the dungeons a little bit more lifetime by making them accessible at the level cap. In practice, that turns into a soul-destroying grind if you’re chasing that ever-elusive best in the slot. The first time around, this seems rather inoffensive. You can access every heroic dungeon once daily and hope you get the desired gear. Especially in the first two weeks, in that sweet pre-raid release window, everyone wanted everything. And it was exciting to run these dungeons in the hope you get that piece of gear you need.
So you look up what gear you can use and make a shopping list, then you use the tabard of the faction of choice to at least have a guaranteed upgrade down the line. Being at the mercy of RNG is never fun and it felt at times like there was some force out there taunting me. And I finally understand now why even accidental ninja looters like myself are hated in the community. That being said, I once realized after the fact that I needed a ring, and the good sport that won the role traded it to me without any demands. I will never forget you, Gnome Rogue; you’re a real one.
At least you get to do two daily quests that can take place in different dungeons. Those will reward extra badges on top of the badges you get for completing the dungeon, which in turn, you can spend on new gear. Well, you can buy tokens that you can then exchange for gear. You get a nice sum of tokens from just doing some of the later quests; that’s neat!
However, no one told me that after the raids were released, you could exchange those tokens for even better gear. So now I’m sitting on an item level 200 chest plate and gloves when I could sit on item level 213 chest plate and gloves. I’m starting to notice a trend in which is game is just casually malicious to anyone who did not spend the past 15 years obsessing over it. What did I ever do to World of Warcraft specifically to deserve that? Probably the years of playing Final Fantasy XIV instead; I guess that’s fair, then.
All of this is rounded off with the realization that heroic dungeons are just upscaled versions of what you’ve played before. In rare cases, they have something extra going on for them, like funny little challenges for achievements (I’m not sure if those serve any use beyond “Yea, I did that”) and occasionally an extra boss. The problem is only, just like the normal mode bosses and there is rare anymore to them. Outside of doing more damage and having more HP.
This makes me wonder what the point of heroic dungeons is outside of a long-winded daily grind for gear that’s gonna be useless soon after you start raiding. If you wanna get the most use out of them, you want to complete all 12 dungeons daily to get the maximum amount of badges to get ahead on gearing. And personally, spending about 4 hours a day grinding the same dungeons repeatedly until I’m best in slot isn’t exactly my idea of engaging gameplay loops.
But the Raiding Though
Raiding is supposed to be the meat and potatoes of World of Warcraft and I can happily confirm that it is probably some of its best content. While Wrath of the Lich king Classic edition currently has 4 raids in both 10 and 25-man configurations. They really 1 big raid and 3 big boss fights. Since you want to do as many of them as possible, you’ll end up with around 8 raids a week you should be doing. Sounds like a lot, but if everything goes smoothly, that is around 8 to 10 hours a week spend raiding.
I’m not gonna talk about the Vault of Archavon because it’s rather dull and only serves as a glorified loot pinata. So let’s talk about the two dragons then, the Obsidian Sanctum and the Eye of Eternity. Both of them ended up being a lot of fun and I kinda wish there were more encounters like them. They reminded me of the Trials in Final Fantasy XIV; they felt like big fights that tell a decent story. But they also added some of World of Warcraft’s signature free-form gameplay.
The Obsidian Sanctum is really good, it is this big open room that you can kinda adjust your difficulty to by either killing the three small dragons before taking care of the big one or you take on all of them at once. And apparently, rushing the big dragon down while killing the mini-bosses yields better loot. We’ve only ever managed to kill two of them within the fight and it was an exciting kind of chaos. You have to dodge big lava waves, keep an eye on the big dragon’s position and take care of additional enemies that spawn in. It is short and sweet and has the difficulty you’d expect from a first raid tier of an expansion.
The Eye of Eternity, however… that one is a little complicated. The first phase is fun. You fight this gigantic dragon in space and have to make sure that he doesn’t get empowered by his little sparks. This needs awareness by everyone within the raid while typical combat madness ensues. Good stuff; the second phase is, however, when things start to fall apart. So you have to move under shields that will spawn everywhere in the arena while taking care of ads only that you can only hit those ads as a ranged class on most occasions.
Eventually, these adds will drop their flying discs and some of the melees can jump on top of them to take the battle to them. This is cool in theory, but it also means a lot of downtime as a melee and potentially ends with you just standing around waiting for your ranged attack (if you have one) to come off cooldown.
It’s in the third phase; however, when things fall apart, mounted combat is kinda cool for story quests and mildly annoying in some of the daily quests. But similarly to the dungeon Oculus, it just doesn’t work in a raid. It is just your entire group stacking on top of one another and spamming one button while occasionally healing and dodging. As an idea and the visual, it is cool but as raid, you’ll be doing once a week for the rest of eternity, it ends up rather dull.
Now let’s talk about the big one, the raid that matters, and that, from what I’ve been told, is just a revamped version of its Classic Vanilla iteration, Naxxramas. Luckily, I never played Vanilla, so this was a fresh experience for me. If I was a World of Warcraft player back then, I would’ve been pissed. They just reused the same Raid from an expansion ago because it fit thematically and they removed it from Vanilla after a while due to story reasons? Nice excuse.
That being said, I quite enjoyed Naxxramas. More than I thought, even if I wished the 25-man version offered a little more spice compared to the 10-man one. I understand that heroic raids are coming in the near future of WoW Classic TBC but even in week one, with a considerable buff, it felt a little too easy. Not that that’s bad by any means. The first raid of an expansion should always be accessible and catch new players up to speed with the current ‘pace’ of encounters but I felt like most boss fights could’ve lasted a little longer.
The World of Warcraft raiding experience is pretty cool if you have a guild of like-minded menaces that don’t mind the occasional wipe. And there is something about tearing through a sizeable dungeon in a large group, even if all the trash between bosses tends to be a dull affair. While I don’t mind them too much, trash at that point seems more like a hindrance between the fun parts of a raid because they don’t require much strategy outside of ‘kill them all’.
Boss fights, on the other hand, are a delight; the only thing that annoys me is that many share models of common enemies, so they don’t stand out visually. At least some of them have an identity despite that, being named characters with voice lines, and from what I’ve been told, some have lore behind them. Just would’ve loved it if there was an easy way to find that within the game.
Standouts are probably Patchwork for hitting like a truck and making you take an acid bath. The Death Knight instructor, whose trainees have to be mind controlled, Thaddius, with his magnetic charges, gave me war flashbacks to my Final Fantasy XIV encounters with Living Liquid. And the excellent fights against both Sapphhiron (who I assume is the dragon from the Cinematic) and Warcraft 3 villain Kel’thuzad. While I’m not a fan of having class requirements in any kind of content at least it works here in a more thematic way. I just wished there would’ve been an alternative to bringing Priests.
Wrath Classic Review – Final Thoughts
Now that I have a solid grasp of what the endgame of Wrath of the Lich King looks like, I can say… I like parts of it. I still find most parts of World of Warcraft excessively grindy in an unenjoyable way. While you could mark this down to being spoiled by more modern MMORPGs, I’ve also had extended experience in titles older than World of Warcraft. It just feels like, as soon as you reach endgame everything just flattens out and progression slows down to a crawl. While chasing down upgrades for your gear is nice and all, spending 2-3 hours in Naxxramas every week praying for one piece of gear to drop isn’t exactly enticing.
Some of these boss fights are fun, especially the first time around. But maybe it is because World of Warcraft Classic has been solved to death at this point that there is no real sense of wonder and discovery left. As soon as week 3, it felt like going through the motions in hopes for that one piece of gear to drop that would be an upgrade for you. And I believe that is because there are so many other games out there now that focusing on World of Warcraft isn’t going to cut it anymore.
I want to improve and experience all the content, but my goal remains to clear all the raids throughout Wrath of the Lich King Classic at least once. Maybe once I’ve taken a little break and unlocked that heirloom gear, I might give another class a try but so far, nothing grips me to keep on playing. Logging in once every few days to do my heroic daily quests seems like enough busy work already.
But since Dragonflight is on the horizon and I vowed to give Retail a try next, we will need to shelf our Northrend adventures for now. I hope this little series on the WoW Classic experience has been insightful. I learned a lot of what works in MMORPGs and what didn’t by replaying both Final Fantasy XI and now World of Warcraft and I think there is definitely a place for a new MMORPG that brings back some of those older ideas. But I can also see why MMORPGs have gradually shifted to be more convenient and consistently rewarding.
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