You've played World of Warcraft: Classic, you liked it, the question is now, do you continue with The Burning Crusade (TBC)? Fear not, there is no one who is forcing you, Blizzard has made it possible for those that do not wish to advance to the expansion to just stay in vanilla WoW. But that also means that you will have to make a new character for TBC. Except, you are given a token to boost one new character to level 58 or you can pay for a character cloning service from Blizzard. In practical terms, the launcher lets you choose between either a classic-classic version of the game, or a classic vanilla. Most, but not all servers both have a TBC and non-TBC version. This is an interesting approach, however, as it has also reduced the population of each vanilla server drastically, and the question is, if Blizzard will continue this, when or if other expansions, such as the extremely popular Wrath of the Lich King expansion will also follow the same pattern.
For those that have been looking forward to playing as the two new races, those were made available pre-expansion launch, allowing players to level up in time. This is in my opinion a great move. Especially as the starting areas are much more condensed and require a lot less travel than the "old" races' starting zones. Just too bad that anything beyond that is just as it has always been, with massive amounts of travel time. The old way. Nothing has been done to fully involve the new starting areas for the two new races better into the world, and like most things added to Azeroth, it feels less like an integration (with each expansion anyway), and more like something was slapped on and roughly glued together. That is why TBC makes so much more sense. It's an entirely new world that is not connected to an existing area or place, and therefore doesn't feel out of place like the Blood Elf starting zone of Silvermoon, or the Worgen area in modern WoW.
The Burning Crusade and its content will open in phases, where both new arena seasons and new raids are opened over time. That is actually not how the original TBC worked in terms of Raids, but due to attunements and gear check mechanics, it felt like it (at least I remember it that way).
But let's recap the story. Enemy forces have re-opened an intergalactic gateway to our home world of Azeroth, someone gets the great idea of stopping the attacks at their source, especially with new allies in the form of the Blood Elves and the Draenei. This turns out to be a great idea, as people and entire armies thought lost in the past, including uncorrupted orcs, have survived the torn and battle scared world - just too bad its full of demons and demon-fuelled engines of war. It's best not to delve too far into the whole Burning Legion/Draenei/Illidan thing too much, as I personally found it to make very little sense compared with the rest of the WoW universe. You also need to have played at least Warcraft III to get most of the story, but the point is that demons are bad, they don't like you, they don't like Illidan Stormrage, and since the Horde and The Alliance don't like each other either, basically anyone who isn't a faction with whom you can grind reputation is out to kill you.
I opted for the seemingly "easy" choice and had a new server with a new character that got boosted. Might not be the best idea, as you tend to forget how much grind there is for the last few levels, and you start with very underwhelming gear and no money, and only the basic skills levelled up. No fishing, no first aid, no cooking, no skill gathering, no crafting, nothing.
But then the Dark Portal opens. Even though everyone now enjoys the expansion in full 4K, the textures are still sharp and edgy, it is an old game after all, but a lot of areas such as shadows and water reflections have been immensely improved. Everything else is as you remember it. Well, maybe you had forgotten the hardcore, but oddly rewarding question and reputation grind towards level 70 and your flying mount.
It's also here that you realize what a great equalizer this has been, because unless your character had top-tier raiding gear, chances are that your character and my boosted one will have the same gear around level 63 or 64.
A lot of modern mechanics didn't exist back then, so expect all channels to be "LFG XXXX" spam at all times. Because it is. However, these causal hook-ups are something I had completely forgotten about, and made the game somewhat enjoyable, but a bit random. As most gamers in WoW Classic are veterans that want to have fun, I have yet to have bad experiences.
If you are used to modern WoW, the live servers, which will soon see an update allowing for flight in the Shadowlands, the pacing is extremely different, your abilities are restricted, and so regeneration of every resource, combined with a fierce fight for all mining nodes, plants and mobs. That is however, just as I remember every single expansion.
That also means that the time spent in the game, even for fast levellers, is a lot more than most people are used to in modern games, or even Wow itself. For a lack of a better word, it took some commitment more than 10 years ago (January 2007), and it still does today, and then we haven't even scratched the surface of one of the Hallmarks of TBC, the daily quests needed for reputation grind. And grinding you do, a lot, in a vast and unforgiven hellscape, dense forest, marsh, or whatever zone you are in. It may scare some away, but for others, it's exactly what you have been waiting to re-live, just in case levelling your characters and ensuring the best gear possible in the base game wasn't enough. Its nostalgia for those with the time for it.
While the quality of the assets and graphics are dated, they have still been updated to reasonable modern standards, however, this also makes it taxing for your system if you are running 4K as we did during the review. The basic game engine is still the same, and the same sharp edges are still present, so in combination with the more modern shadows and reflections, it makes for a weird mix visually. But it also ensures you feel at home right away.
While the release of Classic WoW was plagued by waiting times, it seems Blizzard has turned up the daily dose of Red Bull for their Server-Hamsters this time, and no delays were experienced, and latency to the server usually being less than 30ms. And while I enjoy the, let's say, very unique and differentiated areas, I still think that asking 40 Euros for an already existing expansion, while paying 11-13 Euros a month depending on subscription, is a way too high price. In my personal and very biased view, asking 10 Euros for the expansion had been a lot fairer, especially when coupled with a 5 Euro monthly fee for classic servers, and 7-8 Euro a month for access to both Classic and live/modern WoW.
The expansion does a great job of providing a sense of being almost alone in a massive and frighteningly new world, and due to world buffs via PvP, that part also brings some much-needed incentive to those that are mainly in the game to explore its content, and not stabbing other players in the back with a shank. Which has always bothered me.
TBC will still for me be one of, if not the best expansions in the series, no matter the grind, because just reliving the serenity and relative calm of Zangarmarsh is a treat. I somehow hope that Blizzard will stop it here, or perhaps wait a very long time before they release Wrath of the Lich King, so that everyone can enjoy Outland once more.