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Read this before buying World of Warcraft Classic

For nearly 15 years, World of Warcraft has captured the hearts (and wallets) of millions and millions of players from across the planet, while also influencing countless other MMOs and RPGs along the way. Since its 2004 release, WoW has gone through plenty of massive updates, trials, and tribulations, all the while staying a part of the gaming world's zeitgeist. Without Blizzard's ambitious online epic, the landscape of the industry would surely look different today.

Now, players are set to get a look at the past, as WoW turns the clock all the way back to the mid-2000s. Announced last year, Blizzard will release World of Warcraft Classic in summer 2019, a fully fledged recreation of the MMO as it was over a decade ago. With that said, let's take a look at everything you need to know before buying World of Warcraft Classic.

A quick history lesson

Blizzard Entertainment made waves in the industry when it announced that the fourth game in its critically and commercially acclaimed Warcraft series would also be its first MMORPG. First announced at the now defunct European Computer Trade Show in September 2001, the dev team positioned its new game as an online RPG that would focus on "orchestrating chaos on a massive scale." Over the course of nearly five years of development, Blizzard made good on its promise, releasing World of Warcraft on Nov. 23, 2004 in both North America and Australia, with a European release following in February 2005.

The game was unique in many ways, establishing itself as an MMO for both Mac and Windows users. The physical boxed release — something that's obviously not necessary in its current state — included "hybrid CDs" that players could utilize on either platform. Also, it allowed for Apple and PC users to team up together via a cross-play system that, to this day, still remains a point of contention for gaming properties throughout the industry. There's no doubt that WoW's release had a major impact on the video game world, and still does today.

What exactly is WoW Classic?

At its core, World of Warcraft Classic is all about the nostalgia of the early days of the game. It's a "faithful recreation" of the original game that dates back more than a decade ago. Optimized for current computers, the game looks and feels as if you're playing the WoW of 2006. If you've ever longed to replay — or wondered what it was like to play — a version of the game before any expansions, this is how you'll do it.

If you're used to 2019 WoW, Classic will provide a completely different experience. Combat mechanics, character models, and skill trees all look and feel like the early days of this fantastic MMO, meaning that you'll be transported back to the game's inception, when everything was new, raw, and much more difficult. This is "vanilla" World of Warcraft, and it's something you've either never experienced or haven't been a part of in years. Either way, it's something you'll want to check out the moment it releases.

When and how much?

It won't be long before players will get their hands on WoW Classic. The game officially releases globally on Aug. 26, 2019. However, character creation begins a couple weeks before that, on Aug. 12 or 13 depending on your location. And you'll certainly want to jump in early to claim your character name and prepare up to three characters for use once the game launches in full. As long as you have an active WoW subscription, you can take advantage of this early aspect of Classic and ensure that you're one of the first to get into this retrospective experience.

As far as paying for the actual game, all you need to do is keep up with that subscription. If you currently have one for the main game, you know that it's simply the standard $14.99 per month. If you're new to WoW and need to sign up, you can do so via the Battle.net website, which offers discounted subscriptions if you purchase three or six months at a time.

A classic-themed collector's edition

If you're looking for a little more spectacle when it comes to both this classic experience as well as the game's upcoming 15th anniversary, you can actually pre-order a fantastic collector's edition over on the Blizzard shop. While not technically part of the Classic release — you can enjoy the game in its entirety with just your active subscription — the anniversary edition is another way to honor WoW's humble beginnings.

In the $99.99 collection, you'll get a beautiful Ragnaros statue, 30 days of game time, in-game mounts, and a map of Azeroth mouse pad. Also included are some art prints depicting huge moments in the game's history, as well as an Onyxia pin. All this can be yours on Oct. 8, 2019, but if it's something you really want, you may want to pre-order sooner rather than later. It's no secret that there are plenty of hardcore fans out there, and this edition could sell out.

It's rooted in patch 1.12

If you're a veteran of the MMO, you'll remember the days of patch 1.12 — otherwise known as Drums of War — as some of the best times in "vanilla WoW." If that's the case, then you'll surely be happy to know that Classic is rooted in 1.12. For new players, what does that mean? Essentially, this patch signifies one of the most stable, pre-expansion eras of World of Warcraft. According to Blizzard, the team chose this particular patch "because it represents the most complete version of the classic experience."

However, this doesn't mean the game will look and feel exactly like it did in August of 2006, when this patch released to the world. Classic is a modern version of the game built using the 1.12 framework. In-game content, including vanilla raids, will mimic what was available in this update, which came right before the iconic Burning Crusade expansion. However, the game will utilize the extensive back-end improvements and changes that Blizzard has implemented over the years.

PvE roadmap

This isn't simply a nostalgia trip for Blizzard. The development of Classic comes complete with a content roadmap for the game. Split into six phases, players will have access to so much fantastic content from the early years. Phase One — the August release — will include the level 60 Molten Core raid, as well as the Maraudon dungeon, and Onyxia. Phases Two and Three will include iconic bosses such as Kazzak the Supreme and Dire Maul, and will also feature the 40-person Blackwing Lair raid.

Phase Four features the Zul'Gurub raid, but it's Phase Five that really has people talking. This is when Blizzard will release the brilliant "Ahn'Qiraj War Effort" event. Longtime fans likely remember this event as one of the game's most ambitious and frustrating, as it required an entire server to band together to complete an epic questline. Unfortunately, it was met with a myriad of bugs, crashes, and lag. If you never had the chance to experience this, hopefully Classic will give you a way to do so without fail. The roadmap finishes up in Phase Six with the difficult Naxxramas raid.

PvP roadmap

It's not just PvE content that Blizzard created a roadmap for: players will also get plenty of PvP content. Split into the same six phases, the player-versus-player content that's coming will appease a great deal of loyal fans, but it'll drop gradually. Upon the game's release (Phase One), killing other players will basically just be for fun and cheap thrills. There won't be any kill tracking or rewards. Phase Two will introduce an honor system, as well as rank rewards.

In Phase Three, Classic will introduce the Alterac Valley battleground, where two teams of 40 can face off in the quest for victory. This same update will also feature the Warsong Gulch battleground, which offers a 10v10 format. Phase Four includes Arathi Basin, a battleground that requires teams to control and fight over five different resources to accumulate points. While Phase Five won't change anything PvP-related, the roadmap culminates in Phase Six, which will feature world objectives in Silithus and the Eastern Plaguelands.

What's different compared to current WoW

One important thing to understand about Classic is it's just that: a classic version of World of Warcraft. If you're used to the MMO in its current 2019 form, this upcoming release will feel jarringly different. For starters, the level cap has been cut in half, from 120 to 60, in order to coincide with the vanilla experience from 2006. You might feel like that's way too low and you'll hit the cap in no time. However, in the early days of the game, leveling was considerably slower than it is now. In fact, the entire game was slow comparatively.

In Classic, health and mana regeneration are much slower, skill cooldowns last longer, and you have to manually loot enemies one-by-one. Basically, every aspect of the game's grind is much tougher. Even basic combat is deliberately more difficult; dungeons and raids won't be the only times you experience death. And traversal? Yeah, you likely won't get your first mount until level 40, so you'll have to hoof it (possibly literally) across the map for quite a while. This isn't 2019 WoW, that's for sure.

No, those aren't bugs … they're classic features

Recently, WoW Classic began its beta stress test, where loyal subscribers could get a taste of what this game will offer upon its August release. Well, many players weren't happy, and reported a multitude of bugs and issues throughout the MMO. While some bugs were, of course, valid — it is a beta test after all — many of them weren't actually bugs, but features of vanilla WoW. There were so many reports of these "bugs" that a Blizzard community manager took to the game's forums to post a "Not a Bug" list that outlined which things were part of the core gameplay.

A big example includes the fact that creature respawn rates are considerably slower than in the current Battle for Azeroth expansion. You'll notice the difference immediately, which is why so many players reported it as an issue. Tauren hitboxes are larger than other races, as is their melee reach. You'll also be unable to polymorph (transform into small animals) enemies that are targeted by players outside your group. While new players will likely have no experience to compare it to, WoW Classic will absolutely play differently than the game's current iteration.

In case you forgot, quests work much differently

The "Not a Bug" list extends past enemy behaviors and player abilities; it also includes tweaks to the user interface and user experience that Battle for Azeroth fans won't be used to. Perhaps the biggest feature involves the fact that available quests don't have any kind of marker on the minimap, and the Automatic Quest Tracking feature won't auto-track newly accepted quests. The game world also won't mark quests that are too low level for your character.

Vanilla WoW forced players to actually adventure and explore the world, and that's what you'll experience in Classic. The game won't hold your hand when it comes to guiding you through quests or to objectives. You'll have to traverse the realms — mountless, for a while — and find your way forward without any hand-holding (you can use a guide, but where's the fun in that?). In many ways, this is a different game. It's based on a 13-year-old build after all, so don't be surprised if it takes some getting used to.

What are the beta impressions saying?

In late May, Blizzard opened up a beta stress test for a select group of active, dedicated World of Warcraft players. On various dates through the summer, these players will have the opportunity to put the game servers through the wringer, check out some of the Classic content — up to a level cap of 40 — and help the dev team prepare for the August release.

Recently, Jason M. Gallagher over at Den of Geek got his first look at the beta and had some positive thoughts. He cited the strategy involved in each dungeon pull, something that the game got away from over time. "Anyone who has played WoW in recent years knows that most dungeons are now an AOE grind fest," he stated. "From some of the yelling I heard, this is no longer going to be a successful strategy come August."

Eliot Lefebvre at Massively Overpowered expressed that, for those looking for a "faithful recreation of the game that it's trying to recreate," WoW Classic completely hits the mark. "This game is very decidedly the classic WoW experience, even adjusting for my own memory and nostalgia filters."

Twitch is all about Wow Classic right now, so check it out

After reading everything in this article, you may not be convinced one way or another if World of Warcraft Classic is right for you. That's why this is the perfect time to check out some Twitch channels to get an idea of how other people are feeling about the upcoming game. Many popular streamers and content creators spent the first stress test weekend playing the game and giving their real-time thoughts on the vanilla experience.

Major WoW streamers like MitchJones, Asmongold, and Cdew have all spent multiple hours exploring the world and leveling up characters in order to help stress test the game's servers. If you can't get into the beta yourself, this is the next best way to find out if you want to jump in feet first on Aug. 26.