I’ve been thinking a lot about why I still play World of Wacraft, Blizzard’s massive virtual world that’s been around for 10 years now. I’ve tried to narrow it down to one core reason why I’ve kept playing the same game throughout the last nine or so years of my life. This, I’ve discovered, is impossible to do. Because the reasons I’ve kept playing have changed every year. When I began at something like 13-years-old, it was all about discovery, then it became about participating in the newest, hardest content, then it was to keep up with the friends, and now, in my 20s, it’s about having fun in whatever ways I find.
After spending more hours than I want to admit these last few weeks playing the latest expansion, Warlords of Draenor, I’m ready to present my best arguments for why I’m still playing today.
My Fury Warrior is sick
This is part nostalgia and part good game design. The Warrior class’ Fury specialization plays like it did back when I played WoW the most: in the Burning Crusade expansion. But it’s also an elegant combination of Warcraft’s fantasy flavor with MMO combat mechanics. Fury Warriors fight like wild barbarians, dual-wielded weapons out and flinging blood all over the place. They have an extra amount of brutality that you’d lose as another melee class, like a clean and righteous Retribution Paladin. Fury Warriors spring into combat, foregoing any kind of planned attack, which is represented in their more reactive rotation of abilities. They are, I think, the best representation of Blizzard perfecting the balance of gameplay and themes.
Draenor represents Blizzard’s best leveling content
I’ve leveled from 90 to 100 in the new Draenor continent three times now and each time I’ve found more reasons why I think it’s Blizzard’s best designed leveling content in the game. And there’s literally hours and hours of leveling content before it. If you’re not new to WoW, this is probably unsurprising since the leveling content always gets better with each expansion, but this time, I think it’s made even more of a jump up in quality.
I attribute this mainly to the countless hidden treasures and rare enemies scattered throughout the leveling experience. Even on my third time through, I found new items and areas I hadn’t visited before. There’s a reason why Blizzard won’t let you hop on a flying mount in Draenor. They’ve brought back mystery and value to exploring their huge environments, something long-time fans have been asking for for years and something new players should have, if only to see why Blizzard’s MMO is so good.
The quests themselves are good too. There’s a lot less annoyances and more straight-forward objectives. That would be a bad thing if WoW was about having intimate encounters with unique monsters. Anyone who has played enough MMOs knows that leveling is only a way to get to the end-game content for those kinds of scenarios. Also, all the biggest points of lore are shown through cut scenes or are voice-acted to stand out amongst all the text.
Garrisons have a lot of potential to be great
It’s not that I think WoW’s Garrisons, essentially Blizzard’s version of player-housing, are bad. I just think something is missing. Something about Garrisons doesn’t feel complete. I can’t tell if it’s the lack of clear goals for leveling up your personal base or roster of followers or if it’s because it takes so long to get anything rewarding out of it. I’ve been helping a returning player get back into the game and I’ve realized it’s incredibly hard to describe a Garrison to them without it sounding like a laborious waste of time.
The Farmville jokes aside, I think tending to your Garrison is a smart replacement for doing daily quests, but still not meaningful enough compared to activities like running dungeons for concrete things like gold and loot. Heck, even searching for items to make your new ones look old through the Transmog system is more satisfying.
There’s another, huge problem I have with Garrisons that probably deserves more thought, but I’ll put it simply here. Garrisons, by forcing you to almost always be alone in them, get away from what makes WoW, and really all MMOs, so continuously great: the awareness that other people exist in the virtual world. Most of my play time in WoW is now spent alone in my Garrison. It’s almost like I’m not playing an MMO for a good chunk of my play time.
So, why is this a good reason for continuing to play WoW? Because figuring this new system out has been an interesting experience and I still don’t think I’ve seen all of its uses yet. As with any MMO, it’s all subject to change and be refined. And I’d like to see where it goes.