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World of Warcraft is 15 Years Old: Can a Beginner Still Enjoy the Veteran MMO?

Greying handlebar mustache? Check. Balding Friar Tuck-like locks? Check. A touch of sadness to his face, wearing the pain of the family he lost to an orc raid upon his village? Check, check and check. Windhymn, my first serious World of Warcraft adventurer, is ready to head out into Azeroth, and stake his claim amongst the great players of Blizzard’s world-renowned massively multiplayer role-playing game. Except, he’s almost 15 years too late. Though I briefly jumped into World of Warcraft back when its first expansion, The Burning Crusade, launched in 2007, I only managed one monthly subscription cycle before my pocket money ran out and my friends moved on to different games.

Now, six expansions and the launch of a revived vanilla version of the game (World of Warcraft Classic) later, I’m back to WoW on the eve of its 15th birthday. My original goal: to ignore the hype around the very-good-sounding World of Warcraft Classic, and to bring my first ever WoW character up to the level cap on standard, retail, vanilla World of Warcraft with the Battle of Azeroth expansion, to see if a ‘noob’ can enjoy the MMO as a beginner today. My actual reality: I’ve barely enough time to feed myself, let alone devote the time required to see Windhymn ascend to greatness. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a good time trying. Pray silence, for The Brief-Yet-Incomplete Legend of the Paladin Windhymn.

Stepping out into Elwynn Forest

Ah, Elwynn Forest. I remember you well, what with me being a totally basic fantasy fan with no imagination beyond “I’ll make a human character with a long beard. Standard.” And if you make a human character with a beard, Elwynn Forest is your Level 1, game-opening port of call.

Green and leafy, just how I remember it, but look closely and a few things have changed. 2010’s Cataclysm event totally ripped up the game world of Azeroth, and while Elwynn Forest remained relatively unscathed, it did get some new inhabitants – orc raiders who would never have dreamed of venturing this far into ‘Alliance’ territory when I first dipped my toes into World of Warcraft. And here’s where my first hurdle with World of Warcraft arises. As the name suggests, the game is a recreation of a ‘world’ – and time doesn’t stand still in a world. There’s not only 1,000 years of in-game lore to get up to speed with, but now also 15 years of real-world time having past, and all the associated changes that come with it. Short of firing up WoW Classic, you’re going to have to really poke around the fansites to get a sense of how Azeroth has changed over the years, or accept that you’re now jumping into a story in media res. Read More...