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WoWFeb 5, 2021 3:00 pm CT

Is World of Warcraft worth playing? (Yes, the answer is yes)

I get asked a certain, specific question from time to time.

You’re still playing World of Warcraft?”

I get asked this by people I’ve just met once they find out I work for a site that covers the game, I get asked by old friends from the game, I get asked on Twitter. I get all of these questions for different reasons, but in the end the answer is always yes, and I got thinking about why recently.

I like World of Warcraft

For starters, I like World of Warcraft. I have literal years of game behind me now — I’ve raided almost all the content while it was current, I’ve run all the dungeons, I’ve done a big chunk of the quests over the years. I have a wide array of characters in my wake, ranging from max level to little babies I rolled for an afternoon and never played again. WoW is one of the best MMO’s I’ve ever played, and it’s improved greatly from the days when solo play (or small group play, in my case, as I play a lot alongside my wife) was so grueling and unrewarding. Sure, Shadowlands has made gearing up harder, but not impossible — I got an upgrade 2h weapon at ilevel 194 for my main hand from a World Quest today, and that’s pretty cool.

The quests are for the most part fun — nobody’s perfect and occasionally someone will toss a wheelbarrow race at me, but by and large I had a good time leveling and I enjoy most of the World Quests I’m doing. The story in Shadowlands is extremely good, with the leveling from 50 to 60 having some of the best turns and plot elements of any previous expansion, and even when I know up front somebody is actually evil I enjoy listening to the dialogue and watching it all play out. World of Warcraft combines a lot of what I like from single player open world games with a lot of what I like about multiplayer. Large group content is available — ranging from open world bosses to dungeons and raids — and you can run that or you can spend your time running solo if that’s what you want to do. There are sublime moments, moments that tug at the heartstrings, and moments when I have a glowing squirrel on my head.

The character customization at this stage in the game is comparable to games that are releasing soon or have released recently, even though it’s a sixteen year old MMO. That’s because Blizzard has worked to keep the game updated — the graphics remain at less than cutting edge photorealism on purpose, but there have been numerous upgrades to how our characters look, the various facial features and hairstyles and distinctive elements like scars, tattoos, body jewelry and the like have been added to each playable option. Combined with the work that’s put into each zone, dungeon, and raid and it’s fair to say that WoW is still a stunningly beautiful game at times, and looks a lot better than most games that originally came out in 2004.

And the game’s soundscape is astonishing. The music has always been good, and it remains excellent. But the voice acting has continually improved, the sound design of the game has become singularly effective at creating a playable space that represents the places we go and adventure in.

WoW combines the benefits of a sixteen year old game with all the advances of modern gaming

Basically, World of Warcraft is a beautiful, brilliantly written, aural masterpiece of a game with so much content that I can spend literal hours doing almost anything I want to do. I can farm old content for transmog gear, run dungeons and raids with my friends, follow my wife into places I don’t understand to watch her tame animals I’ve never heard of that we could be killing instead but no, she wants to make them her friends — and frankly, if this was coming out this year people would be amazed by it. It’s a game that has evolved its narrative immensely in the sixteen years of its existence, to the point where characters have died, new characters have moved up to take center stage, new landmasses have been discovered, entire regions have been destroyed (and remade) — the world itself now ranges from alternate timelines to the realms of the dead.

It is, quite simply, still the best MMO in the world.

Now, is it utterly without flaw? No. Nothing is, not your favorite game nor mine. I think the current gearing system is inferior in some ways to Battle for Azeroth or Legion, the previous two expansions, for example. But I do believe that so many of the improvements made in Shadowlands have elevated the game — the changes to leveling and the ability to pick any expansion to go from 10 to 50, the customization options, the ability to play the current expansion in variant ways if you choose to while leveling up — and that it is, in a very real way, something I still very much look forward to. Because like all of the best MMO’s have been, World of Warcraft feels alive and it changes and adapts and has done so for years and years, and the resulting game is one I feel stacks up against pretty much anything anyone else is putting out.

Plus, if you really want to, you can go back and play the original flavor of the game for the subscription price with WoW Classic, and I think that’s really an amazing thing. You get two complete games for the same entry price.  I personally rarely play WoW Classic and when I do I’m exclusively solo, just running around looking at the old world. And a lot of players are just playing WoW Classic, they raid there, they run dungeons there, they never even look at the retail version of the game — but both are accessible to us, which is simply amazing.

World of Warcraft is one of my favorite games, and has been since 2004. To answer the question that started all this, the headline question of is World of Warcraft worth playing, and the question I keep being asked about whether I’m still playing it —I can only answer both with a resounding yes.

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