Is World of Warcraft Worth Starting In 2018?

I’ve played just about every major MMO you can name, but I’ve never seriously played World of Warcraft. While I’ve watched it from the outside for years, the extent of my first hand experience is that I did the free trial for a couple of nights when one of my friends was thinking of going back, but he didn’t end up sticking around and neither did I. Now several of my other friends have jumped on the Battle for Azeroth bandwagon, and I’m starting to toy with the idea again.

Part of my hesitation is that I also recently went back to Old School RuneScape. It’s pretty ironic, because that was the MMO that we all used to play together, and one by one they all left me to play WoW, while I stayed behind on (the much cheaper) RuneScape. I’m really enjoying my time in RuneScape, but as I walk around, I can’t help but think about how awful this game would be for a newcomer. There are so many archaic systems that just aren’t well thought out or are intentionally designed to slow down progress or are just plain hard to understand, I can’t imagine playing this for more than a few hours before giving up, logging out, and never coming back. I enjoy this game more because of nostalgia, and less for the game itself. (To be completely fair to RuneScape, there are some really great things to do buried in there, but there’s a crap ton of grinding before you get to that, and past that is basically just more grinding)
How does all of this relate to WoW? I’m wondering how much my friends who make their periodical return to Azeroth are also riding on nostalgia, and how much the game experience really is superior. I know RuneScape and WoW are two very different games, but the juxtaposition of my friends’ nostalgia and my own is difficult to ignore.

My other concern is that I’m already so far behind, will I catch up and be able to play with them by the time they get bored and move on to something else? Because if I’m not going to play with them, I might as well keep playing other games that I know I’ll like. 120 is a lot of levels, and they actually somewhat know what they’re doing and where they’re going. I guess I could buy a booster, but that’s more money to spend. Maybe the new and controversial level scaling would make playing with them actually viable? I’ll have to look into that.

Finally, I’ve already touched on this, but is the game really worth subscribing to? They’ve gotten rid of the initial box fee, so there’s that barrier gone (not that it was much of a barrier anyway; I used to see it go on sale all the time for less than the cost of the first month sub it came with). I’ve heard the argument that, if it’s got so many players and it’s basically the only game to still have a mandatory sub then it must be worth it, but personally I’ve always thought that WoW has survived the way it has because of pure momentum. It was in the right place at the right time; it took the EverQuest model and made it more accessible and polished, and it got tons of players who never quite went away. But hey, I haven’t played it extensively, so what do I know.

So I’m throwing the question out to the Internets: Is it worth my time to start World of Warcraft as a brand new player in 2018?


Old School RuneScape Mobile

I’ve been playing RuneScape on a device that fits in my pocket. We are officially in the future.

As you may remember from past posts on the subject, RuneScape was my first MMO back in 2005. I played it for about five or six years, subscribing for most of that time. I was lured away by various other, newer MMOs and when I returned, the game was so different that it just wan’t appealing to me. So when they announced Old School, I was interested, and I would dabble in it from time to time. Since Old School characters are separate from those in the main game, I had to start all over, which is fun, but loses some of its charm when you’re remembering all the things you used to be able to do, and realize that it will probably take you years to get back to that point. Then they announced Old School for Mobile, and I was very interested. I’ve been thinking for years that RuneScape would be great on mobile with only minimal tweaking. It’s already point-and-click, with low-end graphics that theoretically shouldn’t burden even a relatively old or cheap phone.

Old School RuneScape Mobile recently went into beta/early access/soft launch/whatever we’re calling it these days. Currently it’s only available to subscribers on Android, though it’s supposed to be available to everyone October 30th. Fortunately, Twitch Prime offered a free month of subscription (plus purple skin, just in case you want to look like Thanos’s blockier little brother), so I was able to get in without having to pay. I’ve been impressed with how well it plays on my phone. I don’t have an Android tablet (yet? This might finally convince me I need one), and sometimes games are a little cramped on a smaller screen. RuneScape, however, was originally designed to be played in a browser on a 1024×768 monitor, so it’s no stranger to small screen spaces. Also, the UI has been redesigned to collapse into the edges of the screen, so you don’t have to try to navigate around the inventory and chat box if you’re not using them. The game’s overall slow pace helps a lot as well. Inventory management is a little hard, since fingers are imprecise, but it’s far from the worst mobile user experience I’ve had.

My only complaint is battery consumption. I generally burn through at least 50% of my battery just playing on my lunch hour. This isn’t really surprising–most 3D games, especially online ones, are about the same–but it’s something I’d like to see them work on if possible. It has been pretty kind to my data plan, though, which surprised me (I don’t have access to reliable wifi at my desk).

It has been fun getting to know this game again on mobile. While I’m at my PC, I want a full PC experience, but this is something I can do in my down time while I’m at work or out and about. Between this, Maplestory, and Final Fantasy XI (that’s still supposedly coming to mobile, right?), it makes me wonder what other older MMOs would work on mobile. I’d love to give Guild Wars 1 a try on mobile!

Old Shcool RuneScape: Apparently, You Can Come Home Again

The year was 2007. I was almost done with high school, and MMOs were the big thing with my gamer friends. By this time, most of my friends had moved on to World of Warcraft, but I was still sticking around the first MMO I ever played, RuneScape. I had played for nearly three years at this point, and would continue to do so for a few years after. As updates rolled by, I never thought I’d be returning to this simpler time, at least in some fashion.

Ten years later, I’ve long since moved on, and so has the game. I go back and revisit most MMOs and other games I played in my younger days, but RuneScape, for whatever reason, has never been one of them. I’ve tried a few times, but every time I do, I feel like the game has changed too much to appeal to my nostalgia, and doesn’t have enough to offer beyond that to keep me there. I heard a few years ago that Jagex had found an old full backup copy of the code from 2007 and had set up some “Old School” servers for members. Apparently, at some point, it was also made available for free-to-play players, which probably would have had me back a long time ago, but whatever. Twitch Prime’s free-thing-of-the-month last month included a month of subscription time to RuneScape and I thought to myself “what the heck, it’s free. Sure, I’ll go poke around Old School for a month. I’m only playing three or four MMOs right now, what’s one more?”

I had 99 fishing and cooking in the live game. It’s weird fishing for level 1 shrimp again… and burning half of them.

The copy of the Old School code did not, sadly, include characters, so I had to start over with a fresh character. Honestly, though, as much as I miss being able to teleport around the world and kill anything under level 100 without thinking twice, I think I prefer it this way. All of those little noob experiences–killing chickens, mining copper and tin in the Dwarven Mine, getting two-shotted by the dark wizards at the south entrance to Varrock–are part of the nostalgia trip. As I’m wandering around the game, I realize how awful the new player experience really was. They dump you off in Lumbridge after a tutorial that covers about five skills, and doesn’t really tell you where you can go to practice them after the tutorial is over. From there, it’s really easy to die, and when you do die, you lose all but your three most valuable items (by vendor value). There also isn’t a fast or even automatic way to get from place to place. Sure, things aren’t super spread out, but click-to-move gets old after a while. The graphics are awful even for 2007, the controls are functional but awkward, some of the skills are worthless (seriously, who thought “firemaking” was a good idea for a skill? Especially in a world with always-on cooking ranges that a have better chance of successfully cooking stuff?), and those that are useful require more mindless grinding than any reasonable person would be willing to put up with before they can do anything cool. Even combat isn’t that fun; it’s mostly watching your character auto attack the other character, eating food to heal when your health gets low. The map isn’t even available in-game; you have to download it as an image from the website. If I had never played this game years ago and I came across it now, there’s no way I would stay more than an hour or two. So why am I playing it? Because it simply feels like home. I know every corner of this world, and even now I can navigate it better than my home town in most cases. I remember the badly synthesized MIDI music so vividly, and so much of it makes me smile every time it comes on. Also, back in the day it seemed only natural to have to spend large amounts of time doing repetitive tasks, and I think the game would feel somehow cheapened without it.

Old School RuneScape is also a little surreal, since it’s no longer an exact copy of the game I played in 2007. New features have been, and continue to be, added to keep the game fresh. So there are some things that I remember–such as the dungeoneering and summoning skills–that aren’t in this version of the game, but there are also some things that are in this version of the game that I’ve never seen before. It’s like playing a parallel universe version of a game from ten years ago.

This experience gives me a new appreciation for players who are fans of emulator servers for EverQuest, classic WoW, Star Wars Galaxies, and the like (though no sympathy for those who do so against the wishes of the IP holders). I don’t know if I’ll stick around Old School RuneScape, but at the moment it feels really tempting.