It’s a little strange when playing World of Warcraft Classic just how much slower some aspects of the game are. Yes, the combat is fundamentally similar to World of Warcraft (retail), but the pace is noticeably slower. Characters have fewer abilities and develop a rotation fixed around end-game at level 60; for much of levelling some classes/specs are missing key abilities. Others have a community theory-crafting recommended spec that is beyond simplistic (e.g. Frost Mage or Balance Druid).
As we level, end-game ability concerns seem rather distant; we’re still only just into the 30s presently on this static group. That’s the levelling pace we can manage time-wise at least at the moment. It’s nice though as I’m not that interested in pulling all-day sessions ‘to get to 60 already’ – some guildies for context have several level 60s already. We also have allowed time for alts to mix up a different group. As I predicted some time ago some classes lack appeal as you level, so we have switched a few classes around in this time, and have a ‘B’ team around level 24 as a more flexible group for 3 or 4 person dungeon runs.
That’s the broader levelling arc perspective. The inspiration for this post though is just how the moment to moment gameplay is rather slower-paced. To the point where your character auto-attacking can be a valid choice. I can’t remember the last time in retail that my Balance Druid needed to hit things with his staff, or my Holy Priest got to sit and wand attack something.
Mana management and regen is such a big issue for levelling characters in WoW Classic, not least because different classes get their mana recovery mechanisms at different points. Mages get Evocation at level 20, my Holy Paladin gets Seal of Wisdom at level 58! With the ‘5 second rule’ in this version of the game, it’s normal to stop doing anything other than a basic melee attack (or standing inactive for some casters) to get the standard mana regen to kick in for a bit.
It’s such a different experience from retail where mana regen is rarely an issue outside of boss fights if poorly geared. In the modern game rotations keep you actively pressing ability buttons every global cooldown more or less. My casters never lack something to be doing, the only character I feel a more ‘Classic moment’ now and then with is my Beastmaster Hunter who inevitably runs out of energy at some point in longer fights and is stuck with auto-attacking with his bow and directing his pet.
The good side of the Classic pace of combat is evident. You can take in the surroundings: both from a touristic perspective (oh nice screenshot angle!) and from the alertness (oh, watch out for that patrol coming!). It’s easier for healers to not just be ‘turrets’ in the Classic game, unless we are really pushing content near to our max level of challenge, I can usually get some seal+judge combos in to buff or debuff the group or our enemies and the odd melee hit if I’m regening mana.
The downside is that dungeon runs can feel like a slog. If we’re trying to push content but lack the damage output then progress will be slow, yet my healer will lack any time for dps or utility game-play. On my Hunter this kind of challenge should be a chance to shine but she lacks the abilities that would make her more of an asset. With no trap launcher in Classic, and traps only being usable out of combat, there’s not much she can do to help control a pull that is going out of control. Perhaps Feign Death will help with this when she gets to level 30. The traps she does have are too short-duration to be useful, and can only be deployed in advance.
Both versions of the game are pretty relaxed compared to a more action-oriented MMORPG like Neverwinter or Tera. But even in the tab-target sub-genre there are differences in pace and WoW Classic is noticably slower. Trying to coordinate pugs in Neverwinter by text chat was always an added layer of stress. The auto-attack as filler also makes communication by text chat within combat doable – something that is easy to forget about in the era of omni-present and reliable voice chat. For years we only coordinated group play in World of Warcraft by text chat. That seems inefficient and slow nowadays as we’re inevitably on voice chat with guild mates if we group, even in Classic.