Wrath of the Lich King Could Pose WoW Classic's Biggest Challenge Yet With World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Classic on the way, Wrath of the Lich King could pose a huge challenge to the MMO”s new model.
World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Classic has just been confirmed to be in development at BlizzConline 2021. The announcement has given many fans hope that subsequent expansions could be given their own servers as well, allowing players to enjoy their favorite by-gone eras of WoW.
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World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Classic could be the last version of the game that will work well with Blizzard’s current Classic content model, however. The next expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, poses some huge challenges for WoW Classic’s content release model, and could be one of the long-running MMO’s biggest hurdles to date.
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Wrath Of The Lich King Classic
World of Warcraft Classic brought fans of the franchise back to Azeroth as it was first introduced all the way back in 2004. Since then, Blizzard has released content patches for Classic servers following the same basic outline as Vanilla WoW’s release schedule. This meant that while WoW Classic servers launched in August 2019, content which was released later in Vanilla WoW’s cycle like the Ahn’Qiraj 40-man raid wouldn’t be released until nearly a year later.
This model can also be applied to The Burning Crusade with relative ease. The Burning Crusade’s major patches added new end-game content like The Black Temple and Sunwell Plateau, but didn’t significantly change the way that WoW raids and other end-game content worked beyond reducing the number of players needed to 25 players.
The same can not be said for Wrath of the Lich King, the second expansion likely to get its own re-release if Blizzard continues down the path of releasing expansion-specific servers. Based on how many players the release of WoW Classic brought back to the game, that seems likely. Wrath of the Lich King may have been one of WoW’s best expansions, but over the course of its run it also transformed the game, setting many precedents which resemble WoW’s current retail release far more than they do Vanilla or The Burning Crusade. Some of these changes were purely good. Questing, for example, saw a huge upgrade in Wrath of the Lich King from the grind-fests of previous patches into compelling story-driven questlines that saw players run up against the Lich King himself long before he was released as a raid boss.
Later Wrath of the Lich King patches, however, fundamentally changed the way the game was played, and the kind of communities it was able to foster. Patch 3.3 introduced Icecrown Citadel as a raid and focused on the fall of the Lich King. However, it also introduced Dungeon Finder, a feature which may cause huge problems for WoW Classic.
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Wrath Of The Lich King”s Dungeon Finder Dilemma
WoW“s Dungeon Finder allowed players to teleport directly to dungeons with 5-man groups drawn from players across different servers. This had huge effects on WoW’s end-game. For a start, high level players no longer needed to leave cities to experience lots of end-game content. Wrath’s capital city of Dalaran had portals to all other major faction cities as well, which meant that level 80 players often only had motivation to leave cities for weekly raids. Dungeon Finder would also have devastating effects on server communities. Without the need to know other players on the server to form dungeon groups, fostering server communities became far more difficult in the wake of patch 3.3, as well as simply less relevant.
This is the major problem facing WoW Classic going forward. By creating WoW: Wrath of the Lich King Classic servers, Blizzard will face a dilemma. If Wrath’s patches are released in their original forms, then eventually patch 3.3 will be released and some of the fundamentals of WoW Classic will be changed forever. On the other hand, Blizzard could make the decision to remove Dungeon Finder from patch 3.3, but that could open the door to other expansion changes that might undermine WoW Classic’s ability to truly capture the feel of its different eras.
One of the main challenges is that patch 3.3 brought these fundamental changes to WoW in the middle of the expansion’s life-cycle. The first part of Wrath Classic, including fantastically creative raids like patch 3.2’s Ulduar raid, could be far more similar to the rest of WoW Classic than the latter part of the expansion.
The Classic Release Model
This raises further questions. Should Blizzard release different servers for different patches in later WoW Classic releases? If so, would that undermine the chance for a genuine feeling of progression throughout an expansion? If nothing else, it seems unlikely that Blizzard will want to further fragment the WoW experience.
Ultimately, the changes made in Wrath of the Lich King and the problems they pose for World of Warcraft Classic after The Burning Crusade are a reminder that WoW’s new Classic release model cannot immortalize its expansions, only repeat and extend their lifespans. Players who start WoW Classic today are going to have a very different experience to those who joined when WoW Classic began in 2019. Players who want to experience the Ahn’Qiraj launch event no longer can, and even in the best case scenario, eventually the Classic servers will become saturated with max-level players who have run out of that expansion’s content.
WoW Classic may be a second wind for World of Warcraft that allows players and Blizzard alike to return to better days, but the problems with creating Wrath of the Lich King Classic show that the new model has a lifespan all of its own. Burning Crusade Classic won’t be without its challenges too – it has the potential to reduce the population of Vanilla servers significantly, for example. However, how Blizzard plans to go forward with the model, and how that model will stand up in the face of Wrath of the Lich King“s huge changes to the Warcraft formula, remains to be seen.
World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade Classic releases 2021.
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