On January 16 World of Warcraft's first expansion The Burning Crusade can celebrate its ten year anniversary. Yes, it's been a decade since the Dark Portal opened up to players all around the world for the first time, drew them into Outland and made them battle hordes of demons and naga, until a Fel Reaver inevitably showed up to extinguish their dreams of level 70.
When The Burning Crusade was released, I was a high school junior. After having raided and grinded out most of the content in vanilla #WoW, I had tuned down my obsession and started focussing on school. But with the release of The Burning Crusade, I was pulled back in. Hard.
The Medieval Fantasy In Space We Needed
Because the expansion was great; everything from the new sci-fi art style, to the revolutionary introduction of flying mounts, to the sheer gameplay experience of being able to level the character who'd been stuck at level 60 for over 100 in-game days.
World of Warcraft has never been in as much need of a change as it was before the release of The Burning Crusade. At least not for the average player who had no chance to enter the end game content implemented in the last 18 months of vanilla.
Even the last patch of the Mists of Pandaria expansion, which had players raiding the Siege of Orgrimmar for 13 months, seems green compared to raiding Molten Core and Zul'Gurub for two years because Razorgore was so insanely hard.
I guess that's also why The Burning Crusade seems to stand out as the most revitalizing expansion implemented in WoW. Just the fact it was so desperately needed made all the content included even more exciting, and seemed to bring a bit of magic back to the experience.
Taking WoW's Gameplay To Another Level
The Burning Crusade allowed us to level our characters from 60 to 70, throwing out all our hard-earned Ahn'Quiraj and Naxxramas gear in the process. We got to control our own flying mounts for the first time, play as Draenei or Blood Elf, do a Horde paladin and an Alliance shaman and of course raid lore-heavy places such as the Black Temple and Karazhan in 25 and 10-man mode.
Oh, and we also got the opportunity to beat each other up repeatedly in the arena. An implementation which would open up a far more competitive and fair approach to the player-versus-player aspects of WoW.
Though for me, the most important part of The Burning Crusade was the advancement of the story. We got to face off against some pretty big characters who were pivotal to the story of Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne like Lady Vashj, Kael'thas Sunstrider and of course Illidan Stormrage. It raised the stakes of the raid experience, making it a lot more meaningful.
The Intangible State Of The Lore Today
That the whole plot of The Burning Crusade has been somewhat convoluted with the release of Legion is of course problematic, but we didn't know that ten years ago. In WoW: Legion, which was released in August 2016, Illidan is being revived (after we killed him on top of the Black Temple for sweet loot) as he is, and apparently always has been, a good guy. Whoops.
But let's not linger too long on the very confusing and at times contradictory lore of the Warcraft universe. Today, too much has happened in the story, and I got off Blizzard's lore train to unreasonable-town when Garrosh jumped back in time at the end of Mists of Pandaria.
- The Top Six WoW Exploits That Resulted in Bans
- Prepare for Launch: 'World of Warcraft Legion' is the Best Expansion Since 'Wrath of the Lich King'
- The Very First Screenshots Of 'World of Warcraft' Show An Azeroth You'll Hardly Recognize
Which is another strength of The Burning Crusade and to some degree the following expansion, Wrath of The Lich King. They took place before everything demystified and got all tangled up story-wise with the introduction of multiple timelines and whatnot.
Shit, when The Burning Crusade released, we had only banished an elemental lord, Kel'Thuzad, a weakened old god and killed the offspring of Deathwing. Nowadays, there are almost no bad guys left in the Warcraft universe for us to take our frustrations out on. They've all suffered the consequence of being in possession of magical items usable by human kids.
Let's face it. WoW is growing old. In fact, it already is old, and is well on its way to become ancient and maybe even dying. The days of wonder and marvel in Azeroth are over; at least in the way we experienced them during the early days of the game. But perhaps they were over a bit too soon?
My 13 years playing WoW on and off has also left me older, and age tends to bring about a certain degree of objectivity or even cynicism. The more you see, the more you're able to see through. Which has left me a bit more coldhearted regarding Blizzard's approach to the game.
Blizzard Should've Slowed Things Down
One of strongest aspects to focus on when world building is that of mystery. It allows the player, reader or viewer to vaguely construct an idea that there's much more out there than meets the eye. The player can then fill in the blanks on their own. This creates a feeling that this is just the beginning, because rumors, foreshadowing or an obscure discovery teases that which we can't yet explain.
Blizzard's writers know this of course, but sadly the pace of WoW has murdered this approach to the game's evolution. The escalating demand of keeping an MMO going for so many years has caused each of the great mysteries in the world of Azeroth to dissolve on a string.
Perhaps the writers and the game designers should've taken it a bit easier from the beginning. To stretch out the mystery and allow time for new ones to form. Put in more nobody bosses along the way, and saved baddies like Kel'Thuzad in vanilla and Kil'jaeden in The Burning Crusade for later encounters.
But how were they to know? What Blizzard has done with WoW is uncharted video game territory, and their decisions have hopefully been based on the demands of the player base. That is, after all, how you create a profitable business.
The End Is Drawing Near
Which actually just means that things have run their course, and that everything, even World of Warcraft, will end at some point. When Legion is over and we have defeated Gul'dan and either Kil'jaeden (again) or an avatar of Sargeras, we'll probably have an expansion featuring N'zoth; the last of the four old gods.
After that, the dark titan in space is the last real villain left, and my guess is our quest to take him out will probably be featured in another expansion. Which means that WoW has at least two more expansions before its all over. But at that point, the game will at least have existed for 15 years, which would seem a reasonable time to call quits.
How do you think World of Warcraft will evolve?