I've played since the early days of beta right up to around sometime mid-Cataclysm. My highest character is level 85, and up to that point, I've primarily focused on 5-man Heroics with a smattering of raiding. Then, life happened – I started a new career, moved out of the country, and at some point, I stopped renewing my subscription. My guild and I have wandered the worlds of other MMOs, but never have we actually felt like we were 'home.'
And then I went to see the Warcraft movie. I've only recently reactivated after enjoying a free week as part of a late-running promotion for Warlords of Draenor – this article was written from my perspective and first impressions after roughly the first 20 minutes of play.
If you're like me, someone who has decided to test the waters by re-activating your years-dormant subscription, you might find that the world isn't quite the same as when you left it.
Let's see if we can’t help you back in the fight again.
1. You Don't Need to Visit Your Class Trainers Anymore
Remember the excitement of dropping everything you're doing and racing off to a major city every 2 levels to train on your new abilities? Or the thrill of watching your copper, silver, and gold pieces disappear down the void as you purchased new ranks of abilities? Weren't those exciting and thrilling times? No? I didn't think so either, not unless by 'exciting' and 'thrilling' you mean 'soul-eroding' and 'un-fun.'
Well those times have gone, and they're never coming back (hopefully). Now, your characters will automatically gain abilities as they level, and existing abilities scale according to your character's level and chosen talent spec.
But in case you're feeling sentimental about the Death Knight instructors no longer holding lectures in Acherus, or that Lord Grayson Shadowbreaker may have abandoned his post in the Stormwind Cathedral, do not fret. All Class Trainer NPCs are still in-game! You'll still need to visit them to take on class-specific quests, unlock your secondary spec, or to respec your talent choices (which still costs an increasing amount gold the more times you respec).
This is a welcome addition and a surprising elimination of a long time and moneysink.
2. What Happened to My Talent Trees?!
Talent trees for all classes have received an extensive overhaul. Specifically, all classes now have fewer talents to choose from, and talents are no longer divided into 3 different trees.
Instead, talents now come in tiers, with each tier unlocking at certain levels, and you get to choose one out of three different talents per tier. You might be asking yourself, "What's a Shadow talent doing in my Discipline spec" or "Why am I getting Crusader Strike in Protection"? Well, that's just how we roll now, son.
But don't get too cozy – more changes are on the horizon for when Legion arrives later this year. The powers-that-be hasn't revealed too many specifics but have put the word out that there will be extensive gameplay changes to every class.
3. I Don't Get How to Play My Class Now!
Some classes have changed in more dramatic and noticeable ways than others. If you've played a class for years, you could probably surprise yourself by how your muscle memory will make you want to hit certain abilities during your gameplay.
For the most part, your gaming reflexes still won't steer you wrong, but you might still need a little time to get your bearings straight. Hunters, for example, no longer need to apply Hunter's Mark before a pull – namely because Hunter's Mark has been removed entirely from the game. Part of these changes happened several major content patches ago as a result of Blizzard's aim to "prune" what they'd perceived to be unnecessary, complicated, or overly-repetitive abilities. Instead, the abilities of many once-hallmark instant or on-click effects are now passives.
But some effects are lost forever, such as with the removal of Hunter's Mark - meaning hunters no longer have an on-demand anti-stealth measure. Combat Rogues may also be similarly disappointed at the removal of Rupture from their spec, depriving them of a much-needed DoT during long fights; Rupture is now a finishing move for Assassination specs only, while Combat is focused much more than ever on dealing bursty, direct damage.
Take some time to read through your abilities, or look up one of the many community-authored guides about your class.
4. Where Do I Go Now?
Boosted 100 players will start in their Garrisons, but you might quickly come to realize that not everything in your Garrison appears to be "working as intended." Specifically, your Lumber Mill won't be working at all. To fix this, newly-boosted 100s must make a trip to the Dark Portal in the Blasted Lands, back in Azeroth.
It might seem like a confusing sight at first, but try to ignore the unique-looking NPCs standing beneath the glowing beam of light. Ignore the chaos from the endless stream of Iron Horde grunts, and make a beeline for the swirly green portal. You might get dismounted, but resist the temptation to stay and fight: your target is to head straight through the portal.
After getting through, you'll find yourself in Tanaan Jungle, with Archmage Khadgar offering you a quest. Take it – you've now started the introductory quest arc to Warlords of Draenor, the completion of which is needed to unlock a lot of the core features in your Garrison to make your adventures in Draenor a little less disjointed.
A friend recently said of the Warcraft film, "It calls to Azeroth." If you're a former World of Warcraft player, it can be hard to see the world of Azeroth rendered on the big screen and not feel the tug of nostalgia. From the lovingly recreated inn in Goldshire to the cleverly semi-hidden posters advertising the Stranglethorn Fishing Extravaganza, it's hard not to feel that old stirrings of adventure and excitement rekindled. It calls, and it calls loudly.
And if you're one of the many who's answered that call, we hope these tips have been helpful.