‘World of Warcraft Classic: The Burning Crusade’ review: a nostalgically challenging update to everyone’s favourite MMO

The first expansion pack for WoW Classic offers plenty of reasons to return

The first expansion pack after the 2004 launch of World of Warcraft and now the first sweeping change for World of Warcraft Classic, The Burning Crusade soon reminds fans of why they adored the original experience so much and also, why it frustrated them. Nostalgia is a tricky one to pin down but, for the most part, The Burning Crusade continues World of Warcraft Classic‘s ability to remain true to form every step of the way.

You see, The Burning Crusade isn’t a simple expansion pack. It never was. Originally released in 2007, it was utterly glorious. It looked gorgeous and while later expansion packs may have done more to revolutionise the game, none of them captured the magic that The Burning Crusade conjured up.

In some ways, that’s because the original World of Warcraft was in dire need of a shake-up. World of Warcraft Classic hasn’t needed such a fundamental change this time around with many players preferring to stick to ‘true’ WoW Classic (an option if you prefer), but The Burning Crusade still makes quite an impact.

World of Warcraft Classic: The Burning Crusade
World of Warcraft Classic: The Burning Crusade. Credit: Blizzard Entertainment

Those changes? The return of the Burning Legion is the most noticeable – a vast army of demons that adds a lot to the lore behind World of Warcraft. Thanks to the slower pace of Classic, you’ll find yourself more wrapped up in the storytelling which is so easily missed when you’re simply trying to level up quickly in the modern game. Such an invasion of demons leads to the reopening of the Dark Portal to Outland and oh my, it still feels rather exciting. The Portal itself looks as foreboding as ever, enticing you into a world full of lava, demons, and some terrible perils.

First returning to Honor Hold and then trying to tackle missions in Hellfire Peninsula isn’t easy. While the level cap has been increased to 70, you need to get there and the process is slow as you’d expect in World of Warcraft Classic. It’s that reminder that this is a very different experience from the increasingly cheapened feel of the levelling process in the modern World of Warcraft. Fortunately, it’s an excellent opportunity to see communities develop.

While The Burning Crusade is still in its infancy, there’s a great sense of camaraderie once more. Zones are bustling with activity, making it tricky to find a quiet spot to grind out some experience, but that’s hardly the point. Teamwork is essential here once more with few players able to cope with all quests on their own, at least not without being incredibly inefficient.

World of Warcraft Classic: The Burning Crusade
World of Warcraft Classic: The Burning Crusade. Credit: Blizzard Entertainment

Hellfire Peninsula is far from the only zone you’ll see. The Burning Crusade has seven new zones, including the likes of Zangarmarsh which lives up to its marshy sentiment, Terokkar Forest, which looks as luscious as it did back in 2007, and the plains of Nagrand. Nagrand lacks a touch of personality but it’s a minor misstep in an otherwise well-designed set of zones. There’s the capital city Shattrath too, although I won’t blame you if you still end up preferring your home capitals for the comfort they bring. However, with transportation still relatively limited, you’ll learn to put up with Shattrath’s eccentricities for the sake of your patience.

Old hands will miss the fact they can’t use flying mounts until level 70. That’s particularly noticeable when tackling the likes of Netherstorm – a place that’s crying out for a bit more mobility but again, that’s the point, isn’t it? World of Warcraft Classic across the board has always been about a slower pace. Coincidentally, a pace that didn’t seem so slow back when MMO fans leapt from the likes of EverQuest and Dark Ages of Camelot to what felt like My First MMO for some. How things change over the many years we’ve all come to love World of Warcraft.

World of Warcraft Classic: The Burning Crusade
World of Warcraft Classic: The Burning Crusade. Credit: Blizzard Entertainment

There are new dungeons and raids too, of course. Dungeon runs are relatively easy to get involved with thanks to it being the usual bunch of five players. You’ll need to pick carefully as, like with the rest of World of Warcraft Classic, you really do need the traditional composition of a tank, healer, and DPS to get the most out of them.

Raids are more complex and more difficult than what we’ve seen before in World of Warcraft Classic although the top guilds will have no problem using past strategies to conquer what they’ve previously dealt with years ago. Pre-nerfed bosses could be a tad fearsome although I didn’t get a chance to see them for myself. Still, once things trickle out, Tier 4 and above armour pieces will soon change the landscape of World of Warcraft, gradually reminding us of how, ultimately, everything is a battle to the top.

If that sends a sense of dread down your spine, don’t worry. The Burning Crusade isn’t just about the end game. That’s precisely why it’s so loved by so many. It’s an MMO expansion pack for everyone thanks to adding two new playable races. The addition of the Draenei for the Alliance and the Blood Elves for the Horde remains as pivotal a shift as it was back in 2007. Notably, it allows the Horde to play as a Paladin and the Alliance to utilise the wonders of the Shaman. It’s a huge change and one that makes you itching to roll a new character, just like it may well have done back in the day. The lands of Eversong Woods for the Blood Elves and Azuremyst Isle for the Draenei aren’t quite as exciting to explore as they once seemed but it’s a solidly dependable way of enjoying a ‘new’ class once more. The main issue with both starting areas is that they feel a little detached from the main areas of Azeroth. They’re not quite bolted on but if you have experience of later World of Warcraft expansion packs, you’ll see how these zones aren’t as well designed or as seamless as later additions. It’s all part of living through the history of World of Warcraft again, warts and all.

World of Warcraft Classic: The Burning Crusade
World of Warcraft Classic: The Burning Crusade. Credit: Blizzard Entertainment

For the crafters out there, Jewelcrafting is now available through The Burning Crusade. An expensive profession, no one would blame you for giving it a miss, especially when money remains relatively hard to earn in World of Warcraft Classic, but it’s good for those keen to craft better equipment. Profession caps have been increased too giving you more reason to roam the lands to boost your herbalism skills and so forth.

Ultimately, The Burning Crusade is when World of Warcraft came of age and this Classic interpretation does the same once more. On the one hand, that means World of Warcraft Classic has been changed forever, never to feel as pure again but that’ll be why you can stick to the pure original servers instead. Times are changing but The Burning Crusade reminds you why that’s no bad thing at all.

World of Warcraft Classic: The Burning Crusade is available now for all WoW subscribers. It’s available on PC, which is where we reviewed it.

The Verdict

World of Warcraft Classic: The Burning Crusade is another nostalgic dose of MMO-based joy. Distinctly challenging and far from an easy ride, it encourages you to team up just like the good old days meaning you’ll feel part of something bigger once more.

Don’t count on switching your brain off like you can get away with modern World of Warcraft, but if you want to feel like you’ve earned every level, this is another hit for the veteran MMO.

Pros

  • New class options are useful
  • Outland looks gorgeously threatening
  • Teamwork is at the forefront again

Cons

  • Can be tough solo
  • New races are a little detached from everyone else
  • The grind is back
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