It’s early 2005, and I’m in high school. My GameCube library is bursting at the seams, and I make sure to safely stow my new Nintendo DS in one of several pockets in my obscenely baggy pants before walking to the bus stop.
I get to class, and the guys I made fast friends with in the first few months of school continue to talk – every chance they get – about this new PC game. It’s all they talk about in homeroom, at the lunch tables, and while grabbing stuff from overflowing and disorganized lockers before sprinting for the buses home. I’m on the outside looking in, because god knows the family PC at home – a dusty, purple and off-white Compaq Presario – practically screamed for mercy while trying to run The Sims. Dad just got a new PC at his place though, so who knows – maybe that could run this game. He has no idea how to use a computer anyway, so far be it from me to let all that technology collect dust.
After a particularly unproductive half-day at school, and like many, many more to come after it – we head to the mall. Atop a cluttered cash wrap at the mall’s GameStop is a small box, bursting at the seams with demo disks for this game I’d heard so much about. I could draw you a perfect picture from memory of the packaging. The dwarf with his rifle, standing before the mysterious stare of the night elf woman that dominated the cardboard sleeve. I forked over two crumpled dollar bills and a handful of change to the cashier – and finally had my hands on World of Warcraft.
Every Journey Begins With A Single Click
As predicted, the family PC ran the game like absolute garbage – but my Dad’s shiny new one ran it perfectly. I spent hours upon hours questing, exploring, role playing, laughing, staring, gasping, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at all that Azeroth had to offer. My first character was an Orc Hunter, and I tried a Night Elf Druid. I liked the cat form so much that a friend recommended that I just try out a Rogue, and so the Human Rogue that I still main to this day was born.
I’ve returned for every expansion, and have dabbled in most of what they’ve had to offer in terms of endgame and new features. I was enraptured by Northrend in Wrath of the Lich King, and still remember sailing into port at Valiance Keep for the first time. Mists of Pandaria had some of the most gorgeous vistas I’ve ever seen in a video game. Legion, my all-time favorite expansion, practically melted my brain with the amount of incredible story beats and heroic moments that saturated it’s campaign and endgame.
While I’ve come and gone back and forth to Azeroth, I feel like I’ve seldom left on great terms. Battle For Azeroth and Shadowlands didn’t grab me the same way that WoW used to, and I found myself making a swift exit shortly after hitting level cap. I did raid quite a bit in the latter’s first tier, but found myself bored and irritated as the weeks droned on, quitting a few weeks later out of pure fatigue and disinterest.
Falling Out Of Love
World of Warcraft, lately, has felt to me like a game that isn’t sure what it wants to be anymore. Character, class, and faction identity have seemed nonexistent, and with each new expansion it seems as though an additional tier of cosmic power and influence that we never knew existed is unveiled, moving the goalposts yet again on how much “bigger” the “real big bad” really is. I wasn’t alone in being irritated and confused about the retcons that arrived with Shadowlands, as The Jailer – a brand new character that apparently was around this whole time – revealed himself as being the puppetmaster behind many of Azeroth’s biggest conflicts and issues.
I unloaded about all of this and more back in December on a very cathartic episode of the podcast. If you’d like to hear the full rant, it starts at about the 46:10 mark.
Learning To Fly Again
All of that being said, and I know – there was a lot of it – I am excited for World of Warcraft: Dragonflight. Seriously, I promise.
Early reports from the game’s alpha are lauding the new Dragonriding mechanics, the Dragon Isles themselves (reportedly the largest new zone ever in a World of Warcraft expansion), and the new talent tree changes. In the rant above (I don’t expect that most of you listened to it all), I pleaded for a return to more classic high fantasy themes. Dragons, evil wizards, cool towers and castles, ancient mysteries. Dragonflight seems to be soaked with most of these themes, and it’s re-kindling some of my most primal and base interests when it comes to video games and the fantasy genre.
The Dracthyr Evoker looks cool, but I am most excited to walk upon the shores of the Dragon Isles in the old worn leather boots of my beloved Rogue. The same boots that have strode along the spine of Deathwing, climbed the heights of Blackrock Mountain, and kicked down the doors of Garrosh Hellscream’s throne room during the Siege of Orgrimmar. New races and classes are fun, but World of Warcraft’s real magic for me has always come from taking my characters to new places, throwing them in front of new challenges, and feeling like the indomitable hero he first set out to be while leaving the gates of Northshire Abbey.
Dragonflight has recaptured my curiosity and imagination once again, and I truly look forward to experiencing all that it has to offer once the game launches later this year. To opt-in for the game’s beta, you can check out the official website.
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