World of Warcraft Re-Review (2023): We’re Not Getting Any Younger

Even though World of Warcraft struggles to compete against younger online games in terms of mechanics, combat, and graphics, the venerable MMORPG is still worth checking out if you enjoy exploration and nail-biting endgame content. But do try to temper your expectations if you’re planning to play it for the first time because the game is definitely not getting any younger.

Visit World of Warcraft 



  • Certain areas and characters hold up surprisingly well even now
  • Arguably the best raid content out of any MMORPG, if you can get past the learning curve
  • Wide variety of races and classes to choose from


  • Clunky movement and animations
  • Dull and simplistic quest design that relies too much on MMORPG tropes
  • Encourages players to focus on endgame content to the detriment of everything else
  • Inconsistent storytelling with retcons in almost every expansion
  • Requires monthly subscription

Back when I first played World of Warcraft in 2005, I didn’t much care for it. My love for Warcraft III compelled me to give it a shot and I ended up disappointed that most of the characters featured in the beloved strategy game were nowhere to be seen. To my young teenage mind, this was a form of betrayal so unforgivable that I ended up quitting the game mere weeks after I started it. As fate would have it, I would return in time and eventually come to understand that World of Warcraft’s protagonists were never supposed to be Illidan, Arthas or Jaina – they were always meant to be you and me.

That last part may seem obvious in this day and age, but MMORPGs were still very much in their infancy in the mid-2000s and the concept eluded me at the time. Although I returned to the game during Wrath of the Lich King for Arthas, I ended up spending most of my waking hours playing WoW for the better part of two years, not for the characters or the story, but rather for the world itself.

World of Warcraft Classic Undercity

As anyone who has played WoW for any significant amount of time can tell you, Azeroth is a special place that outshines most other video game worlds. Or at least, that used to be the case. It can still be special even today, but it all depends on which WoW you're playing. You see, there are both Classic and retail (current expansion) servers available, and there are some pretty big differences between them. In the interest of painting a clearer picture of WoW in 2023, I'm going to draw a few comparisons between the two.

But first, some generalities.

Playing World of Warcraft in 2023 is a bit of a mixed bag regardless of version due to the game’s aged mechanics. In spite of all the improvements made over the years, the game is nearly two decades old at this point and it shows. There are many reasons why you may find it hard to enjoy World of Warcraft these days, with the first one that pops to mind being the combat system.

Combat was never the game's strong suit and, to their credit, Blizzard has been trying to make it more interesting and dynamic in recent times, particularly with the Dracthyr Evoker in Dragonflight. The new race/class combo has chargeable, multiphase abilities we haven’t seen before and is in some ways even more mobile than the Demon Hunter. Unfortunately, that’s just not enough because at this point no amount of improvements can make up for the fact that the game is running on a very old engine.

READ MORE:World Of Warcraft Dragonflight Expansion Reveals Roadmap For 2023

Outside of PvP, where everybody is spinning around uncontrollably like they’re performing a not-so-synchronized ice skating dance, combat in WoW is static by today's standards. Of course, your mileage will vary depending on your class but, generally speaking, once you lock onto a target there’s no benefit to moving around in most situations. This makes melee classes like the Warrior particularly dull as you spend most of your time standing still and pressing the same handful of buttons while you wait for the animations to play out.

Ranged classes like the Mage, which is what I usually play, don’t feel particularly exciting either as most spells can't be cast while moving, and you’re effectively forced into performing a repetitive rotation over and over if you want to keep your DPS up. Mind you, I never felt like I had to do my usual rotations while questing, but once I started jumping into group content there was little room for experimentation since efficiency generally trumps experimentation when you're playing with others.

World of Warcraft Dragonflight questing

For the most part, questing and leveling in World of Warcraft don’t deviate too much from the traditional MMORPG formulaThe main thing that separates WoW (and not in a good way) from some of its competitors is the fact that once a new expansion launches, the previous content becomes instantly obsolete. The idea is that every new expansion is designed to allow players to experience wonderful new adventures without having to worry too much about past content. The problem with this system is that it's tailored for existing players, rather than new ones.

If you’re a new player starting from scratch, you’ll still need to spend a lot of time in old areas to level up until you reach the point where you can access the latest expansion. This used to be extremely annoying in the past when progression was more linear, however, thanks to Chromie Time, a system introduced in 2020 alongside Shadowlands that lets players level up their characters in any expansion they want, the game is more flexible now. Leveling in old areas is still not great, but at least now you can decide where to do it, as opposed to being forced to go through every single expansion in the order it was released. In addition, there’s also a tutorial island where you can learn the ropes, and exploring it is surprisingly enjoyable even for a veteran player.

But while leveling a completely fresh character is the best it’s been in years, leveling through the latest expansion as a returning player is just not very satisfying. Dragonflight is certainly a step up from Shadowlands and Battle For Azeroth in terms of first impressions thanks to The Waking Shores, an introductory zone that has a lot to offer in terms of variety. Unfortunately, it’s mostly downhill from there as the next two zones are comparatively pretty bland. By the time you reach the last zone, you’re already at max level and eager to start delving into endgame content, so there's little point in further questing and exploration.

The only times when I was able to form (something resembling) friendships in this game was when I was playing the older expansions.

Pandarian In World Of Warcraft Gameplay

Even though Dragonflight reworked the old talent trees and gave players more viable builds to play with in 2022, you still feel like you need to stick to the almighty meta if you want to experience endgame content. Unlike WoW Classic, where the journey is often more important than the destination, recent expansions have been focused entirely on the destination. This creates a big divide between players who want to play the game for fun and players who only care about the endgame. Unless you're playing with a group of friends, you can rarely have both. From my experience, laid-back WoW players are more common in Classic while try-hard veterans dominate whatever happens to be the current expansion.

People often talk about how meta in competitive games limits people to certain playstyles and builds, and nowhere is that more true than in World of Warcraft, where you’re bound to it in both competitive and cooperative content. When you’re playing a game that’s been around for as long as WoW has, people have certain expectations from you regardless of whether you’re a veteran or a newbie. Nowadays, it’s pretty much mandatory to install a bunch of add-ons and carefully study boss mechanics before you even think about delving into endgame content like raiding.

READ MORE:10 Essential Mods For WoW Wrath Of The Lich King Classic

A player’s inability to grasp all the intricacies of a boss encounter will more often than not result in them getting kicked out of the party and ridiculed for being a noob. This sort of elitism has been present in the game pretty much since its inception, but now it's significantly more widespread, particularly on retail servers. Playing with friends is as fun as ever, but this applies to pretty much any online game and it feels almost redundant to praise an MMORPG for something like that.

Questing and leveling in old WoW is a more involved and sometimes annoying process, but it also gives players more time to meet fellow adventures.

If you’re primarily interested in the social aspect, you’ll be happy to know that it’s still there, however, you’ll have to work for it a little bit. You can still find guilds welcoming players new and old in every version of the game, and you’re bound to make a few online buddies if you’re active and try to be helpful. Just be wary about joining raiding guilds if you’re not ready to commit several hours to endgame content every week.

Balakar Khan Dragonflight

Raiding can end up being either the most fun you’ll have in WoW or the least, depending on your party and the raid tier you’re trying to clear. If there’s one aspect that has definitely improved in WoW over the years it’s the raiding, with the caveat that boss encounters have also become vastly more complex compared to the olden days. This is a double-edged sword, since adding complexity to badly designed bosses only serves to make them worse. In turn, good boss encounters can often be made even better with the addition of extra mechanics.

Fallen Avatar from Tomb of Sargers in Legion is an infamous example of a boss with mechanics so punishing that making even a small error while trying to deal with them would often cause the entire raid to wipe. ‘Git gud,' you say? Well, the thing is, even if everyone in the party plays perfectly, wipes are still almost inevitable because the fight also has an RNG element that was impossible to predict. But the worst part is how claustrophobic and oppressive everything feels during the final phase of the fight.

Compare Fallen Avatar with Sire Denathrius from Castle Nathria in Shadowlands, to name just one example, and you’ll notice some major differences. Sire Denathrius is a difficult boss, but fighting him is vastly more fun and rewarding. For starters, the arena changes several times during the fight and the boss constantly finds new ways to surprise players and subvert expectations. In addition, this fight is tough but fair, and whether you win or lose all boils down to skill instead of RNG.

Generally speaking, World of Warcraft bosses are a mixed bag. The best you can hope for is a good final boss, because those ones are usually the hardest to beat, although there are certainly examples of regular bosses like the aforementioned Fallen Avatar that can prove to be more challenging.

In Valdrakken, Dragon Isles

Endgame content aside, every version of World of Warcraft has its merits and the game as a whole still holds up in 2023, although the long-running MMORPG is definitely not as impressive as it used to be. Visually, even the latest expansion barely holds up to recent MMOs, let alone big-budget single-player games.

So, Is It Worth It?

Recommending World of Warcraft in 2023 is pretty difficult just because these days there are so many other equally good or better games to choose from. Even just in the MMORPG space, WoW has tough competition from far more modern games like Final Fantasy XIV, Elder Scrolls Online, Lost Ark, and others.

READ MORE:10 Best Free-To-Play MMORPGs, Ranked

Its pay model leaves a bit to be desired too. If you’re looking to play Dragonflight, you need to buy the base game, the expansion, and pay a monthly subscription on top of that. This will set you back $65 or more depending on which version you're buying, and that's just to get started. This isn't a great value proposition in my opinion considering the game also has microtransactions and a number of questionable paid services. $10 to change a character’s name? $25 to change a character’s race? Anywhere between $15 and $25 for a mount, in a game that already has close to 1000 mounts? It's kind of extortionate.

World of Warcraft is no longer the juggernaut that captured our imagination back in the mid and late 2000s. The game’s subscription model makes it difficult to recommend to new players and its dated engine isn’t doing it any favors either.

That said, if you’re playing with a group of friends or manage to find a community of like-minded people, World of Warcraft can be a fun game even now given the right circumstances. There’s definitely still a bit of life left in this old MMORPG, but maybe try to temper your expectations if you’re planning to jump in for the first time because whether you choose to play WoW Classic or retail, World of Warcraft has lost much of its magic over the years and it’s probably not going to get it back anytime soon, if ever.

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