On June 1st 2021 the Dark Portal reopened again for the first time in fourteen years. For context, World of Warcraft is a game I played a few times when I was younger but could never truly get into for a combination of reasons. In 2019 when classic WoW was released, at the recommendation of a friend, I bit the bullet and got myself a subscription...and I loved every minute of it! In the sea of sorrows that was gaming in 2019 playing classic WoW felt so refreshing and fun and the community behind it was the driving force for a lot of that enjoyment. Queuing up for dead mines the first time, seeing the halls of Ironforge, running through Scarlet Monastery and ultimately hitting lvl 60, one of the best achievements any man or woman can accomplish in gaming. With all that said it was a no brainer that I and my friends were going to hop into TBC classic headfirst and get ready for that fun all over again.
Boy oh boy how naive I was. As of the time of this article, TBC classic has been out for six days and in that time I have gotten the chance to explore the starting area of Hellfire Peninsula and take on the Ramparts dungeon instance. While I know this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the content TBC has to offer, first impressions matter, and in this case my first impression left me genuinely unsure of whether or not I wanted to continue forward. When me and my group rolled up to the Dark Portal I couldn't have been more excited to jump in and see what WoW's first ever expansion had to offer. When we came through on the other side, it would be an understatement to say the disappointment in the air was palpable. Not only did I not feel like I had just started a new expansion, I felt like I had taken a portal back to Westfall or Thousand Needles, and not the vaunted Outlands I had heard so much about. For the sake of addressing my own bias I will say that I have never really been a fan of the Horde type areas or the barren landscapes that are common in many areas of WoW, but I just feel like the first zone for the first expansion should absolutely not have been something like Hellfire Peninsula. Although it was fun to immediately hop back into questing and start leveling again towards 70, I found myself getting bored so much faster than I ever did in Classic, and while Hellfire Peninsula is nowhere close to some of the worst zones in WoW the best way I can describe seeing it for the first time was just underwhelming.
After getting the chance to do some of the early quests, I found a group and got the opportunity to challenge the Hellfire Ramparts dungeon for the first time. Unfortunately my experience was almost identical to how I felt upon coming through the Dark Portal. If you had told me I was back in BRD I would have believed you because that's genuinely what it felt like coming to the Ramparts for the first time. What I saw only depressed and disheartened me. The dungeon was about as linear as they come in terms of its progression which is basically a straight line through up until the last two bosses. The best comparison I can make is the Stockades dungeon in Stormwind, a mind-numbing experience where from start to finish just becomes get from point A to point B and the complete lack of enemy variety does nothing to help combat the boredom that will surely set in. I recognize that a lot of the dungeons in WoW could be described as "linear" but when you have an extremely linear dungeon like Scarlet Monastery that is a genuine 10/10 it is no excuse why others like Stockades or Ramparts should be as unsatisfying as they are. One positive thing I can say about Ramparts is that the final boss Vazruden and his mount Nazan make for a truly fun and challenging boss fight. Dealing with Vazruden while Nazan rained hellfire from above honestly reminded me of something out of Dark Souls and getting to do battle with the feisty beast himself after you dispatch of his papa was genuinely the best part of the whole dungeon.
One mechanic that actually left a positive impression on me was the newly added system of introducing gem slots to gear similar to the Diablo series. This addition to the game, alongside with the new jewel-crafting profession, makes me actually interested in leveling this skill so I can create powerful gems that buff my gear in a meaningful way. In classic WoW I hardly ever bothered with professions at all, and as someone who loved all the gems in classic for no reason whatsoever, I was excited to see them be implemented so prominently in this expansion.
Overall I understand that what I have experienced from TBC classic so far is realistically 5% or even less of the content that was added, however when you come out with a first impression like this it creates a situation where I almost have to force myself to continue. For me I think the reason this was especially disappointing is because WoW is a game I would have never pictured myself playing purely based on my own gaming interests alone, but I loved classic with a passion and just expected so much more from the start of TBC. With 6 more zones and 14 more dungeons to explore, not to mention the content beyond that like raids and arenas, I know my enjoyment of TBC can only go up from here, it's just disappointing that this was the initial impression when WoW classic did everything right. If you are like me and never really was a fan of WoW but loved playing classic for the first time, I would recommend subbing for a least a month and giving it a try, but be warned that not everything in the Outlands is the perfect 10 experience that we came to expect from Classic World of Warcraft.
One final note if you're reading this. The alliance needs your help on Kirtonos. The Horde knuckle draggers outnumber us 10 to 1. We lose more and more every day. The server is as low pop as they come but Blizzard wont transfer us because then seven people might not pay for a realm transfer. If you see my character Biggins out there, take up arms and help us fight the Horde menace.