Recently someone got to my blog via the search term “TBC or Wrath.” As it turns out, these are the two expansions I played the most, and they are also perennial fan favorites. The really interesting thing about these two expansions is that they kind of straddle a paradigm shift in the game. Let me explain:
Although at the time Burning Crusade was seen as a huge quality of life leap over vanilla World of Warcraft, looking back on it now, it was still very, well… vanilla. Lest you forgot, here are some of the attributes of TBC:
- A 1-60 leveling nerf did not happen until at least halfway through the life of the expansion. To compare, it’s now fairly standard to get a nerf to experience rates through previous content with the release of a new expansion.
- Mounts, mini pets, and so on were carried in your bag (or your bank).
- Attunements. Attuments everywhere. At least at the beginning.
- 60 minute long hearthstone cooldown.
- You didn’t get your first mount until level 40 (a patch at the very end of TBC did reduce this down to 30.)
- Not only was it normal that there were certain buffs only one class could provide… but there were certain buffs only one spec could provide.
- There was no dungeon finder. Finding a PuG dungeon meant sitting in the LFG channel for a long time.
- There was of course no LFR and no real gear catchup mechanic aside from a little bit of badge gear so people were running the expansion’s first raid– Karazhan– until the night before WotLK’s release. Literally.
And so on. This was the most player-friendly MMO for its time, for sure, but it was still very much a retro, old-school type of experience.
Now then, we make the jump to WotLK.
- Shorter hearthstone cooldown
- Mounts at level 20 and 40 (partway through the expac)
- Dungeon Finder (about halfway through the expac)
- Mounts and pets as spells rather than items (the bagspace, you guys!)
- Buffs provided by more than one spec
- Easier gear catchup for alts via a solid badge system that gave us new stuff every patch
- Few to no attunements
And so forth. This was definitely an expansion that established a new zeitgeist for WoW: one that was less focused on hardcore raiding and endgame (although raiding was still huge throughout Wrath) and was more focused on a streamlined experience.
So: TBC or Wrath?
That depends on what side of the MMO coin you preferred.
To use a silly analogy, TBC was to Vanilla what Pokemon LeafGreen/FireRed were to the original Pokemon games. So if you prefer your MMOs more… unrefined, then TBC was probably the high point.
Wrath is a lot more like the newer expansions. It was streamlined. Why is it more popular, then, than basically all of the newer and even more streamlined expansions? For me, it was the atmosphere, the raids (which were very good, almost without exception,) and in the huge playerbase. WoW was everywhere back in 2009, being played by basically everyone, and it was a fertile ground for fan creations and dumb pop culture references alike. It was easy to love the game, because everyone loved it.
(I like this video because I recognize like all the gear in it)
So there you go. That’s my absurdly long, 600-word essay about Wrath and TBC.
And no I’m not gonna choose.
Okay, fine, I’ll choose TBC. Because of blood elves.