The answer to this question varies from player to player. We’ll help you decide.
Since the official launch of World of Warcraft: Classic on August 26, 2019, there are two ways to play WoW. Either you play the so-called “Retail WoW”, i.e. the latest World of Warcraft addon, or you opt for Classic WoW, which, as the name suggests, is WoW in its (almost) original form at the launch of the MMO almost 16 years ago.
Of course, you can also play both versions in parallel, after all, the subscription price of 13 euros includes access to both versions. However, since both WoW versions are similarly time-consuming, it’s worth focusing on one of the two games. Which version is suitable for you depends on how you want to play World of Warcraft.
In the following, we would like to give you a short overview of both games and their advantages and disadvantages.
The biggest difference: speed
Let’s start with the biggest difference between the two WoW versions. Classic WoW has a much slower pace in terms of leveling, dungeons and progress than Retail WoW. However, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing per se, if you want to familiarize yourself with the game at your leisure.
In concrete terms, this means that Classic WoW will take you a few hundred hours on average to get from level 1 to level 60. In the WoW forum, for example, the community speaks of about 240 hours of play to get to max level. In retail WoW you can reach the same level range (with Shadowlands the maximum level is also 60 again) in a few hours.
Dungeons also work much slower in Classic WoW, starting with the party search: While in Retail WoW we can use the convenience function of the Dungeon Finder and join the queue of a dungeon with a mouse click, in Classic WoW we still have to communicate with other players directly and find a group. Once we have five players together, they all have to walk to the dungeon instead of being teleported there.
If you like to write with other players and prefer to take it easy, Classic-WoW is the right choice for you in this area. Soloists and players who value an end game that can be reached quickly are better off in Retail WoW.
Everything was harder back then… right?
Not quite, because while Classic WoW clearly has the harder leveling phase, because you level up slower and thus have the chance to fight more often against difficult opponents, Retail WoW offers higher and modular difficulty levels, especially in the endgame.
Once you have reached the maximum level in retail WoW, you can start dungeons and raids on a heroic or mythic difficulty level. The enemies become harder and the loot more tempting. If that’s not enough, you can then select the Mythic-Plus dungeon difficulty level, which will really challenge you.
Additionally, Blizzard has come up with increasingly exciting raid opponents over the years. While in retail it’s still enough to know your position in the raid, in retail WoW you’ll have to do quite a bit of running, dodging, or button mashing to avoid dooming yourself or your teammates.
If you play WoW for its PvE content and don’t mind a crunchy challenge, you’ll be in good hands in Retail WoW. The raid bosses are varied and require a lot of concentration. In return, the leveling phase is very easy. If you prefer it the other way around, you should go for Classic WoW.
Do we need comfort functions?
Retail WoW players will nod their heads vigorously at this point, because features like the dungeon finder or the quest marker make life in Azeroth a lot easier. Phasing, i.e. switching between two time periods within a world, also makes some quests more interesting here and there.
As the name suggests, however, these are not features that are absolutely necessary. Those who like to read quest texts and prefer to make a small scavenger hunt out of searching for items will also be happy in Classic WoW.
By the way: Some newer comfort features have made it into Classic WoW despite the retro feeling. Unlike Vanilla WoW (i.e. the exact version of WoW around 2003), Classic WoW offers some small improvements, such as automatic item collection, item comparison at the touch of a button, or sending multiple items by mail.
Conclusion: Is the way the goal?
The question of whether Classic WoW or Retail WoW is better for you depends on which features you value. If you are more interested in engame content with difficult, varied raids, Retail WoW is the right choice. Here you can soon look forward to Shadowlands, which also has a lot of new content in store.