Is it worth playing World of Warcraft in 2024? (Updated for WoW: Dragonflight 10.2)

World of Warcraft
(Image credit: Windows Central | Jez Corden)

Is it worth playing World of Warcraft in 2023?

World of Warcraft just turned 19 years old as of writing, and despite that, it's still a thriving MMORPG on PC. The latest expansion, World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, has made WoW deeper and more interesting than it has been in years, with a revamped profession system, flying system, talent trees, and much more.

In short, yes! World of Warcraft is arguably in a better place than it has been in years. The revamped, "old school" style talent tree load-outs have made character customization deeper and more interesting, and leveling progression more rewarding. The latest expansion, Dragonflight, has mountains of content after a couple of season patches, with a range of new dungeons and raids, transmog to unlock, and mounts to hunt down. While the overall experience has quite a few problems still and odd story-writing in parts, Dragonflight has arguably been the strongest expansion since Legion. Beyond that, there's also WoW: Classic and WoW: Classic Hardcore, which gives players another option for how to experience the game. Read on to find out more. 

TL;DR: Should you play World of Warcraft: Dragonflight?

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  • World of Warcraft's current expansion, Dragonflight, is entering its final phases. 
  • The previous expansion, Shadowlands was relatively unpopular for its time-gating mechanics, forced progression choices, and weak story direction. 
  • Dragonflight launched in December 2022, and has washed away the previous design ethos that led Shadowlands to give players heaps of additional freedom.
  • A reimagined talent tree system gives players more control over their class builds, with a greater degree of variety per spec. 
  • The talent trees incorporate some popular abilities from previous expansions, while also sprinkling in new ones. In some cases, this has made some classes feel incredibly fresh.
  • WoW: Dragonflight also adds Dragonriding which makes flight faster than ever. To accommodate, the world is also massive with broad verticality. Flying through the isles simply feels great. There are also heaps of dragon customization to unlock, and races to participate in. 
  • Dragonflight also adds a new class/race combo called the Dracthyr Evoker. These draconic creations were abandoned by Neltharion, otherwise known as Deathwing, in an attempt to merge the potential of mortals with the power of dragons. 
  • Evokers get a DPS spec, a healing spec, and World of Warcraft's first true support spec, which similar to a classic Bard buffs the damage and healing output of the rest of the group. 
  • The Dragon Isles are filled with activities with minimal time gating. Players can essentially grind all the reputation rewards if they feel like it, although there are weekly boosts for those who don't feel like racing to the finish every day. 
  • Most of the rewards are also cosmetic and profession-oriented. Blizzard avoided the mistake of making these soft "Covenants" offer power progression. All of your power progression can come from levels and gear obtained from professions, dungeons, raids, and quests. 
  • The new dungeons and raids aren't the most unique in the game's history, but they are fun and interesting and offer familiar challenges and rewards for those who enjoy WoW's PvE gameplay loop. Blizzard has also been augmenting the Mythic+ dungeon pool with "classic" dungeons too, which has been a tad annoying, frankly, since a lot of these dungeons weren't designed for Mythic+. 
  • World of Warcraft now also has WoW: Classic and WoW: Classic Hardcore servers. These servers (on the same subscription) let you play through classic WoW expansions, including The Burning Crusade, and Wrath of the Lich King. Cataclysm is also on the way, too. 
  • WoW: Classic Hardcore and "Season of Discovery" add a unique spin on the vanilla formula. Season of Discovery adds new "Rune" abilities for classic player classes, and also hardcore adds perma-death. Perma-death turns WoW into a high-stakes experience that has proven incredibly popular. 
  • So far, Dragonflight has been a great experience for me. While the new player experience is still awful overall, returning players should find a lot of things to love in Dragonflight. New players may find WoW: Classic a friendlier, more immersive way to get into the universe of Warcraft. 

What is World of Warcraft?

World of Warcraft (WoW) is a game near and dear to my heart. I've played on and off since the game's closed beta in 2003, and have struggled to put it down even during its worst periods. I've said before, World of Warcraft at its worst still makes it better than the vast majority (if not all) of other MMORPGs out there, owing to its decades' worth of lore, rapid and responsive combat, and uniquely satisfying endgame loop. 

World of Warcraft has now entered its 19th year with the Dragonflight expansion, which skips the game's story ahead a few years. WoW expansions add heaps of new content, kickstart new stories, revamp existing systems, and polish the game's graphics to keep it feeling fresh. Some expansions totally miss the mark, but this latest one is offering hope that better times in Azeroth are ahead of us from now on. 

WoW expansions are near full-priced games in essence, given that they provide thousands of potential hours of gameplay with new systems and landmasses. The game is also funded via a subscription model, which means that every few months a new "season" drops during the expansion. These seasons tend to heap on even more new features and content, moving the story forward while adding new dungeons, raids, and bosses for you and your friends to take down. 

Source: Windows Central Yes, you can travel to those mountains.

Source: Windows Central Yes, you can travel to those mountains. (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

World of Warcraft has many imitators (and WoW itself borrowed heavily from other MMOs that preceded it), but few have managed to achieve Blizzard's level of execution. WoW is an action RPG that is responsive, exciting, and quite honestly, somehow gorgeous despite rocking an engine that's more than a decade old. WoW is going strong, although the game has had a rocky few years owing to poorly received expansions like Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands. Blizzard has also been embroiled in a series of scandals and controversies, contributing to a large amount of staff turnover and generalized disruption across its properties. However, Dragonflight represents something of a new beginning for the team, with a total change in direction and a time skip in the story, offering a brighter view on the horizon. 

I've been playing Dragonflight since it launched in December 2022. A year later, Dragonflight is still a great experience overall, although there are a lot of things I would have done differently if I was in charge. Another side to this story is WoW: Classic and WoW: Classic Hardcore, both of which have revitalized and reintroduced the game to a new generation of MMORPG players. 

Whether you're interested in the classic experience or the modern retail experience, WoW is in a stronger place than it has been in years. 

WoW: Dragonflight: The total newcomer experience

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Windows Central)

I have experience trying to persuade dozens of friends and family to get into WoW, so I know many common complaints. Thankfully, you don't need the best gaming PC out there to run WoW, since it runs on fairly low-spec PCs, which makes it pretty accessible. That said, the last time I updated this guide, World of Warcraft's leveling experience was abysmal, to say the least. The overlapping timelines from over a decade of content additions made leveling an utterly confusing, convoluted experience, but WoW's Shadowlands at least attempted to address some of these concerns.

When you make a new character, you start on a brand-new island dubbed Exile's Reach out in the ocean. Shipwrecked away from your faction, you'll begin experiencing the game with a modernized, up-to-date perspective. This starter area takes place around the beginning of the "Fourth War" storyline, which follows the events of the previous expansion, Battle for Azeroth. This new leveling experience funnels new players straight into the Battle for Azeroth zones, bypassing content that hasn't been updated or touched in over 10 years. Veteran players can still go back and experience these previous expansions via "Time Travel" with the Bronze Dragon, Chromie. But for new players, the repositioning of the timeline makes everything a little easier to understand. Truth be told, though, it doesn't go anywhere near far enough. 


Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Exile's Reach is overly simplistic and unengaging, making it hard for new players to see the "fun." You could probably train a goldfish to complete Exile's Reach, for an idea of how overly simplistic it is. It's a truly awful experience for any new player to WoW, and doubtless, a huge barricade preventing newcomers from younger generations from getting into the game. Blizzard absolutely needs to just revamp the old-school starting areas that immersed you in your faction and class fantasy, instead of this jump-through-hoops island replete with terrible voice acting and patronizing tutorials. 

If you do make it through the boredom of Exile's Reach, you'll be dropped into Battle for Azeroth or one of the "Chromie Time" time-traveling expansion experiences. You'll sail quite rapidly through the story of these areas, and finish them to move onto Dragonflight without completing any of the content. It's best to play WoW with a veteran friend right now and focus on the combat and dungeon grinding because the leveling experience for a new WoW player is still an afterthought for Blizzard. 

Speaking of dungeoneering, those 5-player dungeon experiences are similarly awful for new players, too. They're full of impatient veterans grinding out new characters, who will get angry at you if you don't have prior knowledge of the tactics. The game is sadly very unwelcoming for solo new players. 

If you do decide to pick up WoW: Dragonflight, you get a token to jump straight to the current expansion and skip everything prior. The downside to using this as a new player is you don't get to "learn" your character in a gradual way. You can solve this by using a YouTube video class guide to get yourself up to speed, but it's still probably better to drop the token and skip the level 1-60 experience, jump straight into the 60-70 experience of Dragonflight. 

What about WoW: Classic?

Responding to player feedback (and tons of pirated servers), Blizzard added WoW: Classic to the World of Warcraft subscription. There's a couple of dozen servers in EU and US that run classic expansion servers, including the vanilla WoW experience, on-going classic expansion update severs that are currently running Wrath of the Lich King, and WoW: Classic Hardcore, which grants you perma-death. WoW: Classic Hardcore especially was inspired by a user addon where players could opt-in to "perma-kill" their characters upon the first death. Blizzard loved the idea, and baked it directly into the WoW: Classic experience. 

In some ways, WoW: Classic is a better way to experience World of Warcraft for new players. It embeds you in a bigger world, and gives you a more immersive class and race fantasy than modern WoW does. World of Warcraft: Dragonflight might have all the bells and whistles, but WoW: Classic had a kind of magic that Blizzard has found difficult to replicate in recent years. Both WoW: Classic and WoW: Dragonflight are available on the same subscription, so you can easily switch between both clients if you fancy. 

State of World of Warcraft: Dragonflight (Patch 10.2)

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Windows Central | Jez Corden)

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight has been out for a year, and along with it, a new era of player freedom. Blizzard really absorbed the feedback from Shadowlands and used it to inform them when creating Dragonflight's endgame, which has been rock solid overall.

Dragonflight takes place a few years after the events of Shadowlands, effectively wiping the slate clean both in terms of story and design direction. Gone are the forced choices of Shadowlands, which pigeon-holed you into joining specific factions for meta reasons even if you didn't like their aesthetics and features. Gone are the time-gating systems artificially preventing your character's growth. Chores like the mission table have been eliminated entirely, too. 

What has arrived is an all-new talent system, that riffs on the classic points-based tree system of old. More so than ever, you can tailor your playstyle as you see fit, and even swap talent builds on the fly before specific boss battles. You could swap from a cleave build to a single target build in the middle of the dungeon at the click of a button, without having to drop a reagent and fiddle around with the talent panel for five minutes before the pull.  

Wow Dragonflight Talent Trees

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The new talent trees also incorporate heaps of spells and abilities from previous expansions, as well as passives from popular legendary items and so on. In some cases, there are tons of new abilities too, giving you new tools and playstyles to explore. My warlock can now summon a Pit Lord, for example, something I never expected to be possible. Returning players will find a lot to love in the new talent systems, although there are still some outstanding balance issues Blizzard is working to address. Some talent specs have arguably received more love than others, too. Shadow and Disc Priests feel needlessly complicated now, for example, if you gun for every active ability in the trees. Some streamlining could solve some of these teething problems, but the direction is correct, at least. 

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight also has a new class/race combination for the first time since Legion, in the form of the draconic Dracthyr Evoker. These ranged draconids are the progeny of Deathwing himself and are mid-range casters with high mobility, complete with two DPS specs and a healing spec. I criticized Evokers for feeling underbaked at launch, but they have been improved since. They now have a third talent spec as part of the story. Augmentation Evokers are the first support-focused class in WoW history. Instead of dealing pure damage by themselves, Augmentation Evokers use the power of the Black Dragonflight to enhance the damage and healing of the rest of the group. They were incredibly overpowered at launch and became essentially required for groups, but they have been scaled back a little since. 

Dracthyr players can quite literally fly, too, which is nice.  (Image credit: Blizzard)

Dracthyr have been a welcome addition to the game overall, and their unique Augmentation spec bodes well for the future of the game. They are incredibly thin on transmog though, given that they can only wear shoulders, chests, and belts. I'm not sure if Blizzard plans to rectify this in future patches, but their unique design might make it difficult to do so. 

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight takes place on a new landmass known as the Dragon Isles, complete with the start of a new saga. With renewed purpose, the magical Dragon Aspects of Azeroth seek to regain their mantle as the protectors of the mortals of Azeroth, and repopulate the Dragon Isles to unlock its secrets. The Dragon Aspects are long-suffering kin, who have suffered betrayal and repeated defeats throughout the planet's eons-long history. Dragonflight represents a new dawn for the Aspects, but they're not without new threats to deal with too. 

(Image credit: Windows Central)

When the ancient Titans first game to Azeroth, they offered the primitive drakes power in exchange for serving as the stewards of their order. The flights that accepted became dragons, but many drakes refused to join, leading to violent territorial wars. Empowered with the chaotic magics of the elements, the Primal Incarnates eventually lost the war to the dragons, and were sealed away deep underground. Until now. 

The first raid tier's central antagonist was Raszageth, a monstrous proto-drake imbued with the power of storms. In just one patch, Raszageth had more personality and is more relatable than an entire expansion's worth of Shadowlands' Jailer, which bodes well for the continuation of this story arc. Dragonflight is telling a more terrestrial, typically Warcraft story that leaves cosmic unravelling to the side for a classic tale of warrior heroes vs. dragons, and it came at exactly the right time. 

Over the course of the expansion, players gradually took out Raszageth and her siblings. Fyrakk is the final major boss of the expansion, with Iridikron having fled with the essence of Galakrond, potentially to set up a more pivotal story arc in future expansions. Overall the story has been decent, although perhaps a little rushed and ham-fisted at times. There have been some great moments, though, and a huge abundance of story-heavy content over the past year. 

(Image credit: Windows Central)

On the system's front, Dragonflight has also been a breath of fresh air. Blizzard has essentially put its hands up and focused on the game's core systems for this expansion, revamping professions to make crafted gear actually useful, while heaping on some FFXIV-inspired depth in the process. The professional system could probably use some tweaks still, some are far more profitable than others, and some reagents have become so incredibly rare that inflated prices on necessities like weapon enchants have become insane. Some herbs are also punishingly rare, too, but this is probably easily fixed, and Blizzard is doubtless monitoring the market on these systems. 

The game's major factions also have Covenant-like tracks per Shadowlands (inspired by battle passes in some ways), which drip feed rewards in exchange for performing tasks and grinding rep. It has been incredibly easy to quite casually obtain reputation points with the major factions thus far, and even still, nothing they offer is what I'd necessarily deem to be essential. Some of them do further the story campaign when you unlock certain tiers, and some crafting patterns are found at higher levels, but you can obtain equivalent power from doing dungeons and raids — just as it should be. There's nothing in-game like Shadowlands' Covenant soul binds, which gated power progression behind seasonal content. Blizzard has accepted that this was a mistake, and hopefully won't make it again. 

World of Warcraft: Dragonflight

(Image credit: Windows Central)

The new dungeons are quite interesting thus far, but they also want for variety in some cases. Many of them take place in instanced versions of the overworld which feels repetitive, especially since you have to visit those locations for daily quests occasionally. To supplement, Blizzard has also started including dungeons from previous expansions into the current Mythic+ season, which also feels like a bit of a cop-out in my view. It's interesting to some degree to revisit classic instances occasionally, but it feels as though Blizzard did this to make up for the lack of interesting new dungeons they had prepared for Dragonflight's launch. Over the course of the expansion, Blizzard has continued re-using older dungeons in the Mythic+ season, to mixed effect. I personally find it irritating, particularly since many of the dungeons aren't tuned very well for modern content, but others seem to like it. 

It feels like a lot of Dragonflight's design budget went into the Dragon Isles' design itself, which is a truly massive and very vertical landmass. Designed to accommodate the new Dragonriding mechanic, the expansion is crammed with a wide variety of very nostalgic Azerothian areas, from Tuskarr-populated tundra to elemental-plagued volcanoes. 

There's a ton to explore across the isles, and zipping across it with the new Dragonriding system makes the game feel more immersive than ever. The previous flying system felt like you were simply swimming awkwardly through the air, with no momentum or depth to your movement. Dragonriding is far more engaging, and rewards your inputs with up to 850% extra speed. Skillful riders can also participate in Dragonriding races, which are surprisingly fun too. There is a lot of room for the development of this system potentially, and I sorely hope that Blizzard sticks with it for the future of the game. 

(Image credit: Windows Central)

The Dragon Isles once again delivers big in the art department, as Blizzard continues to prove the power of WoW's aging engine. The Ohn'aran Plains are stunning and peaceful, with rolling clouds reminiscent of classic zones like Nagrand. The Azure Span evokes Grizzly Hills with its redwood-like gigantic trees and folksy music track, with classic races like Tuskarr, Centaur, Furbolgs, and Gnolls getting some much-needed story development. 

Speaking of story development, Dragonflight has seen some of the game's most down-to-earth writing for a while, with small, personal stories dotted across the game's sizeable continent. I sat on a bridge and reminisced with an aging dragon about his lost home, and also exchanged words with a regretful Dragonmaw orc about the role his clan played in the subjugation of dragons, from lore dating all the way back to Warcraft I. Dragonflight has somehow managed to come across as both nostalgic and fresh in equal measure, which is a tough needle to thread. It has gotten a little "rushed" feeling in subsequent patches, but overall it's still quite good. 

All in all, I haven't felt this good about World of Warcraft since all the way back in Legion most likely. Blizzard held up its hands and listened to feedback, casting off design principles they were no doubt very comfortable with. The repetitive "borrowed power" systems that became truly exhausting are now gone, as the team prioritizes adding permanent additions to the game, such as the UI revamp, Dragonriding, the new professions system, and the refreshed talent spec trees. In a lot of ways it feels like the expansion I've wanted to see out of Blizzard for years, paying careful attention to features that were crying out for modernization. 

There are still plenty of things I'd like to see Blizzard improve here. The new player experience is still atrocious. Azeroth itself desperately needs another revamp and refresh to bring it up to permanence with the current timeline. Some talent specs need a lot more love. Blizzard's armor designs could also use improvements, given that many of them are the same skin-tight designs simply wrapped in new textures. I'd also like to see more permanent "fun" systems added to the game, like player housing, which gives players something to collect for and grind in their spare time. WoW is on the path to modernization, though, undoubtedly, with Dragonflight as the first, highly-promising step. 

In short, right now, I cannot recommend WoW: Dragonflight enough to any lapsed player who still has fond memories of Azeroth. It may be a while before WoW feels this good again. 

What does the future of World of Warcraft bring?

Source: Blizzard (Image credit: Windows Central)

With Dragonflight now fully released and the final raid tier available, the future of the game is looking brighter than it has in quite a while. At Blizzcon 2023, Blizzard detailed not one, but three upcoming expansions in a big new story arc. The first is called World of Warcraft: The War Within, and will refocus the game on the slumbering Azeroth worldsoul beneath the ground, and the gigantic sword Sargeras pierced the planet with at the end of Legion. The expansion will take place underground in Azeroth's mysterious tunnels and caverns, with the classic spider Nerubian race taking a central role. 

I find myself suitably surprised by how Dragonflight has landed, and how it seems to be shaping up for what could be a bright future for the game. Blizzard has been rapid with content drops and roadmap updates throughout, which feels like a great footing for the future of the game.

It remains to be seen if Blizzard can keep up this pace of content without hindering quality and without succumbing to formulaic gameplay elements and story tropes, but I've not been this hopeful and optimistic for the game in years and years. With great catch up mechanics and fresh content — if you've ever loved World of Warcraft, the game is in a truly great state right now and is ready to invite you back to Azeroth with open arms. New players should probably still avoid the game, though ... 

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!