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WoW Classic vs BFA — What's the difference?

All World of Warcraft: Classic Guides
WoW Classic vs BFA — What's the difference?

There are many differences between WoW Classic and Battle for Azeroth. From graphics to professions and PvP, we offer a comparison between the first version of the game and how it exists today.

WoW Classic vs BFA — What's the difference?

The differences between World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth and WoW Classic are numerous and fuel many debates. Whether you are an eternal nostalgic, a player who has never set foot in Vanilla or someone that just fancies taking a look at the game as part of their sub. This guide will break down a lot of the differences.

Missing differences?

Other differences than those listed below exist, however, the list is already quite long so we selected those that we believe will have the greatest impact on players who have not known Vanilla, or with biased memories of this version of the game

Interface and graphics

  • Graphics

    The first thing that will jump out at you for Battle for Azeroth players when they first enter Classic is the speed that the game loads. For good reason, the graphics are so low quality that modern PCs have no problem launching the game.

Those load times, of course, come at a cost. As you can see in the image below and the lead image for this article, texture resolution and detail is much lower. As is to be expected for a 15-year-old game.

Night Elves in Classic v BFA - World of Warcraft: Classic
Night Elves in Classic v BFA
  • Interface

The interface has also been extensively modified in 15 years. On the one hand, the available options have been significantly increased with the arrival of recent expansions, but they have also been largely optimized and their accessibility has been facilitated into the game. Not to mention that the slight remake of the spell bar introduced in Battle for Azeroth has also greatly helped to streamline and already simple user interface.

One of the major changes comes to quests, more specifically the absence of them on your World Map in Classic as compared to Battle for Azeroth! The key difference that comes from this is that you must read the quest text and follow the description and head to that location.

Last but not least: the Looking for Group system (LFG). When you wanted to go to Maraudon, for example, you had to set up the group yourself by spamming the Trade or General channel of capitals for a long time (sometimes hours) until you found a motivated group to accompany you. In addition, you also had to go there because there was no teleportation or even summoning stones! Only the Warlock could teleport the other players, but as with live WoW, they'll need two more friends to help.

World of Warcraft: Classic


  • Overview

It would be hypocritical to treat the subject of the differences between Retail and Classic without addressing the subject of the speed of gameplay. Because yes, in Classic the gameplay is extremely slow (even for the fastest classes) are rather bland even if you acclimatise quickly. Whilst the gameplay in BFA might not be to everyone liking, it's certainly faster than the gameplay in Classic, even when you consider the GCD changes at the start of BFA.

The second point in this section is about weapon skills and spell ranks. In Battle for Azeroth, you automatically learn your skills as you gain level, and you can equip any weapon without any problem, class restrictions allowing. Classic has a very different approach since each spell must be learned from one of your class trainers (new spells are available every 2 levels). Each spell also has a rank, so you can learn Lunar Shine (Rank 1) at level 4, then learn Lunar Shine (Rank 2) at level 10. As if that were not enough, you can also use the lower ranks of the spells you learn to save mana or to deal with weaker foes: if you learned Lunar Shine (Rank 10) but want to use Lunar Shine ( Rank 4) because it costs less mana, you can!

What's more, when you want to equip a new weapon, you need to improve your skill with it in order to do damage with it. A Hunter who starts using Bows when previously having used a gun will miss endlessly until you gain skill.

Finally, many quests are available for each class: from a simple quest chain that teaches you how to use the Berserker stance to the almost legendary quest that allows you to get a high-powered Priest Staff or your Paladin or Warlock mounts. So when it comes to class quests, you'll have plenty to do.

WoW Classic: Rhok'delar & Lok'delar, Hunter Guide

Rhok'delar and Lok'delar are among the most legendary weapons in World of Warcraft, introduced during WoW Classic. Discover our complete guide dedicated to obtaining the only bow that can serve as a stick, one of the best weapons of Hunter of the game.

  • Classes and combinations

First of all, it must be remembered that in WoW Classic the Shaman is exclusively playable by Horde players, and the Paladin is its equivalent on the Alliance side.

Moreover, many combinations of races and classes possible in Battle for Azeroth are not in WoW Classic: Troll Druid, Dwarf Shaman, Human Hunter, Orc Mage etc.

  • Specializations

Warlords of Draenor was when Blizzard decided to completely overhaul class fantasy and allow for the famous "bring the player, not the class" philosophy, which still sticks with players to this day (even though almost entirely untrue now). Thus, a Fire Mage can no longer or almost use zero Frost spells as was the case until then. Ion Hazzikostas has himself detailed this problem very recently, we strongly advise you to read (or listen to) below as it has a lot of implications for WoW's future after BFA.

In WoW Classic, each class has its own identity and the player chooses to specialize in a branch of that class without forgetting the basics spells they've learned, even if they are spells or passives that do not or little usefulness or role for that specialization, the option to use them remains.

Class Design talk starts at 22:10

The optimization of the specializations also appeared much later and is absolutely not as we know it today. Some specializations in Classic are absolutely unplayable, Balance Druid or Paladin Redemption for example (although some will prove the contrary, but in all honesty, it is not viable), while today all have their strengths and weaknesses. Certainly, some are much weaker and considered useless (Feral druid is often put in this spot). One of the most likely things we'll see in Classic is people demanding X Class play a certain spec. Warrior = Tank, Druid = Healer etc.

Certain specs are also vastly different in Classic. Arcane Mage is a lot like Fire in live WoW, with burst heavy gameplay (though a lot more time in-between), Combat rougue became Outlaw in Live, whilst functionally the same spec (the non-dagger Rogue spec) the fantasy is very different. The biggest differences probably come from Disc Priest and Bear Druid. Both have a place (Disc more so) but both specs are very different in Classic.

Gameplay and Social

Two of the biggest areas for change between Classic and BFA come here. Gameplay has been touched on a little above, with gameplay speed etc. Social on the other hand sees Classic and BFA seem like different games. Not only does BFA have even more ways to connect to friends, but it also removed social aspects of the game with the LFG system, with groups of people not having much interaction (people who claim BFA is a social-less game are probably not telling you the full truth). Classic was, however, a lot more social, you'd never find a group for nearly any content without talking to at least 4 other people and planning your journey. Third party application such as Discord may play an interesting role in Classic, however, with group running communities likely to fill in for trade chat.

  • leveling

One of the major differences immediately visible when you first sign into WoW Classic is leveling. Whilst BFA offers a relatively rapid experience, it is quite the opposite in Classic since it is a true journey which awaits you. Depending on the class, leveling won't be something you look forward (hello, Warriors), some specs were just made for leveling in Classic, others were clearly not.-

In BFA, however, players feel like due to the huge amount of levels (120) each level losses a lot of its feeling of joy, with only a few milestone levels seeing players gaining new talents. This is something that Blizzard may be looking to change, at least if recent survey info would lead us to believe with Blizzard certainly hinting at the idea of a level squash, we'd assume back down to 60/70.

World of Warcraft: Classic
  • Stats and caps

Stats have changed since WoW Classic. Newly arrived players probably do not know much about Ranged Attack Power or that Spirit dictated your mana per 5 regen. These are stats from Vanilla which have since largely disappeared.

At the same time, the Critical Strike is not known by the same name in Classic, Haste is more or less equivalent to Attack Speed, Mastery and Versatility also do not have a place in Classic, and sub-statistics such as Speed or Avoidance are also very new additions to WoW.

Hit and Miss also played a massive part in Classic, whilst in BFA you can still "hit" or miss a target, you won't see stats or effects that increase this or techniques that improve your chance of doing that. About the only thing that is still around is melee standing behind/next to mobs to avoid being parried or dodged.

  • Farming, gold, pets and mounts

One of the things that many players forget is the difficulty of getting gold. While some find ways to do it in large quantities (the Alchemists with the Arcanite Transmutation for example), but it is laughable in comparison to the monumental quantities of gold that even the most casual players of Battle for Azeroth. Whilst a lot of this is due to simple inflation in live WoW and years of having ways to earn WoW. BFA certainly makes the art of earning gold easier, for better or worse.

Gold is so hard to get, especially without high-level items. Players need to save money to buy their riding skills and their first mount, including the level 40 that costs (including skill and mount) already around 100 gold, a real gold sink for the time!

You'll also have to wait longer to obtain the riding levels. With the 40% speed coming at level 40 in Classic (20 in live) and the 100% riding being left till level 60 (40 in live). But don't expect to hit 60 and begin your epic mount adventure, most players will be using their level 40 mount for a long, long time.

And finally, the fact of not having access to the mount quickly (lack of gold or of a sufficient level) also drastically lengthens the duration of the trips between two quests, or worse, between two zones. This can, however, have the added benefit of letting you become more immersed in the world.

After all this walking on foot, we even learn to love the ugliest mounts - World of Warcraft: Classic
After all this walking on foot, we even learn to love the ugliest mounts
  • Professions

Trades are not optional in WoW Classic, they're an important part of your personal economy as you'll have fewer options for gold farming outside of these. Whilst professions are massively profitable in BFA in BFA, and the gear made is probably more useful than Classic, they're not your only major source of gold, plus you'll be able to buy most of the important items from the AH (flasks, food etc)

You'll often be best in Classic farming your own items, rather than relying on other players to provide items (where possible), players in Classic will often charge an insane markup, especially now with 14 years of knowledge about what is and isn't useful.

What's more, some weapons or armour are very well known at level 60: the Divilsaur Armor for Rogues for example or the Robe of the Void for the Warlock is almost unavoidable and the components are so expensive (or the object being bound when picked up) it's better to waste some time on the farm yourself rather than buying from others, especially when some many parts of these items can be soulbound, you might as well just farm it all.

World of Warcraft: Classic

Instances, raids and PvP

Note: A lot of what is mentioned below is linked to what was said above in the Class section

  • Instances

In Battle for Azeroth, an instance on Mythic + difficulty takes an average of 25 minutes, not counting the group search, the duration of which can vary from one group to another or one key to another. For argument's sake, we'll just say it takes 30 minutes on average to start and complete a dungeon. With travel/summoning time taking at most 10 minutes assuming people don't fly whilst searching. So in BFA, from first joining LFG, to killing a boss you'll be looking at between 45 minutes to an hour of time to commit.

In WoW Classic, the group search is done through the trade channel or general channel only and can take well over an hour depending on your level of requirements (and the patience of the other players in the group), but let's say one hour of research on average. The journey time to the instance can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, or even more if you do not have a mount. Finally, depending on what you do, it can take you between one hour and more than five hours of your time to complete some instances, with an average of about two hours. So compared to BFA, a Classic instance from searching to completion might set you back 3-hours.

Chilling with the gang - World of Warcraft: Classic
Chilling with the gang
  • Raiding

The WoW Classic raids are a lot like battle scenes in big movies, a lot of people doing very little to the overall goal and avoiding some deadly abilities. The strategies are rarely very elaborate, due to the 40 person requirement, simple mechanics are probably for the best or your poor raid leader might explode. That said, those 40 people doing their small part will kill a boss, whilst you have less "5 people soak X" or "you 3 go into the shadow realm" type abilities (Don't worry, those do happen) the final kill does feel pretty epic, even if bosses, at least at the start feel like they die by a thousand cuts.

The raids of Battle for Azeroth, on the other hand, are the exact opposite of those in Classic. In would be unfair to compare LFR from BFA to Classic, but a combination of that and Normal probably does it justice. When it comes to BFA Mythic modes, you're going to need 20 people who all know their role and have exceptional knowledge of the fights — you'll also want to bring along some addons.

The role of Raid Leader has also evolved since over the years. The role has evolved into an overall taskmaster position, with most top guilds assigning someone specifically to this task, often to the detriment of their own performance. Whilst it might seem stupid to have someone telling you what to do, simple calls such as "tentacle from X" can be the difference in DPS between a kill and a 1% wipe.

The final difference is one we touch on earlier: raid difficulty levels. In BFA you have, Raid Finder, Normal, Heroic and Mythic (the same also exist for dungeons just without Raid Finer and with Mythic + added at the end). With Classic, the dungeon or raid is what it is, no easier level or harder level.

A fan-made look at Naxxramas from Vanilla.
  • Player vs. Player

PvP is one of the most critical parts of Classic since it was prominent and inseparable from the original game. The mythical battles at the Hillsbrad Foothills between the towns of Tarren Mill and Southshore were such an important battle between the factions that it now appears as a PVP Brawl in Battle for Azeroth, admittedly it's a terrible one.

Whilst Arena wasn't a thing and Battlegrounds were added later (as they will be in Classic) the world PVP was really what mattered in Classic. This was later reinforced with the introduction of the Honor system, which awarded players ranks based on their PVP based accomplishments, with the very best players even gaining unique titles and armour/weapon sets, which still hold their unique value to this day.

In Classic, PVP is your release, the content you do to pass time outside of raiding/gearing, especially for non-PVP players. When it comes to BFA, however, PVP is really just another way to gain AP, get some decent gear or get the essence you need. Arena is where PVP thrives in BFA, though it's a system that is in dire need of love from Blizzard, with most arena players needing to do PVE content to be relevant.

World of Warcraft: Classic
  • Groups and sociability

Lastly, you have group content and sociability. Group was not optional in Vanilla, you had to do it, you had to be friendly. You can't just change your name or server transfer if you get known as a ninja-looter or a toxic player that will stick with you. In BFA you have so many ways to change your identity and a lack of real server identity (outside of RP servers) means most players can just act as they please, which can often times be pretty negative.

In Vanilla this was less the case, sure you had toxic people, but if you were toxic it stuck with you. From personal experience I was in a guild during Classic/BC that had an infamous reputation for ganking Horde on site, your name became known and your guild tag made you a target.

Lastly, let's remember that BFA and Vanilla are games of their time. Vanilla was Blizzard pre-Activision, the game was a lot more pure and humble and it wasn't the behemoth it is today. BFA is a game of the times, the biggest MMO on the market for nearly 15 years with little sign of that changing.

You can enjoy both, you can dislike one and the love the other. appreciate the differences, and embrace them. Classic can influence WoW for the good, it can see a positive change in live WoW, as such, BFA can influence Classic, whilst "no changes" is a strong message, some changes are inevitable. Be humble, be respectful but most importantly, have fun.

World of Warcraft: Classic
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