Getting into World of Warcraft in 2021 can feel like a sisyphean task. With decades worth of lore, passionate fans and multiple themed expansions, the journey might seem impossible. But whether you want to play with your mates or just to experience one of gaming’s most established adventures, starting World of Warcraft for the first time in 2021 is both possible and a ton of fun.
Over the holidays, I was sent a review code for Shadowlands, the latest add-on to WoW‘s impossibly large world. I thought ‘Gee, how will I ever review this with no experience under my belt?’. The simple truth was, I couldn’t. I didn’t have the experience to even know which bits to review.
My friends all played WoW. But I’d never had the time, money or inkling to invest in it. I love games for their stories and characters rather than simple quests. So I figured WoW wasn’t for me and was quite happy to move on.
But diving in recently made me realise I’d been missing out. I still can’t tell my Shadowlands from my Legion. But the best part is none of that really matters if you’re having a good time.
The first thing you need to know as a World of Warcraft newcomer is you’ll probably feel overwhelmed at first. The game is absolutely jam-packed with text in its opening chapters and you’ll need to be patient and just read for the first half hour or so. Early tutorials take you through combat, the background of your character (you’ll pick through a bunch of race in the Horde or Alliance factions) and then you’ll set off on your quest.
Personally, I didn’t know what I was doing for the first two hours.
World of Warcraft just plonked me into the heat of the action with my first character, a rogue Night Elf, and I started clicking everything in sight. What I really wanted to do was create a Demon Hunter character, but I had to unlock that once I was at level 10. So I slogged through the opening chapters, killed some things, talked to some people and levelled up. It was fun, but I still didn’t think the game was for me.
Then I created my fabled Demon Hunter Night Elf, Zaraya, and everything clicked.
It was here that I learned a very valuable lesson: my enjoyment of World of Warcraft was tied directly to my character class. Each of them has a different opening chapter, new skills and different abilities. As a rogue, I felt pretty vanilla and wasn’t enjoying gameplay much. As a demon hunter? I had an epic beam attack, a secondary winged form and dark magic attacks.
Suddenly, I got it.
Once you clear the opening chapter of WoW you’re thrust into the the wide open world, and it’s here you can hook up with friends, explore the world, rack up quests and do whatever you want. You can go walking in a flower field, visit the local tavern or even try making friends in your city. There’s plenty going on and you’ll always have quests to get through but there’s a peaceful joy in taking your time and enjoying the scenery of the game.
On the surface, WoW looks incredibly complicated.
Two decades of lore can be overwhelming. But you don’t need to know everything, and it’s still great fun just having a wander, slaying monsters and exploring the local cities with mates. I found it particularly cathartic on evenings after work because the combat isn’t too involving, and you can explore to your heart’s content.
If you do want to dive in with lore, there’s plenty of resources to get you started, like the WoW Gamepedia (which answered a lot of my questions about abilities and levelling up) or Wowhead guides — but don’t try to devour it all at once or you’ll definitely feel overwhelmed.
If you’re too intimidated to get started, like I was, you shouldn’t be. World of Warcraft offers a free trial for newcomers ($19.95 a month after) and that’s enough time to dip your feet in the water and discover if it’s the game for you. If you need some extra help along the way, there are plenty of handy tips to get started.
Tips for getting into World of Warcraft
Along my journey with World of Warcraft, I learned some very valuable lessons. If you’re struggling or you want to start out for the first time, I hope some of them will help you along the way:
Choose the right character
In World of Warcraft, you can choose from a variety of races, subdivided by classes. These include more ‘fantasy’ style races like elves, worgen (werewolves), dwarves, orcs and undead as well as plain old humans. You can create up to 50 characters so don’t feel bad dropping the one you’re currently using to try something different if it’s not working.
Each comes with a different playstyle, opening chapter, weapons and attacks. While gameplay is mostly similar for each race, there’s some important variations here and not all of them will suit your tastes. Demon Hunters are special classes perfect for goths, Rogues are better at close-up attacks and others like Paladins make for excellent healers. Find what works for you.
Figure out what each of your attacks do
Every attack in WoW is controlled by the click of a button, and it’s easy enough to just mash away without figuring what the best attacks are to use. It’s not the most efficient way to go, though. Before you enter your first battle, it’s a good idea to hover over each of your attacks and note which use the most power, and have the strongest damage.
A balance between them will be required in fights, but it’s a good idea to take stock of exactly what you can do before you begin.
Read every bit of the tutorial
There’s a lot of text in World of Warcraft. A lot. That goes doubly so for the opening chapters. While it’ll seem counter-intuitive to sit and read when there’s monsters waiting to be slain, it’s worthwhile to take your time and absorb all the information you’re being told.
It’ll help you understand what you’re doing in quests, but you’ll also pick up various bits of lore along the way.
Wait to pass judgement until after your starting area
Before you even start World of Warcraft, you should know you won’t begin the game proper until you finish your character’s unique prologue. These missions introduce major skills and lore for your race and class, and you’ll need to complete them before joining the wide open world. They’re more linear than classic WoW gameplay so if you’re wondering why you’re getting bored, it’s because you haven’t hit the best part of the game yet.
Opening chapters can range from between 30 minutes to 2 hours in length, so hold off on judging the game until you complete them. They’re naturally a bit slower than the main game, so don’t worry if you don’t fall in love with the game right away.
Try the game with friends
World of Warcraft is a social game. You can certainly take off on your own and have a marvellous time, but it’s even more fun adventuring with friends. The long silences can be filled with banter. You can take on quests together and slay monsters in tandem.
It’s a real joy, especially if you have more knowledgeable WoW mates. They can take you through a lot of the basics you’re missing and make hunting a really special, fun experience.
Recognise if it isn’t for you
This might seem like a strange tip to include in an article about getting into World of Warcraft, but it’s important to recognise it’s not a game for everyone. Some people may not like the combat, or the way quests just keep coming. If you find yourself a few hours in and it’s just not working out, recognise when it’s time to walk away.
Getting into World of Warcraft is a massive time sink and if it’s not clicking for you, that’s totally okay! There’s plenty of other games you can sink your teeth into if it doesn’t work out. World of Warcraft is an institution, but it doesn’t mean you’re wrong if you just can’t get into it.
Got any other tips for World of Warcraft beginners? Got a favourite faction you reckon they should try? Share them in the comments below!