World of Warcraft, at one point, was my favorite pastime on any given day. I had discovered the massive MMORPG back when I was only thirteen years-old upon recommendation from a former friend. By that point, the game was popular, but by no means was it as big as it is today, or was back before Cataclysm was released. It was a simpler time back then, both for me and WoW, and it was arguably some of the most enjoyable parts of my early teenage years.
Fast forward about five years, some months before Mists of Pandaria was released. WoW had begun to dull for me. The game had become easy and leveling was a cinch. The amount of jokes and “silly quests” had overtaken a once more serious and somber mood that the world of… World of Warcraft used to embed within itself. Blizzard was incorporating more spectacle and more flash, but not nearly enough ambiance to suit my tastes. The release of MP was the final straw: pandas? That learn martial arts? After the release of a very successful movie called Kung Fu Panda? This expansion is “panda-ring” to an audience I want no part of. That was it. I was done. I quit the game that absorbed years of my time. Cold turkey.
Fast forward again about three and a half years; November of 2015, to be precise. I had heard things about “private servers” in the past, but never really looked into them until I had a discussion with my brother, who had recently downloaded a private server of his own. It played almost exactly like the WoW of old, had features to allow you to play the game at any pace, and to top it all off, it was free. How could I turn that down? I could relive the days before Blizzard began mutilating its own game with money and stupidity in mind! To play the game at its peak of quality! All for free! (And a two hour download.)
I’m back. . .
Needless to say, the first few days upon downloading Excalibur, I was in full-nostalgia mode. Everything was drenching me in a tsunami of recollections and unbreakable mirth. Every sight was wonderful. Every action was amazing. I’ve come back to a game that once meant so much to me, and I could’ve been doing this for free for years now! (Current version of Excalibur‘s server has been running since mid-2013, according to their site.) It was great and the experience is great and… and…
Y’know, the appeal to this game runs sorta thin once the nostalgia wears off.
But that’s a criticism of the game itself, this is my thoughts on the private server providing it, Excalibur. Now, before I downloaded it, I had looked into what people recommended was the best Burning Crusade server available (via Youtube, Google, Reddit, etc.). I got a variety of answers, but Excalibur seemed to be one of two names that always popped up. I heard a lot of good things about the lack of bugs and the GM assistance that the server has and the relatively high population count. With all this in mind, I decided to give it a shot, and, short version: I’m not disappointed.
One thing to know going into Excalibur, however, it this: GM assistance is varying. From the time that I’ve been on, very rarely does a GM make themselves known to be on. There’s a certain forum to ask for GM assistance within the game, but I’ve never used it, so I have no knowledge as to how helpful they really are. However, what I do know is that the World Chat, the chat where anyone can freely say anything (like a giant chatroom, essentially), is typically ridden with trolls (not the WoW species), baiters, spammers, and kids trying to be as offensive as possible, especially at night (U.S. timezones). This is almost never combated as the GMs never seem to be on at that point, leaving people to say whatever they like whenever they choose. Very rarely do I ever see a GM respond; to take action, even rarer. For those with thin skin or a desire to not involve themselves in offensive topics of discussion or outright verbal attacks, I’d recommend you not /join world.
Another thing to note is that this game isn’t completely functional. It even says right on their website, “Most escort quests working!” and “XP-rates: x2 (To make things smooth, so you don’t need to care about a few bugged quests!)” There are times when quests won’t register as complete or following animations and/or dialogue won’t pop up, either. From my own experience, these are typically with quests that require you to “explore” a certain region or area. Like it says above, not all escort quests are totally working, either. However, I wouldn’t fret too much about the quests, as I’d say about 97% of the quests I’ve tried are at least completable. You just may not get the full package of dialogue or the context before a follow-up quest is all.
A more noticeable issue with Excalibur is the NPC physics. Many times throughout my days playing I’ll go up against enemies that are floating in the air, sticking through the ground (which allows them to evade all of my attacks), or are remaining still when they’re supposed to be patrolling the area. It’s not a substantial issue, but it breaks the immersion of the game and is a general annoyance to those trying to take the game seriously. It’s kinda funny to see, though.
What is by far the most annoying and infuriating issue that Excalibur has is the population on the server. While questing around other people and the social aspect of the game is fun and all, it also bogs down the level at which the server can work, causing several rollbacks throughout the day, resulting in a player disconnecting from the server, unbearable lagging, long loading screens, and loss of progress. This has caused me (and I’m sure many others) unwanted deaths, having to re-do parts of a(n annoying) quest over, and time wasted running back and forth between areas to turn in quests. When the population is low (between roughly 6 P.M.-2 A.M. CST), the game typically plays a lot better. Not well enough to not see bugs throughout the game, but well enough to have a long stretch of gameplay without fear of being disconnected.
Fortunately, aside from the glaring technical issues, Excalibur is a well-enacted replay of World of Warcraft‘s former glory. Aside from some bugs in NPCs and quests, the game plays very well. If you enjoy observing overtly offensive and trollish behavior (as I do), World Chat will be a blast for you, but there are still a large number of helpful people who aren’t GMs available to aid any question you have. Hilariously enough, in an almost ironic twist of fashion, auction house prices on this server are almost as outrageous and overpriced as they are in the actual game! It’s like I never left! I’ve enjoyed my time with this server, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for old-fashioned World of Warcraft. Just don’t expect a perfect model.