I've been getting ready to enjoy World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, and after completing the preparation quest and killing Nathanos Blightcaller, I've ended up bumming around the Icecrown area and, much to my surprise and then joy, absolutely battering old bosses.
There have been two aspects to this: the legacy raids, allowing players to revisit the raids from old expansions and gain various transmogrifications as rewards, and then 'Rares' spawning around Icecrown, 20 bosses that appear in a lovely looping pattern on fixed timers.
I'd used the character boost to take an Orc hunter up to level 50, and was mainly logging in to earn argent commendations around Icecrown and buy some decent gear for Shadowlands. But the players I was with were ridiculously overpowered, much better at the game than me, and my last few sessions have involved the easy and utter annihilation of bosses and raids old and new.
Particularly memorable was Legion's Nighthold raid, a once-gruelling and multi-hour challenge filled with a series of tough and spectacular bosses. We were squashing the enemies like bugs and the bosses like slightly bigger bugs. One, around halfway through, temporarily turns the arena into a starscape, an amazing effect slightly dampened by her dying within two seconds of doing so. It happened so fast the game glitched and left the room as space after she was dead. The final boss, Gul'dan, is the kind of challenge that once had even the most hardened raid parties quaking in their boots. I think he got a couple of hits in on my pet.
When we weren't rinsing through some old raid in ten minutes for the chance of a nice-looking belt, we'd fly around Icecrown doing daily quests, and dropping in alongside a giant crowd of other players waiting for the rare boss spawns. These things take some time to manifest but, when they do, are immediately the focal point for an incredible amount of ordinance. Few last more than thirty seconds.
Then we'd all compare our loot, mount up, and go slaughter the next. God it felt good. There's something about absolutely flattening characters that once scared you that feels great in any game but has an especial piquancy in an MMO. The hours spent in former lives strategising, the late nights... and now, for the sake of old times, the chance to beat these once-unconquerable daemons like pinata.
As Fraser noted last week, Shadowlands turns WoW into a museum. To which I'd only add that it's a museum that, if you're at the right level, doubles-up as something of a revenge tour.
My most recent WoW experience before this had been the return to WoW Classic, which was nostalgic for all kinds of reasons but also a reminder of how relatively bare and brutal the world once was. Don't get me wrong: I'm here for the challenge, and Shadowlands is gonna bring it.
It wasn't even like I was doing much, beyond standing in a mob of other players going crackers on defenceless and under-levelled AI. But for the last few days, a brief and beautiful time, it was great to feel like a god of WoW.