Great moments in PC gaming: Crossing World of Warcraft by air

World of Warcraft

Developer: Blizzard
Year: 2004 - present

The MMO that changed everything is still going strong nearly 15 years later.

Attributing any 'first' to World of Warcraft is an invitation for everyone to start going 'Well, ACTUALLY...' in reference to something like Meridian 59 or Everquest. But there’s really nothing quite like your first flight over the world of Azeroth. MMOs of the time were still predominantly zone-based rather than presenting a full world to explore without loading screens, give or take the occasional trip across continent or into dungeons. There were exceptions. Dark Age of Camelot’s horse-riding through the wilderness stood out particularly well. But World of Warcraft took it so much further.

We’d come to tire of travel eventually, of course, and fill the gaps first with Bejewelled plug-ins and then by Blizzard essentially cutting it out altogether. But that first flight across the world was a spellbinding experience. A smooth trip across a world that was still new and exciting and mostly unexplored, with your rookie hero gazing down in awe at the lethal lava fields and spooky castles that would one day be their stomping grounds.

It was a chance to soar majestically through that scenery and show off Blizzard’s artistry and complete disregard for geology, with the high-point almost certainly being racing through the sewers of Undercity and out into the real world. All those adventures, waiting to be had. All the loot to be gathered. All the friends to be made.

Crossing the sea for the first time evoked a similar feeling: boarding a boat and sailing to the edge of the world and into a new one, with Menethil Harbour truly feeling like you’d ventured to a fresh continent. But nothing beats seeing Azeroth by air that first time, and looking forward to a time when, just maybe, you’d be able to fly your fantastical beast of burden yourself.