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'World of Warcraft' in Unreal Engine 4 Looks Fancy, But It's not Better

Yeah, World of Warcraft looks more modern in Unreal Engine 4, but Blizzard got it right the first time.

People have really been missing classic World of Warcraft lately. The bulk of the news centers on the forced closure of Nostalrius Begins, a private server that simulated the experience of playing during the MMORPG's earliest years, and now YouTuber "Daniel L" is turning heads by reimagining the game's original zones using the Unreal 4 engine. Tree by tree, stone by stone, Daniel is recreating it all, and his work is often a wonder to behold.


His latest project is easily his finest, although he's careful to point out that it's still an early build. It's Duskwood, a spooky zone familiar to most Alliance players; a place where werewolves skulk around marble crypts and ghouls frolic beneath the canopy of eldritch oaks. With Daniel's reimagining, the darkness is both alluring and suffocating, and the torches lining Duskwood's paths give off a realistic light that reminds me of nights on camping trips when I've imagining sinister origins for the sounds I hear beyond the reach of the campfire's flames.

This darkness works in Daniel's favor. It's mainly a work of mood, which he uses to good effect with the music from Blizzard's own version. His earlier creations, though, have focused on sunnier climes like neighboring

Elwynn Forest



, where the difference of his vision and that of Blizzard is most readily apparent.

That's not always a good thing. While undeniably beautiful and skillful, his reimaginings in these places have the curious effect of highlighting the strengths of Blizzard's cartoonish aesthetic and why it's worked so well for 11 years compared to a more realistic approach. The lighting effects in particular are often magical, but on the whole the work bears the stamp of games that too readily show their age in a few years' time. It lacks something of the real game's color and liveliness.

"And now you have another generic looking MMO," said YouTuber Vitobet1500 in a comment on one of Daniel L's older videos. "The thing about WoW is that you know it's WoW by the look of it. It has a personality. Just look at Tera, it looks like a generic game. But when you see a WoW screenshot you instantly know that it's WoW."

World of Warcraft itself has visually evolved itself over the years, of course, chiefly through texture updates that would have left my PC crying for mercy in 2004. Most of this work, though, is in the end-game expansion zones that brand-new players don't immediately see. Sometimes that work is astounding. Even after seeing the dungeons of a yet newer expansion, I'm still not entirely over my awe of the temples in WoW's 2012 Mists of Pandaria expansion, which invite many minutes of admiration for their detail while still seeming very much a part of that world that so wow'd us a decade ago.

As for Daniel L.'s vision? Considered in the context of the heritage of Warcraft, it's a little too unreal.