I played WoW on my Asus ROG Ally so you don’t have to — here’s what happened

World of Warcraft
(Image credit: Momo Tabari/Laptop Mag)

I’ve loved the Asus ROG Ally since August of last year, taking a couple of hours before bed to jump between a diverse catalog of indie games beneath cozy sheets. Stuffing Windows 11 onto a handheld gaming PC with formidable specs is a dream come true.

Yet even before I had the Asus ROG Ally, I couldn’t help but wonder if World of Warcraft could run it. This seemed absurd in concept, and considering how complex the game can be, I had trouble believing it was possible. But since Blizzard Entertainment added controller functionality, I knew it was something I should at least try once.

Before I begin, let us establish the potential outcomes from this experiment. The worst conclusion is that WoW just doesn’t function as well on the Ally as it does on PC and isn’t worth playing handheld. The other, which is most realistic, is that it’s fine for light tasks like dailies and questing, but not ideal for dungeons, raids or PvP. And finally, what seems near-impossible, is that it’s good for anything World of Warcraft. Considering how intense raids can be in particular, I highly doubt it.

Launching WoW on the Asus ROG Ally 

To make the setup process less frustrating, I used Parsec to control my Asus ROG Ally from a PC, which I wrote about in my article of 5 must-have apps you need to install on the Asus ROG Ally. To get started, I had to type “/Console GamePadEnable 1” in chat and it quickly shifted controls over to the Ally’s gamepad.

I excitedly took my first steps, but before I could play, the game froze as the Ally got trapped on a black screen. My initial worry was that the Ally’s hardware couldn’t handle a game like WoW for whatever reason, so I put everything on low, even reducing refresh rate to 60Hz and swapping performance modes, but alas, nothing worked.

I refused to give up and finally swapped from DirectX 12 to DirectX 11 and that completely fixed the issue. Not only was it smooth as butter, but I could crank the graphic settings higher without the system crashing. If you’re having trouble running WoW on the Ally, avoid DirectX 12. 

Setting up WoW on the Asus ROG Ally 

Now that the pitfall of whether WoW could even run on the Ally was avoided, we can address how well it controls. I hopped onto my level 70 Dracthyr, Anhuru, and got to work. The first issue I noticed was that all of my hotbars were messily jumbled atop one another with no rhyme or reason. This likely has to do with me swapping from my 3440 x 1440-pixel resolution monitor to a 1080p display.

World of Warcraft

(Image credit: Blizzard)

To get a handle of how WoW controls on a gamepad, I decided to fix this without help from my PC. I first realized that the cursor could be toggled on and off by pressing the top left menu button, and combining it with the left bumper opens up the game’s menu. But I then  noticed that clicking any menu item makes the cursor vanish. Clicking the top left options button a couple of times usually fixes this, but in the case of HUD Edit Mode, which is necessary for fixing the mess that is my hotbars, it completely vanishes. I had no access to a cursor.

I swapped to the Ally’s built-in Desktop mode instead, which worked well for modifying menu elements and getting my hotbars tidied up. The number of hotbars I normally play with quickly crowded the screen, so I decided to shrink them down to 80%. This is when I realized most of the abilities were not automatically bound, so half of my skills weren’t usable, and the ones that are have some ridiculous combinations like LB + LT + A. This isn’t surprising as it’s likely necessary just to get more skills into a usable state with so few inputs.

World of Warcraft

(Image credit: Blizzard)

I thought for a good bit how I could separate and categorize these, which is when I understood I needed a new approach. Horizontal bars work wonders when playing on PC, but the sheer complexity of having three dozen abilities bound to a single gamepad meant I needed to make things more visually clear.

I went back to the drawing board and rearranged the toolbars based on their combination buttons. If it involves LB or LT, it’s on the left, if it’s RB or RT, it’s on the right, and face buttons go in the middle. But I also knew this would be way too much work cleaning up on the gamepad, so I pulled out Parsec.

World of Warcraft

(Image credit: Blizzard)

This is when I had trouble putting certain combination keys together. LB and LT were perfectly fine insofar as mixing them up with buttons like A and B, but when I tried to mix RB and A together or X and B, nothing worked. A vast majority of the keybindings I thought I could use are now unusable. After using every possible combination I could manage with the current set up, I ended up with 25 abilities assigned to different combinations on my controller.

After reassigning my talent points for my Preservation Evoker, this left me with five abilities that could not be assigned anywhere on my hotbar, and this is before including important items, mounts, food, drink, and other things I might have wanted to include on the bar. It’s not ideal to do intense raiding or dungeoning on the Ally or a similar gamepad unless you have a mod optimized for it, but that is still more than enough to quest around the Dragon Isles.

Playing WoW on the Asus ROG Ally 

After hours of figuring out how to set the game up, I could finally test what playing WoW on a controller feels like. I hopped onto my dragon, soared into the sky using Y and then barrel-rolled through air with X. I flew over to the Azure Span and decided to test myself by facing off against an Arcane Elemental elite enemy, which are essentially far stronger than normal enemies and can get you killed if you’re not careful.

World of Warcraft

(Image credit: Blizzard)

While the fight did take a few minutes, the balance between healing myself and using Disintegrate laser beams alongside tossing Living Flame whenever possible resulted in a win with full health. It was seamless to control, even though my hotbar wasn’t organized well at the time.

But what is particularly troublesome and further suggests dungeons and raids aren’t realistic on the Asus ROG Ally is that targeting is a nightmare. It’s either done through the right D-Pad, where it locks onto the closest thing to the player, or through the in-game cursor that only appears half of the time. It’s also frustrating when opening the map, which automatically brings the game into a mode where the stick moves the cursor, but closing the map doesn’t undo it. This results in the player not being able to move themselves unless they click the cursor toggle button.

World of Warcraft

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Since LB and LT act as modifier keys, allowing for combinations to be used, they go off only when tapped. If you hold them, the abilities won’t work. This isn’t a big deal, but it is something to keep in mind if you have abilities that need to be held down for maximum effect (which is the mistake I made).

Bottom line 

Playing WoW on an Asus ROG Ally is messy and inconsistent, requiring hours of preparation and a good bit of troubleshooting to get it playable. And when it does work, it’s only just fine. It’s plenty clear that the base UI is designed for a mouse and keyboard, while the controls sometimes don’t work.

But there’s something satisfying about relaxing in bed, and pressing a bunch of buttons in combination to perform several powerful spells in a row. It wasn’t too difficult flying around the Dragon Isles, completing World Quests, and battling monsters, but due to a lack of space on the hotbar and inconsistent controls, we wouldn’t recommend it for dungeons or raids, unless you don’t mind getting yelled at by toxic players.

I hope that Blizzard works on a proper UI and gameplay mode for controllers, especially if World of Warcraft ever makes it to Xbox consoles, considering Xbox’s recent acquisition of Activision.

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Momo Tabari
Contributing Writer

Self-described art critic and unabashedly pretentious, Momo finds joy in impassioned ramblings about her closeness to video games. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Media Studies from Brooklyn College and five years of experience in entertainment journalism. Momo is a stalwart defender of the importance found in subjectivity and spends most days overwhelmed with excitement for the past, present and future of gaming. When she isn't writing or playing Dark Souls, she can be found eating chicken fettuccine alfredo and watching anime.