World of Warcraft: Cataclysm ReviewMartin Zmijewski
Anyone who has played World of Warcraft over the past six years knows the present game is a far different experience than what first pulled fans in. With the release of the newest expansion, Cataclysm, it is even a far different game than a month before the release. With the groundbreaking sales of the expansions and the constant growth in subscribers it would seem that the creators over at Blizzard are doing something right. And with time it seems like they are getting better at what they do. Either that or they have perfected some type of subliminal mind control inside the game to get players to keep dumping money and countless hours into the virtual world.
Playing the game in the couple of months prior to the release of Cataclysm players slowly began to get a taste of what was to come. New quests began popping up foreshadowing big changes coming to the world, elementals were on the rise and attacking cities, a devious cult was predicting the end of all things, and tension between Alliance and Horde seemed to be growing. Then is comes, the great dragon Deathwing, last seen back in 1996 in Warcraft II, breaks free from his prison in Deepholm and unleashes his fury upon the world. The world of Azeroth will never be the same, in many ways besides appearance. All over the world you can see the scares of Deathwing, huge cracks in the earth ravage the lands caused by earthquakes, cities have been damaged and some destroyed, zones have been flooded from huge title waves, and all over you can see the molten remains of Deathwing's fiery breath. Now players must band together to overcome the new challenges that the Cataclysm has brought about.
With Cataclysm players will have access to tons and tons of new content. Not only will players be able to bring their characters up to level 85, there is a completely different game for the lower levels. All the classic zones have been reshaped and improved. Quest have been shorten, rearranged, eliminated, and new ones created. Every zone now has its own self contained storyline. No more quest chains that have you traveling all around the world for the small amount of experience or the pathetic piece of gear as a reward. The main goal of the changes are to make leveling a character an easier and much more enjoyable experience on the journey to the end game content. Though as I began to level my Worgen, more on that in a few, I found it was a little too easy. With the reduction of how much experience it takes to level I was able to blow through each zone quickly, maybe too quickly as I did not even have the time to enjoy some of the changes in all the zones. I always enjoyed leveling characters but for those who want to power level to 85 the new changes will be great.
Two new races are also introduced into the battle between the Alliance and Horde. Worgen and Goblins finally become playable characters. And the Alliance finally gets one of the cooler races, the Worgen, a group of humans cursed with the form of werewolves. The all business, masters of the machine, Goblins become a new race for the Horde. If you decide to play as a Goblin, considering you are not the lazy type to spend 25 bucks to change the race of an old toon, you will follow your character as they rise through the ranks of the Kajaro Trading Company with the title of Trade Prince in your reach. The Goblin zone is not like any other of the Goblin towns appearing around Azeroth, it is far grittier and technologically advanced. If you want a comical experience in your stating zone, Goblins would be the way to go. However if you are looking for more of a tragic story Worgen is the choice. Gilneas is a dark and gloomy city, looking like it was pulled from Victorian London; the people of Gilneas seem to be always under attack by some unstoppable force. The game begins, as you are still human, while the city is under attack by wild Worgens. In the attack you are bitten and change into a werewolf. Time passes, the people of Gilneas have now developed the means to control the animal within. And just in time for their land to be invaded by the undead. Both starting quest chains offer a creative and enjoyable story, and are very much worth leveling both races to experience the story.
With all of the other changes there are five completely new areas devoted to the journey from level 80 to 85. First off there is the land of Vashj'ir, a completely underwater zone. While leveling I have always cringed when coming upon a quest requiring swimming of any kind. And despite the permanent buff received in Vashj'ir allowing underwater breathing and increased swim speed, it is still underwater and slightly annoying. The zone does look beautiful with towering kelp forests, underwater life of all colors, and ancient ruins covered in bright green plant-life. And once acquiring the seahorse mount, which is not an expensive purchase or super rare random drop and instead is rewarded after a short chain, traveling around is a breeze. Still if you do not wish to deal with underwater battle you can head over to Mount Hyjal before making your way through the rest of the new zones. Though there is not much of a choice of where to quest, as in the other expansions where there were two or three different zones for each level bracket, the zones are well designed with diverse and interesting quests. Uldum, a desert zone reminiscent of ancient Egypt, in particular seemed to stand out from the others. The quests there are great, one chain following the warring class of a cat centaur type race and the other just great for any Indian Jones fan. With this chain you follow Harrison Jones through a long chain straight out of the Raiders of the Lost Ark, mixed with a little more of a sci-fi edge creating some weird combination of Stargate and Indian Jones. But it works, and it's a ton of fun, as are many of the new quests. Just as with the other expansions, Cataclysm, offers tons of new dungeons and player versus player zones. The six or seven dungeons are all well crafted. And they are actually difficult. Blizzard has put some effort into the dungeons this time around. Crowd control has once again become an important element of dungeon crawling, especially in heroics, making some spells such as Banish and Polymorph useful again in situations besides PvP. At least they are a challenge for the time, until some random patch nerfs them. The new PvP levels are fun too, despite that they are just updated versions of Arathi Basin and Warsong Gulch, it is still great to play those classic scenarios in a new setting. Tol Barad becomes the new world PvP zone taking the place of Wintergrasp. While Wintergrasp could be uneven at times depending on the balance the Horde / Alliance population Tol Barad seems to be more even. Even on my server which is sadly overrun by Horde, the Alliance have just about a 50/50 chance to hold the fortress. Though there seemed to be a little more strategy involved in Wintergrasp.
Cataclysm did not only bring about changes in the world of the game, many of the game mechanics have been changed along with the physical differences. Talent trees have been completely reworked; many spells, abilities, and stats have been changed or altered, all of this changing the way the game is played. That is one of the things Blizzard does right. Every once in a while they shake things up giving players a new way to play their class or a new way to see the world of the game. With Cataclysm the game world was literally shaken and the game will never be the same again. Many players will probably say the old WoW was much better; others will love the new content. And you can be sure those who hate it will let everyone else know by spamming all the chat channels. Some of the new higher level zones do feel cramped in a few ways. And the level 80 to 85 content is not that long of a trip. But still that is balanced out by tons of end game content, a few new raids and new heroic dungeons as well as the new secondary profession, Archaeology. With the reshaping of the world and how the game is played there are countless hours of gameplay that comes along with this expansion. Those countless hours will be smoother and much more enjoyable than the previous version. I'm not sure if I would call Cataclysm the best of the three expansions; As far as overall content and how much it has changed the game, it is definitely very much worth getting into.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.