World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
I’ve been away from World of Warcraft for a long time. Whenever the hunger for Warcraft lore began to itch, a few rounds of Warcraft III could easily satisfy it. Don’t get me wrong, I have/had absolutely no qualms with Wrath of the Lich King, and in fact, it provided hours upon hours of raiding and good times. However, as with any story, being told over and over tends to dull the edge a bit. The Icecrown Citadel patch that finally pitted players against the infamous Lich King, Arthas, was exciting while it lasted, but was beaten and left behind all too quickly, leaving little in Azeroth beyond mindless, repetitive dungeon grinds, farming, and achievement hunting.
This may be fine for some, but for a game to drag its feet awaiting revitalization from minor patches until a new expansion hits, it requires an extremely dedicated fan base or a very dry drought of game releases. World of Warcraft definitely houses the former, but for a lot of gamers, there were just too many reasons to walk away from Wrath of the Lich King, such as Halo: Reach and Assassins Creed: Brotherhood. With the release of Blizzard’s much anticipated next expansion: World of Warcraft, Cataclysm, any reason to be vacationing away from the world of Azeroth is quickly cast aside to make room for what is, without a doubt, Blizzard’s sharpest and most revolutionary expansion pack to hit the shelves yet.
In doing justice to the many changes that World of Warcraft now houses, let’s move forward in the same manner playing the game would: beginning with the two new starting zones and their races, along with the physical changes (and they are many) that the classic landscapes have undergone. Once the beginner and leveling content is out of the way, focus will be shifted to the class/race changes, the new level cap and getting to it, and all of the pleasantries that come with reaching and experiencing the new end-game content. This includes underwater mounts, a new profession, and some intriguing player versus player and guild progression changes. For the record, it’s important to note that the changes implemented in patch 4.0.1 – which welcomed all but the new races into the game shortly before the expansion landed- will be treated as content exclusive to Cataclysm upon its release. This is simply for the sake of crediting all that the expansion brought to the table, regardless of each part’s implementation date. And so, without any further ado, the Goblins:
As most who have encountered Blizzard’s Warcraft lore in the past are familiar with, the Goblins that live amongst the Orcs, Humans, and all the other races, may very well be the most peculiar of the lot. In the past, when it came to determining a faction, the Goblins looked no further than which side presented the best financial opportunities, and often acted as suicide bombers, mad engineers, or merchants of war. Thankfully, this attitude has been completely maintained even with the addition of Goblins to the Horde, who are forced into re-forging their alliance with the Orcs after their homeland is threatened by Deathwing (our cataclysm’s not so friendly dragon antagonist). After having been dormant deep underground, Deathwing re-emerges with a sinister plot in mind: burn everything to the ground. Not the most intricate of masterminds, but his position as master of the natural elements of Azeroth has left the world in shambles, taking what once was and re-shaping it.
This upheaval is made painfully clear in both starting zones, where after having completed a series of minor mercantile quests in the Goblin starting zone, the island that the tiny green madmen call their home erupts and threatens to wipe out the entire civilization. Through a series of undeniably hilarious events, the Goblins find themselves caught in a crossfire between an Alliance and Horde naval strike while making their escape from their crumbling island home, and are shipwrecked on one of Blizzard’s new zones: The Lost Isles. Here, the Alliance spares no time in giving the Goblins trouble, and the rest as they say, is history.
In contrast, the Worgen (the Alliance’s feral new allies) start out in a much darker and more sinister situation. Behind the enormous wall that the city of Gilneas has prospered, an invasion by the Worgen, (Blizzard’s take on werewolves) has had a disturbing effect on the citizens: they are turning into Worgen themselves. After selecting a class, the player is dropped into the fray, rescuing citizens and fighting off the invasion of wolf-like creatures. For the sake of spoilers, I’ll only say that one will inevitably end up contracting the Worgen infection after an involving series of rescue and resistance quests. A brief cinematic ensues, depicting the player’s character undergo transformation and flight into the wilderness (only to be caught by surviving Gilneans). Soon after, the Forsaken undead make an attack on the regrouping Gilnean citizens (as if they don’t have enough problems), and the now transformed Worgen citizens are enlisted to aid in pushing back the attack(s).
Though both new starting zones are completely unique, the introductory Worgen quests were by far the more involving and emotionally taxing of the two. If ever World of Warcraft succeeded in making a player care about the outcome of his chosen race’s people, it’s here, where the Worgen come into being. Rescue operations, stealth, large-scale battle, and large scale reclamation battles (that involves a battle with one of the Horde’s dastardly leaders) are just a few of the many reasons that you’ll be very attached to your wolf-man (or woman, though their poor appearance makes that ill-advised) by the time you reach level 20.
Upon setting foot back on the familiar face of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms, players will quickly realize that things are not what they used to be. Class/race combinations have been added, the level cap has been raised to 85, and physically, the world has been permanently altered by Deathwing’s arrival: Deserts are now flooded, forests are now ablaze, and many familiar zones like the Barrens or Westfall may very well be unrecognizable to those who ventured through them four or five years ago. To accompany this enormous basket of changes is an overwhelming level of lore. To touch on only a fraction of the story’s evolution, Garrosh Hellscream has been named Warchief of the Horde (and has consequently redesigned many of the faction’s major cities and outposts with a war fortress mentality), Furion Stormrage has awakened to join Tyrande in welcoming the Worgen into the Alliance, and Cairne Bloodhoof has been killed in a duel with Garrosh (which was fixed without either combatants knowing) leaving his son in charge of the Tauren race. As if that weren’t enough, many of the quests scattered throughout the game have been updated to acknowledge the passing of time, and references are made to specific characters and events in each of the game’s zones that veteran players will certainly appreciate when leveling their new characters.
It would be an understatement to say that Blizzard has made leveling low-level characters a breeze. The use of experience-boosting heirloom gear, the fresh new leveling content (which has been long overdue) and the introduction of two new races has given players a multitude of reasons to try their hand at leveling again, and after reaching level 80, progressing through the next five levels is a real treat. Not only do new zones and instances await, but most boast sharp new appearances or mechanics, including a zone that is entirely submerged in water. In concert with exploring the plethora of changes made to Azeroth comes the ability to use flying mounts in all areas of the game, including places like Orgrimmar or Stormwind, adding a refreshing sense of mobility to parts of the game that were otherwise tedious to traverse.
It’s unfortunate that reaching level 85 can be accomplished in as little as a couple of days (for diehard players) or a week for casual players, but the end-game content has exploded with new features that are sure to keep you busy long after Deathwing has been put out. Specific gear-scores must now be reached before a player can queue for heroic dungeons, two new battlegrounds await the avid PvP player, and the absolutely uninspired Archaeology profession awaits those looking to perform repetitive, mundane tasks. In addition, the newly implemented guild experience system grants various bonuses guild-wide for gaining experience on the guild’s behalf (defeating bosses, leveling, gaining achievements etc.)
These bonuses include a boost to experience gain, an increase in mounted speed, vanity pets, mounts, and even new heirloom gear. Guild members who are gatherers by profession will be able to deposit additional resources to the guild bank, and currency from each defeated enemy will also be automatically deposited into the guild’s funds. It goes without saying that with the increase in requirements and difficulty in heroic dungeons, the new raid zones, the ever-alluring call of World of Warcraft PvP, and the guild progression system, players will be busy while waiting for the chance to take a swing at the dragon who’s making a habit of setting everything on fire.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is by far the best expansion of the set, and though it stumbles in its speedy progression from 80 to 85 and the Archaeology profession is boring and repetitive, the bulk of the content feels vast and polished. The two new races add an edgy humor to the Horde and a dark ferocity to the Alliance that complements both sides well, and if ever you needed a reason to return to Azeroth after bidding it farewell, Cataclysm is that reason.