It should come as no surprise that Cataclysm, the latest expansion to WoW, is absolutely amazing. The expansion came out a week ago (December 7) and anyone who plays WoW already has it. Six years into WoW’s life and three expansions have changed the game significantly, but none near as much as Cataclysm. While many of the proposed changes with Cataclysm came before the game even released (the changed Azeroth, new race/class combos), the expansion itself provides more than enough content to give players things to do.
For starters, there’s the two new races, Goblins and Worgen. Anyone who’s played an MMO before during either its launch or the launch of an expansion knows how horrible it can be to level in a new area. Players flood to these new areas like ants to Sugar Mountain, and finding a way to kill a monster, collect an item or even talk to an NPC can be a nightmare. Well, Blizzard found a way to make these starting areas much, much more manageable. Anyone who played Wrath of the Lich King, especially the Death Knight starting area, knows of what Blizzard calls “phasing.” Phasing allows changes to take place in the world and environment that follow the story. The Goblin and Worgen starting zones use phasing to great effect, changing the world every few quests. What this means is though the area is flooded with people running about, the area is in different phases, so they may be hunting different prey than you.
Of course there’s the new 80-85 areas as well. While the two previous expansions rose the level cap by 10, Cataclysm only gives you five, with five incredibly rich zones to level in. It could be easy to call this a cop-out, but when you level in these zones, you’ll realize how wrong that accusation is. Everything Wrath of the Lich King touched upon, Cataclysm expands. Zones tell a great story and, through heavy use of phasing, the story is not only told to you, but shown. When you are given a series of quests to overthrow an enemy camp, chances are when you’re done with the quest chain, your forces will move into that area and the enemies will be gone. Things like these are changes you may expect in a single player RPG and show great improvement on the MMO genre as a whole.
Another change is the return of challenge to the 80-85 dungeons and raids. Players from the original game and the first expansion know how difficult these dungeons could be. Players had to work together, stun and disable enemies and communicate. However, players deemed this to be too difficult, so when Wrath of the Lich King came, the difficulty was severely reduced. As a result, dungeons in WotLK were little more than exercises in rounding up enemies and killing them as fast as possible. There was little teamwork or communication required, and little skill. The return of the challenge is a great thing that takes some getting used to, but gives a much better sense of accomplishment. Oh, and anyone complaining how the game is now TOO hard, remember it’s only been out for a week. Of course there will be changes down the line, people are still getting used to how things are going to work now.
Only time will tell how things evolve and how the game changes. Needless to say, the story is incredibly epic. Cataclysm implies a huge change to the way World of Warcraft works, and each of the zones tell amazing stories rich in the game’s lore. Of course the expansion isn’t perfect, and of course there are flaws. Some zones and quests are still buggy, and the difficulty may be too much for more casual players who are used to the very casual friendly approach WotLK took. Despite all this, however, it’s an expansion that changes things for WoW and MMO’s as a whole. The very fact that Blizzard has reshaped its entire world (barring Outland and Northrend, of course), reshaped classes and quests is staggering. The developers like to joke that Catalcysm is more like two expansions, and it’s hard to argue otherwise. Every other MMO on the market has a great deal of work cut out to match Cataclysm. Anyone who was afraid WoW is dying just needs to look at Cataclysm to be proved wrong. There’s never been a better time to play WoW, be it a new player or returning veteran.