Preview: World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

By John Keefer

I’ve played World of Warcraft for more than four years now. And while some may think my six level 80s is the sign of a deep, disturbing problem, I see it as a chance to explore all avenues of a game I enjoy. Yes, I suck at tanking and healing, but that is a different article.

The MMORPG is unarguably the biggest game in the world. Boasting more than 11 million players at last count, the game will be expanding later this year. Many players I know have left or cut down their play because of the grind, not only in leveling new characters, but also in getting those epic purples everyone seems so interested in.

For those that have left the game, now may be the best time to get back in and dust off your characters in preparation for Cataclysm, because, as the name suggests, the World of Warcraft as you knew it is getting blown to shreds: Worgen and goblins will be taking sides and the Black Dragonflight is going to be quite a bit more pissed off than those black drakes in the Obsidian Sanctum.

As someone who has seen his shares of the starting areas, the thought of a different starting experience will make it hard NOT to start leveling another character. And Cataclysm will make the experience two-fold. The new races will have their own zones: Goblin players will start on the Isle of Kezan and then move to the Lost isles of the South Seas , while the Worgen in Gilneas behind the Greymane Wall. But, in addition, familiar starting zones will get radically new looks. Darkshore will be under water and quest givers will be relocated. The Barrens will literally be divided in two, and Azshara will be accessible from Orgrimmar as a low-level zone. As for the leveling process, it will be invigorated as you explore zones that have gotten makeovers. Just imagine desolate Desolace as a lush green play area.

The character creation process has been given a twist as well as new class and race combinations will be available. A Tauren ret pally perhaps, or maybe a gnome shadow priest? The traditional concepts to which players have become accustomed are being set on their ear.

So I’m actually looking forward to leveling a Worgen (yeah, I’m Alliance, deal with it) and experiencing the old zones in a new way. But I don’t plan on letting my other characters sit and rot, either. The level cap is being raised to 85, and Blizzard is opening up a bunch of new areas for that leveling process, including Mount Hyjal, Vashj’ir and Grim Batol in the Wetlands. And for all those trade chatters who have joked about looking for a group for epic Shadowfang Keep or the Deadmines, they will finally get their wish as heroic versions of those lowbie dungeons are being unveiled for level 85s. There will also be eight new normal and heroic dungeons for characters leveling in the expansion.

One of the things that has kept me addicted to World of Warcraft is the lore. It will be interesting to see how Blizzard ties it all together. The big story twist is the re-emergence of Deathwing from the depths of the earthen plane of Deepholm. Not too much has been revealed yet about the Destroyer and how this new antagonist will appear in-game, but you can rest assured that eventually players will be facing off against the master of all things earth and lava.

I must admit I’m a little skeptical of some of the changes that Blizzard will be making to the class structure. They have already unveiled huge changes in the works for all 10 classes through blue posts on the forums. I play a mage, shadow priest, rogue, hunter, retribution paladin and enhancement shaman. I looked at those changes long and hard and the only thing keeping me from making a judgment call right now is that things aren’t final. The good news is that most of the things I’m interested in as a total DPS player aren’t being nerfed. We’ll see if that holds true for the end product.

If you are interested in PvP, the expansion offers some welcome changes. Rated battlegrounds will give players who hate arenas (/me raises hand) to have a chance at new season Arena gear without the agony of Arena matches. A new world PvP area similar to Wintergrasp will also be added, situated on Tol Barad Island.

Some of my friends who have drifted away from the game have already expressed an interest in what Blizzard is doing to revitalize the game. And while the end result could be a pile of crap, Blizzard doesn’t have that track record. So if you’ve been away from the game for awhile, or even want to find out what all the clamor is about with this World of Warcraft stuff that your friends may be talking about, now is the time to start doing the research.

The game is in for a cataclysmic face lift.

(Originally published in EGM magazine, 2010)

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