World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

While Blizzard may well have been around for nearly 20 years, and had all sorts of “success” in that time (by any other measure), few would dare claim that World of Warcraft isn’t the out-and-out success story of the organization. Almost instantly eclipsing their initial target of one million subscribers (double the number of the then-king, EverQuest), WoW currently boasts more than 12,000,000 active subscribers. That’s billions of dollars in revenue per year, just from subs - and WoW is now six years old!

So, when Blizzard announce a new expansion pack (of which there have been just two beforehand - Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King), it’s kind of a big deal. This expansion pack, Cataclysm, is particularly highly anticipated, as it’s rebooting the old-world content (which is, obviously, six years old now) as well as bringing in new content for max-level characters. This reboot brings the quest mechanics, rewards and general flow of the experience of the first content in the game up to the standard set by their very latest stuff - and a lot can happen to game design in six years, especially when you have billions of dollars in the bank...

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So specifically, then, what does it bring to the table? To get to the nitty gritty, we need to first segue into the story. Deathwing, an ultra-badass dragon that once tried to topple the four mighty dragon flights of Azeroth, has escaped from what was supposed to be his eternal prison. In so doing, he made an almighty mess of Azeroth - known now and forever as “the Shattering”. That, in a nutshell, is used to explain the massive revamp of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. Deathwing has escaped and time has passed - almost nothing remains the same.

Available to all World of Warcraft players (even those with no expansion packs at all, let alone the Cataclysm expansion), the changes to the old world are significant. In part, many of these were necessary - now that players can fly around the old world, a lot of dirty little secrets about the way the world was actually constructed (compared to how it appeared to be) would have been revealed. Backs of mountain ranges, tops of buildings - you name it, chances are good some part of it didn’t actually exist before and needed to be built anyway (hence the no flying in the old world all this time). Technically they’re not part of the Cataclysm expansion pack so we won’t spend too much time discussing them here but if you’ve got any specific questions, be sure and let me know; I’ve spent a lot of time in there now (I have a level 57 Tauren Paladin, amongst other new characters, created for this review) and can probably answer them.

So the high-level changes to the old world, then. Almost every zone has been touched in some way - most of them significantly. There are far too many changes to even list the stuff I spotted, let alone everything, but some of my personal highlights include:

  • Westfall. The entire zone is completely awesome now, going from being one of the low-points in levelling an alliance character to one of the high points. In particular, the new meta quest (it’s several years later, remember... things have changed) and the CSI: Miami quest chains are worth leveling just to experience.
  • Redridge. Remember Guard Parker? You once had to bring him his lunch from his girlfriend in town. He’s Captain Parker now, has a regiment of guards to order about from the top of his new guard tower and his now-wife and daughter are there alongside him.
  • Thousand Needles. Completely flooded now, you complete an early quest chain to get access to your own personal boat to assist you as you move around the area performing your (mostly underwater) tasks. Most of the quests here are highly referential to the way the zone used to work, with loads of new stuff too - it’s great fun!
  • Maximillian of Northshire’s quest in Un’Goro - so funny and so much fun, you simply must do them. A highlight of my entire time playing WoW!
  • Dungeons! Dungeon quests are now handed out by quest givers right at the start of the instance, or at key points throughout. Many of the later dungeons, like Dire Maul and Stratholme, have had their level massively revised downward to ensure that people actually do them before moving on to Outland. Strat, DM Scholo are done in the early 40’s, for example. For a full list of dungeons, listed by level, check out this page on Wowhead.
  • New race / class combinations - ever wanted to roll a Dwarf Shaman? Tauren Priest? Now you can. Sure, not every combo is possible but at least Blood Elves can be Warriors now - finally that old whinefest can be put to bed. For a full run-down on the class changes, check out Wowhead’s excellent guide.

In general, everything about the levelling process through the old world content has massively improved. From quest mechanics, to the stats you get on items, to the flow from one zone to the next - you name it, it works so much better now than ever before. If Outland (the Burning Crusade content) seemed disappointing before, that distinction just became all the clearer, as it’s now the oldest tech in the game. The revamped Azeroth stuff is so good it’s almost enough to offset the fact that Mr. Smite has gone from Deadmines or that Zul’Gurub has gone completely - almost (I never did get my raptor).

Continue reading on page 2.


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Comments Comments (9)

Posted by Koopa18
On Monday 13 Dec 2010 11:15 AM
Has NZG had multiple pages before?
Posted by phantom
On Monday 13 Dec 2010 11:42 AM
13 December 2010, 11:15 AM Reply to Koopa18
Has NZG had multiple pages before?
Yep but not often.
Posted by Donutta
On Monday 13 Dec 2010 11:56 AM
Nice review. The thing I find about Cataclysm is that it just makes you feel so epic and important. From the way Sylvanas calls you her most trusted soldier (at level 15, no less!) to the way you become the savior Mt Hyjal. Another thing is that although you are still doing a lot of quests that are "Kill 10 [insert enemy here]", the general feel of the world, the battles going on around you, and the music that accompanies it really makes it feel like war.

It really is WoW 2.0, but they didn't need to make a bunch of people ditch their characters to do it. GotY for me. Nothing even comes close.

P.S. Goblins are indeed better than worgens.
Posted by oceanspray
On Thursday 16 Dec 2010 11:00 PM
Definitely, me thinks Blizzard made this not just for the people that are currently subscribed, but to entice people that have left to return, who wanted changes and rage quit because of this. I also found this article, strangely enough, wrong click I guess:
Posted by Bt-
On Wednesday 22 Dec 2010 6:46 PM
I'm sorry but this review is f**king awful.

I'm glad you enjoyed it but damn, four pages of crap that isn't even structured logically is a pain to read, even for a WoW fan.
Posted by phantom
On Thursday 23 Dec 2010 12:02 AM
22 December 2010, 06:46 PM Reply to Bt-
I'm sorry but this review is f**king awful.

I'm glad you enjoyed it but damn, four pages of crap that isn't even structured logically is a pain to read, even for a WoW fan.
Thanks for your feedback.

For what it's worth, I agree that it's too long :(
Posted by Maoriboy
On Tuesday 4 Jan 2011 7:35 PM
Why is so much of this review written in brackets (the majority of which is unnecessary fluff)? And 4 pages! Wow is all I will say (and thats not a good wow or even a WoW type wow :-) )
Posted by grelb
On Wednesday 5 Jan 2011 4:57 PM
Awesome review - Lots of detail and you certainly prove that know your stuff about this game.

you obviously thought about the consequences of the changes that Cataclysm brings. It's good to see some thought put in to a review - unlike many other reviews where it's clear that the reviewers are only going on first impressions and 10 minutes of gameplay.

I keep remembering your hints every time I'm doing Archaeology; very helpful.
Posted by lol
On Monday 27 Jun 2011 11:34 PM
I've been playing WoW for a very long time now and unlike other gamers this is pretty much the only game I play now, and I gotta say compared to BC and WotLK Cata hasen't realy been anywhere near as epic. Although saying that we'll all have to wait and see for when firelands comes out so I can take a set of tier12 for a test drive