While Blizzard may well have been around for nearly 20 years, and had all sorts of â€śsuccessâ€ť in that time (by any other measure), few would dare claim that World of Warcraft isnâ€™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. Thatâ€™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), itâ€™s kind of a big deal. This expansion pack, Cataclysm, is particularly highly anticipated, as itâ€™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...
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 â€śthe Shatteringâ€ť. 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 didnâ€™t actually exist before and needed to be built anyway (hence the no flying in the old world all this time). Technically theyâ€™re not part of the Cataclysm expansion pack so we wonâ€™t spend too much time discussing them here but if youâ€™ve got any specific questions, be sure and let me know; Iâ€™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:
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 itâ€™s now the oldest tech in the game. The revamped Azeroth stuff is so good itâ€™s almost enough to offset the fact that Mr. Smite has gone from Deadmines or that Zulâ€™Gurub has gone completely - almost (I never did get my raptor).
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