Weekend Flashback Review -World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

Originally posted January 21st 2011.

So I can’t lie. I’m back into World of Warcraft. Blizzard got their hooks in me and now I’m looking forward to Legion, their newest expansion coming out. I’m having fun doing dailies, building up my garrison, and generally immersing myself in a world I’ve known so well for many years. So, this week, I’m flashing back to when I reviewed the last expansion I played when it actually came out; Cataclysm. Note: I lost the screenshots, so added in selfies of my current WoW Character, not the gnome this review is based on, because screw you Alliance.

The World of Warcraft shall never be the same again, and no, it’s not because some high level player is going around and killing everyone. This time it’s a dragon, and it’s literally torn the world asunder. Deathwing has returned to the world of Azeroth and has brought with him a whole cult of Twilight followers. This is surely the biggest change to World of Warcraft since the beginning, and boy is it one amazing ride.

New lands have opened up in the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor, revealing wonderfully beautified places such as the undersea world of Vashj’ir and Deathwing’s home in the elemental plane Deepholm.

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Ascending to Greatness

Though the majority of the new zones cater for the trek to the new level cap of 85; there are some that are specifically for levelling the two new races. Worgen (the new Alliance race of Werewolves) get their story in Gilneas, their home city and the Goblins (the newest members of the Horde) have their island of Kezan and later the Lost Isles to start their adventures. Soon however, they both venture out into the familiar landscape of Azeroth, into Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. It is, however, something different.

With the Shattering destroying Azeroth’s former beauty, it not only changes the landscape but every quest that was available there too. Not only has every starting zone been updated (some more than others, like the Gnomes and Trolls), but even the flow and direction in which quests lead you through the world is brand new. With the newer design aspects such as Vehicles and Phasing (having the world change for you as you progress, hiding other players in their own Phase) that were introduced in the last expansion, Cataclysm perfects these and uses them in interesting and engaging ways.

Not only has this made levelling to 60 much quicker, engaging and interesting, it also means that they’re just as fun as the new high level quests. Blizzard have also gone as far to increase the voice talent you encounter during these quests. Before it would be a very silent affair when you gather and turn in quests, but now with the story being so important, it’s been bumped up a lot. Some of the voice acting is a bit strange, but the majority suits it’s characters extremely well. With this, there are also actual cut scenes during some quests, which is a complete first and works extremely well to immerse yourself in the, sometimes forgotten, lore of the Warcraft universe.

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Dungeon Crawling

Though there is no new dungeon content for the lower level characters, going to 85 has quite a few new dungeons. From a re-visit to Blackrock Mountain in Blackrock Caverns, a completely new dungeon in the old mountain, to Vortex Pinnacle, which floats on clouds above Uldum, there certainly is a variety of different locations for you and 4 other people to gain loot.

Other than the locations, the whole formula remains quite similar to the other dungeons that have been added over the six years World of Warcraft has been online, with one minor detail. Emphasised by a post by one of Blizzard’s own, dungeons are hard and they’re going to stay that way. Bosses do more special abilities and everyone will give you one solid piece of advice. “Don’t stand in the fire.” Whether this be actual fire or some other effect, it certainly helps that your groups follow this practise, because if not, you will have a hard time in these dungeons, and it’s never felt so good.

There are also Heroic modes of all of the new dungeons, as well as two of low-level Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep which have been in World of Warcraft for many years. These are where the dungeons get brutal, and a lot of complaints about the difficulty surround these. They are indeed hard, but nowhere near impossible and give a very grand sense of satisfaction after your group fight their way through to the piece of loot you’ve been after. I, for one, certainly hope they don’t make anything easier.

From the get go there are also some Raids for 10 or 25 player groups. Again, with heroic modes, these are some of the hardest pieces of content available, but give the grandest rewards and most interesting boss fights.

This isn’t World of PeaceCraft!

Throughout the new quests you get more of a feel of the hatred and war brewing between the Alliance and Horde. Long gone are the peace treaties to help defeat the Lich King, and, with Garrosh Hellscream leading the Horde in place of their old war chief, Thrall, you can certainly see that he himself is more war hungry. This also opens a lot of new Player Vs. Player (PvP) content for the higher levels.

There is a new island peninsula called Tol Barad that was discovered after Deathwing broke free. This is contested consistently by both the Horde and Alliance, opening a new zone for world PvP, similar to Wintergrasp in the last expansion. Currently, this is completely unbalanced and many players choose not to bother, while on some servers the two factions seemingly take turns to win to gather the most amount of Honor Points (the currency to buy better gear specifically for PvP).

Other than that, there are two new Battlegrounds, which basically bring a new Capture the Flag mode and another Resource Gathering mode to the PvP environment. These Battlegrounds (Battle for Gilneas and Twin Peaks) work similarly to Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin respectively, although feel like they have been designed better, and play faster. Though more opportunities for the factions to duke it out is always fun.

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Fossils, Guilds and Professions

Suddenly, the world has been littered with artefacts you can collect and examine with a new secondary profession called Archaeology. With it, you can gathered fragments to create artefacts to sell to vendors, or even useful items such as gear you can send to all your characters and vanity items such as mounts. There’s even a teleporter that will transport you to a random location, which can only be used once every twelve hours. While time consuming, it gives a lot of insight into the lore of the world and is definitely a very cool addition that Blizzard intend to update every so often with new items.

The guild system has also seen a complete renewal by adding a lot of new content to encourage group activities and player interaction. With Guild Achievements that are accomplished by doing things together, Guild Reputation to gain access to cool items and most importantly, the Guilds have their own levels, which unlock useful bonuses such as increased experience gain or faster mounted speeds. It really is a spectacular system that really makes being in a guild so much more vital and fun than it has ever been before.

As with each major update there has also been a bunch of new items to create with every new profession, and of course, new materials to gather to make them. With these, it makes Cataclysm the biggest update that has ever been made, and without a doubt it’s the best thing that has happened to the game.

If you ever liked World of Warcraft and stopped, now is the time to get addicted again.

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