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World of Warcraft Cataclysm OR Why I will never see the sun again

So first things first:  The latest expansion for World of Warcraft, Cataclysm, sold a ton of copies in the first 24 hours.  By a ton I mean 3.3 million according to Blizzard.  I’m willing to bet most of WoW’s 12 million players probably picked up Cataclysm during the first week if they had any intention of playing the game.  I am one of those nerds.  See, I have a special relationship with WoW expansions.  I forget exactly what I was doing at the time, but when the first expansion came out, Burning Crusade, I decided to stay up all night and play it.  And play I did, until about 7 AM the next day.  For the next one, Wrath of the Lich King, I took 2 days off from work to devote myself to nerding the f out.  It’s somewhat crazy, but I feel like at this point it has become a tradition for me to have as little sleep as possible for expansions.  Cataclysm was/is no different!  This isn’t a REVIEW of the game proper, as there is so much to do and see and incoming hotfixes and balance changes and all that kind of stuff that I don’t feel I can give a full picture of the game.  However, having played enough to hit the new level cap, 85, by Thursday afternoon when the expansion only went live two hours into Tuesday, I thought I’d give a run down of how the newly destroyed world of Azeroth is looking and how Blizzard aims to keep us all playing.  FOREVER.  YOU CANNOT ESCAPE!

I am far from the only one who just razes their way through the expansion, forgoing friends and family and eating to hit the new level cap.  So I thought about it some, WHY is the allure so powerful for some?  I don’t care how much I’m anticipating any other game, I wouldn’t think of calling off work or staying up all night.  The reward system Blizzard has created I believe is the answer.  As somebody who played very heavily in Wrath of the Lich King but tailed off for about the last six months before Cataclysm, it became a time and people issue.  Basically, late in any expansion, improving your character becomes very very difficult.  Any gear upgrades will only come from raid bosses.  Those bosses will require you to devote large chunks of time to defeat.  But hey, I just called off of work for two days to play Cataclysm!  I clearly have that time!  This is true, but also where the people aspect comes into play.  It’s not easy to organize even ten people to run a raid dungeon and get the upgrades.  Pugging (or finding random folks, for those not in the know for MMO lingo) will tear your soul in half and then jump up and down on the crumbled remains of your faith in humanity.  In other words, random people usually suck.  Anyway, so I spend all this time getting my character about as good as he’s capable of getting, just doing some dailies there, making a little money, biding my time.

Then Cataclysm hits.  Suddenly the character that couldn’t improve much at all is SWIMMING in potential awesomeness.  Gear that has been used for months and months is replaced.  Experience is being earned again, new abilities are trainable, new quests, new zones, it’s like Nintendo 64 kid on Christmas morning.  And I didn’t even have to wear a onesie and scream to enjoy on it.  It helped though.  So after nibbling on dry bread for so long, having the huge steak arrive at the table is an exciting time. So let’s take a look at a few things Blizzard did for the expansion!

Questing:  Now with Narratives!

Blizzard has gotten progressively better at this with every single expansion.  Vanilla WoW’s quests very rarely linked to each other and there was no flow, creative or physically.  One went from random place to random place and did random tasks.  The Burning Crusade expansion helped the physical part a bit, keeping the quests more centralized, but the story was still very meh at most points.  Wrath of the Lich King introduced zone wide narratives, with each new zone giving you a story to follow that had an actual start and end to it.  Cataclysm does two very important things.  First, it takes the cool story telling and applies it to the old world.  I cannot emphasize enough:  If you haven’t leveled a character since the original vanilla WoW days, the difference will blow you away.  This is in part due to the second reason, which is liberal use of cut scenes.  In game cut scenes, similar to the in-game stuff that Warcraft 3 did, is fantastic.  It doesn’t always look great and it sometimes bugs out, but I give Blizzard oodles of credit for even trying.  It gives WoW that nice single player RPG feel that the things you are doing actually MATTER.  Especially in the new zones that are designed to level from 80-85, the cut scenes get more and more numerous as you go.  The pinnacle has to be Uldum, a level 83ish zone with an Egyptian/Indiana Jones theme.  It tells a great story spanning the whole area, features one quest giver named Harrison Jones doing the kinds of things you expect him to be doing, and has about 15-20 cut scenes as you go.  It’s a true narrative that incorporates your character and it’s a giant step forward for Blizzard.  As Harrison gives you quests while fighting a large bald man in front of a plane whose propellor is going at full speed, you know the outcome.  It doesn’t make it any less awesome.

Not a reference to anything! Nope! Nothing!

The zones themselves deserve mention, as the visuals are a step up from anything you’ve seen in WoW before.  The aforementioned Uldum crushes the old school Egyptian attempt of Silithus in every way.  The real star of the show is Vash’ir, the underwater zone that seems to be a dividing line between the playerbase.  Either it is absolutely amazing or total garbage.  I fall on the amazing side.  Yeah, it’s a bit weird to be underwater all the time, and I play hunter, so it makes doing jump shots impossible!  That being said, it’s a gorgeous zone that is unique in the game.  Also, there is a SEA HORSE MOUNT.  I’ll say that again.  SEA.  HORSE.  MOUNT.  To borrow a phrase from a guild mate, it is super manly.  Majestic hero’s riding their valiant sea horses into battle with fish.  Why would you hate this zone!  Also, you get to ride a shark and eat naga.

Bask in the glory! Keep it up...a little more.....ok quit basking. Now it's weird

Leveling Up:  Blizzard freaking loves hit points.

At the end of Wrath of the Lich King a non tanking class had about 30,000 to 35,000 hit points, sans buffs.  Blizzard apparently thought to themselves “people don’t have enough hit points, let’s roll the giant wheel of destiny to find out how much more we should give them!”  So they rolled the wheel of destiny, and it landed on the “give them metric f tons of hitpoints”  space.  (Which was right next to bankrupt, so that was a close one).  Seriously, this is insane.  At level 85, wearing only two or three heroic quality items, I have 100k hp.  100,000!!  I’m not a tank!  This turned out to be super important, because………

Dungeons: Will punch you in the face, hit your dog so hard he has to wear a cone on his head, then while your unconscious, draw male genitalia on your face

I refer in specific to heroic dungeons.  Normal dungeons are challenging, as in they require actual targets to be crowd controlled and you can’t just aoe everything down, but doable.  Heroics, on the other hand, are HARD.  Every single one of those tons of hitpoints is needed, because healers can no longer just throw heals around willy nilly.  The very few heroics I’ve been in actually feel like raid content.  When I was calling out boss abilities and spawning adds on vent for 5 man content, I realized Blizzard wanted to earn the term “heroic” back.  In Wotlk, especially near the end, they were jokes requiring very little skill.  Granted, everybody now for Cataclysm is undergeared and probably unsure of most boss fights, but still.  If you are planning to run heroics, put on the big boy pants, or big girl pants, as it were. 

Guilds:  Now Totally Awesome

Guilds were always awesome, provided you were in one with people you actually liked.  But, beyond  a sweet chat channel and a guild bank, there was nothing else tying you to the guild.  I’ve discussed on Faceplant before how Blizzard is going for a social interaction thing across all their games, and the guild changes clearly reflect that.  Guilds now gain levels, have a reputation level with rewards that members can earn, and have guild achievements.  It fosters a good sense of community among the members, especially when a guild achievement is earned and it pops up for everybody.  The guild levels come with useful but not game breaking rewards.  Five percent exp bonus, ten percent mount speed bonus, or the ability to send in-game mail instantly between guild members are all cool examples.  It encourages you to stay with one guild and actually work together as a team.  I’m part of a very small guild that will probably take a while to earn the achievements and levels.  That makes hitting them more rewarding.  The biggest piece of advice I can give for Cataclysm is this:  Get in a guild with people you like, don’t be a raiding mercenary.  Blizzard wants true teamwork now, so do it with friends!

So that is a quick snapshot of Cataclysm.  I’m sure I’ll be writing a follow-up as I progress more through the game, but I have to say so far I’m just as hooked as I ever was in the previous expansions.  My next major project will probably be leveling a goblin so I can fully experience the new quest progression from 1-85.  Worgen are cool and all, but screw the alliance.  Bunch of sissies.



4 Responses

  1. […] View post: World of Warcraft Cataclysm OR Why I will never see the sun again … […]

  2. I refuse to jump into MMO’s again until The Old Republic, but my co-worker took a week-and-a-half vacation for Cataclysm. 8 Days. He said during expansions him and his wife will stay up for 3-5 days straight. Crazy. And I’m crazy jealous of the gaming bliss he experienced all last week.

  3. Nah, Elrood’s way off. The best part about the new expansion is going back through and doing the old, vanilla WoW content while everyone else is off leveling to 85, while Elrood types “PLAY THE XPAC. I HATE YOU” over and over again in guild chat.

    Come to think of it, Elrood’s rage has been a driving force behind most of my video game journeys this year.

  4. […] an impressions article.  Well actually, who am I kidding, most of you probably don’t.  (That article is here!)  I wrote that to give an impression while it was all still fresh, but I never considered it to be […]

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