World of Warcraft Cataclysm Review
The trickiest thing about first impressions is that you only get to make one. MMOs are a strange beast in that they exist outside of this rule – as expansions and major content patches come out the game is reinvented and with that comes a new opportunity to impress audiences.
Cataclysm, more than any previous patch or expansion for the wildly successful World of Warcraft, reinvents the world of Azeroth like never before.
If you’re reading this there’s a strong likelihood that you already know much of what’s being made available with the expansion. Goblins, Worgen, flying in the old world, new zones, an increase in the level cap to 85, new talents and spells, archaeology profession, new instances, new raids, new quests, revamped zones and probably a bunch more stuff that no-one knows about. I won’t waste your time going through what’s being made available – you can read all that on the box. This is a review after all!
So that said… just want are my impressions of this new and improved world of warcraft. Yes I said improved… there’s no denying it. Blizzard appear to have looked long and hard at their game and decided to disassemble it and then put it back together with improvements on everything. Let’s look at each aspect in turn as has been my experience with a newly created goblin hunter and with my main, an undead priest.
In all honesty, I have yet to explore crafting since the expansion. Outrageous I know. So far it looks like more of the same although the addition of a new profession that anyone can do (archaeology) does at least seem a promising distraction… my only fear is that if archaeology enhances dps or tanking stats somehow at lategame then it will become compulsory on all your alts. I don’t relish levelling the same profession on all of my characters!
OK this is where the money is. Questing has been streamlined and simplified – you never have more then 3 or maybe 4 quests in your log at any one time. The interface has also been updated to be almost on par with the quest helper addon. Thus you always know where to go and once there you can figure out what to do without having to ever read your quest log.
Not reading your log would be a shame, however, as it is possibly the greatest improvement to the questing experience is the story-telling component. Blizzard have taken the phasing technology introduced in Wrath of the Lich King and they’ve run with it. Cataclysm is where we see them scoring touchdowns. Questlines are simple to work through but doing so provides a sense of achievement never before seen in an MMO. You see the world around you change and adapt according to what you do. When was the last time you were compelled to do ‘one more quest’ out of a desire to see what was going to happen in the story as opposed to wanting that extra level? For an old WoW salt like myself, this is a breath of fresh air! Questing for so long meant grinding out boring repetitive kill/collect missions that had no consequence on the world and built no sense of attachment to my character and their achievements. Now I’m keen to how the story develops and what impact it will have on the world around me.
Equally impressive is the design approach to the quests themselves. Although there will always be the bread and butter quests asking that you kill 10 spiders and collect 10 spider legs, they are now equally interspersed with a variety of quests that see you using nifty gadgets or quest items that are hella-fun. Some examples include flying around as a goblin on rocket boots frying an army of zombies underfoot or taking control of a naga battlemaiden and reliving an ancient battle between the naga and the Kvaldir to unravel the mystery of why the Naga are so interested in conquering the continent of Vashj for themselves.
Possibly the most compelling change in the questing experience is how easy it is to move around. It seems Blizzard recognises that everyone is used to travelling on an epic flying mount and thus you can upgrade to flying in Azeroth for only 200 gold. Movement in the underwater world of Vashj is at a whopping 480% increase while as a starting goblin you get your very own set of wheels to truck around in at level 1. Thus you never feel like you’re doing monotonous travel as you can get where you’re going so very fast! This ultimately makes for a questing experience that is engaging, satisfying, rewarding and most importantly of all: FUN. Bravo Blizzard!
Again my experience with instances has been sorely lacking. I have run only one instance – Blackrock Caverns. It did feel a little bit like a corridor which made it a bit simplistic (especially compared to the monster right next door that is Lower Blackrock Spire) but the boss encounters were definitely entertaining and I can see how they would be very challenging if tuned correctly in heroics. Watch this space! This is one of my favourite aspects of the game so I’m really hoping Blizzard can keep them challenging throughout.
Again, my experience with PvP has been lacking. I haven’t queued in any battlegrounds (I’ve been too busy questing!) but from what world PvP I’ve encountered, it seems as though loooong fights are the order of business. This, to me, is a good thing! No more fights ending in 3 seconds sounds like some serious duels are going to start occurring around the world. The only complain I have here is the presence of flying mounts which seems to make world PvP a total waste of time… if you’re in trouble just run away, mount up and fly as far away as you like. I’m hoping with the revamped world and the focus on fun, the players themselves will start getting more into the spirit of fun and so see more worth in the random chaos of world PvP. Maybe I’m just a nostalgic old coot who needs to suck it up and accept my spot in the battleground queues with everyone else.
Although I haven’t had the pleasure of really rubbing shoulders with many people, the guild system revamp is impressive. It really looks like they’re working to get some pride in people’s guilds again. Players gain experience as they quest and kill stuff and the guild itself gains experience and levels up – unlocking bonuses for the members that are almost all just cosmetic or convenience. Great move in my opinion… it makes it non-essential but still provides an alternate avenue through which a group of players can progress their characters and earn a sense of achievement. Looking forward to seeing how this unfolds over time (although I don’t expect great things from my humble little guild of 4 friends from RL).
As most players would know there has been a revamp of all classes and a streamlining of their talent trees. Although this would make classes feel a little less unique to the player, it was a smart move by Blizzard. It creates a clear platform from which to balance classes against each other and against themselves to ensure no one talent spec shines too bright. Thus there’s ultimately 30 different combinations of class and spec that you can choose from – if you can’t find something that suits you amongst all that then you’re doing it wrong. So far, the remodelled Shadow priest and Discipline priest are both massively entertaining. Shadow priests have the option of attrition of instapew with the addition of mind spike… Discipline priests have talents that make the use of smite in a healing role almost compulsory. You buff your own damage, mana efficiency and healing power through using smite – and every time you hit with smite you heal someone else nearby for the amount of damage done! All of this points towards a philosophy adopted by Blizzard throughout this expansion which is that more than anything else, WoW should be fun.
WoW is back baby.
The questing experience is the shiniest jewel in the crown – but it’s likely that this is because it’s the only thing anyone’s doing at the moment! So far there have been no glaring shortcomings in the other aspects of the game – but each has shown itself to have a solid foundation upon which to build over the coming months and/or years.
Make no mistake – this is still World of Warcraft. You are still going to be heading out and killing stuff for XP and you’re still going to be sitting around in Orgrimmar waiting for battleground or instance queues to pop. But the quest design, class design and phasing technology have breathed new life into the play experience. Players will feel like a part of the world more than ever before and I have high hopes that this will translate into a happier and more positive community at large.
The release of this expansion was completed seamlessly with minimal server issues and the design of this revamped game has been intelligent and elegant. All of this translates into a play experience that is fun. It’s so fun in fact that I haven’t played DOTA for the past week! A freak occurrence considering I almost always squeeze a late night game in somewhere.