The end of the world is nigh. The World of Warcraft that is. And it is not really the end, more a disaster of epic scale that will change the kingdoms of Azeroth as we know it, forever.
The ancient dragon, Deathwing, has erupted forth from within Deepholm and exerted it’s influence upon Azeroth, leaving the kingdoms scarred and forever changed. This is the Cataclysm.
Past expansions for the World of Warcraft MMORPG have concentrated more on those with high level characters, ensuring that anyone new to the game will have quite a wait before being able to take advantage of this extra content. But with Cataclysm we see a rebirth in more ways than one, offering not only a change and update to the beginning areas of the various races, but also an easier, less monotonous journey through the early levels for the beginner. So now really is the best time to begin playing. It is also a damn good time to return to WOW, especially for those planning to start again from scratch.
Which suited me down to the ground. It has been a long, long time since I was last adventuring in Azeroth. This was not through lack of desire, but lack of time. It has been a month since the launch of Cataclysm and the game has sold more than 4.7 million units, which is pretty impressive. But it has also taken this month for me to have explored the game enough to form an opinion.
So, starting from scratch was the ideal solution as it had been so long. It was also the perfect opportunity to check out the two new playable races – the Worgen and the Goblins.
The Worgen join the Alliance and bring with them their ability to change between Human and wolf forms. Their starting area offers an interesting storyline to follow as the tale of these cursed creatures unfolds. But the real stars of the show are the Goblins as part of the Horde. These manic little creatures offer a level of humour as the player takes on their wacky quests and participates in their frankly bizarre story.
Mirroring the much more flowing beginnings of the two new races, all of the other races are now starting out in a more favourable way, with quests that seem to have a point and stories that the player can actually care about. Veteran players will find themselves wanting to start again with no characters, simply to experience the way that the early levels now feel. Pointless quests are gone, or tied into something that actually makes the mundane seem interesting. And what’s more, due in part to the more involving storylines and in part due to beneath the surface tweaking, the early levels simply fly by, allowing new players to quickly reach the higher levels and enjoy the WoW experience as many veterans do. The differences that this has made are quite substantial, making for a far more enjoyable experience for all.
But Cataclysm is not all about the lower levels, with the more accomplished characters getting a piece of the expansion pie as well. The level cap has been increased to 85 and there are a collection of new dungeons for the experienced player to enjoy, offering a much more satisfying experience due to the increased difficulty. The five new areas, such as the rocky Deepholm and the underwater Vashj’ir, have been finished to such a high standard as to make the rest of the game look positively ancient, which is great if you are looking at the new zones, but not so great when you are not.
Beyond all of this, there is plenty of other tweaks, adjustments and additions. Take the new Archaeology secondary profession, which sees players searching around Azeroth in search of ancient artifacts, with a view to finding enough to warrant a reward. Certainly not to everyone’s taste, but a nice way to perhaps encourage further exploration. Then there are the tweaks to the talent tree, making it much simpler, new guild achievements, a couple of new arenas and a new zone for PvP and even the chance to use flying mounts across Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms.
Cataclysm adds some great new content and does a good job of updating the early part of the game that has been largely untouched for so long. World of Warcraft has always been the MMO of choice for the hardcore gamer, but this expansion has made a good effort towards making the game more accessible, and thus more enjoyable, for the casual audience. World of Warcraft has changed forever, and changed for the better.