If, ever in my life, I can say that I was addicted, it would have been three weeks ago when the shakes and sweats became too much and I bought the latest World of Warcraft expansion. I thought I had kicked the habit almost a year and a half ago, and then those devils of temptation at Blizzard had to start singing all the best note: Deathwing is back, the entire world has been changed, GOBLINS are a playable race. I was hooked again and, my god, I couldn’t be happier.
What I liked
Questing – We saw a new level of quest design in Wrath of the Lich King with the heavy use of phasing. For those who don’t play WoW, this was a technique that Blizzard used, allowing your actions to change the world. It required no load times and it was integrated right into the world. In Cataclysm, this is taken to a whole new level. The new level 80 zone, Mount Hyjal, uses this heavily as you help the druids retake the mountain. As you complete a crop of quests, the druids retake that part of the zone and a new frontline is created. No longer would mobs be in retaken area.
But, that wasn’t the only element of questing that is improved. Storylines are the other element being used far more effectively. Each of the new high level zones has an overall arc that you can do from start to finish. Hyjal, for instance, is a war with the fire elements and a series of quests to bring the demi-gods back to life. What impressed me even more is that as you finish the zone’s arc, the game smoothly guides you to the next big problem. It made questing and leveling feel like one giant storyline that was being done by a world of players; something that all MMORPGs have been trying to do since the start of the genre, but none have accomplished. This same quality can be found in the lower level zones and the new starting zones. All of them have storylines, fresh quest types, and just more direction.
Queuing up for Everything! – With the new expansion pack comes the ability to queue yourself up for anything: battlegrounds; zone wars; and, more importantly, dungeons. As long as you’ve located the entrance to a certain dungeon you can select it, and the game will find you a group. The best part about this new system is that it isn’t server specific, allowing you to find a group from across servers and getting you into the game sooner.
Item Levels – I love this little addition more than anything. Every piece of gear in the game is ranked and players receive a rating. If you don’t have a high enough item level then you’ll find yourself unable to get into an instance until you get that gear up to snuff.
Rated Everything – Now that battlegrounds have joined Arena PvP in having ranks and organization, it has created a whole new league of larger scale combat. This allows players who didn’t like the tight quarters of arena combat to enjoy high level gear!
New Races/Starting Zones – The Worgen and Goblin races are a ton of fun to play, each with their own plot and mood. The Goblin starting area is crazy and comedic, while the Worgen are somber and dark. Both tell a compelling story and the team did an amazing job showing how each race became integrated with the factions.
Dungeons/Raids – With the last expansion pack, all of the dungeons were far too easy and short. However, the good people at Blizzard have seen the error in this and have made the instances, especially on heroic, an actual challenge. Raiding now requires a bit of effort, making each boss kill feel like a huge accomplishment.
Things that let me down
The World – The big selling point of this expansion pack was that Deathwing broke through the world and, as a result, drastically changed it forever. In all honesty, the world wasn’t changed that dramatically. Some zones, like A Thousand Needles, are now completely submerged in water, but others, like The Barrens, are only slightly changed.
Changes to the classes – Every class was changed in some way and some spells were removed from the game. Overall, though, my major gripe with how the classes work now is that they really only created one path for each of the talent trees to follow. For example, I have an elemental shaman. That means I do magical damage as my role. In the last expansion pack, I could be effective as a damager dealer regardless of my choice to have high critical strike rating instead of faster spell casting. This kind of freedom has been removed for the most part.
Doesn’t feel like an MMO – This may be a bit strange to put on here, but with how questing works now and the ease of using the queue system to find a group you don’t ever really need to talk to people. You may see them walking by but rarely will you talk or work with other people outside of the main cities or in a dungeon.
Archeology – This is a new secondary profession that anyone can pick up, allowing you to fly all over the world, digging up lost treasure. The only problem is that the dig sites are all random and, when you’re looking to farm just one race to get a sweet, sweet, epic, it becomes extremely frustrating to have to do dig sites at places that have no interest to you.
In the end, though, this is a fantastic expansion pack. It shrugged off a lot of the easy game play that was introduced in the last expansion and requires you to have to work for the best gear. Add onto that quests that redefine what you should expect from an MMO, and you have a winner in my books.