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World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Expansion Pack (PC/Mac DVD)
- Two New Playable Races
- Level Cap Increased to 85
- Classic Zones Remade
- More Raid Content than Ever Before
- New Race and Class Combinations
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- Platform: Windows XP / Vista / 7, Mac OS X
- Media: DVD-ROM
- Item Quantity: 1
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The game had also been made with the purpose of having everything have a higher difficulty of actually achieving as well, in terms of leveling and even normal dungeons to the point where i know early on that a lot of my time would needed to even get a foothold of doing the high content (even more so than before) and still not feeling like i had achieved anything or getting any satisfaction, and gave me the opposite of not even trying to bother cause i know it will take many hours unlike the Lich king expansion, in which i could do dungeons and heroics with relative ease, and when it came to raids i had to knuckle down and focus more, hell, even do other things, because the game had so much to offer besides killing bosses.
This review is entirely my opinion and may come across as a rant, but i just feel like WoW lost a lot of what it started as, which i believe was due to the company listening to the fans too much.
From the very start, the experience for players who pick up World of Warcraft now will be vastly different from the experience players had when the game launched in 2004. Quests, once splintered and sending players aimlessly across the map, are focused and quick to complete. Tales of having to kill fifty boars for three boar hides are done away with, and storylines -- actual storylines! -- populate the game world. It's a newer, friendlier Azeroth, and these changes span the entire original game. But seeing as how all of these changes are available without a purchase of Cataclysm, why pick up this latest expansion?
Cataclysm unlocks all the level 80-85 content, which specifically includes five new zones for leveling, two new battlegrounds, a PvP and daily questing area, seven new dungeons (and two redone classics) with normal and heroic (max level) modes, and a few raid instances. It's a lot of content, but it's not as much as the previous expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. That said, you can still expect to play for well over a hundred hours before you've really touched upon everything Cataclysm has to offer.
Buying Cataclysm also unlocks the Worgen race for the Alliance and Goblins for the Horde. The Goblins begin on the technocratic isle of Kezan, led by the seemingly malevolent Trade Prince. Their opening has an unusually small number of combat-focused quests, instead using the vehicle system introduced in the previous expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. I have mixed feelings about this choice, as although the quests are interesting and fun, they don't do a great job of teaching new players the ropes in the same way that the newly revamped starter areas for the original races do. On the other hand, the chances that someone brand new to World of Warcraft will immediately buy the core game and three full expansions is somewhat slim, so this little concern is just that -- a little concern.
The Goblin race showcases World of Warcraft's more lighthearted side. The opening quests are all centered around greed and mafia-style beatings, all done very tongue-in-cheek. Playing as a Goblin also provides sassier feedback. Hammering buttons for skills that are on cooldown causes your character to say "nah, I can't use that yet!" in a tone of voice that makes you feel sheepish for even trying. It's pretty great. Their racial bonuses are also some of the most useful and flexible in the game, with a ranged damaging attack and a gap-closing leap sharing a cooldown, worldwide vendor discounts, a boost in healing from potions and a slight increase in attack and casting speed. Then there's an alchemy boost and the ability to summon a banker anywhere to ice the delicious racial cake.
The Worgen seem frankly a little less powerful. They've got an increased critical chance and a sprint ability on a cooldown, as well as nature and shadow resistances. They get a bonus to skinning and skinning speed too, but overall their abilities seem less universally helpful. That said, the resistances are to arguably the two most frequently encountered schools of magic in the game, and the goblins have no resistances whatsoever. The Worgen origin story is much more dramatic than that of the Goblins. Starting you off as a human in the isolated city of Gilneas (which had been hinted at since WoW's launch, sitting just beyond the impenetrable Greymane Wall), you are given the routine task of getting orders from a superior, only to find him dead. Upon returning, everyone everywhere is under attack by wolfmen, and as the city begins to fall to the new threat, your do your best to fend off the attackers. Naturally, in Werewolf movie-style, you get bitten and eventually become one of the beastmen.
Where the Goblin story was a tale of new beginnings and the struggle against a villainous dictator, the Worgen story is of a crumbled society trying to rebuild and find allies in a world they had long been segregated from. It's gloomy but involving. Stories of this depth would have been a rarity in World of Warcraft prior to Cataclysm, but along with the update, the eight original races have seen brand new storylines as well.
By level 80, regardless of your race, you're fully assimilated into your faction and have even achieved some renown for your deeds in Northrend during the last expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. When you return to your capital city, you're given the choice of heading to Mount Hyjal, an important lore location throughout Warcraft and home of the World Tree (also important!) to aid the druids in the fight against rampaging fire elementals, or heading to the island of Vashj'ir, recently emerged off the coast of Stormwind and home to the Naga, a race of evil serpentine people. This was to ensure that the launch wouldn't have thousands crammed into one zone, but it also gives you something to check out later, or on another character.
If you choose to journey through Hyjal, you'll interact with major lore characters from the very start, and come face to face with some familiar enemies from World of Warcraft's first raid instance, Molten Core. This will be a big nostalgia-blast to the face of WoW veterans, but is of little consequence to everyone else. Quests in Hyjal begin somewhat stereotypically -- your first has you collecting berries and killing rock elementals -- but peppered throughout the zone are vehicle quests, spaced out just enough to keep the standard quests from getting repetitive. The vehicle quests are a hoot, too. One is an airborne game of Joust, where you have to clumsily control a bird and knock others out of the air. Another has you climbing a tree and lobbing bears at a trampoline. The quests are spread across the zone around various shrines which you are tasked with cleansing or rescuing. You never dwell at a quest hub longer than a few sets of quests, which keeps you moving through the zone at a nice pace and in a logical order.
Vashj'ir is aesthetically the opposite of Hyjal. Completely submerged, Vashj'ir introduces true underwater questing to World of Warcraft, and sustains it for the duration of two and a half levels. It's a huge and beautiful zone, full of vibrant colors and teeming with sea life. There are fewer novelty quests, but a long chain where you embody a Naga, one of the amphibious serpent-people that are regular enemies in Azeroth, tells the back story of Vashj'ir and fills in the Naga's sinister intentions for their current campaign of terror. Questing underwater provides a surprisingly different dynamic to the game, as threats lurk not just around, but above and below you now as well. There are also a couple stand-out set pieces: giant shelled creatures that serve as quest locations and help keep the constant swimming from becoming tedious.
From there, you're onto either Deepholm or Uldum. Deepholm is an enormous circular cavern filled with crystals and living rock. It's the Elemental Plane of Earth for Azeroth, so you appropriately fight alongside and against a lot of earth elementals. The story here puts the entire plane in great danger of erupting into Azeroth, as the World Pillar, an ancient Titan construct that keeps the planes separated, was broken when Deathwing (the evil dragon!) emerged. The Horde and Alliance had seemingly put aside their differences in the face of this threat, but the machinations of the Twilight's Hammer, a fanatical cult, had severed those peaceful bonds. Naturally, as a veteran of many campaigns, it is up to you to help recover the fractured World Pillar pieces and prevent catastrophe. It's a bit of a complicated setup, but it's executed through a series of quests that help you piece together what's going on.
Deepholm's circular structure makes questing in the zone a pleasure. It's never difficult to figure out where you are headed, and it's never a long journey. The occasional cavernous trek provides the sensation that the Plane of Earth is multilayered and far larger than the small portion you're questing through. Even though the vehicle system is rarely used in Deepholm, questing rarely becomes repetitive thanks to incremental boss battles. The fights aren't your standard "kill it before it kills you" scenarios; they require you to move and read patterns and act accordingly, and each fight is a little more complex than the last. Deepholm also has something very rare in an MMO -- closure. You are tasked with piecing together the World Pillar, and once you've done it, it's done. There is still stuff to do within the zone, but that threat is no longer omnipresent.
Uldum on the other hand doesn't have the benefit of an ending. In fact, it's a tangled web of short little stories, often interspersed with clever cutscenes. When you first enter the zone, you are captured by natives. Although you can follow that story -- of escape, revenge and liberation -- to completion, it never feels "done". Luckily, so many of the quests in Uldum are inventive and original that it stands out as my favorite of all of Cataclysm. A sequence in the Harrison Jones (an Indiana Jones/Harrison Ford parody) quest chain simulates a turret level in a first-person-shooter with a surprising amount of responsiveness. A separate quest puts your character inside a giant ball of molten plasma and tells you to roll over a thousand gnomes (who stick to the ball Katamari style, and even reference Katamari in the rewards), and a couple others do a decent job of simulating a real-time strategy game. There are dozens of cutscenes scattered throughout Uldum to fill out the story, making the adventure-film feeling complete.
Only the final leveling zone, the Twilight Highlands, failed to truly impress me. Although there were certainly some neat moments, for the most part it failed to showcase something new the way the other four zones had. The emphasis on story that permeated the others also seemed downplayed, with only a few select cutscenes of, well, very mixed quality. It also didn't provide any striking visual appeal the way the others did, instead looking like the crummy, run-down, ghetto parts of The Shire from The Lord of the Rings movies.
At 85, there's still a good deal of content left. Nine heroic dungeons provide a decent challenge, with a very good mix of boss fights and gimmicks. Most of the people I've played with have been telling me how much harder they are than Wrath's heroics, although I personally found them to be on-par, and I think the perceived difficulty is mostly because of the gear reset -- people aren't in super strong equipment anymore. Heroics no longer reward players with epic items, which I think is a change for the better. Epics should feel like a major achievement.
Guild level ups do feel like a major achievement, thanks to the new guild progression system. Doing a dungeon run with at least three other members of your guild or completing a quest will net you some guild experience. Everyone in the guild earns it, and it all contributes to a communal experience bar. It takes a lot to fill it, though. It took my (excellent) guild Pockets Full of Magic a week to get from level one to two, with two of us going from 80-85 being by far the largest contributors. There are 25 levels in total, with the earlier levels providing perks that benefit everyone regardless of goal (such as boosted experience gains, increased reputation, and bonus cash) and the later perks being more targeted towards raiding guilds (a button to summon all party members, and a mass-resurrection spell etc…). It's not something your guild can just grind out -- there's a daily cap that prevents you from gaining more than a certain amount of experience in a day -- so when your guild finally levels up, it feels like you and your guildmates have really achieved something.
A big chunk of player versus player content comes with Cataclysm too; two new battlegrounds, Tol Barad, and guild PvP support. Twin Peaks, one of the battlegrounds, is a capture-the-flag style map like Warsong Gulch, but wider and with a river in the middle that can be a deathtrap if you're not mindful. The other, Battle for Gilneas, is a capture-the-node map like Arathi Basin, but with three nodes instead of five. They're both built for ten players, and while Battle for Gilneas seems balanced and built for fast-paced movement, Twin Peaks is asymmetrical and could theoretically have balance issues. They add a little variety to the random battleground button which is nice, but a new game mode might have been better.
Tol Barad is pretty great though. Three structures are placed around a central fortress controlled by whoever won the last siege. The previous victors have to hold the structures while the attackers have to take them. It doesn't sound great, but each structure makes a different kind of character valuable. One benefits ranged defenders, while another forces close-quarters fighting. Winning Tol Barad doesn't give you the same worldwide benefits that the last world-PvP zone Wintergrasp provided, though. It simply unlocks a raid dungeon and extra quests to do while the zone is under your control.
Finally there's Archaeology, the new secondary profession. It's really just an extra thing to do to kill time and won't really give you any real benefits. It does a good job of sending you to parts of the world you may not have ordinarily visited, and as you complete ancient relics (which you do by collecting relic shards scattered across the map), you get neat little insights into Azeroth's history.
If you include the vast changes to the core game, Cataclysm is far and away the most impressive expansion to an MMO ever made, but if you just isolate what Cataclysm itself gets you, it's ultimately less content than Wrath of the Lich King. It's also better content than Wrath, with engaging storylines, inventive quests, and some very striking visuals. Even without the core Azeroth changes, Cataclysm is an excellent expansion in its own right, and worthy of your attention whether you're a veteran of Northrend or a grunt just getting your toes wet for the first time.
Only recently have I decided to come back to this game but the one thing I hope has changed is the people.
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