Blizzard puts the âwarâ back in Warcraft
Six years of hard work. Hundreds of thousands of man hours. Twelve million subscribers who have spent billions of hours hacking, slashing, grinding, looting, and every other vaguely dirty term you can think of. So, how do you follow that? âBlow it all up,â says Blizzard. âAnd use a dragon.â The end result? A total reinvention of World of Warcraft thatâll have you hooked from the first second and keep you there forâohâa couple hundred more hours. At least.
Donât get us wrong; at the end of the day, Cataclysm still follows the basic MMO formula of killing and collecting. However, the extent to which Blizzard has rebuilt the process is nearly mind-blowing. In Cataclysm, quests are focused and generally tied into an overarching narrative. Unless youâre piloting a bomber plane, you wonât see any more âkill 60 of x monsterâ quests. Instead, you might be tasked with killing 10 of something, looting them, and interacting with the environment nearbyâall at once. Presto: Thatâs three quests finished in roughly 10 minutes. No muss, no fuss, and, unlike the majority of MMOs, it actually makes sense. Also, itâs completely epic.
Giant encounters like this are a regular occurrence during Worgen quests.
We donât use that word lightly, but nowhere is it better exemplified than in the starting areas of the two new races: Goblins and Worgen. Both are brilliantly paced storylines with giant 100-man battles, appearances by legendary WoW lore characters, and a couple of cameos from the life of Cataclysmâs party, Deathwing himself. Beyond that, however, the two races couldnât be more different. Worgen watch their society crumble as itâs slowly consumed by a mangy, howling curse while Goblins go on a hilarious, pop-culture-referencing romp that includes wild parties, fast cars, and being turned into a tornado that shoots lightning bolts. In both cases, itâs almost like playing a single-player RPGâand a damn good one at that. To play Cataclysm, youâll need both previous expansion packsâWrath of the Lich King and The Burning Crusadeâbut who plays WoW without those?
And giant, er, parties are a semi-regular occurrence during Goblin quests.
The new high-level questing content is similarly excellent, if not better. The five new zones are pretty much uniformly fantastic, with only Mount Hyjal descending to a level even resembling mediocrityâbut thatâs more a case of failed ambition than lack of effort. The seven new high-level instances, meanwhile, are some of the best WoWâs ever seen. Fast and focused yet inventive and tactical, these dungeons will eat you alive the second your brain goes on autopilot. Bickering pick-up groups need not apply.
PvP, unfortunately, is a mixed bag. On one hand, you have the two new arenasâBattle for Gilneas and Twin Peaksâwhich are great. The new PvP zone Tol Barad, however, favors the defending side to the point where attacking is often an exercise in futility and frustration. On paper, the zoneâs got a lot going for it, but it needs some serious work. Speaking of âserious work,â weâre not even sure thatâll save the new profession, archaeology. Much as we wanted to love it, itâs mostly boring, time-consuming, and requires far too many steps. Sure, the rewards are occasionally amazing, but by and large youâre basically digging for gold in a landfill.
In the grand scheme of things, though, those flaws are extremely minor. Hell, thereâs a good chance youâll never even encounter them. What you will find, however, isâto butcher a classic Disney songâa whole new World of Warcraft. And whether youâre a vet haunted by flashbacks to your days in Molten Core or an outsider wondering what all the fuss is about, thereâs no better time than now to dive in.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
Streamlined, story-centric questing; excellent new races and starting zones.
Mount Hyjal; an unbalanced new PvP zone; a new profession thatâs mostly a waste of time.