Preview: World of Warcraft Cataclysm – Deepholm Sweet Home
By Neil Kewn (Murxidon) – OnRPG Journalist
Do you remember when World of Warcraft was released? I do. I had been playing RuneScape for a couple of years and was pretty content with chopping trees and making bread. In fact, I thought RuneScape was the best thing since sliced bread. Around the time Warcraft hit shelves something strange began to happen to my little browser game. My co-players slowly began to appear less and less. My friends list became derelict in just a few weeks and I was left to kill Lesser Demons alone. Why? They had all moved onto what would become the biggest game in the world. World of Warcraft had begun its uprising. Five years and two expansion packs later, it has left most other MMORPGs bruised, battered and beaten. And my friends list is still just as empty.
So why does Blizzard’s virtual cash cow attract so many, and more importantly, why do they continue to play half a decade on? To put it simply, Blizzard Entertainment create quality video games, but they also create quality expansion packs to improve their quality video games. The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King received accolade after accolade, and with constant patches Blizzard made sure that players would not be left without something to do. Two years have passed since Arthas unleashed the Lich horde, and now that Deathwing the Destroyer has arrived from Deepholm, Azeroth is about to be plunged into turmoil once more.
Whilst lore is all well and good, and Cataclysm is sure to revive the faltering role-playing scene, it’s the details, the changes and the updates that players lust after. How will my rogue be affected? What about PVP? Can I finally fly my Celestial Steed around Kalimdor? The level cap has increased to 85, two new races join the fray, raid mechanics have been altered, the interface has changed and stats have undergone a makeover. But don’t worry; you still don’t have to use your real name on the forums.
A Tauren-t of New Features
For the first time since The Burning Crusade doubled the install size of WoW, Cataclysm adds two new playable races. The Alliance greets the human-werewolf worgen clan to their stable, whilst the goblin traders of Azeroth find a new home in the Horde. There are no new classes this time around, but new class choices are available for most races.
Worgens have several interesting characteristics that will no doubt see them swarm Alliance zones in the weeks and months following release. These feral beasts were originally human citizens from the city of Gilneas, but the worgen curse has fallen upon the town and residents have taken up arms in a valiant fight against the creatures. Those familiar with World of Warcraft may recall the savage wolf-beasts making an appearance in Shadowfang Keep.
You start the game as a human, but are soon bitten by one of the infected and fall victim to the curse. Luckily, you aren’t sent to the slaughterhouse and manage to get a hold of your senses, even taming your feral being to the point that you can play as either your human or worgen form. Of course, combat will transform you into the latter. Worgen have several interesting racial abilities, including a 15% reduction on all curses and diseases, and the option to drop on all fours and run at a speed mimicked by most mounts. The opening scenes and beginner’s quest line are extremely well made and truly entertaining. It’s a must for all expansion owners.
The famously comical Goblins have an appropriately humorous starting area. The quests you undertake and the characters you meet are all very slapstick, so the first few levels are sure to keep you entertained. Thankfully, beginner’s quests aren’t all kill, collect and deliver affairs, and the isle of Kezan is a joy to explore. The goblins have made it their home; enslaving trolls, building roads and shooting off rockets by the bucket load. Rockets also feed into two racial abilities, one which propels you forward and another that launches a barrage of missiles at an enemy. As goblins are traders at heart, you will also have the ability to call up a bank at any time and even find the best deals when conversing with vendors.
One of Cataclysm’s most talked about changes is to the landscape of Azeroth itself. Not a lot of attention has been paid to Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms since the game’s release half a decade ago, so the arrival of Deathwing is a perfect excuse to spruce things up a bit. And by “spruce things up”, I mean drastically alter the aesthetics of each zone by decimating them all. Fiery lava pits and rivers of molten lava run deep across the landscape. Some towns no longer exist, The Thousand Needles has flooded, Stormwind is in need of some construction work and trees have begun to populate The Barrens. It makes playing a new character interesting again, and revisiting old haunts on your now-unrestricted flying mount is sure to please many.
Deathwing’s arrival from Deepholm has ruptured the ground of Azeroth. With earth and land shifting, opportunistic explorers can seek out new treasures and artefacts unearthed by The Shattering. Cataclysm marks the debut of Archaeology. A new secondary profession focused on tracking, locating and collecting precious items. Similar to other gathering professions, digsites are tracked on your map, but the actual location of each treasure piece isn’t. Instead, players must investigate each site and find the exact location of the item (via a new “Survey” ability) before looting it. Whilst found items may need to be pieced together with others to form an artefact, many of the treasures unlock special rewards and even buffs for you and your group.
Level 80 characters aren’t left out in the cold. Whilst there’s no new continent to explore, new high level zones have emerged on both sides of the Maelstrom, including the sunken city of Vashj’ir. Perfect to show off Warcraft’s upgraded water effects, which whilst technically impressive, look out of place in WoW’s ageing graphical engine. New dungeons and raids also appear for post-80 players, including revamped Heroic instances of classic Warcraft dungeons like Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep. Seven other 80 to 85 dungeons will also make their debut, along with several new raids. One of which is Firelands. Revealed at Blizzcon, it will feature seven bosses and can be completed in one sitting, perfect for those unable to commit to twice weekly raids.
One of the most talked about aspects of Cataclysm is the changes in gear stats. Drastic alterations have been made to simplify stats on each item, and the resulting changes are a cause for concern for many players. Both Spell and Attack power will no longer be found on gear, with Intellect increasing the former and strength and agility the latter. Block value is being removed from the game, along with Defence and Weapon Skills. Balance is one of the most important parts of any MMO, how these changes affect both PVE and PVP remains to be seen.
Cataclysm is shaping up to be another high quality addition to the world’s premier MMORPG. If a reshaped world doesn’t give you a reason to reroll, then two interesting, well-crafted races surely will. I’m unsure as to how Archaeology will feed into the game’s economy, but the premise is an intriguing one. An abundance of exciting changes are coming to Warcraft, and if you weren’t lucky enough to receive a beta invitation, there isn’t long to wait to experience them in full. Cataclysm is sure to breathe new life into World of Warcraft, but with over twelve million subscribers, it’s not like it needed it.