Cataclysm has been out for a two months. Already? Doesn’t it feel like it we’ve had it for far, far longer?
Perhaps now is the time to look back at those two months and review the content, the quests and the players. Please note that these are my personal opinions and not the absolute, ultimate truth for everybody. All the players are different and like different things in Warcraft, so feel free to disagree.
By far the best thing that came with this expansion are revamped old world zones. Let’s face it, old Azeroth was getting pretty bad when it came to levelling there – especially the nasty 45 – 55 bracket. If you didn’t have previous familiarity with the content and lacked heirlooms, you had to run all over the world finding questgivers who then sent you to the other zones far, far away. Now the low-level questing experience has immensely improved, to the point that more serious loreheads and completionists are complaining about the whole process being too slipstreamed.
Flying in Azeroth was an another major improvement – and one which should have been implemented already in the Burning Crusade.
Harder heroic instances. In the Lich King, you could run through the heroics almost as soon as you had finished questing in Icecrown – no need to CC, just a bit more care with bosses. And once you had epic items, heroics were more or less a joke.
No more in Cataclysm. You had minimum item level to enter heroics – and heroics required crowd control and planning. Healers no longer had indefinite mana, many bosses are comparable to raid bosses in their mechanics. And even – or especially – the trash fights were hard.
Epic items are harder to get. No more welfare epics from heroics – you have to do the daily heroics, grind reputation and buy crafted items, if you want to be in purples before the raids. You have no quick’n’easy ways to gear up superfast (this will to some extent change in future content patches, as old epic gear will be purchasable with Justice Points from the heroics).
Less instances. Lich King started with 12 instances, four were added later. Cataclysm has seven, with extra two old instances for heroic difficulty. In many cases, dungeons would have only won if they would have been split into two (for example, Halls of Origination, Grim Batol). We are promised more dungeons in 4.1, which should come between three and six months from now.
Lack of starter raids. First bosses in Karazhan and Naxxaramas were relatively easy, allowing the new raiders or new raid groups to understand what raiding is all about. Not so in Cataclysm – the learning curve is much steeper. The only easy fight is Argaloth in the Baradin Hold.
Cataclysm raiding would have only won from an easy starter raid. The bosses should even have not necessarily needed to drop epic items – say, 352 blues like PvP items would have been fine.
Levelling 80 –> 85 was ridiculously quick. No comments needed – unless you are uber-casual player with two hours playtime every week, you hit 85 fast.
Average item level calculation is implemented just badly. It takes into account the best item that you own for a slot – it can even be in the bank, doesn’t need to be equipped or suitable for your spec. This has created a lot of confusion, and a lot of players who cheat their way into the heroics, in hopes that rest of the group carries them through.
Archaeology. Let’s face it, archaeology was a huge let-down. I was originally excited about archaeology – travel the world, get cool stuff and learn about interesting periods in the Warcraft lore. Boy, was I wrong. Tedious grinding for junk, with a chance to get a boring pet or some mounts, which you will never use. Or BoA epics, which are utterly useless unless you plan to level a specific class/spec. And even then these won’t level up with your character, like BoA heirlooms. Overall, an utter fail.
New skills for some classes and specs were superb, but for other classes, just “let’s get them something”. Very imbalanced.
Lack of epic questlines. Bringing Taunka into the Horde, helping to prepare sickness for the Wrathgate, Wrathgate itself and attack on Undercity, Arthas’ heart, origins of Wrykul/humans, Thorim and his brother – Northrend had no lack of epic questlines, which were immersing and emotional. But what do we get in Cataclysm? As the Daily Blink puts it – you’ve fought an Old God, you’ve defeated Arthas… and now, go save some critters from a fire. Sure, there are some good questlines, but overall… feels like a boring grind through the content. And not every quest needs a cutscene in Uldum…
Deathwing. The black dragon has been thought to be dead more times than Dracula. Especially if you are die-hard Warcraft lore fan, chances are good you are tired of Deathwing. He or his minions and relatives pop up constantly, he is defeated and thought to be dead – but surprise, surprise, he was just hiding and biding his time preparing a new nefarious plot. How many times can you rehash the one and the same dragon, Blizzard? Sure, he is probably a forerunner to the return of the Old Gods (more on that in some other post), but come on!
New areas are crowded. No, not by players – but every mob you see is a quest mob. Every NPC is either a quest-giver or related to a quest. Quest-per-square-feet density of the new zones is simply ridiculous – and as a result the zones themselves “feel” smaller, even if they aren’t.
Bugs, bugs, bugs. While the servers have been exceptionally stable, compared to the start of Lich King or Burning Crusade, the number of show-stopper bugs with quests, instances, battlegrounds, UI, graphics and sound was staggering. They are getting fixed pretty slowly, too. And as I have heard, a lot of the bugs that went live with Cataclysm, were reported and acknowledged already in the early beta phase.
And the worst of all – boredom. Several of my friends and quite a few guildmates are temporarily leaving WoW once their subscription runs out, planning to return for 4.1. Even for me, die-hard Warcraft fan that I am – I log onto my main to do the daily heroic or go to a raid. Unless you’re into PvP, you simply have nothing else to do once you’ve finished all the quests, done with grinding the reputations and bought all the Justice Points gear available to you. The same happened with Wrath of the Lich King, but not in only two months or less!
Overall, Cataclysm brought much-needed changes to the old world and much of the mechanics. You cannot faceroll new heroics, you need to research your class and spec more.
But… if you take just 80-85 content, it is pretty lacking. It might have been better to do a huge “Deathwing breaks out” patch that changes the world – and then an actual expansion, with more and better-designed new content. Perhaps the coming of Cataclysm event should have been Cataclysm itself, instead of rather boring cultists runaround – and the expansion would have been about return of the Old Gods, with lots of new content and areas – and full ten levels.