Since having bowed-down to the Blizzard monstrosity yet again about a month ago, I’ve been teetering between excited and un-excited for Cataclysm. Sure, the new loot is great and more quests can be fun, but really, isn’t it just more of the same?
Still, I have to say, that after playing both the 4.0 content and now some of the Cataclysm content, that this is the best executed of WoW’s expansion packs. I’ll be honest, I think the artistic aspects of Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King were more interesting to me (I love craziness and I love snow, so the two new continents really hit the spot), but in terms of gameplay changes and the fun-level of quests, Cataclysm has them beat.First, start by considering that patch 4.0 offers benefits for all players, even the two or three WoW players that aren’t going to buy the expansion. Players get an upgraded Eastern Kingdoms & Kalimdor, with new graphics, architecture, and most importantly, a streamlined quest experience. In particular I love how now the major cities have call to arms boards which offer quests that will guide the player to a contact in a new zone appropriate for their level. Also, many zones have had their difficulties tweaked to be more in line with surrounding zones. Finished with the zone you’re in? Chances are the neighboring zone will be just right. So no more taking a trip to the other continent just to get enough experience to level to 50. Honestly, this is probably the best thing to happen to WoW since the addition of the flying mount. Patch 4.0 also completely revamped the talent point system. Instead of getting a talent point every level beginning at level 10, players get a talent point about every other level instead. This is because the talents themselves have been changed and often merged with other talents. But the most important part about the new talent point system is the specialization selection: when a character hits level 10, they choose one of the three trees available to specialize in. For instance, on my shaman, Wildbeard, I decided to go for the Elemental tree, and focus on ranged magic damage. As soon as I picked Elemental, I received the Thunderstorm spell for free, as well as powerful bonuses to my magical attacks. Sweet! The downside of this is that I cannot put points into either of the other two talent trees until I put 31 points into Elemental. I’m totally fine with that restriction. It allows Blizzard to give characters their specialization-defining abilities right off the bat and make them more enjoyable to play. I remember back in the day when my Protection Paladin had to spend pretty much all of his talent points just to get Holy Shield, which is a core ability. Now the core abilities are given right away, and overall I’ve been very impressed with my elemental shaman, my feral druid, and my protection paladin as well. I’ve also posted about my first impressions with 4.0 on my paladin and rogue, which goes a bit more into detail. The new patch also introduced a fair number of new class/race combinations (Tauren Paladin anyone?) and introduced new starting zone quests to fall in line with the Cataclysm lore. So far I’ve only played through the troll and dwarf starting zones, but I feel like they’re better, faster, and more streamlined than they were before. Plus there seem to be fewer, “Go get me 10 piles of bat crap” quests (but there are still some collection quests). Kudos again, Blizzard. As far as the Cataclysm-new stuff goes, I haven’t had much chance to play it. I’ve only played through a portion of the quests around Mount Hyjal and just barely hit 81. The quests are nice and quick and fun, but there was quite a bit of ganking going on so it made my experience less enjoyable than I would have liked. Still, I liked a lot of the quests including a throwback including Baron Geddon (who burns the hell out of you if you stand too close), and also an entire quest series based off of the old Joust game, which completely blew my mind (even though it really shouldn’t have).
I haven’t had the chance to do any of the new dungeons yet, but hopefully I’ll have a chance to do them later this weekend… ie right now.
UPDATE: No dungeons today, but I did get a chance to play about 30 minutes of the new underwater zone, and I have mixed feelings about it. Not really liking the three dimensional stuff yet, but it looks gorgeous.
PS: I totally kicked the mechanical claw’s ass last night at the laundromat when I went 3 for 5 and scored a panda, a bunny, and a puppy.