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The ground shook, the smoke billowed from the depths of the world.
Millions of Murlocs, Gnolls, Goblins and Worgen have been killed or
displaced. The Capital cities of both the Horde and the Alliance have
gone through major changes. A new leader has ascended in Orgrimmar as
Thrall has rededicated himself to the Earthen Ring. At first glance it
seems as if no stone went unturned when Deathwing finally escaped the
shackles that bound him, but were these changes really enough? Has the
game really been reinvented?

MMOGs age in dog years and at 6 years old style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcraft
should be on the precipice of a potentially large decline in popularity
and population. With the prospects of some stiff competition and
knowing the limited attention span of gamers, a decision was made to
fire a preemptive strike across the bow of waning interest. Early sales
figures show that this move was successful as this has easily been the
most popular expansion to date. So popular in fact that it was
recently designated as the fastest selling PC game in history. Sales
figures paint an incomplete picture however as expectation doesn’t
always match reality and not everyone who makes the initial purchase
sticks around. If Blizzard’s track record counts for anything though,
then odds are that subscription numbers will only continue to rise over

For the uninitiated, World
of Warcraft
launched late in 2004 and featured an initial
world made up of two continents. The first expansion pack in 2006 added
a whole new world to explore as players ventured through a portal to an
alien land. 2008’s Wrath
of the Lich King
added a third continent to the existing
world of Azeroth. As each new area was added to the game the prior
lands became virtual ghost towns, relegated to stragglers, neophytes,
and alts. While new players were mostly happy with the experience,
existing players were definitely feeling the game’s age. style="font-style: italic;">Cataclysm introduced several new zones that are either on, or adjacent to, the
original two continents and has drastically changed the look of almost
every other area from that time as well.  In the midst of all
this chaos, two new races have been added to the mix. Goblins have
joined forces with the armies of the Horde, while the Worgen have
aligned themselves with the alliance.

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Worgen join the Alliance

In addition to the physical makeover, the mechanics of the game have
also undergone some major upheaval. Talent trees have been overhauled,
dungeons have been revamped, healing mechanics are drastically
different, the leveling process has been streamlined from 1 to 60 and a
new secondary tradeskill has been added. In the midst of such sweeping
changes it may seem absurd to even suggest that more should have been
done. But this is the internet and the absurd is what we're good at.

The danger with making so many major changes is that it magnifies the
things that haven’t changed - and most notable in WoW are the character
models. From the mongoloid looking humans to the cardboard undead,
every race that predates The
Burning Crusade
is in desperate need of an update. style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest added new
models with their third expansion, EQ2 did it with its second – and
they even added the feature to choose between old or new models for
“purists.” This may be too much to ask however given that even some of
this expansions gear is using slightly reskinned models of older items.

The new leveling experience is very well done, quests are superb and
players are shunted from hub to hub in a smooth and logical pattern.
Getting a new character from 1 to 60 is now a thing of beauty and if
you chose one of the two new races you are in for a real treat. And
then you hit Outlands.

Nothing takes the wind out of your sails faster than stepping through
the Dark Portal and being transported to one of the blandest
experiences in the game. Reductions to the amount of experience needed
to get from 60-70 help soften the blow, but it still feels completely
disconnected from the rest of the game, including the 70-80 range which
is leaps and bounds better by comparison. Come on Blizzard, spend a
little extra time and take some of the burn out of style="font-style: italic;">The Burning Crusade,
it doesn’t match the rest of what is now a pleasant experience.

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Cataclysm dungeons are more
difficult than those in Wrath of the Lich King

My final issue with Cataclysm
is one that hasn’t even come to pass yet. That’s right; I’m throwing
down a preemptive strike of my own. The developers took a pretty
radical stance with WoW 4.0; they made it challenging. Dungeons require
teamwork and crowd control, AoE is no longer the answer to everything
and healing requires careful planning and decision making - as mana use
is now a legitimate concern. While there seems to be a whole lot of QQ
about these changes, I am a huge fan. My only gripe is that
replenishment didn’t scale very well, but that’s a minor issue that
will most likely be resolved with raid gear.

No, my real concern here is that Blizzard will inevitably cave to the
pressure of the casual gamer and relax these changes, simplifying the
game and giving more reward for substantially less risk. Don’t do it,
don’t cave to the crybabies, stick to your guns here and let players
understand the joy that comes from finally accomplishing a seemingly
impossible task.

Cataclysm has
wrought many changes upon the face of Azeroth and for the most part
they have succeeded at pulling off an amazing feat. Keeping a 6 year
old game feeling as exciting and as fresh as the day it was launched is
no easy task, hopefully Blizzard won’t back down as their real
challenge unfolds – continuing to improve and expand this world and
sticking to their vision despite some minor opposition. If they can
manage to do those two things, then the next 6 years should be just as

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016