Updated Thu, Jan 06, 2011 by Messiah
Looking at how Cataclysm functions as an MMOG it is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some things that are extremely good and some that are pretty poor.
Starting with the poor, even though the scripted storylines in many of the zones are amazing as a single player idea, they have issues in an MMOG. Due to the heavily scripted nature of the zones, there are multiple choke points that lead to delays as you wait for creatures or spawns. While Blizzard did OK by upping spawn rates, it still causes some issues. For instance, with high spawn rates in some locations many players got stuck in what amounts to a perpetual combat loop and could not get out without dying. In other locations spawn rates were not set high enough to get through the highly gated content. One strange side effect of high spawn rates was leather workers being able to level to near max just by sitting at the starting quest in Vashj’ir skinning crabs and then eels.
PvP is in a state of chaos right now due to Rated Battlegrounds and players having issues understanding exactly how to go about getting groups and points. There was already a cross-realm Battleground system that worked decently before, so the forced premade groups for Rated Battlegrounds seems like a step backwards, especially in light of things like Dungeon Finder which is intended to make grouping easier, not a necessary chore just to enjoy the new content. It might just take time for players to get used to the new system, but right now, it’s chaos.
Still on the PvP situation, don’t even get me started on the way Tol Barad works. The zone itself is way too easy for a defender to hold, and unless your server makes a cross faction agreement to trade it back and forth for the honor bonuses, it’s a joke. Even worse is that you need to queue for it multiple times before you even get an invite. Because it balances players and everyone wants in for the huge honor bonuses, it is common to wait for 5 or 6 battles before actually getting into it.
Instance runs and the random dungeon queue system don’t help multiplayer either, even though they should. The queue times for DPS tend to be around an hour, healers 10 minutes, and tanks are instant. This has lead to two main issues. The first is that tanks do not queue anymore, instead they sell their services for gold. The second is that any class that can queue as tank does, regardless of actually being tank spec or tank geared. I have run across many “tanks” in DPS gear complaining about the healer not keeping them alive. This has lead to many players not willing to use the random system anymore, further hindering the multiplayer aspects of the game.
Lastly on the negative points, even though many of us applaud Blizzard for finally making challenging five player content, it is a drastic change from WotLK. Many players completely fail in groups due to having started playing during the Wrath cycle and may not even know what CC is, or how to follow a tank’s target to not draw aggro. These players are making successful heroic groups extremely hard to find, and frustrating both experienced players and new players, since both just want to get through the new content.
On the positive side there are many things that were added, a few make my highlight real.
One of the most important is the addition of guild levels and reputation. This change makes it much more important to find and stick with a good guild and that helps reinforce the MMOG nature of the game. As an MMOG no one should really be playing solo anyway, the game is supposed to be about social interactions and this feature should help enforce that.
Another positive change for many players, although many hard core raiders are against it, is the change to the raid structure. Now both 10 and 25 player raids drop the same loot, making it easier for players to find a core group of friends to raid with. In the past there were many smaller groups that ended up having to disperse to various guilds to secure raiding slots if they wanted gear. Now with smaller raids giving the same loot, those groups of friends can stick together and enjoy the raid experience without the need to go to a 25 player raid.
Overall though for a multiplayer game, Cataclysm is still surprisingly solo based. While things like the new guild system and rated battlegrounds promote grouping, as raids always have, much of the game pushes against grouping. For example it is all too common to be questing in a zone with a friend and end up a quest or two apart, and not be able to see or help each other. The phased nature of much of the new content makes grouping very difficult. Many other things keep this multiplayer game from really being multiplayer friendly.
The overall value for time with Cataclysm is extremely high, even if you had a level 80 and were only looking to get to level 85. The story telling, art, music and sound are all top notch and provide an excellent gaming experience. The only thing that lowers the overall value for me is that the expansion is only 5 levels instead of the past expansions’ 10, and still launched with very little raid content, which Blizzard stated would not be the case after the WotLK fiasco. Somehow in this expansion we still ended up with roughly the same number of raid bosses at launch, and for many that is the whole reason to play an MMOG.
One of the great things with Cataclysm that adds a great deal of value for existing players is all of the original zones being reworked. Many look and feel completely different than they did at the original launch of the game over 6 years ago. In addition to the look of the zones, the quests have changed completely as well. The quests in each zone flow much better and are arranged in better groupings than they were at WoW launch. Blizzard has learned much about zone design and has applied it well to all of the old world zones. This makes it a great time for players to go back and create alts to level and experience the game all over again.
This is a very hard category to rate, since so much of it depends on play style. As a player who had multiple 80’s and now 85’s all the new level 1-60 content does not hold much appeal for me. If I was a new player though, there is a veritable ton of great content to work through. So their experience and the lasting appeal it would have for them would be very different.
As a raider though and for anyone that is at the endgame, I am not sure on the lasting appeal. I have a feeling that since there are only 5 levels to work through, and only a few raid bosses, we will all be jonesing for the next patch very shortly. If the patches and new content are not quick in coming, many players will get bored and look for something else to do and Cataclysm could become the wasteland that WotLK was in the long drought after ICC was launched.
Because of the few levels available and the low number of instance and raids available, I feel that players will get board with the game long before the next expansion comes out in the likely two year time frame. It will be much like WotLK where players got bored and disappeared a month after each major patch and were gone until the next one. Blizzard really needs to add more to keep players interested in the interim, and sorry but rep grinds in the same instances, or the same daily quests over and over just don’t cut it.
There are many great things about Cataclysm that really make it shine for me. Just a few of them are:
To compensate for all the good points, sure enough Cataclysm brought some bad points as well. Just a few are as follows:
While I am not sure that Cataclysm raised the bar any higher for World of Warcraft, it certainly didn’t lower it. While nothing is completely ground breaking it shows that for the most part Blizzard can take and refine a game to a point that very few other companies can.
Overall this is certainly the best expansion yet. Many of the things that Blizzard did are refinements that, looking back on the game, probably could have been done right from the start. They are things that we should take for granted. There should be voice all over the place in a game like this, there should be cut scenes all over, there should be compelling story telling. And you know what, there was to a degree, it just got bigger and better with Cataclysm.
Looking at the game overall, I think it leaves us a bit short since it was only 5 levels, and has many other issues as discussed throughout this review. However, it is nice that after a month still not everything is done by everyone, there are still things to do, the difficulty of heroics and raids has been notched up, and not every raiding guild has every boss down on day one. It also is night and day better than anything else out there right now.
Overall, this means two big thumbs up from TenTonHammer! Now if only Blizzard could put something like this out every 6 months, instead of every 2 years. They would own the market even more than they do, and keep players happily immersed in their fantasy world forever. Oh well, we can always dream.