Review in Progress: World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

Here's what we think of the latest WOW expansion after spending a few days with it.

by

Several days ago I stayed up until midnight so that I could be among the first players on my server to start playing the new content in World of Warcraft's Cataclysm expansion. We'll be posting our full review sometime next week, but in the meantime I wanted to give you all a heads-up on where I'm at with the game.

After experimenting with my three level-80 characters in order to see how they had changed following recent updates, I initially decided that the night elf death knight was going to be the one I'd play through the Cataclysm content with first. Predictably, moments after midnight the server was struggling to cope (and eventually failed for a time) as thousands of players all gathered in the same spots to get their Cataclysm adventures under way. Personally, I had opted to hang out near a flight trainer in Stormwind so that I could learn to fly in the original Azeroth continents before heading out to one of the all-new zones. That was my first mistake, because as you can see in the screenshot below, plenty of other players had the same idea.

Spot the flight trainer.

With my flying lesson bought, and after struggling to interact with a couple more non-player characters that were being similarly obscured by crowds of players, I made it to the new Mount Hyjal zone. There, I spent maybe 45 minutes or so trying to complete the same quests that hundreds of players from both factions were also trying to get done, replaced my favorite epic sword with a green quest reward, and then called it a night because competing for quest items and enemies was becoming increasingly frustrating as more and more players flooded into the area. Fortunately, players are much more spread out now, and so the time I've spent playing since that first night has been much more productive.

I've mostly been playing with my dwarf hunter this week, and as of this writing he's level 83 after playing through most of Mount Hyjal and everything that the underwater zone of Vashj'ir has to offer. While I found the former to be a little disappointing because of how similar it is to other zones in Azeroth, the latter really impressed me. World of Warcraft's first underwater zone is everything that I hoped it would be and much, much more. Without giving too much away, some of the highlights include taming your own seahorse mount, a series of flashback-style quests in which you get to play as a naga, and rides on both a shark and a submarine. The ending of the Vashj'ir storyline that you're treated to after playing through all (or at least most) of its 160 quests is also well worth the effort.

Like the original zones that were significantly changed prior to Cataclysm's arrival, the new areas introduced in the expansion are almost entirely self-contained. Previously, quests in any given zone would encourage you to dip in and out of other zones and ultimately move you into them, but that doesn't appear to be the case any longer. Instead, every zone (with the exceptions of those in Outland and Northrend, which haven't changed since they were introduced in the Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King expansions, respectively) has a largely linear line of quests that tells a story from beginning to end. I wasn't sure what to think of this new approach initially, but it has really grown on me. Not only am I getting to see all of these stories through to their conclusions, but my quest log is no longer filling up with unfinished quests that I didn't complete before moving on to another zone.

Another reason for the unusually uncluttered state of my quest log is that dungeon quests are now dealt with in a much smarter way. I've played through only two of the expansion's seven new dungeons to date, so this might not be true of all of them, but it seems that rather than going into a dungeon with several quests to complete inside, you now go in with only one or two. Then, as you progress, you have opportunities to turn them in and take on new quests. In Blackrock Caverns, for example, there's a quest associated with each boss, and so after downing one you claim your reward and can accept the quest for the next one. It really is a great system, and I can't wait to see how it's implemented in dungeons like The Stonecore (which I've now found the entrance to--a requisite for being able to run dungeons now, even via the group finder option) and The Vortex Pinnacle.

With the arrival of a new expansion come countless green items that are better than your favorite purples.

In addition to playing with my hunter, I've checked out both the worgen and goblin starter zones, formed a guild with some GameSpot colleagues to get a good look at the new guild leveling and rewards systems, and spent some time playing around with the new archaeology profession. I had already played through the worgen starter zone in the beta the one time that I logged into it, which might be why I found it a little underwhelming, but entering the goblin area for the first time was a real "wow" moment. The zone is unlike anything that has previously appeared in World of Warcraft, and before I'd even reached level 3 I was using a hot rod to navigate it. Archaeology is also good fun as far as professions go, though despite retrieving numerous fragments from several different dig sites, I have yet to finish an artifact. That will change this weekend, I'm sure.

Obviously I'm not ready to deliver my final verdict on World of Warcraft: Cataclysm just yet, and let's be honest, there are probably very few of you reading this who are waiting for a review before deciding on whether or not to buy it. The review will be up next week for sure though, and in the meantime I'll just say that after six years of playing and canceling/renewing my account on more than a couple of occasions, Cataclysm and all of the changes that preceded it have me more excited about playing World of Warcraft than I've been in a very long time.

Discussion

49 comments
BILLNYE6983
BILLNYE6983

Crimson is right and wrong at the same time. He is right that there wasn't a lot of change this expansion. At least nothing new. This expansion was a mesh of stuff blizzard has learned from vanilla, bc, and wrath. Wrath was sort of a test expansion. They tried and perfected a lot of new stuff. This expansion is the polished expansion. They got mostly everything down now. It doesn't make it bad though. Innovation for the sake of innovation is silly.

SuperLinkX
SuperLinkX

I'll tell you what, Wow hasn't been this difficult since Vanilla. Try doing a Heroic; It'll kick your ass if you don't know the mechanics (It's like a 5 man raid). Not to mention the Heroics only drop blues, they put the epic back in epics (Finally). Demonprince - Elune

KurnSonOfMogh
KurnSonOfMogh

Crimson, what are you talking about? The entire world has changed, they've redone all the instances and almost every area in the game as well as added a dozen new areas. PLENTY has changed. More has changed than any other expansion.

Crimson_Erskine
Crimson_Erskine

its fun, sure, but its nothing special. i like the expanded use of phasing, but it's still just WoW. fan boys will gush and haters will hate, but at the end of the day not a single thing has changed.

KIT90
KIT90

I played cataclysm for a few days now. The storylines are very exciting with lots of surprises in it. I love it and I will play it forever! For the wow players who didn't buy it yet, I have one verdict. BUY IT! It's worth your money!

Chaos297
Chaos297

Wow this has made my mouth water this perlimirary review has. I am looking forward to Tesco delivering my copy of World of Warcraft Cataclysm so I can get on there and kick some ass. Im not all that surprised that people flooded on there during the first night but if all of Glasgow hadn't been full of snow Id have been at Buchanan streen getting in on the action. Watch out for me out there my Characters name is Shrodan and we both have it in for the gold traiders and DeathWing so beware because we will be going down in Azeroths history History books.

Benrix
Benrix

I must say I'm really enjoying all the new content. One thing I didn't agree with was the ability to convert a high level character to a Worgen/Goblin. In less than 24 hrs you had level 85 Worgens and Goblins. I really wanted to see someone go from 1-85 and earn that "first" achivement. Just my $.02....

Barnman2205
Barnman2205

Reading all of these previews makes me want to get back into WOW... But I havn't played since the vanilla days, and buying all the expansions plus subscriptions fees is quite an investment. Perhaps if I win the lottery...

gf0urt33n
gf0urt33n

@Crusherix: New games trying to compete with the MMO giant that WoW has become don't deserve to be given the same amount of time just because they aren't as "BIG"? If nothing else, they should review all games in a similar way. That being said, I'm sure Cataclysm will continue WoWs long running history of greatness and maybe even add a few more addicts.

Crusherix
Crusherix

@CWZaft o belive that's because the changes to cataclysm are so big that wel.. i guess they want to try it all before they give a finished review? i don't know how big FFXIV is but wow is BIG.

wheelercub
wheelercub

LMAO - in a world of high quality gaming visuals, it looks like a crappy game for the Wii system.

CWZaft
CWZaft

I'm curious as to why Cataclysm gets a "review in progress" and other games such as Final Fantasy XIV get an immediate, and harsh, review? Note: I don't disagree with the FFXIV review, it did indeed suck, but the question is still valid.

adgal98
adgal98

As the last paragraph says, I also cancelled/renewed many times in the last years and now I'm pretty excited to continue. I also got the remote action house service aswell :D I think I'll spend a good time here. See you in Chromaggus!!!

vertrek
vertrek

I've played wow for one or two years like a addict, now I play halo: reach. I say for myself "cataclysm sounds awesome, but halo its better. IDK, CATALSYM LOOK VERY AWESOME" maybe I going to play WoW again for a time to see how is cataclysm. IDK

Keledron
Keledron

I've come back after a year or so not playing, and I have to say I'm having a lot of fun with Cataclysm. It was cool to start a character fresh (Worgen in this case) and go through a new story, in Gilneas no less which always held a bit of mystery in the game being locked behind a giant wall. If you're enjoying WoW already I'm sure you'll enjoy Cataclysm, it goes without saying. I'm playing casual and solo and there's a lot of fun to be had. Looking forward to jumping in a couple groups to go dungeon crawling. It's worth checking out if you're on the fence about it. Give Cataclysm a look!

lordofallgamers
lordofallgamers

YAMS 1980 said "havent played since burning crusade, the game is pretty boring unless you got friends in it or have no life at all" ... I can't even begin to express how dumb he sounds. I guess he didn't have a life when he played Burning Crusade then huh? Or maybe he had no friends and had to stop playing? Or the fact that you find time to post a comment on a blog about WORLD OF WARCRAFT... A game that you in your own words say you must have "no life" to play it. Some great life you must have.

Yams1980
Yams1980

havent played since burning crusade, the game is pretty boring unless you got friends in it or have no life at all

DraKKuLL007
DraKKuLL007

I play wow for a long ass time ( since 2004 ), when I was really addicted about the game, till Burning Crusade, then I decided to live more out of Azeroth / Outland... well, now I only play 2 hours per day maximum, and getting afraid to be addicted again, cos Cataclysm is a blast!

RicardoZagada
RicardoZagada

"Spot the flight trainer." One of the reasons why I can´t stand to play anymore of this or other MMORPG... Fortunately my life took a change for the better with this choice! :D

Moloch121
Moloch121

@vega13mv If your into lore and all that you should really check out Bioware's ToR. Because really Blizzard really the WoW lore is interesting yes but gets pretty stupid at times. IE: The whole kael'thas is we killed him in Tempest Keep but apparently he escaped right before we kill him. I like WoW don't get me wrong just not how it ruins Warcraft lore but yes the game is very fun.

FoeCrusher
FoeCrusher

I dont play WOW anymore but seriously anyone who is into this game has already got the expansion. Only those who aren't might be influenced by your review.

naberrulz
naberrulz

so you can write an article but can't link pic correctly? fail

vega13mv
vega13mv

im enjoying the starter zones, i like how every zone has its story and cutscenes to let you know what's going on, im so interested in the story now that i'm actually reading all the quests.

r1chman10
r1chman10

I don't know why people love WOW so much. I have the 10 day trial and I only play it every few days and only for about five minutes.

GryphonICD
GryphonICD

The thing that allows WoW to continue to be a strong game is its ability to reinvent itself. For every person that whines about mechanics changing, we'd undoubtedly observe far more moving on to another game due to having become bored with the same old same old thing if it didn't change. Cataclysm does a grand job of reinvention, although I am slight concerned at how quickly I hit level 85. Still, thankgods for all the alts I have, and there seems to be plenty to do still at top level.

JohnisGodd
JohnisGodd

I wish that Blizzard would just monopolize PC gaming already. Every game would be so much better....

Biklak
Biklak

Blizzard outdone themselfes again, in terms of questing its the most enjoyable has ever been, 5 man heroics are a blast, and feel like mini raids where you actually have to tweek strategies during fights. lets see how pvp and raiding go. so far 10/10

soulfulDAGGER
soulfulDAGGER

Dude you have to remove the "names" over the people/pets/companions at least, so you can see. You can configure that stuff in the ui. I use CTMod and it's great. So far Cataclysm is awesome. Best area(s) so far in my opinion are Vashj'ir and Deepholm. Give a few weeks for the mats,drops to come dow in price at the AH.

Slash_out
Slash_out

I have not been having much fun on wow for a long time. My only joy left are raids. But wow has no lasting appeal. You do not build a character to be strong. You build it to be strong for 6 months to a year, and then you have to start most of what you did all over again, and so on, until the next expansion, which is when anything you did up to this point becomes completly useless :s.

blueness
blueness

WOW is fun - for hardcore or casual alike. That's what's great about it.

TheDreamSeeker
TheDreamSeeker

@jazilla To be honest with you, that's a good place to be in.

jazilla
jazilla

I have never stepped foot in WoW or even seen it played. I think it will stay that way for me. I will be the dude in the corner that has no clue what everyone else is saying.

zombiejudge
zombiejudge

all i have to say is im level 85 ruling the show to anyone who hasnt tried it give it a go trust me you wont be dissapointed the worgens are really quite well made as are the goblins i play both sides and the back end dudgeon ae superb the deadmines new 85 mode is amaaaaaaazing

fLaMbOaStiN
fLaMbOaStiN

Hmm.. I bought WoW+BC+WOTK after i got done with AION and played it for about 3 weeks until i got bored.. But the first 2 weeks i had a BLAST.. It just sucked that when i found a legion it was a small one consisting of players that didn't want anything to do with eachother because content is so easy to just solo.. Then the fact that the world pk was so weak and meaningless it just left a bad taste in my mouth.. Don't get me wrong i enjoyed the battlegrounds but my ping would sky rocket in these zones.. But yeah, after reading this i'am sorta interested in resubbing to give it another shot.. I already wasted $110 on it before and have all the discs just sitting there in my droor.. Maybe this time i'll pick a more populated server/legion ^_^ atleast cataclysm can hold me over till EvE's main Incursion patch launches in Jan.

Dynamo11
Dynamo11

I dunno. Blizzard screwed me over 2 years ago by deleting my account and didn't tell me what for. I then went to LOTRO, but these is tempting me to start again

magnus29
magnus29

Its a much needed improvement over wrath just feels well oiled

matchpenalty11
matchpenalty11

uh oh. i might want to get back into wow now. unfortunately I haven't even gotten to northrend yet.

princepointe
princepointe

DLobo, Our finals started the 8th-16th.lol. My friends are getting OWNED. That's why I picked all classes with papers as finals. Strategy. lol

marceleleco
marceleleco

It can't get less than 9.0!...maybe a 10

nailfoot
nailfoot

The only two MMO's I have invested vast time in is the original EQ and LOTRO. This expansion has me on the virge of trying WoW for the first time, although being a noob in a 7 year old game is concerning.

Pro_96
Pro_96

Chose Alliance eh, I hope it is as fun as the Horde side. There has been some whine from the Alliance complaining about Horde quests being more fun.

trastamad03
trastamad03

I will be shocked if this gets a lower score than WoTLK.

DLobotomist
DLobotomist

take your time with this one... I think a month will be a legit review length for a game this big. but knowing Blizzard and WoW Franchise this game will get a high score and ruin my friend's finals' score in the process. two weeks after the release day of this game is our School final... so the higher the score this game gets the lower the score my friend is gonna get on his finals, Inversely proportional.lol... so glad I play ps3 and havent get suck into MMOs yet....

UbberHappyGamer
UbberHappyGamer

Cataclysm is so great! Screw the user scores on Metacritic. :)

reign-supreme
reign-supreme

Fantastic expansion, well worth the wait! :)

blaqphantom
blaqphantom

im predicting 9/10 as per usual for WoW