World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Updated Hands-On - Hands-Off Demo of New Features, Hands-On With New Races

We see some of this ambitious expansion's new features in action and try out the goblin and worgen starting areas.

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What better time to visit Blizzard HQ to see the new World of Warcraft expansion than the week right before the Electronic Entertainment Expo? We hit the ground running toward the Irvine, California-based studio to try out Cataclysm, the new expansion for the massively addictive, massively multiplayer game World of Warcraft. We got a hands-off demonstration of some of the game's new features, and we also got a chance to sit down and play with some of the new content ourselves. Please be advised that this story contains minor spoilers.

Cataclysm will add an enormous amount of new playable content to World of Warcraft (the previous expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, launched with about 1,000 quests; the pre-beta version of Cataclysm already has more than 3,000), including lots of new places to explore, new high-end "raids" for ambitious adventuring parties, new high-end competitive player-versus-player, and greatly revised versions of existing in-game geography. This will reflect both the game's ongoing story and encourage new and returning players to try out the game's lower-level content again or for the first time.

In the wake of the previous expansion's events, which included a destructive rampage by the elder dragon Deathwing the Destroyer, the face of World of Warcraft's realm Azeroth has been forever changed. Key characters central to the game's lore have been defeated or gone missing, such as the orc chieftain Thrall, while several notable geographical locations have been altered dramatically to accommodate the ongoing story, as well as the ongoing needs of players. For instance, Deathwing's raid on the Alliance hometown of Stormwind has left the once-pristine park district a smoking ruin (fortunately, the druid trainer escaped and has relocated), while both Stormwind and the Horde hometown of Orgrimmar have been rezoned with additional trade districts, as well as secondary player banks to help manage overcrowding. Orgrimmar has also been rezoned to allow for separate districts for the tauren, troll, and new goblin races, while the undead starting area of Silverpine has been changed to indicate the faction's new designs on conquest. Once it was just the site of a few moldy, old graves, but now Silverpine's forest is full of war machines for churning out disease-ridden abominations to take over Azeroth, while the tauren starting areas of Thousand Needles and Shimmering Flats have been flooded and changed from desert mesas to rocky riverbeds.

The realm of Azeroth will see sweeping changes in the Cataclysm expansion.

Numerous other minor and major gameplay systems are also being revamped for the expansion. The user interface is getting tweaked to give better alerts (such as a reminder to train new skills your character has earned). Other gameplay additions that had been tossed around at last year's Blizzcon event have also undergone further consideration, and some won't make the cut. The previously announced "path of the titans" feature, for instance, is being scrapped in favor of enhancing the game's glyph system with a third, "medium" glyph to help players further customize their characters. Cataclysm will also offer a new trade profession, archeology, which will tap into the game's lore and backstory by letting players dig up and assemble common artifacts or occasionally find rare ones. These artifacts will primarily be cosmetic accoutrements or "toys," though the Blizzard team suggests that a few may be extremely powerful weapons, armor, or other stuff.

In addition, the "guild currency" system suggested at Blizzcon will not make the cut, though Cataclysm will offer new interface elements that are more supportive of guild members, such as the ability to directly find craftsmen who have the recipes and skill level needed to concoct whichever weapons, armor, or other items you're after. The expansion will also have a new guild advancement system that will let your guild gain "levels" that unlock new global abilities for the group, as well as special guild-only items that can be purchased if you've gained enough faction standing with your guild to unlock them with such activities as raiding and doing well in PVP competition. Guild advancement will come with a new guild interface that will let you more easily call out notable news and achievements, as well as an achievement list that will record who completed which raid or attained which battlegrounds rank and when.

Expect to see unfamiliar, unfriendly new faces in the expansion's new high-level areas.

We were then shown some of Cataclysm's new zones, which include "Uldum," a huge outdoor expanse that bears a striking resemblance to ancient Egypt, including pyramids, palm trees, and a Nile-like river. According to the game's lore, this zone houses "titan machines," ancient magical weapons of great power and was previously hidden by illusions, though the illusions were disrupted by Deathwing's attack. And now, exposed area's weapons and quests represent juicy targets of opportunity for both factions. Other zones include various elemental planes presided over by powerful beings known as elemental princes. The plane of air, for instance, appears in the clouds and has the dreamy, hazy look of a grand Arabic city in the clouds, not unlike the palaces in the Disney movie Aladdin. The plane of earth, however, is a gigantic crystalline cave suspended between time and space, in which Deathwing incubated for many years before emerging.

In addition to new player-versus-environment zones, Cataclysm will add plenty of PVP stuff, including new PVP playfields and a new mode of competition. This will come in the form of "rated battlegrounds," which Blizzard describes as "competitive battleground play" that will do a better job of rewarding skilled players. The current game's battlegrounds do offer an opportunity for skilled players to earn precious honor points to purchase valuable rewards, but they also let random players in pick-up groups act like compete jackasses. The new rated battlegrounds will more strongly encourage team-based play by offering a new reward type, "conquest points," while offering two new, tightened-up playfields on which to compete. This will include "Twin Peaks," a mountainous zone with extra graveyards smack dab in the middle of the map, so that defeated players can respawn in an area much closer to the action.

Fortunately, raiding will be a lot more user friendly in Cataclysm.

Other additions include a good chunk of high-end raid content, as well as new ease-of-use options for raids, such as the ability to "downshift" larger raids into smaller groups. For example, in the event of playing in a 25-person raiding party one night, you might find out the next night that not everyone can make it. Rather than simply giving up on the raid, you can "downshift" the raid to up to three 10-person raids, which will offer slightly easier content and rewards that aren't quite as good...but you'll at least be able to keep your progress. "Raid lock," the state of being committed to a single raid area after defeating one or more bosses, is also being modified. If you do happen to make some progress into a raid but lose your group, you can join another raiding party that has gotten at least as far. The expansion's new, marquee raiding content is the Bastion of Twilight, a huge subterranean citadel presided over by one of Deathwing's chief lieutenants, and on the hardest difficulty, it houses a dark and terrifying secret below ground that may or may not involve eggs of some sort.

After getting a demonstration of the new high-end features in the game, we changed gears and played through the starting areas for the expansion's two new races: the Alliance worgen (a race of werewolves that can switch back to their human forms) and the Horde goblins. They begin their lives as full-on humans that later become infected by a curse that changes them to wolf-people, though they also possess the racial ability to briefly switch back to their "true form," which gains them a temporary burst of running speed. The race starts off in a remote kingdom besieged by other worgen who attack the settlement relentlessly. Your earliest quests require you to coordinate with the settlement's royalty to evacuate merchants and rustle up livestock before they're butchered until you yourself get infected by the worgen curse. Fortunately, the town alchemist treats you with a potion that lets you keep your humanity, and your ensuing quests involve defending the town from an undead encroachment.

Goblins, on the other hand, are the Horde's "whimsical" race and intended to be a foil to the Alliance's gnomes. The goblins' starting area is a broken-down scrap yard converted into a functional, half-working gadget town, complete with rickety freeways on which to drive your equally rickety hot rod (a drivable vehicle that gets added to your inventory shortly after you arrive). As a goblin character, you're part of a massive corporation of other money-grubbers who are all trying to oust the town's administrator, the merchant prince, who thinks he's so big, riding around in a miniature steam-powered mech and all. Your initial quests require you to collect trade components, hop in your hot rod to rustle up some non-player character followers who help you fight temporarily, and to don a cool leisure suit, sunglasses, and a "bling" necklace to attend a corporate pool party at the filthy, broken-down (but still functional) communal swimming pool. At the pool, you must use new temporary hotkey abilities like "pour a drink," "serve hors d'oeuvres," and "dance" to entertain a certain number of other goblin guests to help your character climb the corporate ladder.

Look out, gnomes. You're no longer the only humorous and whimsical race in World of Warcraft.

The quests for the new races clearly have a lot of variety and are a whole lot different from the original game's "go kill 10 of these" or "go escort this character or talk to that character" quests. They also have lots of variety and interactivity, both with other characters and with the environment. Cataclysm will clearly have a lot to offer, including the entirely new experience for both new races, plus a redone "old world" Azeroth with new environments and tons of new quests, along with lots of new high-end content. The expansion will launch…when it launches.

Discussion

127 comments
vadagar1
vadagar1

gamespot review !!! whats taking so long

mclarke81
mclarke81

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

by_my_scythe
by_my_scythe

Path of the Titans seemed really constricting anyway. I'm glad to see it go. Guild Currency was a bad idea also. The whole point of revamping the currencies in WoW was to streamline the amount of different currencies we had to farm. Before we had Triumph, Conquest, Valor, Heroism, and Frost. Now it's just Justice and Valor. Marks of Wintergrasp and Stone Keeper's Shards are now all part of Honor. Why would we need more currencies? I like the changes, and I like where WoW is headed.

vadagar1
vadagar1

omg 10 more days....... where are the time machines when you need them. Im soooooo bored

noirsake
noirsake

I think flying in Azeroth make the expansion itself XD

vadagar1
vadagar1

OMG I read some stuff about the exp. and I must say they are really revamping the whole game, going back to the roots, removing headache nerdy stats from gear...etc. must....resist....going...back.....must..... MY.... PRECIOUS AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH *golem scream*

the22for4
the22for4

its always great this game..

KingLuke24
KingLuke24

I wish they would bring back Lordaeron, like make there be a conflict between the forsaken and the knights of the silver hand or something. mabey in a patch. I for one like the old warcraft III story, so i would love to see lordaeron come back.

ZackMAck43
ZackMAck43

boring, played wow along time ago than i got a ps3 and uncharted 2. ppl stop playing lame games like wow. it was fun like three years ago..now its lame

questclub
questclub

What's been killing me to no ends is doing the same stuff over and over until the next patch comes thru and you do a lil bit of other stuff over and over again. And since I am not play-it-again type of person and want more new content all the time it was really daunting. Raiding is always stressful if you are in very strict or monotonous group and you can't say a word across just because raid leader is always right and you feel yourself a rookie in a corps. Never had a luck with an uplifting guild but I am not a very good player compared to what I've seen and I am sure there are better guilds out there. Good luck with Cata guys.

sirenlore
sirenlore

WotLK has been boring me some what but Cataclysm kind of make me nervous. It's essentially changing almost the entire gameplay of the game and simplifying alot of stuff. Im unsure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. >.

terminus
terminus

It doesn't seem like an upgrade? Let's see, an entire new world to explore, flying mounts nearly everywhere now, two new races, completely revamped skill tables, level cap increased, new raids, dungeons, battlegrounds, should I keep going. WoW expansions offer more then any other game expansions.....period.

BubuGamer
BubuGamer

honestly i am getting tired of WotLK and i hope Cataclysm will not be a let down and be the best in series...meh this is what i hoped and about NFS Shift

iowastate
iowastate

I had been considering leaving WoW for the new FF IV I took a break for over three years and when I came back this game really had been dumbed down and it looks like that trend continues.

CaptainAhab13
CaptainAhab13

Here's hoping the raids are much, much shorter... how do they expect us to spend a 6-hour chunk in ONE RAID DUNGEON?!

vega13mv
vega13mv

cool. ive only been playing the game for a year and i like it. its nice that they keep adding more stuff. seems like a lot of ppl are getting tired of it, im not there yet, and by the time i do FFXIV will be out so im good

Mudvayne84
Mudvayne84

I can't believe this game is still going and people are wasting away that many hours into it... to each his own i guess

vadagar1
vadagar1

Time to spend more time on making Diablo 3 and less time on wow, its fading away and they should let it die in peace. and since they are "redoing" diablo 3 all over again, I hope they put more man power on it this time and not leave us hanging for 3 years and then canceling the game. played wow for 3 years (on/off) and it was great fun, but nothing is gona bring me back to it, its too much of a gear grind fest now, and intentional time sinks which are rude and unimaginative.

Timmy_Gwar
Timmy_Gwar

Why do worgen run faster in human form, that makes no sense

Psy_m_on
Psy_m_on

Way to over developt with all the expansions (skill barS are full and need to be shortcutted like hell). classic and TBC where epic.

notorious98
notorious98

Actually, Swedish Chef, they're ramping up the difficulty on 10 mans to match 25. They're just making it so that guilds don't have to spend 6 nights a week focusing on 25s AND 10s. It's not like BC or vanilla WoW that had more larger raid content than smaller. They're trying to support a diverse crowd but also trying to appease the 25 mans by handing out higher amounts of loot per player. You'll probably see 6-7 pieces of loot drop from a boss in 25 as opposed to 2 in 10. I don't necessarily see the problem with that. Be more irritated with the cookie cutter way they've been handing out loot (daily dungeons, emblem system as a whole). Personally, I hate running 25 mans. I am my guild's raid leader and coordinating 25 people who may or may not be mentally handicapped isn't easy and is extremely frustrated. We downgraded to a 10 man because of it. Quite frankly, I've run into plenty of high end raiders who prefer 10 mans to 25 mans because it's just easier to get 10 people to focus and put forth an effort for the group. Plain and simple. I'm glad that I wasn't around to raid 40 mans. It would have frustrated me to no end.

Gojomez
Gojomez

Hey Seany1399 I have a brand new computer. And mommy and daddy didnt buy that one for me, or my old one. or my first one either. Some of us just have jobs that pay well.

_Emperor
_Emperor

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

puppeteering
puppeteering

this is becoming more and more childs play , too bad , it was epic

dakkafex
dakkafex

the only - points i think are that theres no real difference between 10 man and 25 man raids, just double 10 man loot people wil only be running 10 man class runs, sigh blizz is easing down wow more and more, the best game is a challenging game

gamercosti
gamercosti

They said first tier raids will be doable in quest blues and that they are happy with ppl making many alts... welcome console generation, goodbye grownups

gtaking40
gtaking40

I can't believe people still play this game.

SithLordVenom
SithLordVenom

@ Vrekim I agree. But my problem is that there is not another mmo that I like. I am a huge star wars geek, so i know for a fact my wow days are done when that comes out. Thing is I don't have anything else to occupy my time. Yea transformers, the new battlefield expansion, fable, etc will help, but I know for a fact i will come back to wow.

Swedish_Chef
Swedish_Chef

"Rather than simply giving up on the raid, you can "downshift" the raid to up to three 10-person raids, which will offer slightly easier content and rewards that aren't quite as good" Guess you guys at gamespot don't know why a lot of us are upset about this, considering you just posted the opposite of what is going on. 10 man raids will be slightly easier, but the gear will be 100% exactly the same as 25 man raids. Making it so 25 man raids are largely unimportant.

Adema83
Adema83

@Olsenz They are doing it so the zone morphs are part of the game but you will not have access to the new zones (mount hyjal and Vash'jr) also you won't have access to the new dungeons and races. I'm also prety sure they will cap your player at 80 so you can't get to 85..

seany1399
seany1399

i like that u dont need a high end pc 2 play wow (we cant all run 2 mummy an daddy 2 get a new pc) and i really hope they dont mess up the stat system like thy said thy were going 2, its all ready simple enough, if u cant figure out the stats go play a simple mmo like guild wars! cant wait 4 this i aint played it 4 a year or so, should b good

vinsence
vinsence

I dont know does not seem like an upgrade with out a new class to play.

Vrekim
Vrekim

Seems they went the route EQ went when content started to get tired and stale...the Planes sound awefully familiar to the Planes of Power expansion...way back when....WoWs getting tired and regardless of how much content they add its still more of the same , catering to the few vs th eother 75% of players ...So I'll take a pass played for 5 + years had fun but nothing here to bring me back

coaltango
coaltango

what i would wanna see is that the WOW franchise polish up the graphics. i think its time to go for DX11

Adema83
Adema83

@Gabriex I have to disagree the new zones are ok but once you are out of them it's back to the same old crap, the only thing i think is good is Mount Hyjal and that is not that great.. vash'jr is pretty different too but still not that great..

Darkbeyond
Darkbeyond

@olsenz you'll most likely not be able to group with those who dont have it though whispering them should be allowed

Gabriex
Gabriex

@Adema83 I'm playin' WoW right now too, and I thing that the Worgens, and the new quests are pretty cool...

Sayun
Sayun

@irnmike I think you're insinuating that WoW 'stole' the guild level idea from warhammer. However, you're stupid, because guild levels have been around since ever. Anarchy Online, Ragnarok Online, Lineage, etc. Warhammer did not come up with it.

Olsenz
Olsenz

so is this expansion free? if not how can people with it interact with people that don't have it since it's changing the cities, etc.

MoreThot
MoreThot

looks better than the other 2 expansions that came out, and i would have to agreed with Dr_Thunder, the best days are definitely not ahead of this game. That was back before they even had a expansion and raiding was 40man. Im just old school though, i enjoyed that raiding a lot more than i do this 10/25man raiding.

BlizzardFan2009
BlizzardFan2009

Cataclysm will be the best expansion to WoW to date. There are improving the lvl 1-60 quests a lot! Anyone who sees this expansion as a reharsh or more of the same are extremely ignorant.

Nodashi
Nodashi

@ lonewolf349 You go to outlands at lv 58, not 68. At 68 you can go to northrend :)

Lonewolf349
Lonewolf349

crap i need to buy a game card quick so i can level my main up 5 levels (to level 68.) and get into outland before the change so that after i'm done with outland and northrend i can come back.

bloodaegis666
bloodaegis666

@cool_modine This "Garbage" is what is fueling D3. And blizzard should put more out for the thing that makes them the most money.

cool_modine
cool_modine

Hey Blizz... More about D3, and less about this garbage.

nitsud_19
nitsud_19

Sounds interesting but I think I'll stick to Lotro. I hung up my WoW jacket ahile ago.

TheGravy02
TheGravy02

Org now looks like a city you'd see in warhammer, but that's not necessarily a bad thing

lozvil
lozvil

time to go back...