World of Warcraft has undergone one of its most dramatic changes with a patch aptly named The Shattering. As a precursor to the release of the game's latest expansion (Cataclysm, which is scheduled for release on December 7), parts of Azeroth have been devastated, displaced, flooded, or outright destroyed due to the conspicuous homecoming of a very large and very angry dragon named Deathwing. Upon leaving his roost of hate and resentment inside Deepholm, Deathwing took to the skies over Azeroth and began his assault on its lands, setting fire to population centers and delivering an assortment of natural disasters to its shores. Since the initial attack, the inhabitants of Azeroth have had time to rebuild and regroup, and the result is reworked areas (some more so than others) that feature new characters and quests. We took a look at a few of these locations to highlight just how much Azeroth has changed.
Stormwind (Map)The city of Stormwind is no stranger to change; its sizable harbor was added so that Alliance players could catch boats to the Northrend continent introduced in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. That pales in comparison to the face-lift that Stormwind has received for Cataclysm, though. Not only has the dragon Deathwing completely destroyed the park and damaged the towers overlooking the entrance to the city, but the entire city has benefited from a makeover that, presumably, wasn't Deathwing's doing. The streets have been repaved, small alleyways have been carved out to make getting around easier, and Stormwind Keep now has a grand entrance complete with a statue atop a fountain. Behind the city, where there used to be nothing whatsoever, there's now a cemetery and a small rural area that boasts both a pumpkin patch and a fishing lake.
StormwindDespite sustaining some significant damage during Deathwing's flyover, the city of Stormwind has never looked better. Pick a spot anywhere in the city, and you can't fail to notice that practically everything you're looking at has been lovingly redesigned or remodeled. Stand outside the city's stockades, for example, and you can see that streetlights, building exteriors, and even paving stones now look significantly better. In the distance you can see the ruins of what used to be the entrance to Stormwind's park and--even though World of Warcraft's draw distance has been improved--a distinct lack of trees.
Westfall (Elemental Break)Westfall's Cataclysm transformation isn't as dramatic as that of many other zones, at least where its appearance is concerned. There is, however, a big chasm populated by translucent green oozes just east of the Gold Coast Quarry now, complete with some kind of vortex that's perpetually spinning trees and chunks of ground through the air. Elsewhere in the zone, wind elementals have been replaced with cyclones that will throw any animals or players that get too close into the air. The area around Sentinel Hill has been walled in to form a sizable settlement of sorts and can now change quite dramatically as a result of your questing in the area, courtesy of the same phasing technology that was introduced in Wrath of the Lich King. Several great new quests make Westfall well worth a visit even if you've no business being there at your character level, and two new flight points make moving around the zone much easier if you don't have your mount yet.
Menethil Harbor/WetlandsMenethil is approximately half the town it used to be as entire buildings are now underwater on the west side. The inn and many of the town's vendors are still functional, but you have to wade through shallow water to reach them. Elsewhere in the Wetlands zone, night elves have established a small outpost with its own flight point at Green Warden's Grove, and a new dwarf quest hub--also with its own flight point--has appeared next to the large lake that was created when the dam keeping Loch Modan out of the Wetlands was destroyed.
Loch ModanStonewrought Dam--which held the pristine waters of Loch Modan--was severely damaged, forcing its contents to the land below. As a result, Loch Modan is completely drained, and the land underneath the dam has become a large wetlands area with various elementals and other creatures patrolling what's left of the once-mighty lake.
Gadgetzan/TanarisGadgetzan has grown a little, many of its buildings have been relocated, and the encroaching ocean has made it a coastal town rather than an inland one. Horde and Alliance flight points have been relocated inside the city walls, and outside, a new ship is being built. Survivors from nearby Steamwheedle Port are now gathered on rooftops barely above water level, waiting for rescue balloons sent over by the Gadgetzan goblins. Pirates still occupy much the same area of Tanaris that they always have, but where before they occupied makeshift encampments, they can now cause trouble from the comfort of their ships. Tanaris isn't necessarily a zone that you need to make a point of visiting to see the Cataclysm changes, but there are few better zones in which to appreciate World of Warcraft's new normal-mapped water with procedural ripples and--as determined by your visual settings--varying levels of reflection.
Thousand NeedlesThe massive chasm that served as a focal point for Horde quests has been completely flooded following the events of the Shattering. Likewise, the Shimmering Flats--a large salt flat where goblins and gnomes could be found racing each other--has also been filled to the brim, but the two races have built an enormous barge in the flooded area and have sent salvage crews to collect wreckage from the ground below. Taurens still make their home atop the various peaks in Thousand Needles, but they're joined by a new encampment of Twilight cultists that you can see on the right side of the screen. Finally, the Great Lift that once connected the canyon to the Barrens has been completely destroyed by the flood waters.
BadlandsThe Badlands is still just as inhospitable as it was before the Shattering, only now it has a massive swath of torn land and a pair of sheered mountains just about where the Dust Bowl was located. How this formation, which is called Scar of the Worldbreaker, got there remains to be seen, but it's reasonable to infer that Deathwing got a little too close to the flight deck. What's also interesting is that a massive chasm now separates the Badlands from Loch Modan, destroying any direct land route from one area to the other.
Booty BayDespite what's suggested in the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm trailer, which shows a massive tidal wave crashing upon the statue of Baron Revilgaz, the pirate stronghold of Booty Bay didn't drastically change after Deathwing's little tantrum. The statue is still intact, albeit with some damage and a bit of seaweed here and there, and the town's physical characteristics are mostly unchanged. Still, there are some little details to take notice of--new waterfalls cascade down the cliffs near the back of Booty Bay, and a shipwreck, created by the tidal wave, can be found on one of the cliff sides.
Darkshore HarborIf you want a good idea of the kind of destruction Deathwing's arrival has caused in World of Warcraft, venture on down to Darkshore and visit the Night Elf town of Auberdine, or at least, what's left of it. The whole area has been completely obliterated and still suffers from the aftereffects of the Shattering which includes a tornado--called the Eye of the Vortex--that still hovers around the ruins of Auberdine. The rest of Darkshore has been similarly wrecked, with large portions of its coast now submerged underwater, while a new waterway can be found a little further inland.
SouthshoreOne of the more contentious areas in World of Warcraft, the Alliance-controlled Southshore is now under the control of the Horde thanks to the Forsaken forces and the Forsaken Blight (the massive puddles of green fluid) produced by the machine featured in the screenshot below. A number of relatively minor physical changes have also been made to Southshore to reflect its new occupants.
OrgrimmarTo say that the capital city of the orcs has undergone some changes is an understatement. The entire area has been almost completely redesigned with a menacing theme in mind. Metal plates now reinforce many parts of the city walls and interiors, and seemingly even more large teeth adorn various structures. The Horde war chief, Garrosh, built a new structure in the middle of the Valley of Strength where he resides, waiting to give orders to members of the Horde. Additionally, there's an entirely new area for the goblins, called the Goblin Slums, which signals their post-Shattering alliance with the Horde.
Be sure to come back to GameSpot at 11PM PST on December 6 for a special Tonight On The Spot episode featuring the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm launch event!