“Everything is old and new again” M. Eminescu about the release of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
It’s 4 AM and a guildmate’s screams of exasperation shake the voice chat software. He’s howling threats, cussing and whining for (accidentally) not receiving an armor that makes him about 1.5% stronger. The officers announce a five minute break during which they will decide how to solve the victim’s existential drama, an opportunity for you to sprint as fast as your feet will take you towards the bathroom.
You yawn like a hippo and study yourself in the mirror – black circles formed on top of older ones, rammed under eyes so yellow and tired you’d think, had you not known better, that you’ve got liver issues. If she saw you, your mother would frown the way she always does and complain that you’re spending 12 hours in front of a monitor. Your dad barely even talks to you, and going to college is a memory so distant that it causes nostalgia.
If you’re afraid that WoW: Cataclysm will turn you into the aforementioned character, don’t worry. That’s impossible. At one point labeled as the most devastating addictive product after heroin and Facebook, the controversial MMORPG drastically minimized its prerequisites.
The effort/reward ratio is considerably now smaller, with both starting area missions as well as end-game missions being without a doubt more interactive, intense and less repetitive. Add narratives, cinematics and suggestive animations to that instead of the abstract backstory jigsaw we had so far and you get a fair idea of what the game has turned into.
After more than six years of strolling aimlessly through the Warcraft universe, I have come to the conclusion that all the evil godlike entities in the game come to form like the hooded valets every parking lot in our fair metropolis produces – stepping over the dimensional barrier that limits harmony and enunciating demented theories on what is owed to them. Back in the Vanilla WoW, Ragnaros was guarding the underground parking lot for MallTen Core, C’thun erupted in Ahn’Qiraj to stick laser beams in the eyes of civilians and Illidan made an appearance out of nowhere in an Outland prospect, mumbling something about betrayal and thirst for moon spring water. Much like Deathwing – kicking away at the fabric of an entire continent, encouraged by two other no-good nihilists (Yogg-Saron and C’thun), stemming from an ancestral hatred towards anyone who hasn’t taken him seriously since Warcraft II to date. He’s threatening to bring about a quick end, and I for one believe him, as many of my slower comrades attained maximum level before the first week was out.
Thus, Cataclysm is a WoW that’s more intense and concentrated, halving the experience quantity necessary to get to the maximum level, gained in perhaps the lushest and vivid content Blizzard ever developed. Truth be told, the renewed old content is smaller than the endless plains of Wrath of the Lich King, for instance, but fully compensates through dynamics and density.
Like the proverbial schoolyard dealer (whom I for one have never seen myself), Blizzard didn’t neglect potential newbies, with „fresh gear” taking the form of one race per each faction (Goblins for the Horde and Worgen for the Alliance), each with their own starting area and immersive storylines that shape simply, clearly and convincingly the species integration in the already known alliances of races.
The cunning, trade-minded Goblins appear in tropical areas which are very similar to what we would see in the Monkey Island series, contoured by betrayal and American blockbuster lines with teenagers. On the other side of the fence, the Worgens live a jaw-dropping gothic drama through the prism of the usual conflict with what is (ironically) the most xenophobe of races: humans. Regarding both fresh factions, the learning curve is optimized to the point where lost Facebook souls can grasp the mechanics, and the narrative depth is captivating enough to motivate the most hardcore of veterans to take a stroll.
If you don’t like the debutante creatures, but you wanted a combo that wasn’t implemented at the game’s initial launch (such as Human Hunter, for instance) you can explore the classes which were now unlocked. What’s certain is that a character’s development from scratch is not as difficult as it would seem, mainly because the widely-known Dungeon Finder automates both the forming of an adequate instancing group, as well as its teleportation on site.
Furthermore, the dungeon content was altered, from boss and mob skins (which are much more varied) to their abilities, which might prove a bit difficult to those who haven’t seen PvP raid mechanics. Decent players, however, will find the challenges fairly modest. And farming instances becomes repetitive quite quickly, and will probably grow tedious enough to send you exploring the war-torn world.
At which point you’ll encounter the first in a chain of pleasant surprises: Azeroth has been rebuilt in a formula that depicts the aftermath of a primordial evil reaching puberty on crack. Large gorges mark the earth, oversaturated color pallets, with new craters opening leaner pathways to already known realms.
The slightly rigid design of the Vanilla continents received significant facelifts, if by facelifts we understand a visual redefining treatment through lava and volcanic implants. Even the interactive side went through major enhancements – take Azshara, for instance. Although one of the more atmospheric territories of the old world, its rugged architecture and the astronomical distances which had to be traversed in order to fill out quest tasks kept its tourist attraction to a low level. Now, the multicolored gulf is a psychedelic carnival.