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Adventures in Cataclysm: From the Beginning
by Andrew Whipple III

There comes a time in every gamer’s life where he or she quits a title they’ve amassed untold hours playing. It's usually an MMO. However, since so much was committed to that single, solitary game, saying goodbye forever becomes harder and harder as time progresses. During your absence, new content finds its way into the mix, expansions hit the scene, changes to the aspects of the game you hated finally come through, and perhaps more friends jump in. Slowly, you begin to reconsider your choice, or maybe curiosity gets the better of you. Whatever the case, you begin to explore your route back into that all-too-familiar world. That time has come around for me, and I find myself considering revisiting the unbelievably-populated, money-making world of Azeroth in all its sundered glory.

Cataclysm is a big deal. At least, it is to the legions of people who have been playing World of Warcraft since its launch in 2004. Personally, I couldn’t have cared less. Having played World of Warcraft through its launch, its first expansion - The Burning Crusade - and most of Wrath of the Lich King, there didn’t seem to be enough substance left to sustain someone who had undoubtedly burnt himself out on Blizzard’s baby. Raiding took far too much time and effort for what I received, it was impossible to level another character without drifting off into inadvertent sleep and I was sick of dealing with some of the class-balancing issues. The only thing holding me back from quitting was the good chunk of my friends who still primarily played the game. Still, it wasn’t long before I packed it in, gave my account to a friend, and moved onto my wall of neglected, dusty games.

As you can imagine, this didn’t last as long as I’d envisioned. Whether you like it or not, Blizzard has a knack for catching former players’ eyes, and they certainly hooked me. Hearing about all the augmentations to classes, talents, and the coup de grâce of revamping the entirety of the old world, I was back in. What I didn’t know, though, was that since I’d been away for so long and with all the insurmountable changes to the game, I’d basically have to relearn everything. So if you play World of Warcraft, are thinking of jumping into Azeroth, or are simply a sucker for anything Warcraft, this series of articles should educate you on the brand new Cataclysm content with my unadulterated professional opinion. Just think, as an added bonus you get exclusive access to the (mis)adventures of a GGTL editor and former Warcraft addict. Amazing stuff.

Day 1: The Login

After purchasing every one of the WoW expansions and the original game (including Cataclysm) for the ripe price of $60 (thanks to the wondrous Blizzard sale), it was time to visit the title screen. My finger twitched in anticipation - or was it fear for re-entering the fold? Ignoring my emotions and steeling myself, I watched as the launcher popped up and tore the retinas straight from my very eyes. Even the damn launcher was changed and, to top it all off, I could jump into the game before all the content was done downloading. I didn’t believe it. Yet in front of me lay indisputable evidence that my skepticism was misplaced. Plainly, I was impressed and I hadn’t even arrived at any aspect of the game. About a second after that a large, burning and very angry looking dragon stretched across my screen. I was in.

Character creation was always a problem for me. What the hell did I want to be? Maybe a healer? How about pure damage? No, a multi-class role would be nice for a change. What about tanking again? Gah! Being a former player, it was hard not to think about the end game before I even began. I did notice that many classes incapable of being selected on certain races were now open, much like my Priest. Blood Elves could now be Warriors, Undead could choose the Hunter, and Tauren could even take the role of Paladin. After a short debate with myself, I settled on the obvious choice: a Tauren Priest. And no, my in-game name is not Cowhealz.

Immediately upon entering the world I was greeted by narrative which had been adapted to incorporate the events that have transpired over the past six years. Mulgore, the starting zone for the Tauren, was no longer the same and Cairne (the big dude in charge of the place) was dead. Once this news hit me I realised that the only thing familiar about the place would be the friggin’ Plainstriders. Seriously, has anyone died to one of those things? I certainly haven’t. No sir.

Before anything I observed the new interface. When I first played Warcraft back in the day, the game’s interface did what it needed to do and nothing more. Any augmentations like AtlasLoot and QuestHelper were up to you to obtain to make questing bearable. Clearly, Blizzard has implemented these add-ons and several others that benefit the player hugely. I can now pull up my map with 'M' and see the areas where I’m supposed to be for a specific quest. Pulling up my spellbook, I was also pleased to see all the abilities my character will be able to learn instead of just a blank slate. Some people I know still use add-ons like X-Perl, but this interface is so clean and crisp and I’m certainly not going to need any addons.

Grassy and hilly as ever, Mulgore retains much of its previous aesthetic. However, I don’t think there’s one quest that’s the same. Warcraft veterans and Tauren connoisseurs should remember the annoying Quillboar areas from the old world. I hated those areas, but since they’ve been vapourized I was able to focus on the new material without feeling lethargic one bit. After completing just a handful of quests I was strangely brimming with energy. I was having fun, and in a starter zone too! Verdict: new quests are a lot more fun, about three times as fast, and considerate. Hell, I was flown to Bloodhoof Village. Flown! Back in my day, Blizzard made us walk ten miles through a hostile environment, uphill, in the blazing sun.

It’s still early on, but one of my hopes for the expansion was to make Thunder Bluff relevant again. In 'old' Warcraft, Thunder Bluff was a ghost town. There was no reason to ever go there, and it was a real shame. Thunder Bluff easily held some of the best visuals of all the major cities and, as far as I can tell, the only real change in this new version of Warcraft is the city's positioning. Blizzard has moved it a bit west and put elevators on all sides, which is nice. Cairne’s son, Baine Bloodhoof, runs the joint now and gives you some pretty badass quests to complete.

That’s another thing I should visit here; the quests themselves. While being thoroughly changed with drop-rates increased and such, they’re much more dynamic. Sometimes you’ll see allied NPCs duking it out in a burning village and other times you’ll bear witness to Blizzard’s phasing technology. If you’re unfamiliar with 'phasing', it adds a whole new layer to the game. Upon completing a quest or accomplishing a certain task, you might see the world around you change. It’s great to see new effects in these rejuvenated zones and there are even some quests that put you in a vehicle or weapon right in the beginning.

It wasn’t long before I hit level ten and was shown I could now utilise my talent tree. Back in my day, talents were something that were no small feat. What you picked stuck with you for a long, long time and were detrimental to instances if you chose the wrong combination. Blizzard now requires you choose a tree to progress down and you cannot deter from it. I can see some people getting angry about it, but really it makes things more simple, less confusing, and much more organised. Besides, from what I hear you can dual-specialise in another tree and switch to it on-the-fly. More on that when I get to experience it.

Final Thoughts:

I’m loving the new quests, the new cleaned up interface, and the environments. This experience has rejuvenated my interest in the game and progressing from here, by the looks of things, won’t be an issue whatsoever.

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- Andrew Whipple III

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