Cataclysm First Impressions
Has it really been three days since the release of Cataclysm? /rubs eyes. The time has just flown past for me (as I’m sure it has for many of you) and I’ve been busy exploring all of the new content and shiny goodies that have been unleashed upon us. I’ve now played a fair bit since Monday, getting my Warrior to level 81 and rolling a Worgen Priest, so I figured it would be the perfect time to share my first impressions of the expansion. And as someone who never played the beta, I really do mean first impressions. Everything is new to me and everything is a surprise (and by surprise I mean dying seven times in every new dungeon I do), exactly how I wanted it.
I’d always planned on trying a Worgen character after I first saw they were going to be a playable race and, having resisted the temptation to enroll in the beta, I came to them completely new and fresh and boy, oh boy, was it something special. I’m certainly no blind Blizzard fanboi (in fact, I think I’m probably overly harsh on them sometimes) but I have to honestly say that the Worgen level 1 – 14 area is one of the best – if not the best – starting experiences I’ve ever had in a MMO. And I’m saying that having had over 10 years experience of different MMORPGs. Everything from the intriguing and epic storyline to the wonderfully Gothic Werewolf feel to the jaw-droppingly seamless use of phasing to the fact that quests are actually fun and interesting again, not just another grind mechanic, all comes together to form a wonderfully engrossing and engaging play experience.
I suppose the only quibble I have with the Worgen starting experience (and I say ‘experience’ because it doesn’t feel like a normal, traditional starting area) is that it’s incredibly guided and feels more like a single player game than a multiplayer one. There were times when I could’ve been playing a BioWare RPG like Dragon Age and almost forgot that I was playing a MMO. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the only way Blizzard would’ve been able to narrate such a beauitful story, but, for better or for worse, it’s themepark MMOing at it’s epitome.
My Warrior is now half way to level 82 and I’ve already explored Kelp’thar Forest and Mount Hyjal and completed the Blackrock Caverns instance. The new dungeons are challenging and, for the first time in my entire experience of WoW, are actually causing random PUGs to communicate, work together and engage each other. I swear that someone actually spoke to me today. Shocking, I know.
Dungeons aside, the new zones are still incredibly easy but that doesn’t prevent them from being fun and offering up some innovative quests. Stepping aboard the ship from Stormwind to Vashj’ir for the first time felt absolutely epic and sucked me into the storyline right from the moment we were attacked by the giant Kraken and dragged down into the depths of the ocean. Now that doesn’t happen to you every day in a MMO.
Hitting 85 is going to be interesting and, I don’t imagine, very difficult at all. How the game is going to shape up when I’m there, I don’t know, but I’m already slightly concerned that I’m going to run out of content very quickly. Although there are a lot of questing zones and group dungeons to partake in, I fear I’m going to boost through it quicker than I can actually experience it all. I guess at that point I just roll another character and the cycle continues…
I’d like to say that I was as giddy as a schoolboy before Christmas about the release Cataclysm but that wasn’t the case at all. Truth is, I haven’t really gotten excited about any MMO since Everquest 2 or Star Wars: Galaxies and whether that’s because I’m just getting old or because I’m slowly dying inside, I don’t know. Surprisingly though, I find my excitement growing the more I play the expansion, changing from a restrained enthusiasm into an exclamation of infatuation. I can’t help but admire how perfectly crafted and purposefully thought about each tiny little segment of the expansion is.
I’d like to say more about it all, such as how smooth and painless the launch was (probably the smoothest I’ve ever seen) or how well the class and talent revamps are working but, at the risk of this article turning into some gigantic sycophantic essay, I won’t. I will say though that, overall, Cataclysm is shaping up to be a true tremendous triumph for Blizzard.