Introduces the worgen Alliance and the goblin Horde.Blizzard has also introduced two new races for this expansion, Goblins on the Horde side and Worgens for the Alliance. Both races have expansive starting zones and quest chains that help spell out the story of how their race came to be involved in the current conflicts facing Azaroth. Of the two, I prefered the Goblin starting zone, the story there felt more involved and contained a lot more humour, as befiting a race of greedy, no good, double dealing merchants. From having to attend and liven up a massive party, to racing down a slope in a runaway minecart to an aeriel battle over a beach invasion, I saw a lot more character. Regardless of personal preference, both sides received good treatment, Blizzard has made good use of the various tools at their disposal, many of which were introduced during the previous expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. You’ll find the landscape altering around you, though always off camera so as not to be too jarring due to the phased maps, and there’s plenty of oppertunity to jump into a vehicle whether it’s for a quick ride between locations or an out and out vehicle conflict.
The same kind of polish is also applied to the new leveling zones, intended to take your characters from level 80 to 85, the new cap for this expansion. The whole world just feels more alive than I’ve ever seen before in an MMO, your character’s actions do have an effect on the world around him as you complete various quests. It’s a particularly engaging mix of single player and multi-player that many RPG designers could do well to learn from. As an example, freeing a giant tortoise spirit from it’s bonds will cause it to slowly wander across the landscape, spreading rains to cool the burning forest around him. Other NPC’s will greet the tortoise with happiness at preventing the disaster. There’s also good use of cut-scenes throughout to tell the part of the story that you’re up to, and due to the heavy use of in-game machinima rather than pre-rendered cinematics, there’s more opportunity that ever to show your character as part of the action, recognisable due to your gear.
Finally, they’ve also introduced a new secondary skill to the game called Archaeology, which has you chasing all over the world hunting for relics of a bygone era. Unlike other trade skills, this one is focused heavily on self buffs, whether it’s a new companion pet, or Bind on Account epic level items that can be sent to your other characters. The mechanics are fairly simplistic, turn up at a dig site indicated on your map, and then play a game of Cold, Colder, Warm, Warmer using a simple pointing tool. It’s actually quite engaging once you’ve spent a bit of time getting used to the surveying device, though also frustrating as it’s very much a time sink, taking several dig sites to obtain even a junk item. In just over an hour, I’d only completed a single item, which was a Wooden Whistle worth 3 silver pieces.
In conclusion, Cataclysm is the expansion you’ve been waiting for, whether you’re a hardcore or casual player. Whilst the decision to include only 5 levels this time around might make it seem there’s less to do, it’s actually helped focus things, as many of the zones introduced are *huge* containing over 120 quests. Ultimately, that means you really want to follow the story in each zone to it’s conclusion rather than just race through the levels.