A retrospective of Cataclysm expectations

Around this time two years ago, Cataclysm was revealed as WoW's third expansion at Blizzcon 2009. Now, Blizzcon 2011 (and thus presumably the official announcment of the next expansion) is still a few months away, but I thought that it would be fun to look back at how I reacted to the Cataclysm announcement back in the day, before we all go wild about Mists of Pandaria or whatever else it's going to be. You can read the whole post I wrote about my Cataclysm expectations here, but I'm going to quote the most important bits anyway.

Thrall abandoning the Horde? I'm glad that this one hasn't been confirmed as of yet as far as I'm aware.

Ah, I still had such high hopes for the Horde back then. Isn't it sad?

The new races are the feature that has been semi-official for longer than any of the others and I loved it from moment I heard about it.

I was really excited about worgen and goblins, more so about the latter than about the former, but still... and yet, this has probably turned out to be one of my biggest disappointments in this expansion. For starters, Blizzard didn't give us any additional character slots, so I could only create new alts on servers where I didn't have any friends, which was fairly off-putting. Then the new starter zones both ended up being rather disappointing to me personally. Gilneas's linearity rankled, though I've recently felt an itch to give it a second playthrough. And Kezan was just so over the top that it didn't even feel like Warcraft to me anymore.

To make matters worse, I ended up having major issues with the looks and animations of the new races. Or rather, I'm fine with the goblins' looks, but something about their animations keeps bugging me, though I can't really put my finger on what exactly it is. Maybe I'm just sizist, as I don't like playing gnomes either. The worgen are worse though, as I don't like their looks much and their animations just look atrocious to me, as if all their limbs were made of rubber. I talked about this in my post about the worgen starter area, but the way they run just really, really bothers me, to the point where I feel some annoyance every time I see a worgen run past me - I don't even have to be the one playing it - and that's an issue that I have with no other race. It's like a horde of Scooby Doos invaded Azeroth. /shudder.

My only hope is that I'll still get used to it. I actually remember really disliking the blood elves when Burning Crusade first came out, especially the females, but eventually I managed to mellow out a bit and tried out their starter zone on a male first... and well, as you can see on my side bar, I now have a female blood elf paladin at max level, and I certainly don't hate her.

The thought of already ditching all my Icecrown epics after only five levels doesn't sit quite right with me.

Hahaha! Little did I know that I would actually start ditching my Icecrown epics the moment I set foot into the first of the new zones. I'm still not sure how I feel about this extreme gear reset to be honest. It creates a bit of a difficulty hump for new characters in levelling gear, but on the other hand it allows them to catch up very quickly. Nonetheless, the scaling - not just of gear, but also of stats - from 80 to 85 just feels completely out of whack compared to the rest of the game. Already a level 85 character in decent gear has about five times the health that an 80 had back in ICC, and the expansion is less than a year old. I think I would have preferred it not to be quite so drastic. All my stats being in the thousands just feels weird.

I'm also intrigued by the new "path system" for character progression.

I think with this and the dance studio there's a definite lesson to be learned: trust at least one of the major expansion features to be scrapped before release.

I guess in my ideal world they'd add new quests while also incorporating some of the old ones in the new setting, maybe streamlining them somewhat in the process.

Actually, this is something that Blizzard did get right, even if I personally felt that the results were of somewhat mixed quality and didn't work equally well in all the zones. The "continuity problem" of some old quests having had consequences while other ones appear to have never happened is something that I've slowly learned to ignore, but there is still another issue:

The question would be how viable that would be, especially if we assume that the base levelling speed won't be changed - do people really need more quests that they'll just outlevel way too quickly anyway?

It's funny how that was a bit of a throwaway comment at the time, as I had little doubt that Blizzard would balance quest experience and levelling speed in some way, yet characters outlevelling their quests way too quickly has actually turned out to be one of the major problems of the revamped old world.

New High-Level Zones & More Raid Content than Ever Before - I feel a bit spoiled saying this, but this is a bit of a "duh", isn't it?

I've got to give credit where credit is due: I felt that they did deliver plenty of good raid content in the first tier of this expansion... but unfortunately the whole system of having multiple raids per tier seems to have gone out of the window again now, which is a shame in my opinion. And well, the amount of new high level zones wasn't that impressive either. It never feels like you have much choice about where to quest; your only option for variety during levelling is to avoid questing altogether and try to level by other means.

I'm definitely looking forward to trying out many of these new options [for race/class combinations], though the limited amount of character slots per realm will definitely end up being an issue for me.

Yep, also see my comments above about worgen and goblins. In actuality, the only new combos that I've tried out so far are human hunter, undead hunter and troll druid. There's a lot of untapped potential there for me, but as I said the limited character slots remain a deterrent for me.

If guild-changing suddenly has more meaningful effects than losing a chat channel and the tag over your name that could be the source of a lot of new drama... but I'm confident in Blizzard's ability to avoid the worst pitfalls that are bound to crop up with such a new system.

I'm actually not sure how I feel about the guild levelling system after more than six months of using it. The perks are alright, but on the other hand there are only a few that I actually miss when I'm playing on an unguilded character, and some, like the experience boosts that you can't turn off, are actually something that I actively want to avoid on lowbie alts.

And I'm not sure whether this system has actually made guilds more meaningful. Yes, it has given them a more important role in terms of gameplay, but to be honest I don't think that's really what guilds should be about. I also can't shake the feeling that this has made people more reluctant to change guilds, even if it's something they want to do, which I don't consider a good thing.

I don't PvP much these days so I can't claim to care much about these features, however the mention of "new battlegrounds with rated team play" in the trailer has me intrigued.

Rated battlegrounds didn't turn out to be what I expected either, as I didn't think that they would be something that required premade teams, but on the plus side they turned out to be a lot more fun than I had imagined and have actually turned into one of my favourite features of this expansion.

I really like the idea of a new secondary profession, simply because that means everyone will be able to get it - and, like the other secondary professions, it would most likely be somewhat optional.

At the start of the expansion archaeology didn't really feel entirely optional to me, considering that it could potentially result in items that were as powerful as raid gear, so not levelling it felt a bit like passing on potential gear upgrades. This has got better as the gear from it has become a bit outdated though - which is a good thing in my opinion. I do wonder how many characters have actually levelled their archaeology - it seems to me that it has become what fishing used to be, that annoying profession that you levelled on your main for the perks but then never touched on any of your alts. Fishing itself has become a lot more fun with the many dailies and fewer restrictions on how much skill you need to make successful catches, but archaeology on alts still feels pretty bleh to me.

Flying Mounts in Azeroth - Awesome. Not much more to say about that.

Actually, this is another thing that in my opinion turned out to not be as great as I had thought it would be. Soaring over the old world was interesting for maybe two weeks, then it just turned into the most convenient way of getting from A to B without having to pay attention to the scenery. I actually find myself enjoying my alts below sixty much more not just because of the new content, but also because they are glued to the ground and actually get to take in the changes in the landscape.

Now, you could read all this as a rant about how Cataclysm sucks etc., but I think that more than anything it's a warning not to get too caught up in the hype about a new expansion. The things that I got most disappointed about weren't necessarily the weakest aspects of the expansion but simply things about which I had built up too many expectations (e.g. "I'm sure levelling a goblin will be just as much fun as levelling a draenei was back in the day").

In a way, Cataclysm was also the expansion about which I was the most excited so far. When Burning Crusade came out I hadn't been playing that long yet and didn't really understand the ramifications of everything that was going to happen. Wrath was something that I did get excited about, but to be honest a lot of it was more about the prospect of levelling through it with my boyfriend (we had only just got together about two months before its release) than about the actual content. I knew little about Arthas and thus wasn't too concerned with his story.

But Cataclysm... I don't know! I think in a way I expected it to fix everything that I didn't like about the state of the game, which of course it didn't and couldn't do. Also, my boyfriend and I couldn't even start playing together at the same time since he had ordered a copy from Amazon and we were victims of their Big Fail of Christmas 2010. (He ended up cancelling his order and somehow it still ended up in our mailbox in May or so. Lolwut?) It just felt like a bit of a mess.

Whatever the next expansion will be, I'll try to just lean back and not think about it too much until it actually arrives. Hopefully I'll be able to get more enjoyment out of it that way.


  1. I believe that the two new races suffer from not being intertwined with the story. BC and Wrath introduced races and an epic class that were at the heart of the expac, while the new ones are only peripherally involved with the main storyline.

  2. With regards to your "flying over Azeroth" paragraph, if I were designing a brand new MMO, rule number 1 would be "Absolutely no player controlled flying mounts EVER!!"

    Traveling from point A to B can certainly get old and boring, but I'm not sure that the convenience added by flying mounts is enough to make up for the complete lack of danger and 'sense of place' that you get being, as you say, "glued to the ground".

  3. *"feeling of danger"

  4. I would say: "Absolutely no player controlled flying mounts unless your world is designed around the ability to fly."

    Vashj'ir is a zone where you can move in three-dimensional space, which is basically the same as flying, and doesn't feel as save as the old world. Because the zone was designed around the ability to "fly". For example, all the mobs "fly" too.

  5. @Redbeard: Well, goblins have always been around, this is just a different group of them. The worgen feel like they're coming a bit out of left field in some areas, but still that's not really an issue for me. I just wish that it wasn't so painful to look at them. :P

    @Kring: That's a fair point, but then again a lot of people also seem to dislike environments that are specifically designed for 3D movement (such as the Oculus and Vashj'ir) simply because they don't like playing like that.