The facts speak for themselves: 3.3 million units sold in 24 hours, beating the previous fastest selling video games title (which, unsurprisingly, was the last World of Warcraft expansion…) Whether you think that the mother of all MMORPGs is the best invention since the creation of the wheel, or that WoW fans are just sad obsessives who live with their mothers and never see the light of day, there’s no denying the grip this game has on its more than 12 million subscribers.
So does Cataclysm live up to the hype? Well, in every sense Blizzard has decided it’s time the WoW universe was given a bit of a shake-up. To that end, it has woken up the corrupted dragon Deathwing who’d been licking his wounds in the depths of Deepholm, following his last battle against Azeroth. Now fully recovered and out for revenge, Deathwing has literally torn free of his lair and the resultant tidal waves and earthquakes have completely remodelled the landscape.
In one clever stroke, Blizzard has enabled hardcore WoW fans to revisit familiar locations across Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms in a way that sees them utterly reformed. At the same time, new high-level areas have been opened up, including the spectacular sunken city of Vashj’ir, Grim Batol, Uldum – and Deepholm itself. A new Player vs Player combat zone has been created on the island of Tol Barad, and there are two new battlegrounds – Twin Peaks and The Battle for Gilneas.
Gilneas is important because of the two completely new races that have been introduced – the lycanthrope Worgen (on the side of the Alliance) and the profiteering Goblins (for the Horde) with a love of all things explosive. The Worgen are especially interesting because they were formally isolationist humans from Gilneas who were tainted with the Worgen curse. You can now play in either human or werewolf’ mode after you learn how to control the curse.
There’s much in the gameplay that both regular combatants and newbies will appreciate. Particularly useful are the flying mounts (gryphons, dragons, and so on) for getting about Azeroth. There’s also a directional compass to help you locate quest objects; race and class combos have been expanded and talent trees rejigged. Level caps have also been increased from 80 to 85 (scores of groans from those wanting 100 but, hey – give it time…) and a new secondary skill of archaeology is now available, enabling you to scout out helpful (but not vital) artefacts scattered round the map.
Significant alterations have been made to dungeon fighting and raids that will mean more strategic thinking than regular players are used to, more use of crowd control and more conservative use of mana. Players’ health pools have been enlarged – which is good if you’re being attacked, but not so good if you need to refill it. Levelling up in the early stages is much faster than before,though, which will be ideal for newcomers wanting to get a toehold in this bizarre fantasy world.