Is Cataclysm Enough to Bring You Back?

Every time I start to write about World of Warcraft, I know that some percentage of our readership will sigh an exasperated breath, let slump their frustrated shoulders and forcefully think to themselves, “are we really still talking about this game?” I understand and even sympathize with the crippling ennui that Blizzard’s epic, if slightly long in the tooth, MMO inspires in some. Truth be told, for a long and restful few months, even as I had tantalizing beta access to the upcoming expansion Cataclysm waiting for my hungry eyes, I too grew despondent to my long-term digital paramour.

But, like the mafia, a sanitarium or daycare, they inevitably pulled me back in.

Truth is, I actually don’t like MMO betas very much. I cling desperately to the assumption that the endless timesink of these games at least results in some durable digital asset, like a level 80 spell-wielding cow or an ill-tempered dwarf wearing fancy armor. In betas not only do you have to deal with a world only half realized, but the fruits of your labor are summarily dismissed at the end of the ordeal. It’s not just watching sausage being made, it’s having to periodically take big bites of the partially processed meat.

So, when I tell you, not surprisingly, that the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm beta is becoming pretty damn fun, at least understand that for a while I had been inclined to say something very different.

Even if you have long pushed back, overstuffed, from the WoW smorgasbord, know that unlike previous expansions Cataclysm is ready to welcome back its lost flock with open and accommodating arms. This is the rare expansion to an MMO that actually is driven to serve players of all levels, not just the hardcore.

Historically, my least favorite thing about MMO expansions, is that it often seems like unless you have high level characters, there’s little content that is aimed at you. Sure, occasionally there will be a new race or class, but aside from a brief stint in an updated starting area, it’s ultimately back into the long grind that had so worn you down in the first place. I struggle to recall any MMO expansion that successfully addressed that deep well of dragging commitment that describes the upside down bell curve of MMO fun.

If you have ever played WoW and thought to yourself, “That’s it, I just can’t possibly spend another second in Stranglethorn Vale with my level 35 character,” then this is the expansion built for you.

This Azeroth is a new world rebuilt from the fiery embers of the old. It rewards both those who have spent half a decade traversing familiar landscapes, as well as those who are open to the concept of ending their long diaspora away. Five years is an eternity in the massively multiplayer business, and the lessons learned both in world construction and character development progression are immediately and consistent evident.

This world is a more interesting place where once small waystations between distant points of interest have been given their own depth, personality and fleshed backstory. There is a persistent sense of movement and progress at all levels, and with the benefit of five years worth of tools and improvements there is always the opportunity to shift your focus on the fly and do something different when you get bored.

I have a friend who has for months been trying to get me to see the light on Cataclysm. It’s basically a full-on relaunch of one of the world’s biggest games. Everything is basically rebuilt from the ground up: mechanics, levelling, questing, the world, skill development, roles, story, everything. Only in the past few weeks, as Blizzard has really begun putting that fifth level of polish on the game -- still more than a month out -- have the dots begun to connect firmly in my mind.

Be prepared, because if you are a former WoW player who simply thought you would be able to finally ignore this expansion, the temptation will be far stronger than you might have imagined. It’s not just an expansion for people who want to play a goblin or werewolf. The reality is that the changes made to the world and the game itself are equally impactful to long-standing classes and races. The promise of a world totally torn down and rebuilt from its own ashes is being realized, and it is even more tantalizing than I had originally imagined it would be.

The laundry list of changes and improvements is grand in scope. I would be loathe to try and point to any one thing (old world flying, simplifying talent trees, improved visuals, increased world diversity, story development, normalized questing paths, dungeon queues, smoother transition between areas, redevelopment of outdated or underused content) that makes the experience take the next leap forward. It's an expansion not built on gimmicks or hooks, but from the experience of a cash-rich company that is investing in the future of a game that should by all accounts already be in decline.

And, if I was placing my bets, I would say with supreme confidence that the investment will pay off for both company and players.

Comments

Do I need to buy Burning Crusade and Lich King first in order to be permitted to spend money on the new hotness?

Then no thanks. I might re-up for a month to see the changes to the world on my original-game characters (none of which I ever got past L30 anyhow) but as someone who hasn't bought the expansions along the way, I'm not about to drop $30+$50+$50 to check out a game I know I won't play long term. I mean seriously, LotRO is sitting there for free.

They really need to start bundling that stuff at a reasonable price if they want to attract people who actually left the game years ago and never came back.

The cataclysm happens for everyone. All the 1-60 zones are being rebuilt, quests reworked, and so on. Expansion content, and leveling beyond 60 still needs to be enabled by adding the expansion on your account.

Right, I was aware that the world had been redone for everybody, but I wasn't sure what content or game functionality (if any) was behind the "buy the expansion" gate other than the new high-level zones.

If the answer is "none", that's super news, and I'll definitely toss 'em $15 to check it out for a month.

Ravenlock wrote:
Right, I was aware that the world had been redone for everybody, but I wasn't sure what content or game functionality (if any) was behind the "buy the expansion" gate other than the new high-level zones.

If the answer is "none", that's super news, and I'll definitely toss 'em $15 to check it out for a month.

Also the Worgen/Goblin races and areas, I believe.

Just to clarify, Worgen/Goblins are locked to the cata expansion, like Draenei/Blood Elves are locked to Burning crusade expansion. The starting zones for the 8 original races are getting a refresh though.

Flying_Norseman wrote:
I'm curious to know how the combat has changed if at all? Especially in light of upcoming games like Guild Wars 2.

The basic mechanics haven't really changed much, and the game at 80 is still quite similar (at least, on the two 80 characters I have). They've improved the combat during levelling a fair bit, however: no huge individual changes, but the combination of less downtime, more meaningful buttons to push, signature abilities being available earlier and so on makes it a much better experience overall. My impression is that the extent of it has varied considerably from spec to spec depending on how much they needed it, though.

Not a chance. The majority of this expansion is content I couldn't care less about.

Itemized budget is laid out. I think I can get back in around mid-November.

I'm struggling pretty hard with this one. I quit about a year and a half ago and swore I'd never return, but I have made the mistake of researching all the incoming changes. My brother still plays WoW to the exclusion of all other games, and he is living with me at the moment, breaking my resolve each and every day.

My problem is the same that has been mentioned a few times already. I just don't know if I can play this game casually. I told myself I was going to play casually in Lich King. Weeks later, I'm making up an excuse to cancel my Friday night plans with friends I actually talk to in real life, and I'm flying to Ulduar on my Deadly Gladiator's Frost Wyrm to participate in a 4 hour raid for the 3rd night that week to get that final piece of t8 gear I've been after.

So the real question is... do I re-up now for sweet heirloom gear + enchants for my worgen mage?

Edit: damn, I'm doing it wrong.

I might come back to sightsee. My daughter and I had a good time exploring the world together, I got a hunter to level 60 before BC, played quite a bit of BC (hunter's probably around 77, 78?), have a bunch of alts in the 40's and 50's, so I have fond memories of Azeroth.

For all the reasons mentioned here, I can't see it becoming a full-time thing again. I don't really want to level in WoW, or run dungeons or instances. It's just such a fun world to run around that I think I'd get my money's worth out of a couple months of sightseeing.

I think my daughter would enjoy seeing it again as well. She was young when we played - 5, 6 years old - and she would probably enjoy seeing how the old world has changed.

Might be a shared Xmas gift for the both of us

After that, it'll be back to LoTRO and LoL and all the single-player games still on my pile. Six months of WoW would mean missing way too many other good games.

I didn't just sacrifice game time to WoW. I played every MMO from EQ on, and lost years of single-player game time. I've been having fun catching up, and I think that's how I'd rather spend the bulk of my time these days.

Wait, wait....you're allowed to LEAVE WoW?

I don't call it quitting, I call it an extended break.

I just went back a few nights ago

I'm on an "extended break" as well. Since January 2009 according to Warcraft Realms character history. Originally, I had a level 60 alliance paladin and played most of the end game content - as that was the end at the time. We tried everything at least, but we weren't quite up to finishing AQ40. Then my guild disintegrated one day (or over a couple days), so I quit the game forever.

When I started playing again six months later, I decided to try out the horde side. I went with a druid so I could have a lot of choices to play with. Got her to level 70 in fairly short order (just over six months). Started raiding again; guild self-destructed again. Switched servers to join another guild and played most of the level 70 end game instances. (To be fair, right before Wrath of the Lich King came out, Blizzard made all the end-game instances a lot easier to beat. We had made it about 1/2 way through the Black Temple before the change, but after the change, we were defeating new bosses in one night.)

When Wrath of the Lich King came out, I leveled her to 80 in just under 2 months. Then I sat back, looked at the research and rework I was going to have to do to bring my Moonkin back to raiding status. I decided I needed another break.

That said, I think I'll still have to give Cataclysm a shot. At least start a few new toons on each side and the new races to try out the starting areas. I'm not sure I have any desire to raid again. It takes a lot of time to make decent progress raiding.

Not enough.

Yes, a few days ago. I never actually played WotLK, but after reading up on the Cataclysm stuff recently, I decided to go pick it up. Hopefully, with fairly casual play, I'll have an 80 or two (I have one 70 and one 60 DK now) ready in time for Cataclysm.

I do doubt that it will keep my attention too long. MMOs generally don't anymore. But if I get a couple of months out of it, it will be worth it.

I may pop on at some point, but I think I'm mostly done with WoW for now. The LK story line was interesting, but the premise of having to complete end game raiding to see the full story line is a bit of a drag. I did it with this past expansion, but I'm not sure I'm prepared to spend that kind of time this go around. The Cataclysm trailer doesn't do much for me and I'm not terribly interested in the new races.

Guild Wars 2 is coming up, I have characters in LOTRO and CO, and I've been having a good time working on my pile of X360 games.

I'm not going to make any grandiose statements about never playing/raiding WoW again, but I'm going to put my time elsewhere for a while.

I'd like to contest the point made earlier that the combat hasn't changed. On the contrary, the combat has changed a lot. It seems like it may not be that much of a change 50+ or 60+. But lower than that is a dramatic difference. And I hope that the 50+ experience will change over time as players stop trying to pidgeon hole the new specs into old roles.

Your bread and butter skills do much more damage yet you are much flimsier. All those "off specs" that were horrible at soloing are fantastic at soloing and fun.

All the "caster" classes are not only viable, but fun to play.

I haven't played all of the specs, but most of the ones I've tried feel like different classes more than different specs.

And all of these great new experiences are from going through the old content. I can only imagine how much more full of awesome it will be once the zone revamps go in.

Grenn wrote:
Itemized budget is laid out. I think I can get back in around mid-November.

Thanks for the warning!

I reactivated my account yesterday (after discontinuing my subscription in November '09) in preparation for the release of Cataclysm. This was after discovering that my account was apparently hacked in March '10 without my knowledge.

It's an old familiar story by now, but of course my stuff is gone and I have a bunch of naked characters milling about in strange locations. Blizzard claims that they do not retain records back that far so they can not restore my characters and items back to the way they were when I originally stopped subscribing.

Oddly the hackers left my two level 80s with whatever they had equipped on them, but emptied their inventories and banks. According to Blizzard this means my characters are playable and I do not qualify for a "care package" to get my started playing again, whatever that is. It's strange because I basically have the clothes/weapons on my back and 80 gold between all my characters.

Has anyone else experienced this? I thought Blizzard was more willing to work with people than this. I didn't even know hackers hacked non-active accounts.

aphesian wrote:
I reactivated my account yesterday (after discontinuing my subscription in November '09) in preparation for the release of Cataclysm. This was after discovering that my account was apparently hacked in March '10 without my knowledge.

I had no idea it was even possible to hack an account that is inactive. I wonder how they could even log in to the account to do that?

I have one of the Blizzard Authenticators, too. It still works when I press the button though I don't know if it will work for Battle.net, but if not, that will be a quick $6.50 I spend for the Battle.net version.

I though I'd check to see if my old guild was still kickin'. I knew they'd stopped raiding in March 2009, about three months after I quit raiding. I never found out why. The web site is still there, but there hasn't been much new since then. That's too bad, really. I would have liked to start some new characters and run around with that group. They had a lot of good & fun players. I'll probably try to find a higher population server this time. I have a hankering to try out the new Worgen class. Tempting to do a druid again since that was so much fun, but I've never gotten a mage very far in levels ... hmmm.

Capricorn1 wrote:
I had no idea it was even possible to hack an account that is inactive. I wonder how they could even log in to the account to do that?

If an account is inactive for long enough it's bound to get at least one free day credited to it at some point for some reason, which is all they need.

I left WoW 2 years ago and thought that I was out for good...until I got drawn back in to play a bit with students in a games based seminar that I'm teaching. They needed context and some needed help so as a good teacher what was I to do? The first night found me still grinding with a new toon 2 hours after "class" ended. I have been on every night since then and am really looking forward to Cata!

I read about this and realised what it must feel like to be an addict. The urge to resubscribe and start playing was almost physical. I've played on-and-off since launch but never had enough time to really get into it the way a lot of folks did. I also spent a lot of time just goofing around and sight-seeing, so my character progression was very slow. Add to that an absolute lack of interest in any activity that required me to 'spec' or otherwise optimise a character, and the drive to get a high-end character was obviously very low.

Obviously I have absolutely no time to play right now. Posting on these forums is the most gaming action I get nowadays. Still, once the famously more relaxing fourth-year of medical school starts, perhaps I'll give Cataclysm a whirl.

nossid wrote:
Capricorn1 wrote:
I had no idea it was even possible to hack an account that is inactive. I wonder how they could even log in to the account to do that?

If an account is inactive for long enough it's bound to get at least one free day credited to it at some point for some reason, which is all they need.

Thanks, nossid. That makes sense. I decided to google world of warcraft inactive account hacked. It sounds like there are several potential ways for inactive accounts to be hacked. I didn't spend any time checking the validity of any of these:

- It sounds like there was a way to use the battle.net account merge to take over inactive accounts
- The good old keylogger to capture the username/password. These were especially popular in WoW addons. The account is then reactivated with a game card or the like. It can be quite a while later before the attempt is made.
- Someone claimed scrolls of resurrection can be used
- Apparently there's been an Adobe Flash vulnerability (that was found and fixed before I quit playing)
- Other malicious web sites or web code on sites like mmo-champion.com

I didn't see any mentioning time credited to an account as a way to make it active, but it sounds pretty plausible, too.

All this makes me want to start the account back up now just to see what may or may not have happened. Hope my authenticator is still valid and protecting the account.

It's too easy.

I didn't even start until Burning Crusade and really it only took some cursory research and consultation with guild members to get together a pretty decent rotation. I purposefully never loaded in an addon of any kind to keep myself on my toes. I learned tanking when dpsing got too monotonous and healing when tanking seemed too old hat.

Now with the new patch it feels like my hand is not just being held but actively led around and I can do without it. If it isn't a frustrating struggle it isn't satisfying for me.

Unsubscribed.

I find myself wishing I'd never played WoW before, because this promises to be the best WoW ever.

Can I go back now? I don't know. I've changed a lot, and I don't know that even Cataclysm will change WoW enough to keep up with me. For now, at least, I'm waiting.

Duchess wrote:
If it isn't a frustrating struggle it isn't satisfying for me.

Out of Context Theatre!

ClockworkHouse wrote:
Duchess wrote:
If it isn't a frustrating struggle it isn't satisfying for me.

Out of Context Theatre!

There are not enough horrified emoticons to properly capture my expression right now, so I'll just go with:

D:

Yay foot in mouth disease?

...yes. Damn you, Sean, yes. I was going to be stoic about not spending money any time soon, but it's articles like this that get me all a-flutter about the new changes, and what little sense I have goes right out the window.

I think I'll wait a little bit after release, though. Let them iron out the kinks, let the floodgates die down a bit so I can actually play, that kind of thing. If I wait long enough, maybe I can resist all together.