World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Review

Blizzard made a decision when they started working on World of Warcraft's latest expansion, Cataclysm that would be considered almost unthinkable by most other MMORPG developer.

They took a world that fans have been familiar with for over six yeas... and they blew it up. Cataclysm is in many senses a reset button for Azeroth.

Instead of simply adding another ten levels of and the usual range of end gaming dungeons and raids to the game, as has been the case with the last two expansions, Blizzard has taken a long hard look at game's original content, which has remained almost unchanged for the past six years, and they've brought it kicking and screaming into the present.


Most of the focus on Cataclysm's coverage has been on the old world's revitalisation, and with good reason. World of Warcraft's focus has always been on accessibility, but lessons learned from the levelling content in the game's subsequent expansions means that the game's original, vanilla structure hasn't aged well at all.

Recognising this, Blizzard has chosen to reinvent the old world and brings players back to the main continents of Azeroth once more. A few areas remain unchanged from the way they were pre-Cataclysm, but these locations are within the severe minority.

Much of Azeroth has been changed, some locations to the point of being almost unrecognisable, but importantly, it’s all for the better, and its change old and new players alike will appreciate. Even in the starting locations, reserved for the early hours of formative gameplay for the game's many different races, Blizzard's brush has carefully painted a fresh new canvas on top of the one, and created a much more refined experience.

The focus of this revitalised content covers numerous areas, including lore exposition, the levelling experience, and even some advanced gameplay features that will help players out in group and dungeon content when they reach the higher levels. This is a good thing, because the game's mechanics have also received a serious overhaul, which is what existing players will notice more than anything else.

World of Warcraft's gameplay have served the game well for years, but the constant addition of abilities and new stats to the game has, over time, created something that's become a bit a bloated monster. So, much like they did with the game's world, Blizzard willingly cut away some of the gameplay's and excess fat, kept what works, and refined the hell out of it.


Ability trees have been simplified, core class skills now unlock at earlier levels, and the interface has been significantly improved, informing you when these new abilities and talents are available to you.

The strengths and weaknesses of each class and their various specialisations (talent trees) are laid out a much more intuitive fashion as well, allowing new players to understand the different roles they can play in the game much more intuitively than before.

The main star of the show in Cataclysm may be the newly re-jigged Azeroth, but long-time players haven't been shorted changed in this expansion. The 80+ levelling content is as good as anything seen in the game in previous expansions - from the underwater ruins of Vashj'ir, to the burning forests of the lore heavy Mount Hyjal, and further on to the Egyptian themed Uldum, it's all fresh and interesting, in respect to both WoW and MMORPGs in general.

The core combat remains essentially the same, but each class has received a do over to make them more engaging and involving to play. For instance, hunters no longer rely on mana, and must focus on prioritising the "focus" points they have when attacking, whilst warlock's soul-stones (originally an item you have to farm from enemies) are now a permanent resource bar that must be managed in tandem with your existing abilities. This helps make many of the classes feel fresh and interesting again for existing players, and more engaging for the new people.


These changes would be useless if there wasn't any enjoyable content to put these skills to use though, and Cataclysm ensures that players will truly need to learn to play their classes properly once again, With this expansion, Blizzard has chosen to back-track on the relative easiness of Wrath of the Lich King, and make the end game content challenging again.

It's still nowhere near as brutally difficult as the early days of "vanilla" were, but it's a definitely a step up from Wrath's almost non-existent content. It's always hard to predict how an MMORPG will age or where it will go after the latest expansion drops, but Cataclysm is off to an explosive (apologies for the bad pun) start.

Cataclysm's end game content is proving much harder for existing players to finish than in the previous expansion, ensuring players will be invested in conquering the content for a while yet, and with Blizzard's promise of new dungeons and raids in every upcoming content patch, this content should last players will into the next expansion. If you've ever been curious about World of Warcraft, there really is no better time to start than now.