Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Goodbye Cruel World

Goodbye cruel world,
I'm leaving you today.
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.
Goodbye, all you people,
There's nothing you can say
To make me change my mind.
Roger Waters (Pink Floyd)
How long have we waited for this day to arrive? Whilst I am disappointed that Theramore is not going live in patch 5.0.4, it does allow everyone a little time to get familiar with the class changes.
In the spirit of the occasion, what are we going to miss about the Cataclysm? In the words of Eric Idle, "I mean - what have you got to lose? You know, you come from nothing - you're going back to nothing. What have you lost? Nothing!"
Seriously though what was Cataclysm all about? Taking the patch notes as a guide I am going to review the major parts of the expansion.

Patch 4.0.1



This was a game changer and allowed for most people to become hit capped and to stack the minor stat of choice. Win

Flexible Raid Lock:

This system provided the opportunity for a character to defeat each raid zone’s encounters once a week. A character may now complete the encounters during the week with different raids of either 10 or 25 players. At the time this seemed like a good idea to attempt to curb the raider excesses of WotLK. The result was the near death of 25 Man raiding and takes away choice from the raider. Many raiders make up for the shortfall now by doing LFR which appears not to be intended use of LFR. Of course LFR did not exist at this point in the game. Lose

Patch 4.0.3a


The Shattering of Azeroth:

"Without warning, the corrupted Dragon Aspect, Deathwing, erupted from the stone heart of Deepholm, the domain of earth within the Elemental Plane. Jagged fissures were torn across the earth, and monstrous waves pummeled coastal regions. From Thousand Needles to the Blasted Lands, the surface of Azeroth was reforged through violent upheavals. Now, the Horde and the Alliance must defend their homes against Deathwing and his minions, burdened by the unsettling fact that the world as they know it has changed... forever."
A large part of the expansion was the changing of the landscape and the leveling experience from 1-60. However much you might have loved the old world, this was very much needed. Vanilla WoW was jaded and the process for new players leveling from 1-85 presented very different experiences between the expansions. Since the Shattering, it is the Outlands that now looks like the jaded tired world.
For those that enjoy leveling and sampling each zone, the leveling experience is too streamlined now and experience points are awarded for mining, herbing and archeology. Any venture into an instance will take your level up by at least 1.5 levels. Win

New High Level Zones:

Hyjal, Vashj’ir, Deepholm, Uldum, Twilight Highlands, and the PvP/Dailies zone of Tol Barad. Much has already been written about this zones already, the usual comments are that the phasing let to a very linear leveling experience, Uldum had way to many cut scenes, and Vashj'ir was long and tiresome with very poor mapping for the cave entrances and the difficulties of 3D combat. The general consensus is that the zones were not interlocking and resulted in a very disjointed experience. Lose

Two New Playable Races

The Goblins and Worgens have proved to be very popular. Worgens in particular have managed to capture about an 8% share of the Race makeup according to WoWcensus. Goblins on the other hand have continued the trend of the unpopular smaller races at 5%, which puts them on a par with Dwarves but above Gnomes. The new zones were generally well received. Win

5 Man Heroic Dungeons

Blackrock Caverns, Throne of Tides, Vortex Pinnacle, Stonecore, Grim Batol, Tol'vir, Halls of Origination and the remade Shadowfang Keep and the Deadmines. Not one of these is fondly remembered, and for those that can still remember the hassle of leveling through normal versions of the 85 instances to get the gear to finally attempt the Heroics, which were set at too high a difficulty for the iLevels with people in greens and blues and the changes to healing (anyone remember Triage?).  Lose


3 new introduction Raids were introduced, Throne of the Four Winds, Bastion of Twilight, and Blackwing Descent. The pattern of difficult healing, increased use of crowd control and the small numbers of people able to work through Heroic Dungeons gave these raids a slow start. The normal versions were hard and the Heroic versions are killers. 3 raids gave plenty of options for the raiding community. Draw


2 new Battlegrounds, Battle for Gilneas and Twin Peaks. Although these new BG's had a sticking resemblance to Warsong Gulch and a cutdown version of Arathi Basin they proved to be very successful. Win
Tol Barad the new version of Wintergrasp, proved to be desperately unbalanced, and early trading for uncontested wins was a big problem with this battle. The zone in the end for all Blizzard's manipulation proved not to be as popular as Wintergrasp and is probably the reason why there is no equivalent in the MoP expansion. Lose

Rated Battlegrounds

"Rated battlegrounds will be an alternate way of earning arena points, arena rating, and other rewards. There will be a limit on how many points you can earn each week through this method, and the amount of points able to be earned will be based on your rating. The higher the rating the more points you can earn. Points will be awarded after each win and you will not suffer any rating loss. There will be 2 types of ratings: personal and (internal) match-making."
The biggest issue, with the rating systems was getting a rating in the first place. Finding groups was difficult and established groups would eat up fresh new teams. The Principle behind it was good and it provided an alternative to Arenas for the accumulation of Conquest Points. On the plus side it made the normal BG's more competitive. Draw


Archaeology the new secondary profession started off very popular and very quickly wore people down. This is a very grindy profession with lots of flying time, inaccurate quadrants and an inability to deal with digsites on multiple levels. Rewarding to Lore nerds but most of the rewards were cosmetic, vanity or appeared too late in the game. One particular issue was not being able to find digsites in Uldum for the canopic jars. Lose

Guild Advancement and Achievements

This proved to be a big motivator for joint Guild activity. 25 Levels and lots of lovely perks for being in a high level guild. This was possibly a one trick pony and the co-operation it brought will be difficult to recreate in future expansions. Most Guild banks are now overflowing with riches from the invisible tax levied on all monetary loot. This resulted in alot of Guilds offering very attractive repair bills which served to help with one of the Guild achievements. This also now presents a barrier for people to leave Guilds, and will in time stop new Guilds from flourishing unless they can find a niche. Draw

Patch 4.1.0


5 Man Heroic Dungeons

Rise of the Zandalari - reintroduced former Troll raids into 5 Man Heroic Dungeons. The newly reworked dungeons were Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub. Only Players with a minimum average item level of 346 or higher could access these dungeon via the Dungeon Finder. This was a further problem compounded by the original 5 Man Heroic Dungeon strategy implemented by Blizzard. A large percentage of the player base could not achieve 346 without cheating with PvP gear, this then caused further problems with players trying to PvE with PvP gear. The difficulty level was set reasonably high, but the real problem was the length of time it took to complete. Lose

New Quest Chain: The Zandalar Representative

This was a short quest chain to introduce the Troll Heroics. Making use through phasing, in the now under utilised area of Stranglethorn Vale, it provided the lore as to why you should help smash a few Troll skulls in the new Heroics. Win

Patch 4.2.0


The Regrowth and Molten Front

"A large assortment of all-new daily quests and rewards are now available in Hyjal, where players can help the Guardians of Hyjal push back the allies of Ragnaros and establish a forward operating base in the Firelands! In order to partake in the Regrowth and Molten Front daily quests, players must have at least completed Mount Hyjal up to and including the quest Aessina's Miracle. Once this quest has been completed, players should speak with Matoclaw in the Sanctuary of Malorne to take part in the Regrowth efforts."
The Molten Front was a nice idea badly implemented. The idea was to provide extra end game content that was not PvP or Raid orientated. It was an idea based on the Argent Tournament Grounds of setting up a hub for dailies. Also it allowed for the first time in the expansion a chance to obtain decent Epic items.
The phasing was badly implemented and created spoof mining nodes and herbs and the leveling process was quite frankly long and tedious. It required daily activity and took weeks to complete. The zone has been dormant ever since, and it was just too damn mindnumbing to drag all your alts through the same process. Even if there was Blacksmithing and Engineering plans available. Draw 

New Quest Chain: Elemental Bonds

"A New quest line is now available to level-85 Horde and Alliance characters, bringing brave adventurers to Thrall's aid. The Call of the World-Shaman, the quest which will point players toward Thrall and The Nordrassil Summit, can be obtained at the Earthshrines in Stormwind or Orgrimmar."
A nice quest chain to help Thrall, which sets the scene for the new Firelands Raid. Win

New Raid: The Firelands

"Located within the Elemental Plane, the Firelands is an all-new 10- and 25-player raid featuring normal and Heroic difficulties! Battle-hardened veterans of the Horde and Alliance now have an opportunity to strike at Ragnaros the Firelord and his loyal servants by venturing into their domain via Sulfuron Spire in Mount Hyjal."
A difficult level Raid in which many over geared raid teams still cannot defeat Heroic Ragnaros. The trash in the Raid is very heavy and a trim down would not have gone a miss, but overall it was challenging and interesting but with too many barriers to entry in terms of gearing. Draw

New User Interface Feature: Dungeon Journal

"A host of dungeon information is now built into the user interface via the all-new Dungeon Journal. This feature can be accessed via a new button in the Navigation tray from anywhere in the world. Boss background story, encounter details, abilities, and loot can be viewed with the Dungeon Journal for all bosses which have been integrated into the new system (this includes bosses for all Cataclysm dungeons and raids). Additional dungeons are planned to be incorporated in future updates."
What is often forgotten about Cataclysm is the huge improvements in the UI. The Dungeon Journal is like having an in game WoWHead. The downside to this is the little oiks who always say, "I hope the Sword of Uber Warrior drops off the 2 headed Zaphod Beeblebrox". Why people need to know what loot is on which boss is beyond me? Can they not have a little mystery in their lives. Win

Patch 4.3.0


New 5 Man Heroic Dungeons

End Time, Well of Eternity and Hour of Twilight, these 3 Heroics had the feel of WotLK Heroics Forge of Souls, Pit of Saron and Halls of Reflections. They were short runs and gave good loot  and allowed people to skip the Firelands Raid and jump into the Dragon Soul Raid. Well designed and finally providing the length and challenge that is expected of an Heroic Dungeon. Win

New Raid: Dragon Soul

"Players have the opportunity to take the fight to Wyrmrest Temple and beyond, assisting Thrall and the Dragon Aspects as they seek to bring an end to the Black Dragonflight once and for all. 10- and 25-person raids will get to take on Deathwing himself, with three levels of difficulty to consider and epic gear to claim."
This Raid turned out to be shortest challenge of any Raid I can remember. The Normal version was considered to be too easy by many and the real challenge was by doing the Heroic version. Should normal be achieveable in the first few weeks of an expansion by non hardcore guilds? Draw

Raid Finder - LFG

"This new grouping feature allows players to quickly and easily form a pick-up raid for a specially tuned version of the current tier of endgame content: the Dragon Soul raid."
LFG is one of Blizzard's best features, like the Dungeon Finder before it, however in practice this in the hands of the player base turned into a hellish nightmare. All content can be seen by all players, the problem is how enjoyable that experience is. Draw



"This new feature allows players to customize their gear like never before: copying the appearance of one magical item onto another.. You’ll find Transmogrification, Void Storage, and Reforging vendors in Cathedral Square, Stormwind and The Drag, Orgrimmar."
This is the one feature that nobody ever expected to see. It was not even on anybody's wishlist until we actually got it. Win

Void Storage

"In addition to the bank, players will now have access to a new "deep storage" system, allowing characters to free bag space by setting aside coveted gear. You'll find Transmogrification, Void Storage, and Reforging vendors in Cathedral Square, Stormwind and The Drag, Orgrimmar."
What to with those items you kept from travels around Azeroth? all those Tabards that we keep and never use. Void Storage has been another quality of life experience that we never expected. Win

Darkmoon Faire

"Make your way to Darkmoon Island during the first week of every month to take in the new Darkmoon Faire, complete with new quests, shows, games, recipes, toys, balloons, souvenirs, snacks, beverages, achievements, and titles."
The Darkmoon Faire was old and tired and in need of an upgrade or removal from the game. It was used only to pick up your trinket in exchange for a completed set of cards, or by the occasional Goblin buying cheap herbs and selling frogs. The Faire has very quickly become tiresome but with 5 skillups on offer is a very useful place to visit once a month. Nice idea with not much content, I think its time to implement the Killer Rabbit. Draw


In summary this was a very poor expansion in most peoples opinion. Some of the minor improvements have proved to be the most important, like Transmogrification and Reforging.
The difficulty settings have been up and down and have probably settled at the level of Dragon Soul for the foreseeable future. The game has been short of end game activity and many have taken to PvP for something to do, and others have left the game, some for good and some will return.
We know the direction for the game for the next expansion is one of a more casual nature, with different options at end game. Lets hope its as good as it sounds with more options all round.

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