World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
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Deathwing is an angry dragon who lived underground for a very long time. One day he hursts out, tearing a massive fire-belching chasm across the continents of Azeroth and setting the stage for this expansion.
Deathwing the Destroyer is one of five Dragon Aspects, forged by the Titans and tasked with protecting Kalimdor. But since being driven mad by the Old Gods he's been warring endlessly with mortals. Designer Chris Metzen explains: "What's happened to spark this is jS that Deathwing has awoken from his slumber and erupted into the world. He's so powerful that his explosion into the physical plane has caused the Cataclysm. Tidal waves, massive volcanic eruptions at a global level, tsunamis, freak storms. No part of the world has been left untouched."
The feral hounds will be introduced to the Alliance as their sixth playable race, and can play as any class bar Paladin and Shaman. Their existence stems from an ancient curse which spread rapidly through the city of Gilneas. Naturally, as werewolves they can assume human forms outside of combat, though when in their wolfy bodies they're known to be savagely violent. Their racial trait is just that: the ability to transform into their lupine state, giving them a brief speed increase.
The Goblins are short green bastards fuelled by greed and cunning ingenuity. Previously a neutral faction, their inventiveness and engineering skills arguably led to WOWs best quests, and their mercantile prowess amassed them fortunes. Trade relations drive them into an alliance with the Horde, and they become their sixth playable race. Racial traits play on their reputation of being money-driven inventors, with rocket packs and the ability to sacrifice cash for a temporary boost in strength being touted.
Besides the modest level cap increase (from 80 to 85, leaving plenty of space in the run up to 100 for about three more expansions), Cataclysm will introduce a hefty slew of updates, changes, alterations, introductions and tweaks. Here are just a handful of the more important ones...
Guilds will now work their way up through 20 levels, where progression is based on the actions, and levels, of individual guild members. Each guild level earned will award that guild with a talent point, which can be spent on, well, guild talents - things like mass resurrection for all guild members. Guild XP can also be converted into guild currency, allowing guilds to purchase vanity items like flags. And achievements should mean that guilds will become more than simply the sum of their members, and could offer players benefits they might not get elsewhere.
Class, Meet Race
Dwarves will be able to become Mages and Shamans; Gnomes Priests; Humans Hunters, and Night Elves Mages. Blood Elves will get access to Warriors; Forsaken the Hunter class; Ores Mages; Taurens both Paladins and Priests; and the Trolls will finally be allowed to be Druids.
Come Fly With Me
With all that geography having changed so drastically, Blizzard have found the time to make flying mounts work in Azeroth, as well as the Outlands. As a by-product of this, the Draenei and Night Elf starting zones have been instanced.
Cataclysm's Tol Barad will be a vast open PvP arena. Three Battlegrounds have been added, as well as Rated Battlegrounds which introduces ranked competition and a whole different kind of point to accrue -alongside Honor you'll also maintain a rating and earn arena points.
Path Of The Titans
The Path of the Titans progression system will give players who've reached the new level cap of 85 an extra way to continue to advance their character. This will draw on two new introductions, the Archaeology skill (used to discover and trade in Titan artifacts) and ancient glyphs. After joining a Titan cult, you'll rank up in your chosen path through guesting and PvP, unlocking up to 10 talent-bestowing ancient glyphs. Path of the Titans works independently of race and class, so go hog wild.
Regardless of whether or not you purchase Cataclysm, zones will be altered. The Barrens will be split in half and pocked by canyons and lava flows. Desolace has been slapped with a tsunami, and now has some flora, and capital cities will be reinforced to withstand the harsh new world.
New zones will contain new quests, new enemies, new dungeons and new raids, naturally enough. Gilneas will he the starting area for Worgen, while the Lost Isles (and presumably the Goblin homeland of Kezan) will be the same for the Goblins.
Deepholm (the elemental plane from which Deathwing erupted) will also feature, should you want to chuck yourself into one of the many yawning fissures stretching across the world.
Cynical as you might want to be about the steamroller that is Blizzard's MMO superpower, Cataclysms extensive roster of tweaks have already whipped the die-hard fans into a fine, greasy froth, while the larger, more tangible changes - namely that everything in Azeroth being broken by an angry, lava-spewing dragon - should serve to please those who might not fully understand what an ancient glyph is. Here's an MMO that isn't allowed to settle or age, and whose expansions are anything taut formulaic.
But to wonder how well Cataclysm will be swallowed by the community is pointless. They'll absorb it joylessly through scarred-retinas and fingertips as cracked and calloused as the newly corrupted ground beneath their avatar's feet. What will be interesting, as ever, is how much pull this will have with lapsed players. Or the increasingly scarce subset of the population who've never touched the thing.