With the servers down for weekly maintenance, I’ll join many of my fellow bloggers and discuss my impressions of Cataclysm a week into the latest expansion of World of Warcraft.
First, kudos to Blizzard for one of the smoothest major patches (or patches of any flavor) in the six-year history of the game. When 4.0.3a was released on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, my friends and I experienced no hiccups whatsoever. The Shattering was awesome, and I laud Blizzard (that means I give them mad props) for a great transition from one world to the next.
There was one minor bug we discovered, however: As you approach the crumbled edge of the Stonewrought Dam in Loch Modan, all is not as it appears. What looks to be solid rock is, in fact, an optical illusion. Two of us promptly tumbled to our deaths. Don’t say you weren’t warned!
We spent the period between the Shattering and Cataclysm’s release questing in the “new” areas: Ashenvale, Darkshore, Felwood, Winterspring, Southern Barrens, Thousand Needles. The quest-lines are great, and well-designed to provide a rapid progression for new characters. Of course with Level 80 characters, any combat is rather trivial. But we’ll be doing them again on our Worgens, I’m sure. The areas are fun, and the increase in the number of flight points in most zones is a very welcome change (especially Felwood…it seemed like it took forever to go from one end of that zone to the other!).
As for the actual launch of Cataclysm: That, too, was flawless from my viewpoint. I logged into the game (having purchased the digital download) at exactly midnight Pacific time last Monday night. There had to be a couple hundred people huddled around the flight trainer in Stormwind. It was crazy. (And all you hunters and warlocks who had pets and minions out, not to mention you idiots on your protodrakes: shame.)
About 12:05, the message came across that the server had been reconfigured for Cataclysm and to exit the game and reenter. I’m sure most people were too busy trying to train Azeroth Flying to notice that, because I exited immediately and reentered. I waited about 30-45 seconds at the “Connect” screen, then I was in. I am sure I was one of the first twenty or thirty people Alliance-side to train Azeroth Flying on Kul Tiras. And let me just say, Stormwind from the air is, to use a word that is overused, awesome. It really brought home to me just how beautiful this game can be.
I stayed in game an hour and a half, but honestly don’t recall what I did: I was falling asleep waiting for 1am local time to roll around as it was!
Since then, I’ve completed Hyjal and Deepholm; I’ve done around 45 quests in Vashj’ir. Something about three-dimensional combat is very wearing on me, although I must say it’s much, much easier than it was back in the old days. Not having to worry about breathing, and being able to swim fast certainly helps! We’ve also completed about two-thirds of Uldum, a zone I find a lot more enjoyable than I expected.
I’ve “explored” all of Cataclysm—enough to get the achievement, anyway—and I must say, I really enjoy each of the new zones. Vashj’ir is really done well, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised at what I expected to be a “gimmicky” zone. It’s not that at all (but as I said, the 3D combat experience takes some getting used to). I never really enjoyed Tanaris pre-Cataclysm, so I expected to dislike Uldum as well. However, the addition of oases, not to mention the fantastic architecture, has made that my favorite questing zone so far. Hyjal seemed to me to incorporate part of Ashenvale, Azshara, Felwood, and Feralas: in other words, nothing new here. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, and as I leveled from 80 to 81 on one of my rogues yesterday, I appreciated it more. Deepholm is…different. But fun! In fact, for me, every zone has not only been new and different, but fun as well. And for someone who plans to level half a dozen characters to 85, replay value is important.
I’ve alluded to it above, but questing has improved a lot, in my opinion. I’ve done the Worgen starting area, and it does an excellent job of introducing a new player to the game, and just about every game mechanic you’ll see short of boss fights (and even some of those things are seen). Cut scenes—the cinematics used to help phase areas depending on your progression—are extremely well done, although we’ve seen a few transient bugs.
Those bugs have included no audio where there should be audio; a “stuck” scene, which required the player to log out and back in, and a really screwed up point of view on one (basically, instead of riding a beast, I was in its belly). In our group of three, not all of us have seen all the bugs at the same time, either. And some of the cut scenes have been a bit confusing; I’m wondering, now, if I didn’t get the audio for them, or if I just didn’t follow the story too well. And as others have noted, it would be nice to have a menu to replay them, or at least some warning that a cinematic was about to start, with a yes/no option to ensure you’re not interrupted in the middle.
Overall, drop rates on collection quests are better, but there are times when not only is the mob scarce, but drop rates are low. When you have a group of people questing together, it can take an unreasonably long time to complete some quests, compared to most. For the most part, however, the rate of progression for both the brand-new character, and the character progressing to 85, seems to be just right.
I don’t have much to say on this subject yet, because I’ve only run one instance: Blackrock Caverns, with a full guild group of level 83 and 84 characters. Our tank had been through before, so he briefed us on the bosses before each pull. We had two deaths: Our healer, on the first boss, and me (enhancement shaman) on the second. Still don’t know how the healer died, and I got mind-controlled for most of the fight in which I died. It didn’t help that I had error screens popping up like crazy during that fight, so if I was supposed to do something to avoid the MC, I didn’t.
That said, we progressed through fairly easily (and at our levels, even with old ICC gear and Cataclysm quest greens and blues, we should have), and the instance was a lot of fun. Looking forward to more, but I think it may be a while before I start pugging 5-mans (especially heroics). After all, they’re called “heroic” for a reason, right?
Some are easy, some aren’t. Here’s my experience so far.
- Cooking and fishing: Pretty easy, especially with the daily quests in Stormwind. I haven’t leveled up all that far, simply because I haven’t spent the time needed for fishing. But there’s no question both can be easily and quickly maxed, with average effort.
- Tailoring: Sucks. The drop rate for embersilk is abysmal. I’m hoping today’s maintenance includes an improvement for that.
- Mining: Easy, except for the paucity of obsidium ore veins. Between the few veins there are, plus skilling up as much as possible from smelting, it’s pretty easy to get to 525.
- Engineering: Not so easy, due to that scarcity of obsidium. And who the hell needs a 36-slot fishing box? Seriously?
- Jewel crafting: Average. Had I known a 475 skill was required to even get the daily quest in Stormwind (and yes, I know it’s purely my fault for not reading all the beta info), I’d have skilled up to that point a lot faster. As in, last Tuesday. However, getting new patterns takes time, regardless, so skilling up past 475 slows down as you accumulate and spend the new jewel-crafting tokens.
- Skinning: Haven’t started yet, but judging by the numbers of carcasses I see going to waste, when I do, I should be able to hit 525 in a couple hours.
- Archaeology: It’s an enjoyable way to spend time. It’s a fun minigame. And it’s probably how my level 64 druid will get to 70 (and perhaps beyond). I’ve no burning desire to repeat the Outland quest lines (especially since I’m doing them again on my Shaman, to get the Loremaster title). Sure, there are some fun things you can get, but if those are your objectives, then Archaeology will be a grind.
Almost everyone who is level 80 or higher has a protodrake, or at least some kind of dragon mount. Congratulations to you all, especially if yours is from a meta-achievement. But must you show off yours on top of quest-givers, vendors, quartermasters, and mailboxes? Really? Yes, I do know how to maneuver around and click on who or what I need to; that isn’t the point. (By the way, this has been a peeve of mine for years, but it seems now that everyone can fly everywhere, having their butts super-glued to a mount seems like a racial imperative.)
Cloth drops and obsidium veins: Scarcer than hens’ teeth. There are two pockets of obsidium veins in Deepholm; I’ve yet to mine a single one of those veins. The ones in Hyjal are few and far between, and the one night I was in Vashj’ir, there seemed to be even fewer.
The Bottom Line
Cataclysm is a LOT of fun. And I hear the realms may be coming back up from maintenance now.