This article crystallizes our first month experience with World of Warcraft’s third expansion. I have joined the game since first launch in 2004 and have played more than 4,600 hours to date. Our guilds are recruiting. To join Cynthia and I, send an in-game mail to my character “Sincara” at the US realm Draenor (Alliance) or Cynthia’s character “Alexei” at same realm (Horde). For Oceanic realm, please mail to “Celestrasza” at Caelestraz (Horde).
Where Do We Start?
World of Warcraft is a world class MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) playable in both PC and MAC platforms, with high end or low end machines. If you are new to the game, you can get a trial account for free. Either through the Battle.net website or from one of your friends who is an active player. The base package “World of Warcraft” gives you access to the so-called “Old World”, with the original set of races (Human, Night Elf, Dwarf, Gnome, Orc, Troll, Undead, and Tauren). By purchasing this base package, you are able to experience all the constantly renewed contents in the old world, able to level from 1 to 60 (with a monthly subscription fee of around US$15 a month depending on how many months you commit to pay at one go). The first expansion “The Burning Crusade” lets you reach a new area in outer space called Outland, with two additional classes – Draenei and Blood Elf – and allows you to further level from 60 to 70. The second expansion “The Wrath of Lich King” adds a new continent in the Old World called Northrend for players to level from 70 to 80, as well as a new hero class – Death Knight. Cataclysm is the third expansion pushing the level cap to 85, features two entirely new zones – one on land and another one submerged in water. Two new classes are introduced: Worgen and Goblin.
If you are new to WoW and are confident that you will like the game, you should get a Battle Chest for less than US$40. It is bundled with the base package and the first expansion. This should take you more than a month (or even more depending on how well you moderate your gaming life) to hit the level cap of 70. Beyond that, you will need to get the second expansion at US$40 (or less) to take you to level 80. And then this new expansion (another US$40 or less) to level 85.
Or if you are very confident that your life is for WoW, you can get all the expansions in one go and create a Worgen or a Goblin straight the way. It is probably something I would recommend the experienced players to do. Because playing these two new classes are without a doubt the best experiences we have. How wonderful it is to rekindle your love of WoW with that.
I will not go into a list of recently improvements Blizzard has made to WoW. It probably means nothing to you if you are new to the game. For the seasoned players who are in hibernation mode (your characters are immortal, whether you are active or not), trust me, it may well play like a new game for you – for a good portion of the content. It certainly does to me (what have they done to the hunter class?!).
As a disclaimer, I am not going to compare this new expansion “Cataclysm” with the rest of the expansions. It is just silly. The “free” contents (i.e. contents accessible by getting just the base package and no other expansions) – as pointed out by some reviewers – of course offer so much more than Cataclysm. And true, you do not need to get the new expansion to play that. Because selling you a box of “Cataclysm” only takes US$40 from you one time. As for the “free” content, you have to pay a monthly subscription to play. Got that?
New Class: Worgen
“This is the character creation screen for Worgen. You get to customize for both forms!”
On day one, the three of us rolled a Worgen class. A Worgen is like a werewolf in a commonly known mythology. Unique to this class, you get to pick how both the wolf form and the human form look like. You start as a human, in the isolated city of Gilneas, where the local defense is faced with a terrible curse that has spread transforming citizens into beasts. More so than the last expansion, the beginning story of a Worgen played through a phased (or instanced) approach. Depending on where you are in the storyline, the world around you adapts to the plot. You can see other online players who are at the same stage of where your story is. But you cannot see others who are not. The story of your transformation is dark, and engaging. There is this colonial feel with king and queen and guns and all. There is an epic battle in the end (OK, rather epic depending on how many players are at the same stage as you). At about level 13-ish, you shall land onto the land of the Night Elf. Thereafter, leveling would be like the rest of the classes.
When you play a Worgen, you can transform into either form as you like (although in combat, you must be in wolf form). For those in the role playing realms, I see great opportunity in playing a Worgen. Worgen has a racial ability to do a quick sprint every 2 minutes or so (as of today but you will never know since the content get refreshed often). At level 20, you learn how to get onto all four when you are out in the open and run really fast (read: no need to spend gold in learning how to ride a mount as well as buying one). Because the Worgen beginning area is so engaging and different from the rest of the classes, I was a little down to realize that it all ends so early. Fortunately, the old world has changed rather drastically. I cannot imagine if otherwise.
“My female worgen in the middle and Mark and Cynthia’s male worgens at the back. We took a picture after we have completed a dungeon run!”
After we have leveled our Worgen beyond level 20, three of us have rolled a Goblin in an Oceanic realm for fun.
New Class: Goblin
“In one of the quests, Cynthia and my goblins have to don our party dresses and entertain the party goers! As always, I pick a female character. Duh!”
We rolled a Goblin for fun and were not being serious about it. Because Goblins are ugly and short. But we are so glad to have tried out a Goblin race. The beginning area is colorful, vastly different from the rest of the races. The quests and the dialogs are hilarious and Blizzard designers are certainly at the peak of their creativity. I hope to see more contents like what we see in the Goblin starting area. Personally, I think the lore and direction of Cataclysm is written more with the Horde in mind than the Alliance. Unlike the Worgen lore, playing a Goblin gets you linked directly to the core of the Horde storyline. You would feel somewhat significant, compared with the Worgen experience.
“In one part of the story, my goblin was frantically holding onto a flying plane!”
Goblins also have some of the more interesting racial abilities. They can rocket themselves forward every 2 minutes (more like a mage’s blink). Or use that to create a rocket barrier during combat. Goblins can also summon their personal banker every half an hour, for one minute, to transfer stuffs between the bank and the bags. Also, Goblins automatically get the best deal in town regardless of the respective faction reputation they have. This is very significant consider how expensive vendor goods and items can cost at end game. While they don’t have a free mount like their Worgen counterpart, the cost of learning and buying a go-cart like mount is close to nothing.
“Uh oh … incoming for crash landing!”
The New World
Cataclysm adds two new distinct areas for those who just hit level 80 (and more areas as you progress). Cynthia and I have spent some time in Hyjal, where the World Tree is. The lore of Hyjal is the center of the Warcraft universe. It is good to finally able to step into Hyjal. Hyjal exists since the very beginning. The Blizzard designers must have a really long term plan on how the game evolves.
Hyjal looks colorful. Questing there pretty much like the old school questing, which we still enjoy. A noteworthy mention is on the item level of the green quest rewards (i.e. ordinary items). They are level 273. It is a huge gap from the previous expansion. In the past, at level 80, a starting epic item is level 200. What it means is that you don’t even need to think if you can keep your old epic items for a level or two. Just swallow your pride, throw them away, and don the quest rewards. They look ordinary. But they are functional.
We have not spent too much time in Hyjal because we heard from our gaming partner – Mark – that the Sunken City of Vashj’ir is not to be missed. So Cynthia and I took a boat and landed onto the vast city just off the Eastern Kingdom. The entire area is underwater. In the past, it sucks to quest underwater. You move at snail speed and you run out of breathe fast (they fix the last bit recently). Not in Vashj’ir! After the first quest, you acquire the ability to breathe underwater as well as swimming in a lightning speed. Not long after, you tame a Sea Horse and able to travel while you are in Vashj’ir even faster. Some quests are pretty funny. There is one you are being used as a bait to hunt the great shark.
“Riding a sea horse is fun, and fast!”
We have also tried out a new dungeon in Cataclysm – Throne of the Tides. Each expansion Blizzard brings something distinct and different in terms of dungeon design onto the table. This time, the dungeon experience is even more engaging. Boss encounters often involve a distinct multiple phases. Your team of five need to work together, more so than before. These dungeons are hard, back to the old school style (can anyone remember how hard and long it was to complete Scholomance with 5?) I heard that the heroic dungeons are even harder. I am certainly looking forward to the challenge.
At level 83, we have also had a glimpse on a new zone at the center of the world where the dragon Deathwing broke free and caused cataclysm to Azeroth. We had landed in Deepholm after we have received a call from Thrall, our previous leader of the Horde.
“Our ex-horde leader Thrall has taken a whole new role, with a whole new look!”
New Secondary Profession: Archaeology
It sadden me much to see some reviewers striking one star off a five-star game because of this new secondary profession – Archaeology. I feel that is a little bit too harsh considering the fact that this content barely represent even 1% of what Cataclysm offers.
Let’s step back. None of the secondary profession is really fun. They are OK. But they are not fun. That is why they are called “secondary”. In fact, most of my characters do not even bother to take up cooking, first aid, and fishing as secondary professions. First aid is a waste of cloth that I would rather sell in the Auction House for gold. Bandages, as created by the first aid profession, take up bag spaces. And I hardly get to use them. Cooking is potentially a good profession. One of my characters is pretty good at it. Food made via cooking gives a temporary buff to your character, or even your entire group. But, it is just hard to find the recipes to cook the meat. And many types of meat cannot even be cooked. Fishing is OK. It is quite therapeutic. Especially when you are waiting for someone to get ready, or just want to unwind doing party or guild chat. Fish can be fed to your hunter’s pets. And some can be sold in the Auction House for good money.
Archaeology, from my brief experience, seems quite interesting. First, you survey the dig sites for fragments. Like fishing, you do not need to compete with other players for the materials, unlike mining, herbalism, or skinning. Archaeology does require you to travel around the world to survey the dig sites as indicated in your map. It is probably a pain to do for low level players, consider all the traveling required. For high level players, having a flying mount would help to lessen the pain.
“Surveying for fragments involves dropping a tool and observe the color of the blinking light and the direction of the lens. Red means you are still far. Yellow means you are getting near. Green means you are very near.”
I have seen some of the rewards resulting from this new secondary profession. Some items are pretty epic. To site an example, there is an epic alchemy recipe that teaches an alchemist how to make a potion that upon consumed by anyone, he or she will be able to turn into a flying dragon at will! As well as to carry one player on the back of the dragon. Now, which one of the existing secondary professions gives you good items? Of course you are expected to work on it.
The Old World
There are heaps being changed in the “Old World”. Thousands of quests have been added. True, some old quests have been recycled. But it is refreshing to experience some of the new quests out there. The beginning quests for each of the classic races have been adjusted to suite the new Cataclysm storyline. Two classic dungeons – Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep – have been revamped. The boss encounters are excitingly fresh. Also, all the quests related to classic dungeons are now obtainable inside the dungeons. This is to cater for the reality that most players now find gaming partners via the Dungeon Finder that looks through all the players in the queue across different realms and match them accordingly. It is also less likely that one would get lost inside a classic dungeon because maps are now added with the locations of the bosses clearly marked. Next, Blizzard should revamp the Outland content because it now looks somewhat dated compare to what we now have in the Old World.
Leveling characters now also seems to have been fast tracked. Beside heirlooms that that increase the rate of acquiring experience points (this only applicable to old timers who lived inside dungeons in the good old days for far too long), Blizzard has also enhance the guild function. A high level guild, for instance, enables all the guild members to gain experience points much faster. Also, gathering herbs and minerals now rewards experience points. In addition, there is a bonus if you are questing at the zones that are designed for your level bracket (i.e., 1-60 in the Old World, 60-70 in Outland, 70-80 in Northrend, and etc.)
If you purchase Cataclysm, your characters above level 60 are now able to fly in the Old World. This is a big deal. It helps if you are a gatherer wanting to make some gold from Auction House. It helps to level your Archaeology skill should that secondary profession becomes your cup of tea. And it helps to navigate through the capitals.
Cataclysm is a solid expansion. Prior to this release, I have already had at least one character per class. After this expansion was out, we are torn between further advancing my existing characters and trying out the new races from level 1 all over again. In parallel, I have created another character that is only available in the second expansion “The Burning Crusade” and another hero class from the third expansion “Wrath of the Lich King”. That is a strong testimony on what Blizzard has offered.
I do not really see any downside on this game today except one comment on the player community (note: ongoing balancing and other issues are constantly worked on by Blizzard so I am not worry about them). I reckon there may be quite an influx of new players into the game. And I can see often enough that there seems to be some level of clashes between the old timers who understand rather thoroughly on how the game works and how people should behave, versus the newbies who do the most unimaginably things. Hence, if I may, my message to the new players would be: Tell others that you are new to the game and be open to advise and suggestions. There are tons of online resources to further enhance your skills and knowledge too. And to the old timers: Be patience and forgiving. No point fuming over small things.
I hope you find this write-up useful. Feel free to drop comments. Our guilds are recruiting. To join Cynthia and I, send an in-game mail to my character “Sincara” at the US realm Draenor (Alliance) or Cynthia’s character “Alexei” at same realm (Horde). For Oceanic realm, please mail to “Celestrasza” at Caelestraz (Horde).
To end this article, here is a picture the three of us – Cynthia, Mark, and I – took when we finally got our goblins to level 20 and own our first F1 cars – imbued with goblin’s finest technology!