World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
Platform: PC/Mac
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Format: CD/DVD-ROM
Release: US TBD
Japan TBD

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The filthy, dirty Horde!
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The mighty Alliance!
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Goblins, they're like Gnomes, but not as cute.
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The worgen, formerly the humans of Gilneas.
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John McCarroll
BlizzCon Preview
John McCarroll

Deathwing is pissed. He's been driven crazy by the whispers of the old gods, escaped from the elemental plane of earth, Deepholm, and he's wreaked havoc on the face of Azeroth, drastically changing its face. The world is a far different place, and new races are emerging into the world. The Worgen of Gilneas have emerged from beyond their walled fortress to join the Alliance, and the Goblin cartel of Bilgewater has joined the ranks of the horde. Other races have awakened new powers, the Tauren have found the Light, the Gnomes have gained the priestly ways, and the Dwarves have found their arcane powers. In short, Azeroth is in an upheavel. Players will have new ways of leveling up and talent trees have been completely revamped. World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will be one of the largest expansion packs yet, and we haven't even scratched the surface of what's in it.

The first thing that players will notice going into Cataclysm is the fact that the entirety of Azeroth has been changed. Blizzard has indeed added seven new world zones - two for new characters, and five for max-level players, but they have also modified the entirety of Azeroth for new players (and those rolling new class combinations) to romp around in. This includes completely new level ranges and quest direction for these zones - most of northern Eastern Kingdoms is controlled by the Horde now. Sorry, Alliance, but we lost Southshore, and we don't have a flightpath in Hillsbrad anymore. As well, Azshara, formerly a 40-50 level zone, has been scaled to a 20-30 leveling zone. Many of the quests in these zones have been redone or modified to be more like quest arcs seen in recent expansions, with things like cutscenes, and a lack of level 32 Agility/Spirit plate boots. Added to the leveling zones are the Isle of Kezan, the goblin starting area, and Gilneas, the Worgen starting area. As a part of the redistribution of zones, both of these areas will be 1-15 zones, as opposed to the 1-10 and 11-20 starting zones of the other races. Blizzard has also stated they have a new trick up their sleeves for level 1-5 players of the new races, but no clues as of yet to what that would be. Oh, and one last thing that will appeal to legacy players: every bit of the game, upon Cataclysm's release, will be flyable.

On top of all of the modifications of the zones and starting zones, Blizzard will be adding five new world zones for players level 78-85. These zones will be featured both on the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor, though one is below the sea and one is underneath a portion of the Eastern Kingdoms. Players will be able to expore Mount Hyjal, The Sunken City of Vashj'ir, Deepholm, Uldum, and the Twilight Highlands as they journey to level 85. Deepholm will function as the "hub" of the new zones, although Blizzard did not mention a singular hub city, like Shattrath or Dalaran, and there may not be one, as the game takes place amongst the standard cities of the Horde and Alliance. These zones will obviously feature a bevy of new quests, items, and creatures, but will also have their own interesting quirks. The Sunken City of Vashj'ir, for example, will be entirely underwater. Blizzard has stated they will make the combat easier to maneuver than the current underwater combat by allowing players to not only land on "underwater" mounts like the turtle, but to "land" on the bottom of the body of water as well.

On top of these new zones are a bevy of new dungeons and raids. These dungeons will run the gamut from all-new dungeons, like the Skywall and Uldum, to extentions of older dungeons, such as Blackrock Caverns, to reintroductions of old favorites. Heroic Deadmines or Shadowfang Keep anyone? Blizzard will also be following the same blueprint for raids that they have with Ulduar with content that is easy to clear for a larger portion of players, but which also feature the ability to make the fights more difficult for better loot. Players will also gain access to an additional dungeon on the Isle of Tol Barad, one of Cataclysm's new PvP zones.

PvP in Cataclysm is getting a big boost. With Lich King's introduction of Lake Wintergrasp, even PvE players had a reason to get into the mix and get their PvP on. Not only did it provide them with honor to get PvP gear farily easily, it opened up the Vault of Archavon, a dungeon which dropped top-tier PvE loot on top of its PvP gear. Cataclysm will introduce Tol Barad, which will combine what players had with Lake Wintergrasp and Burning Crusade's Isle of Quel'Danas, and its daily quest hub. Hopefully this mixture of PvP and PvE content will not provide players on PvP servers with a nothing-but-grief environment, as many parts of the Isle of Quel'Danas turned into nothing but a war zone, at least on my home server of Dark Iron. PvP won't be limited to world zones, either. Blizzard will be adding several new arena maps as well as three new battlegrounds. All battlegrounds now will also have the ability to be played by fully organized teams for rating, similarly to Arena rankings. Unlike arenas, however, BG players are not bound to a team, although they must queue as a full group. Players' rating will also not go down based on a loss, they will only go up based on a win. This will allow a wider variety of players to gain access to arena gear, as well as providing a better environment for objective-based players, guys like me who hang out at the Lumber Mill's flag all day in AB.

Blizzard has obviously modified a great deal in the game's world with all of these additions, but that's not where things stop. The players themselves will gain access to a new form of alternate advancement called Paths of the Titans. These Paths will be selectable by players of any class, and will feature glyphs, not unlike those created by scribes. However, these glyphs will not be created by inscription, but rather by the new secondary skill of Archaeology. Once players hit level 85, they will be able to unearth artifacts using this skill that give them access to glyphs - of which there are a total of ten levels - to put in their paths. The individual paths' glyphs will be different, and there will be a selection in each path. To keep them better for multiple classes, they will be a combination of both passive (doing more damage after a critical strike) and active (nearby allies take 10% less damage for six seconds), but not all will be available immediately. Blizzard will unlock more levels of Paths of the Titans as additional patches are added in Cataclysm. As such, there will always be another level for character to attain beyond simply adding additional gear.

While that change adds more to what players can do, Cataclysm also streamlines something that has been at the heart of World of Warcraft since the beginning: talent trees. Current talents like Malice for rogues (1/2/3/4/5% additional critical strike) will disappear. Blizzard is more interested in having talents that cater to an individual's play style rather than something that they have to have. As such, the more points a person puts into a tree, they will see stat buffs. So if a rogue chooses something like Improved Kick in the combat tree, they will also recieve additional armor penetration or a similar stat. Which, for rogues, Armor Penetration is disappearing as a stat on equipment, but will be replaced by Mastery. Mastery increases the effect of stat bonuses from talent trees, including the bonus that players will gain from having the most points in a single tree. I'm also stoked for the UI change for talents - all three talent trees will be visible when players open their talent window.

So all of those changes are for the individual, but Blizzard is making sure that the guild doesn't get left out of things. Guild Advancement will be introduced in Cataclysm, and boy will it help out players. As a guild member does something (boss kills, raiding, PvP, any number of things), it will add to the guild's experience level and make the guild level up. Guilds will max out at level 20, and will also have a talent tree, similar to players. As the guild levels up, players will gain access to things like mass ressurection in raids, the ability to summon the entire raid, and a way to remove reagents for raidwide buffs. Guilds will also be able to convert their XP into guild currency to gain access to special items, only craftable by guild members. These items are bound to the guild, and someone leaving the guild will have any guild items returned to the guild bank. This might include things like Heirloom gear, profession plans, and the like. Guilds will also get achievements like players, so it'll be easy to tell if a guild's worth joining if their only achievements are for having a tabard and a guild bank.

There are lots of details - and lots more things - to be revealed about Cataclysm, and knowing Blizzard, they'll release them when they are good and ready. We still don't even know when Cataclysm is slated for release, and we'll see at least one major patch to Wrath of the Lich King before the end of the year. There's lots still left to see about Cataclysm, and we don't know a whole lot right now. What we do know is that Cataclysm is going to rock World of Warcraft players', well, world.


© 2009 Blizzard Entertainment, All Rights Reserved.

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