It’s the holiday time of year again, and if nineteenth century poems are to be believed, many of us are beset in our slumber by chimeras of pruned dragées (or visions of sugar plums, if you prefer). Some of us dream of a white Christmas or a happy Hanukkah, others strive for balance in the Force, and perhaps a few idealistic souls harbor hopes for world peace.
And some of us simply long for a really bad ass Goblin priest.
Yes, just in time for the season of peace, Blizzard Entertainment is dropping the latest expansion of its widely successful World of Warcraft MMORPG (www.worldofwarcraft.com), and for devoted fanatics like myself, the aptly titled Cataclysm is the reason for the season.
This expansion has been a long time in coming. Blizzard has a penchant for tinkering extensively with WoW’s mechanics and content, and since the release of the previous expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, the game has changed extensively. A recent patch streamlining character talents (a customizable set of skills and spells for each class) greatly simplified game play, and modifications earlier this year made searching for dungeon groups much faster. But to feed the “hordes” of avid players, an MMORPG needs fresh content – new levels, new dungeons and raids, and new forms of “schwag”: the in-game mounts, pets, titles, and achievements that add flare one’s character and afford bragging rights to your friends. While Wrath has been an exciting expansion for the game, there’s a general feeling that Blizzard rolled out the content a tad hastily. Several maximum-level raids (the revamped Naxxramas, followed by Ulduar, Trial of the Crusader, and finally Icecrown Citadel) were released without adequate time for players to complete them. A tenor of expansion fatigue certainly prevails on my realm.
Thus, the hype for Cataclysm is substantial and expectations are high. The game is not just getting new content but for the first time since 2005 the vast realms of Azeroth are getting a makeover. “The Shattering” event, which occurred prior to the official release of the expansion proper, refashioned the landscapes of the world – entire zones have been destroyed or plunged into the sea, great gorges score the deserts, and cities razed to the ground have been rebuilt and improved. It’s an exciting new thread in the rich lore of the Warcraft world, and an opportunity for a now 6-year-old game to receive needed updates to the game environment. More options are being offered to players, too: race/class combinations that were previously forbidden, a new level 85 cap, and two new playable races to boot – for the Horde, the goblins (who were previously a neutral NPC race) and for the Allies, the lupine worgen.
World of Warcraft is an unquestionable success – its membership now numbers in excess of 12 million. But will Cataclysm live up to the hype, and push the game’s fortunes to even loftier heights? This veteran player certainly hopes so. Tune in next week for my full review of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.