Through the Mist is a regular column from Luke Le Page covering everything World of Warcraft. If you’d like something covered in a future column, drop us a line!
With Mists of Pandaria only a week away I felt like it was a good time for a review of its predecessor: Cataclysm.
The anticipation I felt towards the end of Wrath of the Lich King was immense. Icecrown Citadel and Ulduar had been a return to the epic raids of the past such as Molten Core, Blackwing Lair, Karazhan and Black Temple to name a few. The reintroduction of Naxxramas as a level 80 raid also had me extremely excited having been stuck on the Four Horsemen in classic WoW before taking a break in preparation for the Burning Crusade. I was finally going to be able to defeat Kel’Thuzad and close that chapter of Warcraft lore – not only that but I would be throwing down against Arthas himself in the not too distant future.
This is where I think Cataclysm faced its greatest challenge – how were Blizzard going to come back after having defeated Arthas, the antagonist of the unbelievably popular Warcraft 3? We had spent years working up to this culminating fight. The pre-expansion event had me fairly excited (The Cataclysm). Having also read the Shattering, the expansion’s companion novel, I felt truly immersed in the events that were taking place. My beloved zones were utterly destroyed as Deathwing emerged from Deepholme.
I hated him for that as I am an altoholic. I loved many of the original zones, hated others. I played through them more times than I care to admit and came to love the environment of the game and this former aspect had come along and completely destroyed many of them and it was time for payback.
The event really set the tone for me as I ventured into this new expansion – there was no way I was going to let Deathwing off the hook. So I logged into my account page and race-changed my Rogue to a Goblin and set about on my journey for vengeance.
We also saw the introduction of two new races. After many years of petitions from players we finally saw the emergence of Goblins as a player race as well as the ever mysterious Worgen. I have played through both of these starting areas and must admit that I was quite impressed by the work done by Blizzard. During the Worgen scenario I truly felt that I was being hunted. The Goblin experience was less exciting for me but it left me with an even stronger desire to rid the world of Deathwing.
That was about as excited as I got during the Cataclysm expansion. My levelling experience went fairly well, I was among the first level 85’s on my server. I thoroughly enjoyed Mount Hyjal, the ever elusive Mount Hyjal that we had ran through as ghosts or by cliff jumping very early on in the original form of the game. It was finally open and it did not disappoint. The zone itself made fantastic use of Blizzards phasing technology.
My first foray into Cataclysm dungeons occurred on the first day as I headed into Blackrock Cavern with a guild group. This was a relatively positive experience and reinforced my hopes for the expansion.
Mount Hyjal was followed by Deepholme. The cutscene entry to this zone was excellent and really set the scene as we ventured deep into Deathwing’s home. This was another impressive zone, I enjoyed the turmoil within the elemental plane and our efforts to assist Therazane.
After completing Deepholme, and a few runs of the Stonecore (a thoroughly enjoyable dungeon that continued the storyline of the zone), I ventured into Uldum. I have to say this is where my experience went sour.
The zone itself was fine, though a little spread out and at times it felt a little slow. My major gripe was that the zone felt like filler. There was no real point to it even existing. Granted they tied the zone to Deathwing lore but it felt forced. I can’t say that I enjoyed Vortex pinnacle, though it was fun on heroic and had some interesting mechanics.
This lead me to the Twilight Highlands. Again the zone relied heavily on lore and led us to investigate the Twilight’s Hammer and Deathwing’s relationship with the other dragon flights. It was an interesting zone and tied into the Bastion of Twilight raid extremely well. The introduction quests to the zone, both Alliance and Horde, were interesting and I enjoyed doing them.
Overall, I had a mixed levelling experience, so much so that I still have not levelled a handful of alts that I would like to and many that I have were levelled through dungeons alone. The zones after a single completion felt tedious and I did not wish to do them again on alts. This is the first time I have ever felt that way during my time playing WoW and it was a somewhat foreign experience. If I was forced to give it a score out of 10 I would probably lean towards a 6.5 or 7. It wasn’t terrible and many zones were enjoyable while others were frustratingly spread out.
This brings me to heroic dungeons.
I don’t really have anything bad to say in regards to heroics – we began running them almost immediately as a guild in an effort to gear up for raids. I can’t say that I ever found any of them overly difficult; some were tough at lower gear levels as you would expect but I have no memories of repetitive wipes in any of them. Some of the achievements were a lot of fun to attempt and whilst I did not complete the heroic meta-achievement, due largely to a break that I will mention below and some laziness. I still occasionally run the early tier of heroics so that is definitely a positive for Blizzard. The remakes of Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep were also fun. The addition of the Zandalari heroics later in the expansion is also a positive – I was not playing at the time these were released so I can’t speak for how difficult they were at the appropriate gear level but I quite enjoyed them at a higher gear level. I give heroics an 8/10.
The New Azeroth
I have to say that I really enjoy the new zones. Blizzard has done an amazing job revamping the levelling experience and has made it relevant to the current content of the game. Lore-wise it is a little disconcerting that we do Azeroth and then move to Outlands and Northrend (that are effectively in the past) before returning to Cataclysm content. The other drawback comes from the levelling speed of the game. Even without Bind on Account items and Guild perks, that increased experience gain means it is possible to out-level a zone from a single quest hub. I found this a little annoying despite my enjoyment of the zones themselves. I give 9/10 for the new levelling areas.
I will not spend too much time on my raiding experience. My guild went into Blackwing Descent first and downed Magmaw with minimal fuss. Omnitron took a handful of attempts but also went down on the first night. Chimaeron was a sterner challenge and went down on the following night after a fairly high number of attempts. In the second week we moved on to Maloriak and Atramades and successfully killed them. I was not present for the Nefarian and Onyxia kill but was there for a number of early attempts. The only fight I truly enjoyed in this raid was Atramedes. I was immediately disappointed with the difficulty level of the raid. Granted my guild wiped, but it was nothing major and we overcame much of the raid with minimal fuss. I rate the first tier of raids extremely poorly: 2/10
Bastion of Twilight was a similar story with the exception of Cho’ Gall. This fight for a variety of reasons took us some time to master and to be honest I really enjoyed it despite the wipes. I can’t say much for the rest of the raid zone. I found most of it boring and simple. Ascendant Council took some time to adapt to the mechanics and coordination required, but was overcome relatively quickly.
I give this early raiding tier a pretty low score, a mere 3/10 overall. I was severely disappointed by it. After my guild defeated Nefarian and Cho’ Gall I immediately took a break from the game. This is an opinion piece and I think that a launch player who had played through every previous tier of raiding stepping back so early says more than my review ever can about that tier. I also note that I never did Throne of the Four Winds.
Due to this, I missed all of Firelands. As a huge fan of Molten Core and Ragnaros I would love to have been a part of my guild’s progress through this raid but it was not to be. I still have not completed this raid having only returned to the game in mid Dragon Soul.
This brings me to Dragon Soul. Due to the break mentioned above I was no longer a part of a core raiding team for Dragon Soul and had to settle with sub-ins and pugs. My experience overall was fairly positive and I enjoyed the zone overall and give it a 7/10.
The introduction of the Raid finder. Well this is a debate in itself. It has polarised much of the WoW community and I personally like it. It gives casual and new players a chance to participate in later tiers of the game. The difficulty could probably use a little bit of tweaking – being able to ignore the mechanics of fights should not be allowed to happen but in general I feel it is a good way to make raiding accessible to all players. Hopefully in Mists of Pandaria we see a balance in the raid finder that is challenging and rewarding for new and casual players.
This is where people will gripe that if I found the raids so easy why didn’t I do hard modes? The simple answer is I didn’t care enough about the raids to bother with them. Very few of the encounters even piqued my interest enough to go through them a second time. My break ended up being an extremely long one and from all reports I missed an excellent raid in the Firelands and if I have one regret from this expansion it is not completing that raid or even experiencing it. The reason I returned from my break was the WoW annual pass. I was always going to play Diablo 3 and the deal was too good to pass up, it also gave me a chance to experience MoP without having to purchase it. I am sad to say that it was nothing Blizzard added to the current game that brought me back .
Overall, I think it is clear that I did not enjoy Cataclysm as much as I have the previous expansions of the game. This is not entirely Blizzard’s fault as I went through a number of issues in life that also affected my enjoyment of this expansion. Putting those aside however, I have to rate Cataclysm as the worst of WoW’s expansions so far.
My ranking structure would be
World of Warcraft 9/10
Wrath of the Lich King 8.5/10
The Burning Crusade 8.5/10
Note that I rate BC and WotLK the same – I put in an inordinate amount of work during Karazhan progression which affected my experience of the raid so I rank it lower than WotLK.
Now your turn: what’s your feelings or thoughts about Cataclysm now that you look back?