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World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Review

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Get your goblin on

★★★★★

Cataclysm is the third expansion to Blizzard’s ludicrously popular massively multiplayer online fantasy role-playing game, World Of Warcraft, but it differs from Warcraft’s previous expansions in that, via a (yes) cataclysmic event known as The Shattering, it revamps the game’s original zones as well as adding all new areas. The legacy content is finally brought up to match both the visual and narrative quality of (previous expansion) Wrath Of the Lich King, which is good news, since vanilla Warcraft's lands were badly showing their age. Two new races are also introduced, one for each faction: the Horde gets the technologically-savvy goblins (small, green, big point ears), while the Alliance get the worgen, a faction of lycanthropic humans, each race complete with its own starting zones.

The quests in Cataclysm’s new and newly reshaped zones are now structured differently, making more of an effort to tell a story than the old ‘kill x and gather y’ grinders. Clearly this is an improvement, although the narrative isn’t always entirely convincing, such as the odd decision of the orcs to allow the Snidely Whiplash-esque goblin leader to remain in power. Revamping the old world, domain of lower-level characters, has meant fewer new zones at the top-end, but the few there are for highbies (who’ll be powering their characters to the new level cap of 85) won’t disappoint. They include Vashj'ir, an aquatic zone whose action takes place among shipwrecks and reefs; and Uldum, a desert zone filled with mysterious ruins housing relics of great power. As expected, each has its own dungeons and raids.

There are also more subtle additions — but no less important for that. Guilds can now level up, earning vanity items and perks that improve quality of life for their members, such as increases to experience and abilities to summon or resurrect all members of your party. No new classes have been added this time around (Lich King introduced the first ‘Hero Class’, The Death Knight), but existing ones have been considerably altered, such as an additional resource for paladins. These holy warriors no longer have to manage mana alone; depending on how they specialise, they now generate “holy power” through their heal spells and attacks, which can then be spent on certain special abilities. It’s similar to the rogue’s combo point system, and adds another dimension to gameplay for the divinely inclined.

An extra secondary profession — Archaeology — has also been added, and has players travelling the lands looking for remnants of the world’s various civilizations. While not fantastically involving, it's worth picking up since furthering professions now grants experience, while at the top end useful items can be uncovered, ranging from vanity items to powerful equipment.
Blizzard has been lauded for the attention it has lavished on previous expansions, but to its credit the developer has gone above and beyond with Cataclysm, which doesn’t just tack on new components, but takes every rusty part of Warcraft’s world and system and replaces it with a shiny new one.

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