Cataclysmic.

Okay, it’s been a good solid few days since Blizzcon ended, so let’s digest some info.

First of all, the third expansion for World of warcraft was announced, and it’s called Cataclysm. Pretty much what everyone was expecting. The “final boss” of this one will be everyone’s favorite evil dragon covered in Adamantite plate, Deathwing, and is going to completely reshape the world as we know it. Literally. Hence the name.

The story of this chapter of Azeroth centers around a massive disaster of such epic proportions that it reshapes the world. Deathwing, it seems, has been hiding in another plane of existence, the elemental plane of earth, also known as Deepholme. He’s been there recovering from the last two major defeats he’s suffered (all of which occured before WoW’s story began) and it seems he’s recovered enough to make his presence known again. Which he does by tearing a hole in existence between Deepholme and Azeroth. Now I don’t know how much you all know about planar physics, but tearing a hole between two different planes of existence is NOT a good thing. The act breaks open massive cracks in the planet, exposing molten lava fissures across the face of Azeroth, reshapes the two major continents, causes the oceans of the world to flood areas previously locked by land, and does very bad things to many of the civilizations spread across the world.

Kaboom.

What does this mean for us, the Players? It means the “old world” (the two continents of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms, the only 2 that used to exist in the original version of WoW) are being completely revamped. In the wake of this event, known as the Cataclysm, whole zones have been reshaped or broken in half. Multiple areas that were previously unreachable now are. Other areas are vastly reshaped. Desolace, for example, is now a lush grassland. The Barrens not only has a massive molten fissue running across it, it’s partially covered by a tropical rainforest. The Wetlands has been split in half, with the new half known as the Twilight highlands, occupied by Deathwing, his new Twilight dragons, and the Twilight’s Hammer cult cowed into serving him.

In essence, the leveling experience from 1-60 is being redesigned completely. New quests, new areas, the whole shebang.

To go along with this, we get two new races: The Goblins and the Worgen.

The Goblins as we’ve known them in WoW have all been neutral, part of an organization called the Steamwheedle Cartel. These new goblins are from another organization apparently that was sold out into slavery by competitors. The Cataclysm set them free, but it also stranded them during their escape. In need of protection and a new place in the world to make their own, they’ve joined the Horde.

The Worgen are members of the former human nation of Gilneas, which isolated itself from the world during the Third War, in fear of the Scourge. Archmage Arugal, a Gilnean himself, summoned the creatures known as the worgen from another plane to help defend their borders. Unfortunately the Werewolf creatures broke free of Arugal and began spreading the werewolf curse among the kingdom. Though the Gilnean people have regained control of their minds, the Cataclysm destroyed the great wall that isolated them. With the Forsaken bearing down on them, they’ve turned to old friends in the Alliance to help them rejoin the world.

Personally, I’ll admit, the idea of playing a werewolf is EXTREMELY awesome. And I’ve seen the video of their transformation effect. I can only describe it as awesome. But they’re Alliance, and most of my friends are playing Horde these days.

The Goblins don’t seem too bad either. From what I’ve heard from folks who attended Blizzcon, the Goblin starter area is FUN. Lots of explosions. Who doesn’t love that?

Both races are getting a super wide variety of playable classes too. The Worgen can be every class except Paladin and Shaman, and the Goblins get everything except Paladin and Druid. Oddly enough, that includes Death Knights for both. This would seem odd, given that the starting Death Knight chain story would preclude the involvement or even knowledge of either race, but at the same time, a Goblin or Worgen Death knight sounds really cool, so I can’t fault Blizzard for including it. Maybe they’ll deal with the discrepancy somehow, but I’m not going to care much if they don’t.

There’s also going to be some substantial expansion in class choices for the existing races as well. Humans and Forsaken both gain access to Hunters. Dwarves are gaining Shamans and Mages; the Night Elves and Orcs gained the latter as well. Gnomes are gaining Priests, as are the Tauren. Tauren also are getting Paladins. Trolls will soon be able to be Druids. Finally, the Blood Elves will gain the Warrior race.

Some of these additions are fairly natural extensions, such as the Human Hunter or Blood Elf Warrior. Some of them can be fairly easily explained by cross-racial teachings (such as the Tauren druids teaching trolls or Draenei shamans teaching dwarves). Some of them are just downright mysterious and will require some fairly good storytelling to explain, and in a few cases we see examples of this in game now. Regardless, we’ve got plenty more choices for characters now, and plenty of new opportunities for level 1 alts to explore the newly revamped world.

And it really is getting revamped. One of the most often asked questions after flying mounts were introduced in Burning Crusade is “Why can’t we fly in the old world”. The answer is that the Old World may look three dimensional, but it’s not. Many of the distinctive landmarks you may see in game are not really there at all, they’re optical illusions of sorts, and if you flew over them, it would be terribly obvious. In Cataclysm, Blizzard is rebuilding the world to be truly three-dimensional, and thus we will be able to fly across all of Azeroth on our menagerie of flying mounts.

I’m really excited about this one, because these two continents are BIG. I’d love the change to go explore them from a high up perspective now, and even though the world is gonna be wildly different, I’m still gonna love checking it out from the air!

The level cap is only going up by 5, making 85 the new max level. Blizzard stated that they wanted to give us fewer levels to get through, but that they wanted the experience to be more enjoyable and more epic. We’re not getting any new “tiers” of talents, so we’ll have more points to spend on what we already have, but talents ARE going to get a pretty substantial redesign. They want to take away “boring” talents like “increases dmg” or “Increases x stat” and make them more enjoyable to choose from. To go along with this, statistics are getting an extreme revamp as well. Many of the more complicated statistics, like Spellpower, Attack Power, defense rating, armor penetration, and the like? Going away completely. Some of these will be provided based on base statistics (strength, Agility, intellect, etc), and some of it will be provided via talent selection. There’s also a new stat called “Mastery”. As best I understand it, Mastery will do different things for you based on your chosen talent spec. For example (and this is purely hypothetical description on my part), a warrior might have X points of Mastery. If he’s Prot, his X Mastery will give him Y amounts of Armor. If he was Arms or Fury, that same X Mastery would give him Z attack power or Critical strike rating. It’s a very nifty and fluid system, and it lets players use their existing gear for multiple roles, cutting down on the number of armor sets needed for various specs. How exactly it will play out, well I suppose we’ll find out more as Cataclysm draws nearer, but I really like the concept myself.

Obviously with all these new zones, we’re getting new dungeons and raids. I won’t go into a whole lot of detail there, but I will say this, because these got me excited. Shadowfang Keep and Deadmines are getting heroic modes and Ragnaros is coming back. He’s at Mount Hyjal trying to burn down the World Tree. Oh and we’re told he’s about three times as huge as he used to be. Opposing him? Malfurion friggin’ Stormrage. That’s right. The baddest of the druids has returned and he is (we’re told) going to help us kick some giant fire elemental butt. Excellent!

There’s a new secondary profession called Archaeology, and a new “progression system” called Path of the Titans. We don’t know a whole lot about this yet, but from what the designers talked about, it’s a system that allows you to continue to experience the fun of leveling, but takes away the “grind” feel of it, and gives you some pretty cool rewards to go with it. Again, not sure what that’s going to mean exactly.

So yeah, that’s an awful lot to digest. And there was lots more. Heck, I didn’t even talk about all the stuff they discussed for the final path of Wrath, Patch 3.3. But all in all, I’m stoked about this. It’s way too soon to tell for any of us how we plan on experiencing this upcoming expansion, but the future of WoW looks really good (from an enjoyability standpoint, the future of Azeroth looks pretty painful, heheh).

I can’t wait for some nitty gritty details to come out so we can really see just how different things are gonna be, but its all pretty exciting.

But for now, all we can do is wait. And see how many of our friends we can get to come along for the ride (*wink* at a certain someone).

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