Now that Blizzcon has officially been over for a few weeks and we have been left with quite a bit of information on the new expansion pack, what does it mean to current players? At some point we have all looked at World of Warcraft and asked ourselves if anything is ever going to change. Many players every few months will quit the game and come back after a hiatus just to get away from the gear grind. The core of World of Warcraft is coming up on its five year birthday and I can't help but think the developers at Blizzard have abandoned the old world of Azeroth that we grew to love in the original World of Warcraft. The idea of leveling again has completely been removed from everyone's thoughts. Those who do decide to level again will simply blow through the 80 levels as fast as they can so that they can get to the end game content. Yet once they get there, they will be greeted by nothing but gear grinding and raid farming.
Once the end game content has been mastered, and it will be, you will find yourself with all the best in slot gear and wonder where you go from there. Blizzard is pumping out more and more end game content as fast as they can, as seen in the newest 3.2 patch. The Ice Crown Citadel raid will also be coming to help hold hardcore raiders over until Blizzard is able to release Cataclysm. With faction transfers now live, it makes it simple for players to switch between the two factions if they have become bored over time. To me, these seem like small, stalling additions to increase the happiness of the current fan base and hopefully hold them over until they can be treated to some actual new content. A game can only be based around stacking one end game raid on another for so long, until players realize the game will become a continuous gear grind with no real re-playability except for raiding a few nights a week. Although at Blizzcon we were treated to some very enticing details about what to expect from the forthcoming expansion Cataclysm.
With somewhere around a year until the release of the next expansion, we have been introduced to some exciting news of what to expect from the newest addition to the game. There will be new areas for questing, tons of end game raid content (the most seen in the history of World of Warcraft, and that's just at launch), an increased level cap to 85, two new playable races (Goblin and Worgen), a brand new guild leveling system, and of course your basic stuff: new profession, new mounts, and new PvP environments. Not to mention all of Azeroth will be revamped. Azeroth will never be the same for those of you who remember your first leveling experiences. Everything will be marked with the wrath of the Cataclysm, Desolace will become lush with forests and water, where as the Barrens will be cut in half with a fiery crevice. There will be new quests, which you will have never experienced before. You will no longer be able to level the way you remember, now you will be directed in a different path around the given zones. Cataclysm is making a bold move, they are putting a lot of time and effort into revamping Azeroth. They want you to re-level. Whether or not you think it is a waste of time and effort to revamp the old world and the time should be thrown into more new end game content, or you cheer for the idea of being able to feel like you are leveling again in a new game, Blizzard is making a strong statement. This will save World of Warcraft, it will certainly bring in many new players, and the people who have been playing for years will be treated to what looks like a brand new game, and feels like the game they have always loved.
The most notable move in this expansion pack, apart from and entirely new Azeroth and take on leveling is the addition of two new races. If you are like me, you are probably wondering why we are being treated to two new races and no new class. It is very disappointing to see that the new expansion will not release with a new class, it almost seems lazy in that department. I understand that developing all new skills and coming up with the concept of the new class, let alone balancing it with the rest of the game is very time consuming and difficult. Yet honestly I would have rather seen a new class over the new profession and one if not both of the new races. However, the new classes are very welcome additions to the game. On Horde side we will get Goblins with great racials and very cool mounts. On Alliance there will be the Worgen who really give the alliance an interesting mix of races to choose from now.
The Goblin race is treated to a racial where no matter what reputation you have with a given faction, you will automatically get the item for the cheapest possible price. They are also granted the ability to use what is basically an engage as opposed to a disengage where you will literally hurl yourself forward at a given mob. They also have a rocket belt that will be able to deal damage to a given creature, assuming it is off cool down after using the engage. They also have a passive which is a 1% increased attack speed, and a hobgoblin that will be on a 30 minute cool down, but when cast will allow you bank access for one minute. Let's not forget how cool that roadster is looking either. However nothing too shocking in the class department, you will be able to choose from Death Knights, Hunters, Mages, Priests, Rogues, Shamans, Warlocks, or Warrior.
The Worgen is an interesting choice for the Alliance side in my opinion, but seeing them in play while watching the Blizzcon video cast they are beginning to grow on me. Unfortunately for those who play Alliance, the announced racials and such for Worgen are quite a let down. We know they are to have 1% increased damage as opposed to the Goblin's 1% increased attack speed. They also get a three minute cool down that increases movement by 70% for eight seconds (seems overpowered for PvP to me). The Worgen also gets a 15 bonus to skinning, a faster skinning time, and no knife required. However one cool feature about the class is you will be able to switch between human and Worgen form, but be warned when you engage in combat you will transform back to Worgen form. These two races in addition to the "new" Azeroth, make for a great way to encourage everyone to go back an replay the game starting at level one, not just the Deathknight way. Also you will be able to faction change into either of these races, but not right from launch so if you want one of these classes do it the old fashioned way, Blizzard wants you to, and so do I.
Blizzard also announced that the addition to the end game content this time around will be the biggest of all. They are really pushing the fact that on launch there will be more playable end game content then ever before. Not only that, but they are pairing it with a brand new Guild Advancement system that adds reason to your raiding outside of gear farming. By progressing through content and even PvP as a guild and not just a solo player will grant the guild levels, with each of these levels come guild usable abilities. One of these will be a mass resurrection, assuming your guild has earned the ability. Let's say you wipe in a raid... With this new ability, you will be able to resurrect the entire guild if you wipe, as opposed to taking the time to do so individually. If for some reason you are on a server where you just cannot find a guild, you can also run cross server pick up groups. You will be able to LFG across the different servers and make a party, when you zone into a given instance you will be alongside people from those different servers. You can also obtain personal group leading incentives for leading a cross server group through an instance. You will never have to worry about finding a group for the heroic that you want to do.
As always Blizzard has not let PvP fall by the wayside in their coming expansion pack. They are giving us a brand new Wintergrasp-like zone filled with daily quests for you to compete for. They are also adding a Battleground rating system that will essentially work the same way as the arena system. You will obtain a personal rating from your Battleground success or failures, and in turn will be granted the ability to purchase PvP style gear based on your rating. Fingers crossed they will announce at least a few new arenas, and another Battleground as the expansion comes closer to launch.
Of course Blizzard would not make an expansion pack and not include a new profession level cap as well as a new profession altogether either. There has been no confirmed new profession level cap, but bank on it being 75 more than the current. The new profession "Archaeology" will have you wondering the lands in search of artifacts. These artifacts will go into your journal and as you uncover more pieces and put together more artifacts you will begin to earn unique rewards. This will also help you with the brand new "path of the titans" system that will be implemented into the game with Cataclysm. Another small, yet fun feature being added with Cataclysm, something most of us feel should have happened a long time ago I am sure is flying in Azeroth. We have all wished we could and soon we will be able to.
Blizzard is throwing a lot of eggs into one basket here and hopefully the fan base backs up these big decisions. A lot of players will be angered they can never experience the old Azeroth they grew to love, yet at the same time this is content that will allow for the feeling of a brand new game. With new races, tons of new quests, and an all new Azeroth, everyone should be begging to level all over again. Hopefully Cataclysm can break down the exhausting gear grind barrier and open the eyes of its players to a whole new experience. If Cataclysm pulls off the feeling of something new and breathtaking, and Blizzard can continue to push out new content in the meant time, World of Warcraft may still have many years left. Cheers World of Warcraft, to five years and hopefully five more.