World of Warcraft Cataclysm Preview

Being clean is hard work, and you’ve all read about my addiction before numerous times. By now you’re probably quite fed up with it all, and I apologise for that but think of yourselves as my support group, so once again the meeting is in order: my name’s Ben and I’m addicted to World of Warcraft.

While playing for less than two weeks over a period of the last 15 months might be considered a success against the drug known on the street as Warcrack, there’s a new driving force in the constant urge to play and it comes in the form of Cataclysm – an even more potent form than its predecessors. Intrigued by the ingredients of this new concoction, I equipped my robe and wizard’s hat (not technically true, I’m a priest) and began the investigation.

Cataclysm is unlike the previous two expansions (The Burning Crusade, and Wrath of the Lich King) in that, despite adding new areas to quest and adventure in, the bulk of new content comes in the format of the entire ‘old’ world being reshaped by some cataclysmic event. For the first time in WoW history, the lands of Azeroth will be changed permanently, resulting in a brand new game experience for players starting fresh characters from the dizzy heights of level one.  Landscapes will be scarred, with many zones almost unrecognisable from their previous incarnations but for a few landmarks still remaining.

Change always brings about new beginnings, and the same could be said for what’s about to happen within Cataclysm.

While thinking their safety would be ensured as long as they stayed within the confines of the mighty Greymane Wall (a mammoth construct, built with the sole purpose of shutting off the outside world), the people of Gilneas now seek outside help as a terrible plague sweeps across their race. Gilneans are a Seafaring race of Humans, who have a look and feel that would not feel out of place in a Victorian steampunk styled England. However, despite their Human exterior,  something else flows through their veins; something feral. Enter the Worgen, the first of two new races to appear in Cataclysm. With the help of the Night Elf people, the Worgen have found solitude within the Alliance and, as such, become the first new race since the Draenei appeared within The Burning Crusade.


Why what big...daggers you have?

The Werewolf style Worgen bring a much needed ‘roughness’ to the Alliance ranks but, perhaps more interestingly, bring another outlet for those wishing to play as the Druid class – a feat only possible for Alliance players by opting for a Night Elf. Worgen are everything you could want them to be, their Human forms (which you have the ability to transform into) look rather dapper in their tuxedos and top hats, their voices seemingly plucked out of a James Bond academy for young spies.

Far from being short changed, the Horde have also found new allies in the form of Goblins. For years Goblins have been touted as being a playable race, with arguments for the Alliance and Horde both valid, but with the release of Cataclysm all the talk can cease as the Goblins stand side by side with the Horde.

As a race, Goblins have always been a fan favourite within the Warcraft universe and Blizzard have pulled out all the stops to ensure that they are done justice and indications show they are right on track. Perhaps the best thing about Goblins is the fun factor; while the other races amongst the Horde all had their place none were ever going to be that ‘fun’ race, but Goblins fill that hole; they are for the Horde what Gnomes are for the Alliance.  Appearance wise Goblins look excellent, with some of the best looking character texturing so far and animations being extremely fluid. More than anything else, it’s the fun factor with Goblins and they really don’t disappoint.


If Middle Earth had these chaps, it'd have ended totally different.

The starting zone is clearly a labour of love on Blizzard’s part and even the most stout fans of the Alliance will have to at least make their way through it, sampling the elegant sights such as Hot Rods, American Football Goblin style and a road that would have any highway agency cringing indefinitely. Questions can be asked about both new races and how they fit in within Warcraft lore but, that aside, both offer players a vast amount of enjoyment and certainly bring plenty of cool factor with them. Goblins will look right at home amongst the Horde and while the Worgen will take a bit of getting used to for the Alliance players given time they’ll soon find themselves at home amongst the citizens of Stormwind.

World of Warcraft is now over five years old and, despite still seemingly holding its own against all new MMO releases, it is starting to age in the graphic department. Five years can seem like forever in terms of graphical advancements and, while there have been minor adjustments over the course of its lifetime, it falls on Cataclysm to bring about the biggest graphical overhaul WoW has ever seen.

Street Textures Before Cataclysm

Street Textures After Cataclysm

While the game still keeps its own graphic styling, it’s the upgraded textures that really add a new touch of quality amongst the game world. Where textures were once blurry and lifeless, the addition of those sharp and crisp not only makes the game world a better looking place but it breathes a lot of new life into it as well. Water has a somewhat important role within Cataclysm, and as such you can understand why the decision to upgrade the graphical detail on it was made. Where water effects once looked bland and lifeless, it’s now full of life, has volume and most importantly acts and looks just how a liquid should.

Water Before Cataclysm

Water After Cataclysm

As well as graphical updates, one has to nod towards the audio present within Cataclysm. Blizzard have a fine history of taking audio very seriously and the result is a musical score that helps bring mood and ambience to the game world, sound effects that erupt life into the most mundane of things (such as a horse riding over payment, then grass and then pavement again), and vocals that are seemingly a match made in heaven for their computer controlled beings to which they belong.

Change is the big thing with Cataclysm, and it seemingly flows throughout every orifice it has at its disposal. Accessibility is at the forefront of change, with more options available for players, making the game an even more user friendly place. One of the meatier changes comes in the form of class accessibility and sees the ability to play as certain race – class combos unlocked.

For the first time, players will be able to step into the shoes of a Human Hunter, Dwarf Shaman, Troll Druid, Tauren Paladin and many more. The news will be no doubt welcome to long term players who have been chomping at the bit for a bit more variety, while new players will appreciate the extra choice on offer.

In the end Cataclysm has clearly been built with both new players and haggard veterans in mind. If you’ve never sampled the delights that Azeroth has to offer then there’ll be no better opportunity to dive straight in, the sheer amount of choice on offer will simply be too good to turn down and regardless of your play style and the amount of hours available at your disposal there’ll be an option for you.

Veterans of the game will undoubtedly be right at home with the various new zones to quest in, an increased level cap to 85, a number of new dungeons and more raids than any other previous expansion to conquer.  Fans of Player versus Player gameplay will not be left short changed as they’ll be catered for by a brand new battleground and an additional world PvP area in the form of Tol Barad Island that comes complete with its own daily quests and raid instance will no doubt add a bit of spice to proceedings.

Rewarding social play is also on the agenda, in the shape of a new Guild advancement system that grants guilds rewards based on their accomplishments. Expect this to be one of the quieter additions but, at the same time, most sought after a few weeks after release. For too long guilds have had no real sense of reward, apart from being able to say “we’ve killed so and so”, so this should hopefully put a smile on a few faces. Perhaps most importantly regarding the system it’ll be open to every guild and not just those at the forefront of raid advancement. Your small guild of just a handful of good friends will still have the same chance to unlock awards, it may take a little bit longer but you’ll get there in the end and that’s the important thing.

Perhaps the greatest temptation for current players will be the ability to start new characters with a new levelling experience in place that will go a long way to bring back some of that much sought after nostalgic feel that Vanilla WoW had to offer. Just the thought of being able to travel around on flying mounts, soaring through the skies of the ‘old world’ will leave many players dribbling with anticipation.

New player or full blown addict, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is set to launch later this year with a release date expected to be announced at Blizzcon in just a few weeks and you’ll be wise to at least give it a go.

For more World of Warcraft: Cataclysm coverage from Gaming Lives, be sure to check out our YouTube channel full of videos direct from the current beta test.

Last five articles by Ben



  1. Edward Edward says:

    Brilliant write-up. I’m not one for WoW, but it sounds like they’re doing a lot to bring new users in and keep the old happy too. :)

  2. Lorna Lorna says:

    Fantastic write up, Ben. I was droolling over the screenshots for an age before actually reading. I don’t know what I had expected, never having paid much attention to WoW screens before, but these were stunning. The old versions looked impressive enough, but the new graphics and textures look crisp and sumptuous. The street scene especially reminds me of Fable 2′s Albion in a way…and if anything would ever tempt me to actually get into WoW it would be this, but for subs and time. Oh, and Steampunky style…nice!

  3. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    See… now… as I’ve said countless times before, I’m really REALLY not in to the whole massive multiplayer online thing. It just doesn’t excite me as much as doing my own thing does, or doing my own thing with the occasional co-op here and there to shake things up a bit. I think, more than anything, it’s because I have a compulsive nature and if I find myself truly immersed in an MMO world, I’d never do anything but that.

    I also wasn’t that keen on how it all looked – hugely primitive polygons with jagged corners where they should be smoothed and round, plus textures that look like they’ve been soaked in washing up liquid for an hour or so to make them look muddy and fuzzy. This though, this is different. When I took a look at these last night, as I said on MSN at the time, I was blown away by the quality of the graphics and that graphic whore inside of me (ok, it’s about 90% of me in fairness) got a little giddy and imagined migrating Slappi The Wood Elf over to WoW to see how he performed.

    I’m not going to though. It’s not fair on my sanity, or my life away from the PC. As much as I was blown away by how it looked, and the fact that this cataclysm had ripped through the world and restructured it (excellent way to cover themselves for the massive change!) just isn’t enough to have me risk my free time on WoW. Not yet, anyway. Perhaps when I retire, if it’s still going, I’ll delve.

    Great piece though, I was glued to it.

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