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World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

We live in interesting times

It's a testament to Blizzard's skills that five years on World of Warcraft is still as popular as ever, with 11 million subscribers avidly enjoying their time in Azeroth. It's been nearly 18 months since World of Warcraft's second expansion pack, Wrath of the Lich King, hit our PCs so it's only fair that the third expansion pack, Cataclysm, should be just around the corner. Rather than sitting on their laurels smugly, it looks as if Blizzard will be building on previous successes and ensuring that Cataclysm is the best expansion pack yet.

Crucially rather than simply adding even more zones for the higher level players, Cataclysm offers reason to be interested even if you're an old player considering a return after a long absence. Every zone in the two original continents Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor is set for a revamp. While some zones may only have aesthetic changes, others look to be changing significantly and proving great interest to those who know the 'old' continents like the back of their Elven/Tauran hands. It ties in neatly with the concept of cataclysm, a term used in the Bible to describe events such as The Flood, and more recently used to describe huge geological catastrophes such as the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. According to the trailer released at Blizzcon last year, it looks like WoW will be suffering catastrophes of its own. The ever popular Barrens will be divided into two separate areas by a lava filled canyon with one half aimed at lower level players and the other for higher level players. It's a similar tale for Badlands, Ashenvale and Stranglethorn Vale where large areas have been destroyed or burned down. It's a brave move as no doubt some traditionalist WoW players won't be happy with such drastic changes to their beloved world but it's also arguably just what's needed to reinspire players to return to the original areas that have been forgotten about in recent years. Blizzard has also mentioned that they intend on reworking the level 1-60 content to keep up player interest.

It's not all simply revamps of old zones however with a number of new zones added for level 80+ players as well as a 5 level increase to the level cap. Uldum will be of particular interest to lore fans forming an ancient desert south of Un'goro Crater which will hopefully add much to the lore after previously being mentioned in the legends of Azeroth. Besides that there will be the Sunken City of Vashj'ir which promises underwater mounts as well two new 5-man dungeons for the 80+ player. These are just a couple of the examples on the way to ensure progression to level 85 is as compelling as previous new content. Altogether there will be eight new 5-player dungeons available in both normal and Heroic modes, as well as additional Heroic versions of the Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep. For the raiders, four raid dungeons will be implemented in time for launch and PvP players have a new Battleground to contend with and Tol Barad Island, a new PvP zone similar to Wintergrasp.

While there's no sign of a new classes such as the Death Knight seen in Wrath of the Lich King, there are two new races in the form of the Worgens and Goblins. It's a little surprising that such an aggressive and bestial race as the Worgens are part of the 'good' Alliance but it should make for a great twist on the usually 'goody two shoes' Alliance way of living. It's also suggested that Worgens will be able to transform into human-form outside of combat. The Goblins seem like a fine choice with their switch from neutrality to the Horde explained via the changes in post-cataclysm Azeroth. As expected, new starting areas have been created for both races and look to be ably slotted into the pre-existing terrain. Despite the lack of a new class, all the current races will be given access to new class combinations such as Human hunters, Dwarf mages, Tauren paladins and Troll druids. A new profession in the form of archaeology is also being added which will allow players to collect and use artifacts from the ancient races of Azeroth.

Many of the Cataclysm changes will affect all players regardless of their purchase of the expansion pack. The drastic changes to Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor will be unavoidable for example, while the new races, zones and increased level cap are only available through the expansion pack. The hope is that such drastic changes will entice those who were around originally but found themselves disinterested by the same old familiar content. It certainly looks like it's going to work. While The Burning Crusade felt too short-lived and Wrath of the Lich King only really focused on the end game, Cataclysm looks like it'll be a fine mixture of the two ensuring that everyone is happy. This also makes now the perfect time for retired players to return in order that they can see the original content one last time before the cataclysm hits and turns the world of Azeroth upside down. Looks like an excellent time to be re-addicted to World of Warcraft.

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