World of Warcraft: Cataclysm – review

PC/Mac; £24.99; cert 12+; Blizzard EntertainmentThe dragon Deathwing has returned and torn apart the old kingdoms of Azeroth. This has given Blizzard the excuse to revisit the lands from the original game and redesign them using all the lessons learne…

PC/Mac; £24.99; cert 12+; Blizzard Entertainment

The dragon Deathwing has returned and torn apart the old kingdoms of Azeroth. This has given Blizzard the excuse to revisit the lands from the original game and redesign them using all the lessons learned from the two previous expansions.

Part of this redesign means that for the first time players can now fly in the old world, making it easier to get around than before.

There are two new playable races, the worgen and the goblins. The worgen are the new Alliance race and have the ability to change form between human and wolf. Their starting area has an Olde England feel about it, complete with top hats and dodgy English accents. The goblins are the new recruits to the Horde. They have a number of useful racial abilities including a rocket belt that can be used for jumping or for attacking enemies, and access to an instant banker, which will come in very handy for levelling and grinding. The addition of gold discounts and a buff to combat strength, have led to some accusations of Blizzard favouring the Horde. The starting area seems to be polarising opinion at the moment, some say it’s annoying and silly, while others say it’s the best ever one.

All the other starting zones have been reworked to be more streamlined and engaging. New players will find the step-by-step tutorials helpful in negotiating the previously bewildering learning curve that put many off the original game.

The quest hubs now have a more linear feel, and “breadcrumb” quests lead the player very naturally on to the next area. There’s none of the trudging for miles to reach a new zone that there used to be.

Talent trees have been simplified, with each class gaining a signature spell or ability at level 10 which locks you into a certain tree until later levels. This helps to give each talent tree more of a unique playstyle and helps reduce the choices that a new player has to make.

The talent trees certainly seem a lot clearer to me, and the addition of the new glyphing system gives a fair bit of extra tweaking room.

The artwork in the new areas for high level players is nothing short of brilliant. From the underwater world of Vash’jir to the vast crystal and rock formations of Deepholm, Blizzard has put a lot of effort into making each area unique and atmospheric. The quests too, are diverse and interesting. There are fewer grinding quests, and more chains which tell stories. Also there is much more use of cutscenes, which add to the “epic” feel of some of the quests. This does, however, highlight one of the major grumbles concerning the jarring of old and new. Because the new areas look so good, some of the older areas that haven’t been updated much now look their age. Others have said the same about character races. The work put into the goblin and worgen races leave the older races looking a bit flat and lifeless in comparison.

The new five man instances are looking good so far. There’s a fairly strict gear level requirement before you can enter the heroic versions, which stops lower level players jumping into them before they’re ready. Good thing too, as the new heroics require much more in the way of crowd control than the Wrath of the Lich King ones. There’s no turning up and powering through them as quickly as possible.

Guilds can now work towards guild achievements which offer perks such as faster levelling and faster mounts all the way up to the much desired mass resurrection.

Though I’ve yet to start raiding, I have no reason to believe that they won’t be as successful and enjoyable part of the game as they were in Wrath of the Lich King.

Cataclysm has introduced a secondary profession of archaeology, where players have to search the lands of Azeroth for ancient artifacts. Once you arrive at a dig site, you set up your equipment and survey the land for buried fossils and antiquities. Once you have enough of a certain faction’s artifacts you can “solve” the puzzle for in game pets, mounts and other rewards.

Archaeology adds an interesting twist to the game and if nothing else it’s a good excuse for seasoned players to get out and see the old world in all its new glory.

There are new rated battlegrounds and season 9 of the arena tournament has just begun. Some are complaining that Tol Barad, the new version of Lich King’s Wintergrasp, is unbalanced, but no doubt future patches will fix that.

MMO’s are difficult to review comprehensively after only a week or so of playing, as there is so much content to get through. So I’ve only reviewed the parts I have experienced and other players have related to me.

The game is looking better than ever, and is much easier to learn. But it still has many levels of complexity when you want to delve deeper. With the new starting zones, races and tutorials, if you’ve ever been tempted, then there’s never been a better time to start World of Warcraft. And if the raiding and pvp turn out to be as good as promised, the future of the most successful MMO is assured for some time to come.

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