Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cataclysm, In Review

I find Cataclysm is a hard expansion to really pin down. The thing is that there were no "unambiguous wins" this expansion. It seemed like every element was "one step forward, one step back".

Compare that to Wrath of the Lich King. Lich King had, in my mind, at least two moments of awesome: the Wrathgate ("Did you think we had forgotten? Did you think we had forgiven? Behold, now, the terrible vengeance of the Forsaken!" - best speech since original Ragnaros); and Ulduar. Maybe the Lich King fight counts as a third moment, I'm not sure about that. Cataclysm, in contrast, didn't really have anything to match those highs.

The Good:
  • Choosing specializations at level 10 - I thought this worked remarkably well. It made choosing your path a lot cleaner and simpler.
  • Class balance in general - I really liked class balance this expansion. While there were a few issues at the very high end, for the most part almost all specializations were balanced against each other.
  • The new healing model - Maybe it's because Holy paladins were one-button spam for so long, but I greatly enjoyed healing this expansion. Using many different spells, watching your mana, triage. The basic process of healing was interesting again. It did break down a bit near the end, admittedly.
  • Twilight Highlands - Dwarven wedding! The best zone of the expansion.
  • Mylune - You know you love her.
  • Looking For Raid - excellent job on making a transient version of raiding.
The Mushy Middle:
  • 10-man raiding - Pro: 10-man raiding became a first-class activity. Con: 25-man raiding was gutted.
  • Guild levels - Pros: was fun to level up your guild. Cons: loss of perks made guilds too sticky, I thought. Also, the setup of cauldrons and feasts was terribly annoying, and done just to preserve the perk.
  • T11 and Firelands - Pro: solid, interesting fights. Con: very static difficulty, gave rise to "dancing" claims, also possibly too difficult at the start
  • Firelands dailies - Pro: Interesting quests, liked the storyline. Con: because of phasing worries, actual process was excessively grindy. Unlocking areas every single day was annoying. Blizz should have just had it unlock once and not worry about the phasing.
  • Heroics - Pro: difficult and challenging. Con: difficult and challenging. To be honest, I still think these could have worked if the endgame had been structured differently. Take a look at how TBC heroics were placed in the attunements for raids
  • Hyjal - Pro: good quests, interesting storyline. Con: excessively linear.
  • Deepholm - Decent zone, nothing too interesting though.
  • Uldum - Pro: quests with the cat people: Con: quests with Harrison Jones
  • Old World Revamp - Pro: Lots of interesting new quests. Con: Loss of the old stories and common experiences. Many veterans felt it was too easy.
  • Dragon Soul - I don't think I can look at this raid objectively. My feelings are coloured by the dissolution of my guild.
  • Archaeology - Pro: neat items and very flavorful. Con: Very grindy. Fly a lot, survey, survey, survey, fly to the next area.
The Bad:
  • Vash'jir - Underwater sucked. Was way too long and linear. Trapped a quartermaster midway through.
  • Only 5 levels - Questing was too short, endgame came too fast. I much preferred the 10 levels of the previous expansion.
  • Deathwing - Pretty boring villain. No style. Didn't appear often enough to feel like a true Big Bad. It felt like Blizzard thought they overexposed Arthas, and tried to pull back with Deathwing. But the problem wasn't that Arthas appeared too much, it was that Arthas always lost, and so started to come off as a paper tiger.

So that's what I thought of Cataclysm. The class mechanic changes were good. But all the content (except for Twilight Highlands) was all in that middle zone of quality. No moments of awesome.


  1. I think I am the only person in the world that liked Vashjir! I don't even have a really good reason why I do. It's pretty, and I liked the questlines, and we got to ride a seahorse around.

    I also wanted to be a marine biologist when I was a kid, so maybe that's it.

    Sorry to see things didn't get better with your guild. :(

  2. Mylune? Mylune? Sure, I knew one person exactly like her in college, but I wasn't prepared to see her reincarnated in a game world.

    @Liore-- I liked Vashj' too, if for nothing else the ending. Yeah, I know, it was buggy, but when you end an impending-sense-of-doom zone with an "oh crap, we really did just lose!" moment, I thought it was great.

  3. Vash'jir: Did it on one toon, then avoided it on the other nine. That pretty much sums it up, don'tcha think? Like Liore says: pretty and the questlines were relatively interesting. Just... waaayy... tooooooo... /snore

    It is difficult to disagree with much of your Cataclysm assessment as a whole. Nice post.

  4. I think Vashjir would have worked a lot better if it had been a smaller zone. Also if it was more optional, like the Earthen Ring quartermaster was in Deepholm instead.

  5. Vash'jir wasn't that bad, it was long but it was the first time I have seen an area in 3D like that. And I also like the flash back story.

    Otherwise, good post, it sums up nicely the pros & cons of this expansion. It would have added the tool to seek in bags because it helps so much !

  6. Not a big fan of Mylune at all. I understand why people like her, but I find her annoyingly cute.

    I'm torn on old world revamp. It's nice having it updated, but it wasn't truly updated. I mean, you go into deadmines or Strathholme and it's definitely a progressed story from the original. But then you go into Scarlet Monastery and nothing has changed, or even worse BRD and the dwarf princess is still there, sitting next to the emporer. It's incredibly disjointed now, it feels REALLY strange having some things that have clearly moved forward and some things that haven't changed, to the point it makes no sense. It made a lot more sense when you simply "went back in time" and your new character started in vanilla, and worked their way through the expansions into the present.

    The worst is playing a Death Knight now. Starter quests leading into wrath, then you do 2 levels of cataclysm content, then go back in time to BC, then finally into wrath and back to cataclysm.

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  8. Logtar, please don't use crude terms to describe elements.

  9. For me :

    The Good: Accessibility in general. I am casual and now I have access to everything in this game, from raiding to PVP.

    The Bad: The Goblin starter zone was terrible, with an uninteresting story and very bad quests where you almost never get to use your abilities. And I agree about the Harisson Jones quests, those were also very bad.

  10. I guess nothing says "I didn't like Cata at all" like including Mylune among the good points. :-D

    I have to say I liked the healing model for early 4.0 (heroics and starting the normal raids) and I wish they introduce it again in MoP. Unfortunately, they seemed to change the healing model in T11 heroic raids and T12, I'm not sure whether it was intended or not.

    Multiple raids per tier in T11 was a good idea too as it provided an appreciated change of environment for the raiders; I am not sure why they decided to abandon it. It doesn't seem to require much extra resources (an encounter is an encounter, isn't it?).

  11. I agree with most of what you are saying, but there are a few points that make little to no sense to me.

    First, I don't think classes were well-balanced. As a hunter, I get routinely trumped by shadow priests and any melee classes. I for one can't wait for the new hunter mechanics in MoP: no minimal range, no secondary weapon.

    Second, this is semantics, but Uldum was my favorite zone.

    Third, Fireland dailies suck. I say this especially because I unlocked everything last week, and this week, the requirement was lowered from 150 tokens to 20 tokens. I HATE FIRELAND DAILIES!

    Fourth, and this one I am agreeing with, Archeology sucks. They need to revamp the grindy aspect of it very extensively. It is practically unbearable right now.

    Deathwing didn't appear often enough? He was everywhere! Hell he killed me at least 7 separate time just flying overhead and dousing the land in flames!

  12. I think alot of the Vashjir related problems were more of a melee problem. Ranged players simply had an easier time negotiating their targets. I'm quite sure of this simply because of how easy it has always been to kill a melee player in the water. I use to bring them there on purpose on my hunter because of the disadvantage.

    For me alot of the epic quest moments were broke from bugs when I reached them too. I think Blizzard really focused on redoing everything and missed alot of the bugs.

    The big problem with the redone world was that is was only halfway done. I really think they messed up with their Raid setup towards the end of Wotlk and had to push Cataclysm out quick. Essentially people were running out of content towards the end. They therefor simply didn't have the time to redo two more expansions of content. The end result was a disjointed leveling game story wise.

    I think the thing they did best this expansion was redoing the stats on gear with reforging and simply removing completely useless gear from the game.

    I agree with Deatheing being a lackluster villian. While he did feel like he was trying to destroy the world, it always felt like we were showing up late for the action. Then occasionally he would show up and roast you for fun. Personally I was more expecting a wave of Black Dragonflight to desend on a zone with Deathwing blasting random areas within it. Anyway more of a personal struggle with him would have been better. The confrontation in Twilight Highlands has fun and was a step in the right direction in that regard.

  13. As a tank, I found Deathwing a very disappointing end boss.

    I want to tank the boss face-to-face: 1-1. DW had me just running around picking up adds. Not epic.

    LK was the highlight of WoW for me. Before the ICC buff got high, it was the ultimate tanking experience. Me vs Arthas, on a similar scale.

    Ulduar suffered the same problem: I felt useless as a tank on the final boss.

  14. I liked Vash'jir better than Hyjal, so you can imagine how pissed off I was in Firelands when I found you HAD to do the Hyjal quests to open up the Firelands dailies.

    I don't see the point of giving players a choice of levelling zones if they're just going to come back later and say "Psych, what we meant is you all have to run Hyjal and Vash'jir is just for people who like underwater zones and really cool plots about naga warriors."

  15. Vash'jir: LOVED IT!!!!!!

    First really different area in a long long long time. Hollywood can make anything out of 3D movies but this area showed how different a zone gets when you can Swim/fly around.

    That said, waaaayyyyy to linear and avoided like the plague after because player base cried a lot.

    Listening to the players is a mistake. Don't think they're morons but don't listen to them, watch them. OFC ppl will avoid a new experience if all they want is speed aka XP/hour.

  16. The single biggest screwup of Cataclysm was difficult heroics. If you are going to make these things necessary not just to progress, but to do anything at all at max-level, then they must be designed around the lower half of the bell curve. Otherwise, you get the fiasco you had in early Cataclysm.

    I did warn everyone, back at the end of Wrath when they were cheering that they would now have to use CC and could easily wipe in randoms, what it would mean, but alas I was unheeded. Luckily, Blizzard has gotten the picture, and I expect MoP to have faceroll randoms with challenge dungeons being for the premade groups who want a more interesting experience.

    Cataclysm is full of all sorts of little bad moves, but they could have all been forgiven if not for the brick wall of heroics.

  17. Many points I agree with. I very much enjoyed the heroics. I liked they were challenging, but that is probably because in WotLK it became all rather too easy. Only DM was a bit too long, and having only 2 Troll HC was not enough because not enough diversion. What I did not like was the CD on kick introduced. Yes, it was sometimes abused. But the solution to increase the CD only supported the slackers.

    I don't agree with dance claims on FL. It is something Gevlon keeps claiming, but I believe it is simply an excuse for his guild failing in FL for other reasons. There is not more dance in FL normal than in say 4.0 normal, Ulduar, ICC normal, TBC. Those also had "a lot of dance" (not really, but OK, neither did FL). The only exception are Alysrazor N/HC (but it wasn't that hard to learn, and even post-nerf Gevlon's guild failed to kill the boss more than once) and Ragnaros HC. Gevlon, having no experience with FL HC, cannot comment on FL HC dance. He can't even comment about it in DS since he has no DS HC experience barring Morchok.

  18. @ Matt, if you are unable to do HC then you do it on normal or you make a premade. On my realm, there was a premade HC dungeon community. People were spoiled from WotLK easy HCs and you cannot take back the candy you gave to the lil kid. People were spoiled, used to idea "I am able to do heroic dungeons".

    There is one small exception though: group composition. If you put a group of 5 randoms together they may not have the right composition to tackle certain content. The "luck of the draw" buff solved this issue.