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5 Ways Cataclysm Made WoW So Much Better

June 11, 2012
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Taking a break from my recent doom and gloom today, I’m going to focus instead on some of the positive changes that Cataclysm brought to WoW.  Not too long ago, Apple Cider Mage mentioned on Twitter that Cataclysm has been the best quality-of-life expansion so far, and she is so right about that.  Today, let’s take a look at 5 practical things that have made WoW way better than it was 2 years ago.

1. Talent specializations

One of the most confusing things about being a new WoW player when I first started in Burning Crusade was knowing what exactly to do with all those funny “talent points” I kept getting every time I leveled up.  I really didn’t understand why I had them, or that I generally was supposed to keep all my talent points in one branch of my class’ talent tree until I had worked my way up to the ability at the top.  There was nothing about the trees that forced, or even suggested, that you do this, and the talents themselves were of little help to a new player who couldn’t understand what they meant.  I remember putting a few points in each of the trees on my first druid, because I figured I’d probably want to be versatile and have a little bit of each.  Whoops.

Now, upon reaching level 10, players are presented with a screen that clearly explains the role of each talent tree their class can choose and a “signature ability” to accompany their choice.  This means that WoW players now get an ability at level 10 that makes their class actually feel like their class.  Before, players wouldn’t get an ability that was specific to their spec until level 40 – a pretty long way to go in order to start feeling like a Resto druid, or a Discipline priest, and so on.  Cataclysm’s revamp of WoW’s talent system may not be perfect and may still promote cookie-cutter builds, but it certainly has given us a way to really experience the flavor of our specialization early on in the leveling process.

2. Flying in Azeroth

I said that this post would be about practical changes in Cataclysm, so I won’t even bother getting misty-eyed over how beautiful it is to see Azeroth by air (I’ve done that at least once already).  Being able to fly in Azeroth is as much a practical change as it is aesthetic.  This makes it exponentially easier for players to change their professions at max level, to gather lower level materials for alts, and to make a small fortune farming certain herbs and ore that aren’t always available on the auction house.  Also, Cataclysm’s new profession, Archaeology, would be impossible to tolerate without being able to fly in Azeroth.

3. Streamlining our gear system

Going broke to the Ethereals, thanks to reforging and transmogging.

I had to cheat a bit on this one, because the changes to gear in the expansion pack could very nearly have covered all 5 points by themselves.  Instead, I’ve lumped them together.

Acquiring gear in Cataclysm is easier than ever.  The significantly streamlined Justice/Valor point system is much simpler than our very bulky points we had in Wrath.  Those of you who played throughout the last expansion will remember that we got a new type of point for each raid tier that was released, meaning that we had 4 separate types of points we could carry around by the time ICC came out.  If we wanted anything that used any of the previous levels of points for currency, we had to trade our ICC points down.  The worst example of this was when we wanted to purchase gems, which used the Naxx level points – meaning we had to convert our way down through 4 different types of points just to buy our gems.  The current system that allows us to buy anything from the current tier with Valor points, and anything older with Justice, is much easier to understand and manage than the Wrath system was.

As a caster druid, the addition of armor specializations has made my gearing SO much simpler.  During Wrath, it was extremely frustrating that cloth wearers, caster druids, and caster shaman might all end up competing for the same piece of cloth gear that was best in slot for all of us.  With the 5% boost to our primary stat provided by each of the new armor specializations, the incentive for wearing our own type of gear far outweighs any small stat difference on an individual piece of cloth gear.

Fortunately, even if our leather gear may not have the perfect stats we want on it, reforging allows us to customize our gear even more.  This is particularly helpful for any specs that have breakpoints they want to reach but not go too far over, and for anyone who wants to reach hit cap but not waste stats having too much hit.  All 3 of these changes since the release of the expansion pack have made gearing much less of a headache than it could be during Wrath.

4. No more resist mechanics

During Wrath, 3 of the 4 raid instances had bosses who dealt significant amounts of frost damage with some of their abilities.  In Naxx (Sapphiron), Ulduar (Hodir), and ICC (Sindragosa), players were expected to use a special set of “frost resist” gear that would make it significantly easier to defeat each of these bosses.  Depending upon the skill of your raid group, farming up the materials to make these sets wasn’t optional, and tanks in particular had little choice in the matter. These items required a decent chunk of materials to make, and though you could hang on to the set so you could reuse it for the next tier, each of the pieces was iLv 213 – meaning that, by ICC, you were losing out on a lot of desirable stats in exchange for that extra resistance.

With Cataclysm’s release and the changes to the way that buffs work, resist for specific spell schools can no longer be stacked beyond a set amount (with the one exception of racial resistances, which can take you slightly higher).  This means we no longer have to worry about developers coming up with resistance fights, that we don’t have to scrounge up materials for an extra set of gear that we only use on one fight per tier, and we don’t have to sacrifice our best stats for more survivability.  Frost resist fights, I’d argue, were never a fun or interesting mechanic, and I couldn’t have been happier to see them go.

5. Removal of spell ranks

Having played a handful of other MMOs that haven’t learned the lesson from WoW, I can hardly put into words how much I love this change.  Prior to Cataclysm, each of our spells had different ranks that made them more powerful, rather than simply scaling by level as they do now.  This meant that every time we leveled up, we had to check in with our trainers to see not only whether they had new abilities, but also if new ranks of our spells were available (because, prior to this expansion, we also didn’t have a nice little alert that flashed on our screen to tell us we could learn something new, nor did our spellbook tell us at what level we learned each of our abilities).

It was extremely common for people to forget to train spell ranks, even at max level.  It was so common, in fact, that an add on existed which could either call out in party, whisper to you, or whisper to the person using downranked spells to let them know which spells they needed to go train.  Thankfully, Cataclysm has gotten rid of all of this, and Mists will go even further by simply giving us our abilities as we level so there is no need to visit a trainer except to respec.

What other practical changes during the Cataclysm expansion would make your top 5 list?  How has Cataclysm improved upon your experience of playing WoW?

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2012 2:45 pm

    Even with their flaws, RealID/Battletags have been a huge improvement for being able to play with folks you like (without having to pay transfer fees, or leave your raiding guild). I’d argue that it’s a bigger improvement than getting rid of resist fights/gear, since that only affected a small set of the population (raiders).

    • June 11, 2012 2:52 pm

      This was something I very nearly included and really only left out on a technicality. I agree that Real IDs have given us many more options about how and with whom we group, but they still depend upon us being willing to reveal our real name in the process. Once Battletags are fully live in WoW (“fully” in that they are available to everyone, not just those of us who have purchased Diablo 3), I would absolutely include this on my list. Of course, that is scheduled to happen in Mists rather than during Cataclsym – which is how I split hairs and decided to exclude it. :P

  2. June 11, 2012 3:08 pm

    Removal of spell ranks has been a blessing and a curse. Sure, I don’t have to keep track of (and keybind) four different iterations of Healing Touch, and that’s great. On the flipside, they’ve added in a whole bunch of “Hit this mob until it’s weak, then use this quest item!” quests, and when you’re 85 and those mobs are level 20, it makes life…interesting. Then again, maybe that’s what I get for being insane eough to do Loremaster.

    • June 11, 2012 3:11 pm

      Hah, good point. And if it makes you feel any better (or worse!), those sort of quests are nearly impossible to do at an appropriate level, too. :-/

  3. Spencer Nozell permalink
    June 11, 2012 5:28 pm

    The talent system was one of the best thing that happened to WoW. They had just the right amount of customization, it was the prefect form of talent trees. I will be sad to see the trees go when Mist of Pandaria goes live.

    • June 12, 2012 4:17 pm

      I guess I’ll mostly be sad to see it gone, too. It’s hard to say for certain just yet without really getting to experiment with the live version of the new talents, but I actually really like the system the devs came up with for Cataclysm’s release.

  4. June 11, 2012 7:20 pm

    I absolutely agree with everything you discussed. I won’t miss the spell ranks or the old talent system. I love having my baby disc priest feel like a disc priest. I enjoy all the ways they’ve made the game smarter, cut out all the redundant fluff, and made it more fun to actually play your character from the start.

    • June 12, 2012 4:17 pm

      Absolutely! Thanks for the comment. :)

  5. June 11, 2012 9:50 pm

    Great post. Only thing that doesn’t match my own experience is the no resists thing – I never even bothered with resists in WotLK (all the frost resist you needed came from buffs). When tanking Firelands on my Pally, however, I did make big use of the fire resist trinket from TB. Otherwise, I totally agree :D

    • June 12, 2012 4:19 pm

      I think whether your raid group decided to use resist gear on those fights was often a question of confidence and gearing – the group I raided with at the beginning of Wrath had neither. :P By the time I joined my current raiding guild during ICC, frost gear was viewed as much more optional. I think I wore one or two pieces the first time we killed Sindragosa, and then again when we were working on her heroic difficulty. But after that first kill it was hardly worth bothering. If you were quick enough not to be hit by the frost bombs, then you probably didn’t need the resist gear anyway.

  6. June 12, 2012 10:49 am

    I’m torn about the way the training has changed/is changing further. When I was levelling my monk from scratch on the beta I really didn’t like the huge gap in abilities. I found myself missing the need to visit your trainers and really disliking only getting a talent every 15 levels. It felt really disjointed.

    Although the resist gear going bye bye was a welcome change. That said, it’s one of the things my husband misses the most. In vanilla, he had this hate/hate relationship with an Undead Mage and given that both our guilds were roughly similar in progression, we’d meet a lot outside raids as well in as AV etc. So he added a few resist items to his pvp set especially for ganking this guy. The first time he used it, the Mage’s comments on IRC were hilarious.

    • June 12, 2012 4:25 pm

      I agree, it does feel strange to get abilities so slowly and to get talent points so rarely. I think some of this was a monk issue – I know when I was leveling mine they had painfully few abilities anyway, so the lack was heightened more so than it might on another class. I suppose it remains to be seen how the leveling process will really play out once Mists is live, but as Spencer said above – I like the current talent system, despite all its flaws, and I’m sad to see it go.

      Poor frost mages! (Last time you’ll ever hear me say that.) They certainly must be happy to see frost resist gear gone for good.

  7. Paul permalink
    June 17, 2012 7:42 am

    I liked how Rift handled resistance: resist stats come mostly on planar essences, and the (lesser) planar essences always spend part of their stat budget on resist. So you never have the option to have no resistance. This leads to people building multiple sigils, each optimized for a different resistance.

    I do agree that the new talent trees were a win. I’m leveling a new shaman right now, and it was awesome to be able to spec enhancement into dual wield around level 20 or so, vs. level 40 in the old system.

  8. Blorgishbas permalink
    July 13, 2012 12:18 am

    I agree with the Transmogrification NOTHING ELSE AT ALL i dislike the removal of spell ranks, i used R1 frostbolts to slow someone fast in pvp, flying in azeroth made world pvp lower, even though im on the best server for it. Talent specializations ehhhhhh ok w/e ill give ya that one

  9. September 20, 2012 7:18 am

    Nice 5 reasons i agree

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