The time has come to bid farewell to Cataclysm, an expansion which many of us are happy to move beyond. It’s hard to say how we’ll feel about Cata when we look back on it in a year or two from now, but I doubt our rose-colored glasses will be quite so rosy as they are when we think of BC or Wrath. I think it’s fair to say that Cataclysm was eagerly anticipated by almost all of the playerbase when it was announced, and even through most of the Beta period. So why now do so many of us look back at the last two years with so much ire?
The things that Cataclysm got right, it got really right. Transmogrification may have not been available at launch, but its later addition is probably my personal favorite of any new feature we’ve seen since I started playing. The first re-invention of our talent system occurred with Cata, and it finally allowed our characters to specialize their abilities very early on in the leveling process. I wrote a post a few months ago outlining the ways that Cataclysm vastly improved our WoW quality of life, and from a practical standpoint there really was a lot to love about Cata … but why didn’t we love it?
Call me crazy (you will), but as I bide my time before Mists, I’ve been leveling a handful of alts - and almost every one of those alts is a goblin. That means that in the last week I have completed the entire goblin starting area no less than 3 times. Maybe I’ve been drinking too much of the Kaja Cola, but I have an IDEA (and, no, it’s not for headshoes). After a week on Kezan and the Lost Isles, I realized that the goblin starting area is a pretty good microcosm of Cataclysm itself.
The goblin starting area is light-hearted and goofy fun … until it isn’t. Have you played the goblin starting area, or – if you have – given much thought to exactly what your character goes through? Yes, you spend a few quests getting dressed up and hosting a party, and generally being a well-respected, dirty-dealing, goblin badass. But then,Deathwing swings by Kezan long enough to send the island’s volcano into a fatal eruption. As you scramble to gather your worldly possessions to leave your home, you find out that the only way off the island is on Gallywix’s boat, which just so happens to be the only boat docked at Bilgewater Port. To buy your way onto the boat, you have to turn over your life’s savings to Gallywix (the equivalent, for a goblin, of handing over your first-born child – and then maybe the second and third born, too). Then, the other shoe drops.
Turns out that Gallywix has actually decided to sell you into slavery, a fate you narrowly avoid when your ship explodes. You’ve managed to sail directly into a battle between the Horde and Alliance fleets. You make it to the shore of a nearby island, but Gallywix enslaves most of your friends anyway. Then you happen upon a dead orc and decide to make nice with his friends, as the orc ships were being slightly less hostile to you than the Alliance ones were. Then you meet some nutty orc shaman who is apparently really important, and he asks you to free him and help him slaughter a bunch of his captors.
Then you manage to make a second volcano erupt. Then some pigmy tribe starts kidnapping your buddies and turning them into zombies. Then you discover that your enslaved friends in Gallywix’s mine have been brain-washed. Then Gallywix decides it’s time to just murder you and that orc shaman guy because you’ve both been a lot of trouble. Then the orc shaman won’t even kill the asshole!
Point is, life as a goblin seriously sucks. You leave Kezan, which seems to be a goblin paradise, and every attempt you have to find a new home ends disastrously. So, of course, by the time Thrall offers you a place (and a home!) with the Horde, you are only too happy to accept.
The goblins weren’t the only victims, of course. The Cataclysm, Deathwing, drove us all from our homes. The destruction Deathwing caused in Stormwind still hasn’t been fully repaired, and since he spent the entire year prior to his death flying around Azeroth igniting zones at random, I think it’s pretty safe to say that there were very few places entirely untouched by the Cataclysm. Home is a pretty important place to most people, and probably even more so to Azeroth’s battle-weary heroes.
In the pre-Wrath launch event, Arthas brought the fight to our doorstep … but then he retreated. We took the fight to him in Northrend to finally destroy him, meaning that we weren’t fighting on our home soil. There’s a pretty huge psychological difference between fighting the Scourge on an entirely different continent and worrying that Deathwing could literally burn your house down at any time. Both are threats to our safety and the safety of those we love – but one hits, well, a lot closer to home.
Think about the mental state of your character (and perhaps, to some extent, yourself) at the end of Wrath. You have been away from home for 2 years, fighting atrocities from your worst nightmares, fighting against comrades who have fallen and then rise against you, all the while in a cold, foreboding environment. You’re tired. You’re broken. You’ve defeated the Lich King, but at such a high cost. You want to go home more than anything in the world.
See how that might be a little demoralizing?
Despite all of the darkness in the narrative of the Wrath expansion, somehow Cataclysm has managed to be the most depressing installment of WoW to date. We returned to our homes to find that they weren’t the same anymore, that beloved friends had died, and favorite places were forever ruined. We were sad but ready to fight back when the expansion began, but somewhere along the way we lost our resolve.
Was it because “killing” elemental lords feels painfully futile when they always manage to return (see also Onyxia, Nefarian)? Or perhaps because Deathwing spent so much of the expansion as an absentee villain, causing us to wonder what, if any, connection he had to the events that transpired after the Cataclysm? Was it exploring zone after altered zone and finding that the world had, indeed, been shattered beyond recognition?
Cataclysm needed a happy ending. Think of me as sentimental or cheesy if you want, but for an expansion that was so depressing overall to end in a way that still allowed us to feel like champions, we needed that happy ending. Dragon Soul’s final cinematic just doesn’t cut it:
So Deathwing is dead and it took everything, quite literally everything, we could possibly throw at him to make that happen. The dragon aspects gave up their immortality and their aspect powers to finally kill him – a feat which is both depressing in and of itself, and also additionally demoralizing because it proves that the mortal races could not have done this alone. In one encounter, we instantly see just how defenseless we really are – and those dragons who saved the day for us do NOT get to do it a second time. Our Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card is gone. (And if you are even thinking of telling me that the announcement of Thrall Jr. is the uplifting moment in that cinematic, you can go shove it.)
Wrath of the Lich King featured a sad, terrifying narrative. But when it was over and we finally killed Arthas, we did it ourselves and with the help of one paladin whose Mass Rez wasn’t on cooldown. We slayed Arthas in the name of the Light, and as proper justice for the atrocities he had committed. It was a satisfying end to the story.
In Cataclysm, we found ourselves in the same sinking boat as the goblins of Kezan – kicked down over and over again and longing for the moment when we could pick ourselves up and be heroes once more. It never comes. Instead, we are left with the fear that comes from knowing that now we are truly alone as we return to our destroyed homelands.
So did Deathwing win? If his plan was to depress, to demoralize, and to make us feel that our place on Azeroth is a precarious one, then I think he probably came out ahead. My hope for Mists is that we will find our happy ending, and that we will get to feel like the champions we never were over these last 2 years. When I hear WoW’s Art Director, Charles Robinson, speak about the differences between the atmospheres of Cataclysm and Pandaria, I get really hopeful that we’re on the right track:
… from a visual perspective, I feel like we were really trying to strike a different chord, specifically because we are talking about a continent that’s been hidden for so long. There really is no need to tie the two [Cataclysm and MoP] together, other than the fact that it’s in WoW and it should look like it’s in WoW. So, I think we kind of set that aside and went, ‘Let’s paint a different picture here. Let’s use this as an opportunity to really – to take a step back from the craziness that happened in Cataclysm. Let’s introduce a new, beautiful, kind of calming environment, and take a breath in our timeline, and also make sure that we have that underlying theme of death and destruction and everything we’ve become accustomed to with WoW.’
(source, at 1:53)
Goodbye, Cataclysm. It would be dishonest to say that I’ll miss you, so I will instead say that I appreciate the lessons you’ve taught me. I’ve learned that my perseverance and desire to progress through a raid have limits – limits that were painfully tested by Nefarian and Ragnaros. I’ve learned that rolling a new alt isn’t a proper substitute for new content. I’ve learned that my guild, which I once thought immune to end-of-expansion slumps, can suffer greatly from them just like every other guild. And I’ve learned that without a compelling narrative, both in questing and in raids, this game simply is not as much fun for me.
Below is a list of the new flasks, potions, and food* available in MoP, organized by the benefit they give. I’ve also included the materials needed for each item so your raid group will know what you’ll need the most of as you’re preparing to raid.
*Note that the highest tier of single serving food is actually better than the Banquets (i.e. Fish Feasts) in MoP. It is a difference of 25 points worth of stats. Cooking is significantly more complex in MoP and includes a variety of specializations. A complete explanation of MoP cooking is available at El’s Extreme Anglin’.
Flask of the Warm Sun - 4 Silkweed, 1 Golden Lotus
Potion of the Jade Serpent - 1 Green Tea Leaf, 1 Silkweed
Mogu Fish Stew - 1 Black Pepper, 5 Emperor Salmon, 5 Raw Crocolisk Belly, 25 Mogu Pumpkin
Flask of Winter’s Bite – 4 Fool’s Cap, 1 Golden Lotus
Potion of Mogu Power – 1 Green Tea Leaf, 1 Fool’s Cap
Black Pepper Ribs and Shrimp - 1 Black Pepper, 5 Giant Mantis Shrimp, 5 Mushan Ribs, 25 Green Cabbage
Master Mana Potion – 1 Snow Lily, 1 Green Tea Leaf, 1 Fool’s Cap
Master Healing Potion – 1 Green Tea Leaf
Darkwater Potion (runspeed) – 3 Desecrated Oil
Alchemist’s Rejuvenation (health and mana) – 1 Green Tea Leaf
Potion of Focus (MoP version of Potion of Concentration) – 2 Snow Lily
There are many more foods that I have excluded from this list, since I have only chosen foods that grant +300 to a stat. The full list of foods is available here, full list of flasks here, and full list of potions here.
Tonight after our raid, the Pink Kitty and I headed for Scarlet Halls to see the normal version of the instance (don’t worry, this post is spoiler free). We met up with the final boss, and were just hanging out in front of his bookcases, like this:
And then, this happened:
Enjoy your last weekend of Cataclysm, folks. I’ll be hanging out in the burn unit for a while.
The Fall of Theramore scenario has perfectly demonstrated everything that’s wrong with Blizzard’s storytelling process. I hate writing posts like this. I hate talking about how bad some aspect of WoW is because there truly are a lot of wonderful things about this game. But the Theramore scenario just got so many things wrong that I had to dedicate a few hundred words to it.
Note: This post will contain spoilers both for the scenario itself and the novel Tides of War. I have only Alliance 85s, so I’ll be only speaking from the perspective of the Alliance version of the quest.
Lack of Lore
Pure and simple, the story of this scenario makes absolutely no sense without having read Tides of War. Blizzard is no stranger to forcing us to go outside of the game for the full story about most major lore developments, but we usually have enough pieces of the puzzle given to us in-game that we can get a decent clue as to what’s going on.
This scenario drops us into the very last possible moment we could see Theramore from the story told in the book. When I read the novel a few weeks ago, I assumed we would be doing some sort of escort quest helping Jaina get up to the top of the tower so we would see her final conversation with Rhonin, and his sacrifice that saves many of the civilians on the island. I thought we might hear her talk about Pained or Kinndy, or any of the other important figures who are lost on that day.
I thought we would at least see or hear Garrosh giving the order to drop the mana bomb, or leading the Horde troops through the gates of the city before the retreat. Instead, we get a cut-scene that almost seems to implicate the Goblins more than Garrosh himself, and barely any explanation as to how the mana bomb works or why the Horde just happens to have the Focusing Iris.
With the way the story is presented in the scenario, it makes no sense at all.
We are given no context. We get to Theramore by queueing using the new Scenarios interface, so it’s not even as if we are told to go there by our King or some Alliance general. I can see how this system might make sense for some all-inclusive stories that might be presented in Pandaria, but for such a HUGE lore event, this is really a bad call.
The World Event That Wasn’t
I bet you thought that the Theramore story was going to be the world event going into Mists. I know I did. Turns out we were wrong, according to this Blue tweet from last night:
Theramore scenario completely underwhelming compared to other pre expansion events. It’s Meh.
Was never meant to be a world event. It’s the first Scenario of the game. Tons more content coming next week!
If there is one thing Blizzard should understand after this many years in the game, it’s how to manage customer expectations. Every expansion has had a world event. Mists of Pandaria is a new expansion. Therefore, it is reasonable that we assumed Mists would have a world event. And when we heard about a new playable scenario, with a ton of far-reaching implications for lore, which was going to be released a week before the expansion was – what the hell else would we assume it was going to be? It’s like handing a kid a piece of candy and then saying, “Well I didn’t promise you any candy,” when they open up the wrapper and find nothing inside. Of course we thought this was the world event, and so of course we expected it to be something bigger than it was.
So please, Blizzard, don’t play dumb about your subscribers assuming this was a launch event. If you weren’t intending to give us one, well that happens. You’ve specifically told us you didn’t want to release another content patch after Dragon Soul so you could focus your efforts on Mists development, and I guess that a world event fell under that axe, too. In another week, when I have fresh content to dive into, I’ll probably forget that all of this even happened. But right now, on this night when I was expecting to see a powerful piece of lore development explored in-game, along with implications that extended into our home cities (as has always been the case in the past), I’m really just pissed off.
I remember the day that Mists of Pandaria was announced at Blizzcon. I wasn’t happy, I was extremely worried about what it would mean for my guild, and I wasn’t sure it was an expansion that would have something for me.
That evening, I happened to be driving through the city where my mom works so I stopped by to say hello. My mom understands a bit about World of Warcraft, probably more than most adult players’ parents do. I’m lucky that she’s always been supportive of my interest in the game and shows genuine interest in learning more about it. During Wrath when I was primarily raiding as my Death Knight, she used to send me text messages that said “tank good!” if she knew I’d be raiding that night.
So when I dropped by her office on that October day last year, we eventually came around to the topic of the new expansion announcement. My mom was mildly interested – she’s a big Asian culture and history buff, so the themes of Pandaria appealed to her. Then, I showed her the trailer.
When I watched the trailer, I was disappointed.
When my mom watched the trailer, she gasped out loud.
She loved the music. She loved the scenery. She couldn’t care less about panda-people, but she loved everything they were wearing. And as I watched her get excited about this thing – this thing that wasn’t even really a part of her life, and especially not to the degree that it’s a part of mine – I couldn’t help it. I got excited, too.
A few weeks ago, Mists of Pandaria came up again. On the day after the cinematic was released, I drove up to my mom’s house to visit. While I was there, I showed her the Mists cinematic, expecting her not to care for it – she’s never particularly enjoyed the warfare aspect of World of Warcraft, so I figured she wouldn’t like the showcase of some burly orc and human tossing each other around. I was wrong.
When the trailer was over, she said the thing that so many of us want to hear our friends or family members say: “I think I’d like to try WoW.”
To give the briefest possible summary of my mom’s gaming history – she likes flash games and those Nancy Drew mystery things, most of anything my sister and I played on our various Nintendo systems gave her motion sickness, and the closest she’s ever been to an MMO was watching over my sister’s shoulder as she threw pies at Cogs in Toontown. Fortunately, my gaming history wasn’t really all that different (aside from the motion sickness) before I tried WoW, so I had a feeling I might just be able to help her get started.
While we were waiting for her game client to download, I let her get used to moving around with a combination of keystrokes and mouse movement by playing a padaren mage I’d created on the beta server. She had some difficulty getting the hang of it (and I stupidly started her out near water, so we had to go through the process of learning how to move the camera while swimming before she even got comfortable moving the camera while walking), but she was really enjoying getting to move around the Wandering Isle starting area amidst all the gorgeous scenery.
Now that she has the game installed on her own computer, she’s spent the last week or so leveling a night elf mage – I suggested night elves would probably be the race whose starting area she would enjoy most until she can create the pandaren she really wants. Honestly, I worried a lot about her trying a mage first since I attempted one relatively early on in my WoW experience and had difficulty with it, but she’s been enjoying herself so far.
The availability of cross realm grouping could not have arrived at a more perfect time for us. I’ve created a lowbie hunter to help her when she needs it, but this wouldn’t have been possible prior to the recent patch. I’m out of character slots on my home server, so being able to create an alt elsewhere but still invite my mom to a party to quest is an awesome option to have.
There have been some road bumps along the way. My mom liked the idea of having a pet (she was jealous at how quickly my hunter was killing things), so she opted to spec Frost. Unfortunately, since she’s still not very proficient at moving the camera or zooming out, her Water Elemental often “gets in her way” to the extent that she can’t see anything but the elemental on her screen. This is usually only an issue in close quarters like caves and the barrow dens on Teldrassil. She also still gets lost pretty easily, but I think that’s to be expected this early on. (I love the new Darkshore, but having severely broken terrain like that in a zone that’s likely to see a lot of new players probably wasn’t the best plan.)
Her questing experience has been a constant reminder of how far we’ve come in the time I’ve been playing. When she calls me because she can’t figure out where she needs to go for a quest, I remind her to open up her map and we talk through it together. Remember the days when we had to download the add-on QuestHelper to do that for us? When she hit level 15 and had to choose her first talent, I was thrilled that I didn’t need a PhD in Mageing to help her pick one that sounded helpful. I could not be happier that, when she needs to use an item for a quest, it either shows up on her quest log on the right side of her screen, or it has a bright yellow border around it when she looks for it in her bags. Is it still confusing for her a lot of the time? Of course. But I’m watching her catch on to things that took me much longer, because the information she needs is actually a part of the game itself and does not require her to go searching the internet for an outside source.
Her experience is giving me a new appreciation of the quality of life improvements that have been made over the last 5 years, but it’s doing something else as well.
When I think about Warcraft, there’s a lot of baggage that comes with it. I think about how I can become a better raider, and how I can help my guild progress. I think about all the amazing people I’ve met through this game, and many more who have left to do other things. I think about the way things used to be, about spells and places I miss, and others that I was happy to say goodbye to. I think about numbers and spreadsheets and alts and professions and add-ons and blog posts.
When my mom thinks about Warcraft, this is what she thinks:
As someone who doesn’t have 5 years worth of baggage to carry around, as someone who is still filled with a sense of wonder by everything she sees and does, and as someone who experiences every moment as something new and exciting, my mom is giving me the opportunity to look at WoW in a new way. Well, not exactly a new way – I’ve been here before.
Do you remember when everything was new, huge, beautiful, and wonderful in WoW? Can you still see the game that way, despite everything that has changed about you and it along the way? I know that I’m trying my hardest to do so, especially when we’re on the verge of an expansion that promises to really bring the beauty back to the game with environments like we’ve never seen before.
I joined WoW during the Burning Crusade, but didn’t get my footing soon enough to really be able to participate with other level 70s. My wonder in BC was at first experiencing a game as big as WoW and slowly learning about lore, how to play, and what there was to do.
In Wrath, my wonder was at finally being able to play the endgame – at seeing the beautiful instances and the terrifying raid bosses. I tried PvP, alting, and professions for the first time. I learned the intricacies of the game and was amazed by how much there was to learn, and how much of it I was learning.
I think of Cataclysm as being the expansion that didn’t inspire a lot of wonder for me, though I truly expected it would. The entire world was reinvented, and we were given some incredible new zones and raids. I don’t care what anyone else says about them - I will always remember the awe I felt the first time I saw Vashj’ir and Throne of the Four Winds. Always.
Mists of Pandaria has all the potential in the world to be inspiring and amazing. It has a breathtaking setting with a mysterious plotline, and Blizzard’s designers have made it easier for us to see through all the unnecessary clutter that used to add busy work without adding substance.
Get excited! We have less than 3 weeks until release. Now’s the time to remember what made you fall in love with WoW in the first place … and to see what new discoveries await us in Pandaria. But while you’re rushing through your way to 90, or worrying about how quickly you can gear up for heroics, just remember to take a moment to look around at your surroundings and be amazed by how far we’ve come.
I spent lots of time reading up on druid changes in the last few months.
Guess what I didn’t read up on … anything else.
So logging into all of my alts over the last few days has been a constant flood of surprises. I’ve been playing around with a little bit of everything, but I’ve really been shocked at what I’ve been having the most fun with so far: Shadow priests and Hunters. Who is this person? This person isn’t me.
I’ve never disliked Shadow, but I was always the sort that preferred to level as Disc whenever I could, and who almost always had two healing specs on my priest. But with the changes to Shadow’s rotation and – Ok, I’m not ashamed to admit it – the completely amazing Glyph of Shadow Ravens to replace those ugly old Shadow Orbs, I’m loving the new aesthetic and feel of Shadow. The rotation is a little simpler than it used to be in some respects, though there are new things to keep track of (namely, refreshing Shadow Word: Pain, which I’m having a hell of a time remembering to do).
I also love that the flexibility of the talents in the new system allow me to have a Disc spec and a Shadow spec on my priest, each of which I’m capable of using for PvE or PvP situations. Before, a lot of the reason I’d have 2 of the same spec on a character was because of the changes I needed to make depending upon whether I wanted to heal a raid or run a few battlegrounds. Now it’s a lot easier to use one set of talents for both scenarios – or, if I do need to change a talent, I can do so individually rather than having to wipe the whole tree. I’m loving this system.
The other class I’m having a lot of fun with is (inexplicably) hunters. Before any of you hunters out there get the idea that I’m bashing your favorite class – I’m not, I promise. I have an 85 hunter and I’m honestly not even sure how that happened. One day she was roaming the wilds of Azuremyst taming her first ravager, and in what felt like about a week she was max level. Despite the efficiency of hunter leveling, though, I was never really that interested in the class.
But oh how all that has changed in the last 48 hours! On Tuesday night, I was hanging around the training dummies with a few guildmates as we tried to get our add-ons and action bars in shape. We ran into another guildmate, a Beast Mastery hunter, and she started showing me a few of her new spells. Murder of Crows! Dire Beast to summon a random beast that comes to fight by your side! And now, holy crap tameable fen striders?! The wasps in Zangarmarsh were one of the reasons I rolled a hunter in the first place, and now I can have a fen strider? Where do I sign?
Apologies again to any long-time hunter mains out there who are less thrilled about the class changes than this uninitiated outsider, but I have never been this excited about playing a hunter before. Blizzard has taken all the things that were really cool about the Demon Hunter class in Diablo 3 and translated those abilities to WoW. I’ve actually created a baby hunter so that I can try leveling from scratch with all these amazing new changes.
All in all, this patch has been a lot more fun than I expected it to be. I was worried that there would be a lot of complaints from the playerbase about the new system, and there certainly have been some. But I’m also seeing a lot of people who are having a blast with the new stuff we get to play with, and who don’t seem to mind the silliness and flashiness of our new abilities. WoW has always had a sense of humor about itself, and I love the way the game developers balance that humor with the more serious aspects of the game.
Are you enjoying patch 5.0.4? What is your favorite new ability that you’ve tried so far? Have you run into any “unexpected favorites?”