5 Ways Cataclysm Made WoW So Much Better
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
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?