World of Warcraft Cataclysm review

  • Streamlined, story-centric questing reduces “the grind”
  • Two fantastic new races with starting areas to match
  • High-level content that rewards teamwork and skill
  • The new PvP zone, Tol Barad - if you're an attacker
  • Archaeology's rarely fun and frequently time-consuming
  • The rare quest that don't make use of phasing tech or a clever premise

The new high-level zones are similarly story focused, resulting in quests that are less tedious level-treadmills and more self-contained story arcs with the occasional earth-shattering cameo from good ol' Deathwing. Among the five new zones, Vash’jir and Uldum are the biggest standouts - though it'd be a stretch to call any of them (save maybe Mount Hyjal) mediocre. See, Vash’jir's almost entirely underwater, making for an utterly gorgeous change of pace, and Uldum's a generally hilarious take on Egyptian legends. In all cases, though, questing is a much more focused experience. Instead of spending the better part of your time in transit from point A to point B, you'll generally have two-to-three interlocking quests in a given area. For instance, you might need to kill a certain type of enemy - who might drop a required item for a different quest - while also freeing prisoners or destroying enemy weapons caches. Other times, you might hop on top of a starving shark and rodeo-ride it until your annoying, stab-happy enemies are just particularly happy memories in some shark's “best day ever” collage. That's fun too.

Above: Unfortunately, you don't get to keep this adorable little killing machine

Quest variety's not the only major improvement here, though. Cataclysm also makes extensive use of “phasing” technology, which allows quests to radically alter and permanently change in-game areas. At one point, we completed a long quest chain only to cheerily skip away from our quest-giver and find that comfortable, familiar landmass (we'd even made plans to have brunch with it early the next week) completely torn from the face of the earth. Similarly, giant, semi-instanced battles frequently erupt mid-quest. Without a doubt, Cataclysm puts the war back in Warcraft, and the end result is that you don't feel like just another ant skittering around on Blizzard's boot. Your actions actually have tangible consequences, and even if it is all smoke and mirrors, the effect is pretty darn cool. You feel like a big damn hero. In a game where there are millions of other people - some of them 12-years old and somehow 12 times more proficient than you'll ever be - that's a huge accomplishment.      

Even then, however, many quests still boil down to killing dudes and collecting stuff. Thing is, Cataclysm puts the emphasis on “how” instead of “what.” And that, of course, makes it all the more glaring when you occasionally encounter an area totally devoid of bells and whistles. The bottom line? Cataclysm isn't necessarily a solution to the “problem” of traditional MMO structure. It's just a new (and generally excellent) spin on the same old thing. Point is, it's not a revolution, so odds are, Mr. Consummate WoW-Hater, Cataclysm won't have you donning a “For the Horde” T-shirt and singing Blizzard's praises to the heavens.

Above: Have we mentioned how impossibly beautiful this game continues to be?

Cataclysm's new high-level dungeons share questing's mantra of speed and focus, but also toss in a new tenant: difficulty. Compared to previous WoW dungeons, they're practically bite-sized, but they make up for it by requiring smartly organized teamwork and real knowledge of how your class operates. If you've got some friends or a few guild buddies in your corner, it's utterly satisfying. However, you might hit a few roadblocks with a band of random strangers. That, however, is much less of an issue once you step up to the big leagues and start running heroic dungeons. See, heroics now require a certain cumulative gear level, and the best way to reach it is by running the regular versions of said dungeons. As a result, the wheat's separated from the chaff, so inexperienced players aren't able to pull a Leeroy Jenkins on your heroic runs.

More Info

Release date: Dec 07 2010 - PC (US)
Available Platforms: PC
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Blizzard
Developed by: Blizzard
Franchise: Warcraft
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Blood and Gore, Crude Humor, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence, Mild Language
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending


  • Armerus - July 8, 2011 11:49 a.m.

    To be fair, I do understand this was put out shortly after Cataclysm happened, but things have now changed. All the novelties of the new races, the flying in Azeroth etc. has warn off. It is true that these things are good, but we all knew it was only a matter of time before people were allowed flying in Azeroth, and the novelty of that had warn off even before people had got to Cataclysm. They were just waiting for it. The game has gone down hill over the past few months, and that's why people have been leaving it. Its was nice at the beginning of Cataclysm, the leveling, the new mounts, the new content, etc... but now all the bad things are leaking out of it. Not that I don't agree that there is some good content, such as the new difficulty to raids and dungeons. That was necessary, and Blizzard got it right. But they have done a lot of things that people can't forgive, and that's why a lot of people are leaving. The fun factor is gone for many, its just staying because of their time playing, and to socialize with their online friends.
  • Fruitbat - December 28, 2010 5:05 p.m.

    So if you still get the new, ruined world without buying Cataclysm, what exactly DOES the expansion give you? Do you still get the new starting areas and quests, etc?
  • eddiewertzy - December 28, 2010 1:51 a.m. Free World of Warcraft Downloads and Cheats<
  • eddiewertzy - December 28, 2010 1:43 a.m.

    Free World of Warcraft Downloads and Cheats
  • CandiedJester - December 26, 2010 5:28 a.m.

    I have kind of been in the MMO mood recently....I did give WOW a try a long time ago, played it for the free month I had or whatever, but I got so bored realizing all the quests started to seem the same thing over and over and over, and also, no one would befriend me...D: meanies. But, I don't know. It looks good, but I am not quite sure if I am cut out for the MMO type of game, it's the character creation that is my favorite part, really. So, I might as well just play a free MMO for 2 weeks until I get bored again instead of buying this. Also, to the first poster, you said first twice in the first you were actually not denying doing it at all. I think you shot yourself in the foot there.
  • Brutalicus - December 24, 2010 6:10 p.m.

    I've hit the 80-85 stuff hard, but this review convinced me to roll a worgen and a goblin. Now the hard part is deciding if I want to delete my 45 warlock to make room for one of them. I've played pretty much every class to at least 70, so what do I pick for my worgen? Rogue or warrior? Have one at 80. Hunter? Hate them. Warlock? Not a fan, might delete at level 45.
  • Camoxide - December 24, 2010 1:20 p.m.

    @Genericide it's probably because Runescape grinding requires little input for the most part.
  • Unoriginal - December 24, 2010 9:34 a.m.

    Hated WOW with a passion and couldn't understand what people saw in it. A friend insisted I tried it and I am now a proud owner of a lvl 54 druid. Cataclysm really streamlined the experience and made the fun part of the game easier to access. I understand the hate though
  • oxman89 - December 24, 2010 7:06 a.m.

    Wow reviews are never ten xP probably because you will never leave.
  • Genericide - December 24, 2010 4:19 a.m.

    @ Zepaw I've played WoW and RuneScape, yet still understood where you were coming from until you mentioned you liked RuneScape better. I too am confused by how you can hate WoW's grind but find RuneScape's acceptable. Ah well, personal taste I guess. This review more or less gets it right from what I've played so far. More of the same, and in slightly less quantity than before, but balanced by the fact that it's polished to a mirror shine in terms of story and making what you're doing feel unique.
  • Zepaw - December 24, 2010 3:35 a.m.

    Not gonna bother trying it again. Avoided the game until this summer. Tried the 14-day trial and didnt last 10 minutes. First quest right out of character creation was kill 10 or so of this creature for X drop. I killed 3 and regretted the tragic amount of time It took. Realizing I wasn't even a third done with a god awful intro task I shut the game off and havent returned. It is odd how I can enjoy the grind of RuneScape and abhor WoW.
  • Syncmaster - December 24, 2010 2:29 a.m.

    I dont play WoW, but I can totally understand the appeal of an expansion changing major world locations you are familiar for years. pretty awesome
  • celticsfan645 - December 24, 2010 12:50 a.m.

    almost forgot... BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA
  • celticsfan645 - December 24, 2010 12:49 a.m.

    THe only thing better than saying first on a first comment is not doing it and thereby dening another of saying first.

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