Overall, World of Warcraft is currently the best MMO on the market. It has been for the nearly-seven years it has existed. There’s something to be said for that. However, generally classified as a game, many of its features are so outdated and its design is so flawed, I can’t consider it anything but mediocre. And Cataclysm hasn’t really changed anything about that.
It wasn’t always the case that WoW was generally fair to middling. When it was released, it’s graphics were outdated, but it had a unique artistic style. Cooperative gaming in more traditional games was also nowhere near the likes of what WoW had to offer–you were usually limited to playing with only one person, and many console games required the two people to be physically present in the same room.
But game technologies and engines have improved rapidly over the past few years. Many single-player games are achieving an artistic level we’ve never seen before. Why bother leveling up your alt, when you can play through ME2, but this time as a renegade instead of a paragon? A lot of traditional games are also expanding support for cooperative play against AI scenarios. Why raid when you can ring up your friend and say, “Hey, you want to play co-op through this new L4D2 DLC?” Already, you have people who play co-op zombies on Black Ops all day, every day. As such features become more the norm, the appeal of raiding diminishes greatly. And don’t get me started on PvP. Traditional multiplayer games have offered better competitive play since before WoW’s release.
So I really think Blizzard needs to improve every area of the game at this stage. You can only rely on the strengths of MMO-specific features before the merits of more traditional games outweigh them. And that point seems to be rapidly approaching, at the rate Blizzard is going. I had hoped Blizzard would have taken drastic steps forward with Cataclysm, to maintain relevance. But they didn’t.
Cataclysm, overall, had a good plan and admirable goals. But virtually all these goals were only half-achieved. And some of the plans for this expansion were poorly executed.
I’ve already written the introduction to my review above. It is a summary of what I think about Cataclysm overall, though it is not my conclusive statement on the expansion. Over the next few articles, the review will be split into segments, covering different areas of design and critique. These include:
- Changes to the Old World & Lowbie Leveling
- The New Races & Their Starting Areas
- High-Level Zones & Leveling
- Five-Man Dungeons
- Writing, Lore & Storytelling
- Other Systems & Desgin
- Production Quality
Following these segments will be a conclusion of sorts–a reiteration of my general opinion, with added statements relevant to the review as a whole.
I hope to have this finished in a month or so, but it may take more time, because I may have to sidetrack to get screen shots, some quick videos, etc.