Cataclysm in Review: Other Systems & Design

Now that we’ve covered the major areas of the game, I want to talk about the other things added or changed in Cataclysm.

The only new systems introduced in Cataclysm, other than those I’ve already discussed, are the guild leveling and guild challenge systems. The other planned system—path of the titans—which was to be tied to the new archaeology profession, was scrapped.

Blizzard did make some changes to other systems. Gear stats are notably different—mastery was introduced as a new stat, some stats were removed, and some stats were made more beneficial across multiple specs. They also tweaked the talent trees, forcing you to choose your primary spec, removing a lot of filler talents, and giving you some necessary bonuses automatically.

Guild Leveling & Achievements

Guild leveling is a simple concept. Just as you would level your character, people can also earn guild experience and level their guilds. With each level comes various rewards and perks. For a list of guild perks, please see Wowhead.

Guild experience is earned through various means. Whenever your complete a quest, complete a dungeon, win a rated battleground, etc., you will earn guild experience. Blizzard is still making tweaks to this feature, since it’s very easy to patch. There is a cap on the amount of experience your guild can earn on a daily basis, though it goes away once you reach the last few levels.

I’m not necessarily opposed to the guild leveling system, but I definitely think it has implications that complicate the diaspora. People are naturally drawn to guilds already at level 25 (the cap). Newer guilds, meanwhile, find it difficult to attract players, since they don’t have the same shiny perks as the guilds at the cap. In reaching a decision to join a freshly created guild, players have to accept the fact that they won’t be earning extra experience or honor, nor will they be able to mass resurrect after recovering from a dungeon wipe.

If you ask me, I think it’s time Blizzard lifted the daily cap on experience. All it does is prevent the newer guilds from being able to catch established guilds in a reasonable amount of time.

Guild Achievements & Reputation

Guild achievements were also added along with the guild leveling system. They work very much like personal achievements, but are earned for the cooperative and cumulative efforts of members in the guild. Some of them offer very meaningful rewards.

Some of the conditions for earning these achievements also involves guild reputation. Just as you can become friendly, honored and exalted with a faction, you can become friendly, honored and exalted with your guild. Raising your reputation works very much like earning guild experience. Various guild-based (and some personal) activities contribute to your guild reputation. The amount of reputation you can earn in a week is capped. This ensures people cannot simply join a guild and have access to all the perks and rewards available to that guild immediately.

Overall

As I stated before, the guild leveling and achievement systems come with interesting implications. It requires newer guilds to have to struggle through the system to meet its full potential for attracting players, but it offers another path of advancement and promotes participation in guild-based activities. I’m rather split on my opinion of them.

Guild Challenges

A new feature added after release is the guild challenge. Each week, you’re allowed to complete a set amount of guild challenges in the following areas: dungeons, raids and rated battlegrounds. Killing a raid boss, completing a dungeon and winning a rated battleground are the conditions for completing these challenges. Successfully completing each one deposits a modest amount of gold in the guild bank.

This system is pretty clear cut. You get gold for completing activities as a guild, and you can either hang onto it for guild funding purposes, or you can distribute it to whomever you like in the guild. It’s a pretty nice feature.

Mastery, Stats & Gear

Mastery is a new stat that augments your character based on your primary spec. To offer some examples, each point of mastery increases the bonus damage of a moonkin’s eclipse state, and increases the holy damage done by a retribution paladin. The masteries for some classes are much more complicated than these, however. For example, a holy paladin’s mastery involves placing absorption shields on targets of their heals.

Furthermore, Blizzard has done away with a lot of the older stats. Armor penetration, attack power, spell power, mp5, defense, and block are no more. Armor penetration is gone completely, which is probably just as well, since it overly complicated class balance and gear scaling. Block is also gone. Attack power was integrated with agility and strength. Spell power was integrated with intellect. mp5 was integrated with spirit (shamans and paladins rejoice). I wouldn’t really say defense was integrated with anything. Instead, you simply have alternatives.

Haste, crit, dodge and parry still exist. So you still have to weigh them against each other, as well as mastery.

Strength, agility, intellect and stamina have been deemed the primary stats. And when Blizzard says this, they actually mean it. They have done this designation justice. This often means items lower in item level are not as useful as those that are higher. And this is really as it should be. It’s not always true, but it generally is.

It’s also important to note that Blizzard has made an effort to make various stats at least beneficial to some degree to every spec and class. However, this is not universally true. Tanks won’t find much value in haste and crit outside of threat. Non-tanks won’t find any value in dodge and parry. And non-healing casters won’t find any value in spirit (mages rejoice).

For the most part, the addition of mastery and the changes in approach to gear design is preferable to Wrath’s gear design. Wrath had so many stats, it felt like you had to have a math degree to make sense of it all. And because so many classes and specs didn’t benefit from various stats, a piece of gear would often go to waste after the one or two people who actually needed it picked it up.

Another major change is the addition of bonuses acquired from wearing your class’s appropriate armor type. If you’re meant to be wearing mail, you will get a bonus for wearing mail armor in all eight slots. This is to prevent people from taking piece of gear below your normal armor type, so cloth wearers don’t feel cheated by having to compete with the most number of people.

With the way the system is now, the item tables don’t have to be as large as they were before, meaning less goes to waste. That’s not to say items don’t go to waste at all, but it’s a lot better than it used to be. And the fact that I can go from restoration to moonkin without feeling completely useless is also a plus.

Archaeology: The New Profession

Another new addition in Cataclysm is the archaeology profession. Originally meant to be tied to the Paths of the Titans system (which would have basically been another talent tree), archaeology still found its way into the expansion.

Archaeology is rather simple in its design. You pick it up from Stormwind or Orgrimmar, and then when you open your map, you’ll see regions of the map marked with a little shovel icon. These are dig sites, where you can go and dig up fragments. You’ll only ever see four dig sites per continent (counting Outland as a continent, once you have enough in archaeology to dig there).

Each dig site has a specific classification and will offer different types of fragments. For example, a dwarven dig site will naturally offer fragments of dwarven artifacts. The types of dig sites available to you also depends on your level of archaeology.

For each type, you are given an artifact to complete. Which artifact you’re given is random (but some also require having a higher level of archaeology). You can be given a common artifact to complete, or something rare that will give you an interesting item to use or wear. These can be flavor items, or they can be armor and weapons, if you’re lucky. The items and weapons obtained through archaeology are account bound. But be careful, because you cannot send them to characters on realms other than the one you’ve completed the artifact on (unless you transfer a character with the artifact in his or her inventory).

The actual act of doing archaeology works somewhat like a gathering profession. However, the nodes do not appear until you’ve discovered their location. This must be done using a survey tool, which will point you in the general direction of the artifact fragment each time you use it. The closer to the fragment you are, the more accurate the reading of the tool is.

This sounds like an interesting concept, but it really isn’t. Basically, once you enter a dig site area, you drop your survey tool, see if it’s red, yellow or green (red means it’s far, green means its close, yellow is in between), and then move in the direction it tells you to. Then you drop it again and repeat this until you find the node. Then you click the node and collect the fragments.

It’s just like any other gathering profession, only slightly more interesting. But that’s like saying the Ford Pinto was a slightly better car than the Reliant Robin. Overall, archaeology is yet another boring time sink, just as most professions are and have been for ages in WoW and other MMOs.

This is particularly disappointing, however, because Blizzard gave us such rosy descriptions of the profession during past Blizzcons. As they described it during the panels, it would be a profession intertwined with the history and lore of WoW. But the only references made to the game’s lore or history is simply a paragraph for the race tied to the each artifact type, and the names of the items you get. And that’s it. That’s like proclaiming “I’m going to dig a hole forty feet deep!” But then giving up after making it only a foot.

Archaeology is yet another professional disappointment.

Talents

Cataclysm changed the way talents work. Instead of just putting points in the talents you want, and working your way down the trees, you now have to choose your primary talent tree. You are then locked into that tree until you’ve put 31 points into it. And while that doesn’t seem like very much, I must point out that the trees were trimmed down, and the points available lowered.

This is because you’re given some essential spells, augmentations and functionality automatically once you choose your primary talent tree. So you no longer need to spend points on them. This isn’t to say the trees are devoid of talents you need to take, but there is less emphasis on such talents.

For the most part, these changes were made to coincide with the addition of mastery. But they were also made to offer other functionality. For example, choosing balance as a druid means you’re given a new power bar that determines whether or not you’re in an eclipse state. Without this new system, that wouldn’t really be possible.

Conclusion

These are the changes and new systems I hadn’t already discussed in great detail. There isn’t much more to say about them other than what I’ve already noted above. A few are good. One has its problems. And one is incredibly boring.

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