I remember when Wrath of the Lich King broke so many moons ago. My level 70 Retribution Paladin chomped at the bit, eager to replace his hard-earned Karazhan gear with quest rewards from new lands with names like Howling Fjord and Borean Tundra. There was also the promise of a mysterious new class to play; the Death Knight waited with a starting zone that was unlike anything we’d seen before. It didn’t just breathe life into the game, it violently defibrillated it, injected it with steroids and strapped a jet engine to its back. It was a thrilling time in World of Warcraft.
And that’s a tea party with schoolmarms compared to the fare we’re about to be served.
We’ve already seen the Shattering, the blissfully catastrophic event that changed the very face of the world of Azeroth forever. You only need to look around the Valley of Strength in Orgrimmar or the Trade District in Stormwind to realize this is a very new world. Azshara, Darkshore, Hillsbrad, Eastern Plaguelands – the list of areas that have been radically destroyed and renovated is extensive. Cataclysm really is a reboot of this game.
With so many changes and additions to the game, it might be easy to be overwhelmed with choices. This brave new world will offer us so many new things to do that it might be difficult to figure out exactly what to do first. Allow me to offer some suggestions:
1. Roll a Goblin and a Worgen
New races mean new quests, new lore, new starting areas and new leveling experiences. They refresh the game and allow you to see it through brand new eyes. I might also suggest trying a class you haven’t tried before for a truly fresh-from-the-oven adventure.
Don’t let yourself be bound by your ties to the Horde or Alliance. Even if you just barely work your way out of the starting zone, give both new races a try.
2. Get Your Indiana Jones On
It’s the first new secondary skill we’ve seen since WoW went live back in 2004. Archeology takes its place next to First Aid, Fishing, and Cooking, and we can all get in on the ground floor. Surveying sites and digging for relics all over Azeroth could net achievements, titles, cash, gear, vanity pets and even a really cool skeletal raptor mount. You’ll want to give this a try.
3. For the Guild!
Your activities in Azeroth, be they questing, PvP, gaining achievements, instancing, raiding or even crafting will gain ‘experience points’ towards increasing your guild’s level. As your guild increases in level, you and your guildies earn certain perks. The joyous convenience of a decrease in the cool down time of your Hearthstone? A full-fledged guild mount, proudly bearing your guild standard? These are just a few of the tantalizing incentives rewarded for leveling your guild.
4. “Now for wrath, now for ruin, and the red dawn!” – Theoden, King of Rohan
If battlegrounds are your thing, you won’t be disappointed, as Cataclysm ships with two new ones as well as a new world PvP zone. Twin Peaks is a 10 vs. 10 battleground that plays a lot like Warsong Gulch with a capture-the-flag mechanic. The second is The Battle for Gilneas, which plays as a 15 vs. 15 capture-and-hold battleground similar to Arathi Basin. Neither of these battlegrounds has me as amped as Tol Barad.
Tol Barad is the spiritual successor to Wintergrasp, an open world PvP zone with regular periodic battles of epic scale. Located just off the coast of the Eastern Kingdoms, Tol Barad plays not unlike Eye of the Storm, with three keeps around the zone that must be captured and defended. Like Wintergrasp, winning Tol Barad opens up a raid, this one taking place in Baradin Hold. Victorious Tol Barad veterans can look forward to achievements, honor points, and reputation rewards including a pair of ghostly mounts.
5. To 85!
One of the simplest and most highly desired features of any expansion is an increase to the level cap. While Cataclysm only increases the level cap by five (whereas the two expansions prior bumped the cap by ten apiece), we’ve been promised Blizzard hasn’t skimped on content, and that the 80-85 experience will be every bit as rich, challenging, and lengthy as our journeys from 60-70 and 70-80. A level 80 character fresh out of Northrend will proceed to the Sunken City of Vashj’ir. Then it’s off to Mount Hyjal (home of the new world tree and a new outdoor raid called ‘The Firelands’). Alternatively, one might start off in Uldum, a vast desert zone south of Un’goro Crater. Deepholm is set up for characters level 82-84 and can be found beneath the Skywall. Rounding out the new zones is the Twilight Highlands, land of the Twilight Hammer, where an adventurer will also find the raid and dungeon Grim Batol.
The rush to 85 will be at the top of the To-Do list for many existing players, and with a wealth of new content paving that road, I don’t think they’ll be disappointed.
And that’s certainly not all. Cataclysm will bring with it new Arena seasons for the hardcore PvP player, the convenience, luxury and majesty of aerial travel about Azeroth, a wealth of new crafting options, new theaters for role-play, pages and pages of history and lore, and new content patches are surely not far down the line. These five options are certain to be some of the most popular, but World of Warcraft is your game – play it your way and enjoy the expansion. Just watch out for Deathwing.
“Aka’magosh.” (A blessing upon you and yours) – Orcish Proverb
Dateline Azeroth updates every Tuesday. Next week we’ll be comparing the starting experience of Cataclysm’s two new races, the goblins and the worgen.