Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

The Best Expansion I Won’t Buy

I’m hardly greedy when it comes to coughing up money for MMOs. On the contrary, I try pretty much every promising MMO right when it is released and I’ve had no issues at all buying the last two expansions for World of Warcraft either (as collector’s editions no less). Now Cataclysm is coming up and seems to do quite a lot of things right. Still I’m pretty sure that this will be the one expansion I won’t buy.

If Cataclysm was a new MMO you might see me hailing it as the next big thing. The new starting zones seem to provide an awesome and slick newbie experience, teaching and entertaining at the same time. (Check out TotalBiscuit’s videos on the topic over on YouTube.) Questing feels a lot less like a chore that needs to be done in order to get to the maximum level quickly but makes you part of a story and an evolving world instead. In fact you actually get to feel as if you are influencing the world, even though what you are seeing is really only scripted phasing technology. By showing a different world to different people, individuals can have an impact without negatively affecting other players’ gameplay experience. Clearly phasing must not be overused or you’ll end up in a massively single player game, but in the right dose it can greatly add to the immersion the game provides.

There are many other overhauls as well that just make the game feel a lot more slick. The talent trees are being revamped to provide more direct impact of your talent choices, for example. You used to be able to start spending points in your talent trees at level ten (just as you will be in Cataclysm) but those choices really didn’t have much of an impact until much later in the game. The lower tier talents were generally weak and often only provided small passive bonuses. Whether you were an arms, fury, or protection warrior didn’t really matter until much later, the first relevant abilities being learned at level 40. In cataclysm you will feel the impact of your decision right there at level ten. Protection Warriors get to attack with their shield right off the bat as well as getting passive bonuses to health and being able to hit harder when hit themselves while fury warriors will get to wield two weapons and use bloodthirst as an extra damage dealing ability.

I remember the feeling of leveling my first character in WoW very well. I got talent points and I spent them but it really didn’t seem to make any difference. Talent trees as they are are really uninteresting to the new player which not only makes the game as a whole less interesting for them but also leads to players reaching max level and starting to raid which still don’t take talents seriously. Cataclysm is going to change that, and that’s awesome.

Spinks worries that this change might take flexibility out of low level characters, such as a fury warrior not being able to put on a shield to tank an instance in a pinch. I remember tanking instances as a non-protection warrior back when shield slam still required you to be level 40 and it worked out alright. I don’t see why this would be any different with this change. Sure, protection warriors will be quite a bit better at tanking than those who chose to mostly deal damage, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? For all the altoholics there’s always dual spec.

Even though all this is great (and there is more), I won’t buy the expansion unless something major happens. If it was a new game I would be enthralled by the exciting newbie experience, but it’s not. From a max-level perspective the talent trees are pretty much the same, the new starting zones irrelevant, and raiding the same old dross. What about you, do you feel the urge to get Cataclysm and resubscribe? What is it that lures you in?

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