I'm locked up here at work...no stream, no access to the official WoW site...but the WoW Twitterati were awesome enough to keep the information flowing at a blistering pace.
And here it is.
It's a lot to take in. The old world is going to be physically changed. Several zones are going to be opened up that have been walled off since WoW began. Some old zones are going to be completely altered and some destroyed as Deathwing breaks loose and his Black Dragonflight begin laying siege to Azeroth. Also, we'll see the return of Ragnaros and, just so that it's not all entirely bad news for us heroes, Malfurion Stormrage.
Then there's the fundamental gameplay stuff. We'll be leveling to 85, but instead of expanding the talent trees, we'll be following the Path of the Titans. I don't have a lot of detail about that, but it seems we'll be adding passive traits rather than new abilities. There are two new playable races (no big shock there), Worgen (Alliance) and Goblins (Horde), with their own starting areas. There will also be changes in race/class combinations (Troll Druids, Nelf Mages, etc).
Aside: Gilneas as the starting area for the Worgen is actually quite fascinating for me...a kingdom walled up, quarantined, and trying to deal with their lycanthropic curse, rejoining the Alliance after all this time. Kind of a cool story, in my opinion. It'll be interesting diving into that when we get the chance.
And that's not all. We'll finally get to fly in Azeroth, we'll have water mounts that move as fast as flying mounts, and we'll get to see a whole crapload of phasing, which is a very cool aspect of WotLK that I'm glad they're going to be using in Cataclysm.
They're also introducing a guild leveling/advancement system and archaeology as the new secondary profession (I smell a Dwarf racial bonus there).
My take on it all? Extended lifespan.
Blizzard, by recreating the old world (which was becoming increasingly stale) has just added another year or two of WoW. Even for people who currently have six 80s, this new xpac will make leveling an entirely different experience...no matter what race you pick.
Also, we're talking about a complete overhaul of WoW as we know it. The face of Azeroth is literally changing, zone by zone by zone. The way the world looks now will only last until the new expansion comes out. That's really a pretty big deal. Not only are they changing the zones, but they're adding the phasing technology to those zones. If you think about it, that's a huge job.
Flight in Azeroth is another issue altogether. They've said in the past that allowing free flying in Azeroth (not the taxi service) would require a redesign, because several places (i.e. Stormwind) aren't the same on the inside as they appear to be on the outside.
The changes in Cataclysm will reach further than any patch or expansion we've seen so far. By making those changes, Blizzard has made sure that WoW is going to last that much longer. Just when we thought Arthas was about as big as it got and we'd be heading after Sargeras sooner rather than later, Blizzard turned Azeroth on its head and drove the story in an entirely different direction.
I, for one, am looking forward to the ride.
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