Pre-Launch Plans and Cataclysmic Reflections
Less than 12 hours to the launch of Mists of Pandaria and my heart is bittersweet.
I did not enjoy Cataclysm very much. Why then, you might rightfully wonder, did I keep playing? The answer is that while Cataclysm’s specific content wasn’t all that intriguing, the game its self still is. I still love World of Warcraft, so it almost doesn’t matter what kind of content passes through its framework. The fundamental things that make this game fun for me are always going to be there: dungeons (and the blessing that is the dungeon finders), the ability to create and level (and abandon) alts, pet collecting, mount collecting, achievements…expansions add or subtract bits and pieces of those each time, but they don’t change. So I keep playing.
What I Hated About Cataclysm
Cataclysm got some serious flack over the course of its admittedly long-winded run. Some of it was deserved. The heroic dungeons were far too difficult and unforgiving right out of the box. There were long swaths of time between content updates that left the more voracious players hungry and wanting. I felt like, compared to its predecessor Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm stumbled and never quite recovered its momentum. It wasn’t as fun. It wasn’t as engaging. It was epic and fiery and doomy, but it wasn’t fun.
Some of that was the slow collapse of my guild. We raided a bit, we never finished anything, and many of our members either unsubscribed or left. There are a thousand things I can say on the topic but none of them make any difference now. Towards the end of the expansion there were only two or three of us who still logged in regularly. It was a depressing change from our heyday in Wrath when we knocked at the Lich King’s door in force. I am curious to see what lies ahead for us in Mists; if anyone will resubscribe and pop back up, if we will recruit, if we will disband…
Cataclysm was, for me, an exercise in entertaining myself solo. I very much disliked heroics, and still do though to some extent that is an impression soured from so many bad experiences. Given that one of my favorite activities is to run dungeons, it felt like a kick in the teeth when dungeons became supremely un-fun. I felt like overnight the WoW community became a group of horrific savages, turning on one another, shrieking at the top of their lungs the kind of profanities that make seasoned sailors blush. It was not fun. It wasn’t even tolerable. Many a dungeon group ended in a nasty wipe that then spawned nasty fighting among people as the DPS blamed the healer, the healer blamed the tank, and the tank blamed everyone, cussed them all out, and left in a rage. There was nothing fun or engaging about this kind of thing. I have never asked to be spoon-fed dungeons, or have my hand held through a heroic. Heroics should be harder, by definition. But I never felt that making heroics as difficult as they were at Cataclysm’s launch was a step in the right direction, and I wouldn’t be surprised if “stupid heroics” were cited by many players as a reason for leaving the game.
What I Loved
Pet and mount collecting are two things I very much enjoy, and neither were neglected in Cataclysm. I will slog through amazing amounts of crap just to get my hands on a new mini pet. I made the switch from pet collecting on an alt to pet collecting on my main, and once I got going I couldn’t stop. No pet was safe! I wracked up 150 of them in short order, and went on to collect 178 in total. I’m no casual collector, and I found Cataclysm to be rife with fun ways to acquire new buddies. Mounts, too, were in no short supply. I appreciate the variety and the different methods meant to collect them. Some were rare drops that required hard farming, some were reputation rewards (aside: reputation tabards were my favorite thing and I am deeply annoyed to see them gone in Mists), and some required a very good deal of serious work towards achievements. If other aspects of Cataclysm bored me, mount and pet collecting was there to perk me back up. Fun stuff.
I thoroughly enjoyed the battle for Mount Hyjal dailies. I heard some people gripe over the “more dailies” aspect of the event and I can kind of understand that. I don’t particularly like doing the same quest day after day for months on end either. But Hyjal was so much more than a few dumb dailies. It was a huge, progressive, forward-moving event that spanned months of time. It was appropriately gated so you couldn’t rush through it and then complain you had nothing to do. It was phased so you could actually see the progress you made when you helped turn the tide of war. It was a full-scale battle against the minions of Ragnaros that made me feel like I was part of the action even if I never saw the raid. You didn’t have to do it the same way twice if you picked different sub-factions to turn your marks in to. You could earn a mount, a pet, and a title all from simply doing the dailies and the achievements. It was an event made with my satisfaction in mind. In short, super fun.
I loved achievements. They were pretty much made for me. I love seeing everything there is to accomplish in game, seeing what I have yet to accomplish, and seeing how to get there. I like lists. I like visible assortments of “you can do this” and “you haven’t done this yet”. I like completing brackets of achievements, such as every achievement listed under Exploration. I’m a completionist. It works for me. Achievements may be superficial and largely unimportant (you cant spend your points on anything, so some might argue why bother) but I like it.
I liked Uldum. A lot. I heard people bitch about the Egyptian “rip off” theme and I heard people cry about the Hitler references and the over abundance of Indiana Jones stuff, but I wasn’t bothered by any of that. I am a huge Egyptian nut, so I got a real kick out of the theme of the zone. It was like Blizzard looked into my head and asked its self, “Hm…I wonder what kind of zone she might most enjoy? Ah, I see she is a junkie for Ancient Egypt…well then…” and I had the most fun in Uldum. I don’t see a thing wrong with the Hitler goblin, and I feel (perhaps irritably) that anyone who pissed and moaned about being offended over the inclusion of a major historical figure, albeit in a humorous way, in a video game needs to either a) grow the fuck up and find something worthwhile to complain about or b) recognize that Hitler-goblin was not included in a Jew/Gypsy/gay/black/whatever killing context and was merely included to fit the Indiana Jones theme. One or the other.
And Now, In To the Mists…
As I look back on Cataclysm I realize I am happy to see it go. I’m ready for it to be done. If I am honest with myself, I was ready for it to be done a long time ago. I remember looking at the launch of Cataclysm and feeling like I wasn’t ready for it. I loved Wrath and I didn’t want it to be over. That kind of love was never triggered in Cataclysm. So long, Deathwing. So long, oppressively hard heroics. So long, terri-bad voice acting. So long, farewell, auf weidersehn, goodbye…
I am looking forward to Mists’ launch tonight. It’s such a horribly inconvenient time, as I have class Tuesday morning bright and early and all day long…but if I have to take a hit in the sleep department well…I guess I will be a sleepy student. So I am going to stay up until midnight tonight, antsy and excited and ready to go plunging off into the mists. I might not get to play very much to start, but you can bet I am going to nose dive straight for the pet battle trainer and take my little Crawling Claw out for a massacre before I go to bed. I’m gonna hit the supermarket in a bit to grab some snacks and perhaps something caffeinated (if I do indeed decide that getting sleep is unnecessary to function for 7 hours in school). I am going to station my druid patiently at the feet of the pet battle trainer, eager and willing to learn how to slaughter the innocent and the weak. Hell, I might even go explore the new continent before I retire! Or roll a new pandaren monk and kick things to death. We shall see.
I wish everyone a safe, fun, and happy launch night. Enjoy the new expansion, folks, because you might miss it when it’s gone 🙂