Has 'World of Warcraft: Cataclysm' Split Azeroth in Two?

World of Warcraft Cataclysm Opening Cinematic Intro

World of Warcraft recently released its third expansion pack, Cataclysm, which to no surprise broke plenty of records. The game expansion has been out for only a few short months and, despite being only a modest content patch, some gamers are starting starting to get vocal with major complaints.

Though, these complaints are really coming more from casual players - not necessarily the hardcore World of Warcrafters.

In the previous two expansion packs, Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, the game focused more on bringing new players into the game. The world was purposefully dumbed down to appeal to the casual audience. Dungeons were easier, raids had more "tank and spank" type bosses, and acquiring epic gear became pretty easy. With the release of Cataclysm, it seems as though they've gone back to the roots of WoW.

In the new game, the heroic dungeons actually make players feel heroic - if you manage to complete them. It is no longer just the same dungeon with ramped up mob and boss health, there are actual changes to the boss mechanics that make them increasingly more difficult. For example, in normal mode, a boss may need to be turned away from the group (in order to have the damage of a wide attack hit only the tank) but now, in heroic mode, not only does the boss need to be turned away from the raid, but you will need to dispel a buff on the boss and get rid of any de-buff the boss puts on the player.

Examples like this alone have some players complaining that the game is "too hard" now. Blizzard has hit these complaints head on with an article released last month entitled, "Wow, Dungeons are Hard" - essentially saying that they know the game is harder now and that's what they want, and if you don't like it, then find a new game.

World of Warcraft

However, it's understandable why some people are complaining about the new difficulty. During the days of Wrath a person could just jump on their level 80 toon, hop on over to a heroic dungeon with some friends or the group finder, and complete the mission in about an hour. But, in Cataclysm, these new heroics are quite difficult at times. I personally sat through nearly a four hour run on one of the new heroics.

Additionally, Cataclysm has made it harder to acquire epic gear again. In BC and Wrath, players had no trouble obtaining epic gear. In each heroic dungeon an epic piece of gear dropped - and it wasn't always the same item either. There was a rotation of five or so pieces that would drop after a clear, each with a different chance of dropping. In the Cataclysm world, if you see a player walking around brandishing full epic outfitting, you know they worked for it.

There is also not as much raid content in Cataclysm as previous expansions. This is because it actually takes more to prepare for the raids than it used to. You need a lot of heroic blue gear, as opposed to regular blue gear, (and maybe a few purples) to even matter in a raid. It's a great addition. In Wrath the second a player hits 80, everyone was wanting to go and run Naxx or later Ulduar without really doing many heroics at all. It just shows that Blizzard is tuning Cataclysm for the more hardcore of players.

World of Warcraft

A lot of casual players were drawn to Wrath because they could jump into raid content the second they hit level 80. The raids and such are the only reason some people play the game and Wrath made it easier to access these missions. Now, it's not like you could just go straight to downing the Lich King when you hit 80, but it didn't take nearly as long as it would now - with Cataclysm's guidelines for gear and raid-readiness.

With the increase in difficulty for the end game stuff, players have exploded on the boards complaining about the increased difficulty. The title is quickly becoming a line-in-the-sand for players. On one side you have the hardcore players that are looking for a challenging game to play and on the other you have the causal player who may not have as much time to dedicate to the revised battlefield.

Just because Blizzard has made the end game content more difficult doesn't mean they've changed how players level up their characters. Even before the release of Cataclysm, it had become increasingly easy to level your characters. It seems that since BC, when they moved the mount level down to 20, Blizzard has been focusing more on a streamlined approach to the level cap. Through content patches, they've not only been decreasing the amount of XP it takes to level from say 20-60, but they've also increased the amount of XP gained from killing monsters and completing quests. The developer also gave players the opportunity to acquire flying mounts at level 60 - just shortly after entering Outlands. This alone, cuts down on the time it takes to level a character significantly. Don't forget that players can now obtain cold weather flying, the ability to use flying mounts in Northrend, at level 68 - right when they enter Northrend.

World of Warcraft

It is nice that Blizzard has done their part to cut down on the amount of time it takes to level-up - so even casual players can reach the level cap, but it also cuts down on the overall experience the game offers. It's an investment to take a character from 1-85 and, with a more streamlined leveling system, Blizzard has depleted the significance of building a character up.

Overall, Blizzard has done an great job of balancing their difficult end-game content with an easier/streamlined leveling system. Now you can get to 85 a bit easier - but once you get there the game really kicks in.

How are you feeling about the changes made in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm? What future changes would you like to see Blizzard make?

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