2010 has been a huge year for Activision Blizzard. Summer saw the release of Starcraft 2, the follow-up to perhaps the most successful and beloved RTS of all time. Twelve years was a long time to keep people waiting, but the developer knocked clear it out of the park. Now, following its official announcement over a year ago and considerable speculation since then, Cataclysm – the third expansion pack for the hugely successful World of Warcraft – has been given an confirmed release date of December 7, 2010.
Launched in 2004, World of Warcraft offers a vast fantasy world to explore, a world that has been developed steadily over the years, with content added and improved to keep the player base – recently announced to have broken the 12 million mark worldwide – plugged in and paying their monthly subscription. While the content has never been praised for its originality, it wears its many influences proudly, liberally painting the game world with homages and humorous references to the media which inspired it.
With Cataclysm, Blizzard sought to address much of the long standing criticism directed toward its development staff regarding neglect of older content. While previous expansions have added new continents and even worlds to quest upon, much of the original landscape has remained unchanged. Missions tailed off without a ‘proper’ conclusion, vast areas of the map either hinted at something wondrous that never seemed to come, or lacked meaningful content entirely, and abandoned characters that seemed they might once have had a purpose – all seemingly forgotten.
Twelve million players is a lot of people to ignore, but the developers at Blizzard – many of whom are players themselves – were listening, and they did not forget. Cataclysm is touted as not only giving the old content of WoW a thorough makeover, but in some cases a complete do-over. An ancient and terrible evil has awoken beneath the game-world of Azeroth, and its destructive return will leave much of the world as players have known it changed forever.
Due to the storyline changes this will bring, many previously unreachable areas of the map will be opened up, including the starting zones of the two new playable races. A faction of the game’s money-loving, gonzo-tech goblins will be joining the Horde, and the Alliance will get its very own city of werewolves (or Worgen, as they are known in Warcraft lore). The level cap is being raised to 85, additional crafting options will enable players to intricately customise their gear, and changes to the game’s PVP and guild systems will give additional benefits to players regardless of their preferred playing style.
Blizzard are calling Cataclysm “the best content we’ve ever created for World of Warcraft“. The list of changes this expansion will bring is vast, but you can view all the currently confirmed changes over at the official site. The game will be released in both standard and deluxe “Collector’s” editions, priced at $39.99 and $79.99 respectively. Whether you enjoy World of Warcraft as a casual or hardcore player, actively dislike it, or can’t see the appeal either way, there’s little doubt that Blizzard’s premiere money train has a great deal of steam in it yet.