AFTER YEARS as the biggest MMORPG in history, how do you get bigger?
That was the question writ large on the whiteboards at Blizzard Entertainment following the massive success of their last World of Warcraft expansion pack, Wrath of the Lich King. They'd already added more land, given players the ability to fly, and even opened portals to bizarre new dimensions, so what the hell else could they show players?
That's when the dev team came upon an ingenious idea: "If we can't add anything, why don't we just smash everything apart and start anew?" And from that came World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, an expansion built on the idea that a wildly powerful dragon demigod has started ripping apart the landscape, applying a sledgehammer makeover to everything WoW fans have come to know and love.
Physically rearranging the known world is a bold, risky move, but that's the kind of expansion Cataclysm is. I won't even attempt to compress all the additions Cataclysm brings to the table into my tiny 330-word column, but a short list of the most impressive include werewolves, goblins, a graphics engine with twice as much detail as before, archaeology courtesy Azeroth's Indiana Jones, water that actually looks like water, in-game cutscenes, and an entire world full of zones that have been entirely remodeled. I've been playing since before the game went public, discovering the realms that made me fall in love with this game all those years ago have been given new aesthetics that really rekindle my affection for Blizzard's world.
The most impressive addition Cataclysm brings is actually the sum of all its additions. The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King were wildly impressive, both in scope and quality, but Cataclysm blows them both away. It's the largest, most in-depth expansion ever created for any game, and is exactly what longtime players have been praying for. Staving off the imminent MMO burnout for another year or two just got a lot easier.
EARNEST "NEX" CAVALLI