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The Good, Bad, And The Ugly Of Cataclysm: Day 1

World of Warcraft's third expansion has been out for a full day. What have we learned so far? Some aspects are better than I'd imagined, while other bits are shocking to find in a Blizzard game. Click through to find out what's what.

The Good

The music is incredible. When I remembered to hit ctrl-M to toggle it back on after years of iTunes random playlists, I was blown away. The beautiful orchestral arrangements enhance the feeling of each zone immensely.

Level 80 is freaking epic. I've been leveling a new character since the Shattering, but I had to come back to my level 80 death knight for obvious reasons. While my mage had been helping the free folk of the world with their pirate problems and feeding the homeless, the death knight is resurrecting ancient demigods to aid in the struggle against Deathwing. So awesome.

Soloing is much better designed. Mechanics that were used mostly in raids or occasionally in five-man dungeons are everywhere in the world. One memorable cave in Deepholm has worms that cast ground-targeted earth spikes that you are well served by moving away from, and has giant, un-killable versions that patrol around and deposit you back at the entrance if you don't avoid them – more like a Zelda game than anything else.

I look...awesome? The running joke about ditching your previous epics for new expansion greens has always been that you end up looking like a deformed clown. Not this time – my death knight looks better at 82 in patchwork greens than he did in Northrend epics.

The Bad

New spells: meh. This complaint may not be entirely fair, but so far nobody I've talked to has been terribly excited about the new spells they've gotten past level 80. Certainly the death knight's Outbreak ability is sometimes convenient, but it's not exactly setting the world on fire. Fortunately for me, I have 20k Obliterate crits to sustain myself.

Finding dungeon entrances blows. I thought this change was necessary and good on paper, but having to get to a dungeon in the world before you can run it sucks in practice. All it ends up doing is making guild groups harder to form without encouraging any more exploration – meeting stones can still summon, you know.

The Ugly

Spawn rates are jacked. In one place I got stuck in combat for literally 10 minutes nonstop because two new mobs would spawn and aggro me the instant I killed the last wave. It was bad. It would have been much worse if I hadn't been a death knight (plate and health drains go a long way; I can fight two non-elites basically forever even in my damage spec). A different quest had me harnessing the power of Ysera's green dragonflight to annihilate scores of Twilight's Hammer cultists. Or it would be, if more than three spawned at a time across the entire sub-zone you're restricted to. I'm sympathetic to Blizzard on this one; it's a thankless task to try to set every spawn rate perfectly in a world where player concentration changes minute to minute. Still, it sucks when you're hit by a screwy one.

The Good

Oh, I forgot one other thing for The Good: Everything else. Man, Cataclysm is incredible. I'm absolutely loving it. There are more minor improvements than I can count to just about every aspect of the game. Well done, Blizzard. So far, anyway. We'll see how I feel if I get hacked to pieces over and over in heroics due to crappy pickup groups later on.

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