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Six Observations From The Cataclysm Beta

by Adam Biessener on Jul 03, 2010 at 08:50 AM

After literally a full day of downloading clients and patching them, the Cataclysm beta is up and running. These are the six things that stick in my mind from my first few hours of playtime.

My framerate is nice. Either Blizzard's latest round of optimizations to the engine are incredible, or having to play without addons has pointed out how big of resource hogs they can be. Most likely, a combination of the two. Whatever the case, with everything maxed out including the new Cataclysm options like better water (which, incidentally, looks a billion times better), I'm running at 60 FPS and it is glorious.

Flying over Kalimdor is better than I had imagined. After porting to Thunder Bluff to check the druid trainer, I did my usual travel form shifting on exiting the cave under Spirit Rise. I made it to the Skytower on foot before seeing someone haul past on a proto-drake. Duh! You can fly in the old world now! And holy crap, is it amazing. Remember when you hit 70 (or 67 if you play the best class) and took off over Shadowmoon Valley for the first time? That glorious sense of freedom that comes from leaving the ground far below? It’s like that all over again. Now I know why the Orgrimmar sub-regions are called valleys, which brings me to...

Orgrimmar is freakin’ sweet. I love Thrall as a character and all, and his role in the lore is no less pivotal than Arthas’. Still, he built a pretty wussy city. Garrosh Hellscream’s rise to power in the Horde has injected Orgrimmar with a whole lot of awesome. The screenshots don’t do it justice. The little touches that Blizzard is so good at -- smiths hammering, wolf riders patrolling, et cetera -- give the sense that this is a nation arming for war. Not the “send a few gullible adventurers to take out an ancient dragon” kind of war, either. This is the might of the Horde clad in steel, about to ride forth atop a crimson tidal wave of bloodlust. Yes, I am a huge nerd.

Golly, there are a lot of Bloodsail Admirals after the Cataclysm. I’ll show them all with my bitchin’ Undying title...wait, what? I don’t even have Chef any more? Ambassador it is. Lame. Most of my unlocked titles have disappeared, which I’m betting is a beta issue (it had better be!). In the meantime, I feel lame and not just because I had to rename my character because someone took my totally awesome and original name on the beta server before I transferred my main over.

The 2010 Eclipse is better. Does Mitsubishi even make that car any more? I stopped paying attention when they uglied it up after the sweet-looking mid-’90s body style. Anyway, the new Eclipse meter for laserchickens is cool, I think. It’s a definite improvement over the current Eclipse implementation on live servers, not that that’s a terribly high bar to clear. The idea, like before, is that casting arcane spells moves you toward a lunar eclipse, while nature spells send you toward a solar eclipse. The difference is that now you have a bar under your portrait that tells you where you’re at in that regard, rather than relying on a random chance tied to critical strikes. It feels a little cumbersome right now, but I’m reserving final judgement until I raid with it -- soloing is hardly a great test of the mechanic. Proccing Eclipse is still 20 seconds of hilarious ownage, and I do like that I have more control over it now. Speaking of ownage, though...

Leveling ain’t getting any harder. I’ll admit it. I was hoping that the leveling game was going to be less trivial in Cataclysm. Boy, is that ever not the case. I’m still two-shotting even-level mobs, not bothering with DoTs (unless I’m bored and AOEing with a bunch of HoTs on myself, Insect Swarms to pull, and some combination of Barkskin-Hurricane-Starfall -- druids are so awesome), and generally not having to pay any attention. I’ll forgive Blizzard if five-man dungeons aren’t exclusively a series of narrow hallways again, though. No, Oculus doesn’t count. Oculus never counts for anything, unless you’re putting together a list of awful things that should have never happened.