Waiting for Cat …. no longer

Posted November 17th, 2010 by Kharin

Disrupting the ceremonyFinally, a few short weeks ago the launch date of the latest WOW expansion was announced (7th December) and over the last couple of weeks patch 4 has been implemented.   In fact, in the last few days things have been heating up and changes are occuring in rapid pace.   Cataclysm is  upon us …

When I remember my initial enthusiasm on discovering the fascinating World of Warcraft, I find it hard to believe that until a few days ago – it has been weeks – even months – since I have spent any significant time amongst its cities, villages, wilderness, battle fields and dungeons.  Indeed, both the Harvest festival (a rather nonevent admittedly), Brewfest and Hallows End have come and gone without the participation of even my lower level characters.  I first seriously began playing WOW as Blizzard was gearing up for the release of Wrath of Lich King.  I flung myself into the newly released achievements and thoroughly enjoyed Brewfest (my first taste of a seasonal event) and All Hallows End.  Indeed, my hunter (mid40s in level) had only just started trick or treating at the inns of Azeroth – including braving the horrors of the Eastern Plaguelands when the teaser for the WoTLK launch, the Zombie plagues hit the capitals and towns.

At first mysterious green-hazed crates and cockroaches began appearing in well traveled streets.  Then within in the normally safe haven of the auction house in Iron forge, I returned from AFK to find my hunter mysteriously inflicted with a strange illness.  Stone form, rather than dealing with the disease or poison, instantly transformed her into one of the grungy, walking dead.  After a few repeats of this distasteful experience, my hunter fled the more populous towns and lands to the deserted deserts of Desolace.  Indeed, I was on the very cusp of giving up my WOW subscription.  The game had ceased to be fun.  Many of my guild mates shared my feelings though others participated in the event with great relish.  Some were teenagers who brought up on B grade horror movies. But others were bored 70s who relished something new and different, a world event that added something new to the diet of daily quests, old dungeons and raids.  Once Wrath was released, our normally helpful level 70 guild mates were preoccupied as they spent the next few months devouring the new quests and dungeons in the snowy wastes of Northrend in the race to reach 80.  Now I understand their relish of something new, a world event – though I still hate Zombies.

Over the last few months there has been not much new in Azeroth.  True, the battle of Gnomergan has possibilities (similar in ways to the epic retaking of Undercity event that follows on from the Wrathgate series).  But the one time my priest joined the gnomes epic battle to retake their city it glitches out right at the finale – apparently a common bug if anyone (not even someone of in your party) enters the area while the event is in progress.  But apart from that, I have now brought four characters to 80, have done most of the alliance quests and a good portion of the horde ones a number of times, many of the achievements (including Loremaster and Explorer), been through the dungeons countless times, leveled most of the professions and experienced all of the battlegrounds.  The one thing I haven’t done countless times is raid – but an insolvable problem with ventriolo (the de rigour audio chat feed) has made that a moot point.  Moreover, one by one my real life friends have fallen by the wayside.  The last several months have been a long stretch waiting for significant new content … waiting for the forecasted cataclysm to shake things up in Azeroth.

And then, dare I confess it, I joined my sister into the new, different realm of social games on face book … Kingdoms of Camelot (KOC), Verdonia (strategy games modeled on Evony), even Frontierville, Farmville and Cafeworld.  In doing so I have discovered a whole new world, a different set of alliances and friendships, different challenges and different content.  My initial reaction (as I quickly ran out of energy clearing my small plot of land from trees, weeds, and debris) was that this is nothing like WOW.   Certainly not designed for continuous play over long periods, these games do however grow in complexity and challenge as one’s avatar levels up and they build in the need to go back regularly to harvest ones crops, build walls and cities or save ones gourmet dishes from burning.  And the best ones build in rewards and achievements, cooperation with friends, personal flair/style, the sense of building something and progression.  But more than anything else, they are new, different … different skills, different challenges, and different worlds.  And I am not the only stray from the WOW universe wandering these strange paths – if the names of cities and kingdoms in KOC and Verdonia and City of Wonder are anything to go by (among the Tolkien Gondor and Minas Tireth etc there is a Thrall of Ogrimmar for instance).

Nevertheless, my pulse did quicken just a little when I saw the preview box for Cataclysm in the shops.  I have placed my preorder and am prepared to be engaged and captivated once again with the recent patch changes.  I have begun negotiating the new talent system and intend to explore the newest profession (archaeology).

And now … Cataclysm Elemental Invasion is upon us with, new quests have appeared in the major Horde and Alliance cities centred on Orgrimmar and Thunderbuff (Horde) and Stormwind and Ironforge (Alliance).  Twilight cult devotees have sprouted from nowhere proclaiming the end of the world, mysterious devices have appeared in the cities while tremors shake them, citizens are going missing, and the cult works hard to bring about the a cataclysmic destruction.  Meanwhile, the majority of the good citizens of Stormwind or Orgrimmar laugh at the idea of the end of the world as indeed most of us would.  The virtual world of Azeroth draws heavily from ancient philosophical and religious beliefs which often held to periodic cosmic catastrophes.  In a world schooled in thinking of deep time and slow and steady world-transforming processes, it is perhaps sobering to realize that scientists are now acknowledging that cataclysmic events (supervolcanoes, meteor strikes, massive floods and tsunamis) have played a much greater part in earth history than they had admitted during the last 150-200 years.

Past events aside,  over the last several hours phase 4 and the virtual battle to defend the cities and lands of Azeroth have begun in earnest – bringing with it an epic battle against the unleashed elements (roughly every 2-3 hours) which requires epic defense of from Azeroth’s heroes.  Successful defense opens up portals to new boss encounters and rewards. Once again a world event has been unleashed on the unsuspecting citizens – and this wandering hero has returned just in time to be swept up in the excitement of the cataclysmic moment.


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