Friday, 7 January 2011

So This Is Cataclysm…

Well, long time no write. In my defence, so many more talented bloggers have been keeping us informed (and entertained), and I really haven’t had anything to add, other than a heart-felt “Is that it?”

That's Cata for you - a big bang and a long drop.

Yes, I’m another person who’s underwhelmed with what Blizzard has brought to the table with Cataclysm, and I’m currently spending my time turning my small pile of gold into a slightly larger pile of gold through various machinations on the AH.

I’ve currently leveled Mingle to 85, and she’s decently geared for heroics (only two greens remaining, her wand and one trinket, and wearing the epic crafted healer belt). Her tailoring and inscription are both at 525, and inscription is proving a nice money-spinner with mysterious fortune cards and inferno inks.

Pringle managed to get to 82 in Vashj’ir, and has maxed jewelcrafting and enchanting. Prospecting ore is still more fun than milling herbs, by the way.

Dingle is still sitting at 80, having very briefly ventured into Hyjal, but hasn’t really had much more time spent with her.

Ringle has been through Hyjal a little further, but I just haven’t been interested in leveling her to 84, where she’ll need to be to gain access to the recipe vendors in Twilight Highlands (she’s currently sitting on 490 leatherworking and 511 blacksmithing).

The surprise has been Kringle, who I’ve enjoyed levelling the most – hunters are still the most solo-friendly class. It’s kind of telling that even so, he’s only managed to reach 83 (but has 525 alchemy, and switched from herbalism to skinning to help provide leather for Ringle’s leveling, reaching 525 in that by the end of Hyjal). Kringle’s currently sitting in Deepholm, having completed the first of the pillar quest chains (with a cute pet turtle from BFD).

I’ve also run a Worgen through the new starting zone (and been… underwhelmed by the theme-park linearity and the feeling that you’re along for the ride) and have a Goblin most of the way through their starting zone (also underwhelmed buy most, but not all, of the experience – still a themepark, but occasionally a fun one). All I can say is, they had to make those zones once-only events – when you’ve been through the ride once, there’s nothing to come back to (and I can see the need to go through the ride for new characters to be a disincentive).

Incidentally, who else can foresee Worgen being left in the background while Goblins get thoroughly integrated into the WoW lore in the same way that Draenei and Blood Elves came to be treated after Wrath? (No, I’m not saying “Blizzard love Horde more than Alliance”, just pointing out that they really dropped the ball with Draenei after they dropped them into the WoW lore with TBC, and from what we’ve seen of Worgen and Goblin presence in Cata so far, it’s looking like Goblins will be favoured in the same way that Blood Elves were)

Now, there have been quite a few things that I’ve enjoyed about the post-80 Cata experience – a number of quite fun moments in the various zones, and some fun new mechanics (although I’ve yet to abuse Lifegrip with Mingle). But on the whole, Blizz seem to have substituted the breadth of gameplay pre-Cataclysm (for example, wrath levelling which had multiple paths all the way from 70-80) with a very linear leveling path brightened with the occasional patch of polish and occasional illusion of choice.

Incidentally, I’m really surprised they let the issues through in the final release where if you miss a quest-giver, you’ll find yourself locked out of further questing in a zone until you’ve managed to find the lost quest-giver (with no suggestion from the game that this is the case). I’ve been caught out by this twice in Hyjal, but fortunately haven’t tripped over it in Vashj’ir yet (which is apparently problematic, with the 3d terrain).

I’ve managed to force myself to grind Mingle to 525 archaeology (over several days and many hours, with most of the time spent auto-flying while I read a book or played another game on my ipod touch – thank goodness for Archy, which cut-down on the time-wasting quite substantially), and it confirmed my suspicion that it was going to be less fun than fishing, and mostly just a massive travel time sink. (Seriously, who thought this implementation was a good idea?)

I didn’t have the confidence to do any LFD while I was levelling, and my experiences have consisted of a healing a single run of normal Lost City of the Tol’vir with Mingle – horror stories from guildmates about the new state of pugs (now that healers can’t heal through stupid, and being blamed and/or abused for wipes because of this change) and the challenge of Cata healing (with mana management being the new measure of a healer’s ability) really made an effective deterrent to my giving it a try.

However, doing a normal run at 85 wasn’t excessively painful, aside from half-expected mana issues (there was just one wipe, but a couple of the dps had a couple of extra deaths while I was trying to keep up the tank). The problem for me is that healing just (as I’m hearing increasingly often) wasn’t fun. The change from “I want to decide who lives and who dies” from Wrath healing to “I hope I don’t run out of mana, and and please please please let the dps remember to run out of the fire” hasn’t been especially entertaining (especially as someone who used to LFD almost exclusively).

Currently? I’m mostly logging in to prospect for, cut and sell gems. And transmute Truegold. And mill herbs for cards and inferno ink to sell. And I’m hard-pressed to raise the enthusiasm to run alts through the new theme-parks level up other characters, as there’s nothing of interest for me at 85. The thought of hardmode raiding makes my skin crawl, and even normal modes aren’t appealing (although I suspect finding a guild which is just running normal modes may be challenging). Heroic 5-mans? Pugging them isn’t something to be done voluntarily (especially as a healer), but I have no interest in guild runs (probably because I still don’t feel comfortable in this guild). Normal 5-mans? My single attempt just didn’t engage me, even though the group did manage to complete it. (I’ve also heard a number of complaints about the length of Wrath 5-mans – do they need to make them quicker? Or is that solely a result of group competence?) Rep grinds? Well, if you’re not doing Heroics, they’re not really needed.

The sad thing for me is, there just isn’t really anything else. I’ve never been interested in achievements (aside from Loremaster on Mingle), I don’t collect pets, and… My dream of levelling more Dwarves lost substantial momentum when I realised that the revamped 1-60 levelling, while a substantial improvement over vanilla, was a lot more linear than I cared for (although not as bad as 80-85 has turned out to be).

I think I’ve run out of interest in WoW again – which is kind of unexpected, considering how much Cataclysm promised. Unfortunately it would appear that much of what it offers has a real lack of replayability for my playstyle, and I’m starting to run into that already.

But hey, it’s looking like there could be some interesting new titles in the near future - DC Universe Online (check out TotalBiscuit’s beta footage of the character creator and starting zone footage if you’re curious) and Earthrise come to mind (along with Rift in about two more months) - not to mention the substantial number of games recently on sale on Steam and other digital vendors (I’m currently knee-deep in Darkstar One and revisiting City of Heroes briefly).

WoW, on the other hand, is just something I’m playing if I’m feeling bored (or more accurately, until I get bored, which isn’t taking long). Cataclysm might have changed the world, but it wasn’t really a change that’s worked for me.