World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Classic Review – Stretching the Meaning of “Classic”

How well does World of Warcraft's Cataclysm expansion hold up 14 years after its original release?

Posted By | On 28th, May. 2024

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Classic Review – Stretching the Meaning of “Classic”

World of Warcraft is undoubtedly the most successful MMORPG ever made, considering the number of players it’s still able to attract around 20 years after its original release. Throughout these two decades, the game has seen several changes, both minor as well as massive. We’ve seen changes as small as minor stats being altered, to major ones, like entire gameplay systems coming and going depending on which expansion you’re playing, and which one is the currently ongoing one.

Since a lot of players, yours truly included, quite enjoyed the more relaxed pace of playing that World of Warcraft originally had, rather than the modern systems-heavy beast where just about every single second of your gaming time is often accounted for with things to do, Blizzard released World of Warcraft Classic in 2019, in an effort to make everyone happy. While the success of Classic can be argued, it did well enough for the studio to continue the Classic train with the release of the Burning Crusade, followed by the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Typically, the game’s second expansion is the point most players would pick as the turning point for when World of Warcraft became less “classic” and started turning into the game we see today.

The release of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Classic is an interesting one. One of the key features of the Cataclysm expansion back when originally launched in 2010 was the fact that it brought a complete overhaul to the base game’s leveling zones, streamlining the whole process of getting to the level 85 cap. There were also several redesigns made to the game’s various leveling dungeons, as well as the first of what would become many overhauls to the talent tree.

Taking all of these (and many other) aspects into account, starting a new character in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Classic is a strange experience. The game is much faster-paced than it was during the previous Classic runs, and there are plenty of new quality of life features, like in-game maps for dungeons and even a way to check out loot tables for bosses. However, it’s these very changes that make Cataclysm Classic feel very un-Classic.

world of warcraft cataclysm 1

"The game is much faster-paced than it was during the previous Classic runs, and there are plenty of new quality of life features"

While the feature first arrived during Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm doubled down on the use of the Dungeon Finder, which allowed players to match up with random other players to run dungeons. Cataclysm would eventually push it even further by introducing the Raid Finder, using which players can do entire endgame raids with a random assortment of other players. While incredibly convenient, these tools had a major hand in reducing the level of community that World of Warcraft players would feel. Sure, waiting for two hours hanging around the game’s public chat rooms as you looked for a healer wasn’t fun, but reducing the entire experience to a simple button press and queue time was decidedly even less enjoyable.

All of that aside, however, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Classic’s greatest success is in reminding players just how drastic of a change the leveling experience saw. Where you would previously find yourself running from settlement to settlement in the Barrens as you looked for quests, now, quest lines flowed more naturally, sending you to the next settlement once you’ve finished up the small story in your current village. This would even extend to entire zones, where the game would now naturally tell you to go check out the disturbances at Stonetalon Mountains once you were done questing in the Northern Barrens.

Keeping up with the better paced storylines throughout Cataclysm Classic’s leveling experience is the more active pace of gameplay. Compared to even Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm pushes the actions-per-minute of several of the game’s specializations up quite high, making end-game combat an intensive affair where you would be juggling your most powerful cooldown abilities alongside your regular damage rotation, and even situational defensive abilities.

world of warcraft cataclysm 2

"World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Classic’s greatest success is in reminding players just how drastic of a change the leveling experience saw."

Generally speaking, however, Cataclysm feels like a strange middle ground between World of Warcraft Classic and World of Warcraft: Dragonflight. The Classic stage of the game at this point might have moved too far along the timeline to really be considered “Classic”. Don’t get me wrong; World of Warcraft would go on to get several changes down the line as well, be it a rework to how talents worked in Mists of Pandaria, to the several stat squishes in different expansions, to even a level squish that came about with Shadowlands. Cataclysm, however, definitely feels like the first major step Blizzard took towards streamlining the game.

One of the major examples of streamlining is the removal of weapon skills. Before Cataclysm, player characters in World of Warcraft, and by extension Classic, would have weapon skill stats that would level up automatically as you used a weapon. These stats were essentially a vestigial mechanic leftover from the original World of Warcraft, and the release of The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King made it obsolete. Cataclysm did away with the stat entirely, while also de-emphasizing other stats like elemental resistances. The expansion even removes arrows as a consumable item so that hunters don’t have to worry about running out of ammo, for instance.

Despite all of this, however, one of Cataclysm’s greatest strengths—one that shines through especially well in Cataclysm Classic—is how it told small-scaled stories through minor quest chains. These small-scale stories would ultimately go on to have major consequences that would take the World of Warcraft story in unexpected directions. A great example is how Cataclysm lays the groundwork for the slow descent into villainy that the Horde Warchief of the time, Garrosh Hellscream, would ultimately experience, culminating in him becoming the final antagonist of the next expansion.

world of warcraft cataclysm 3

"These small scale stories would ultimately go on to have major consequences"

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Classic players also have quite a bit to look forward to when it comes to endgame content, since the Firelands raid is still considered to be an excellent group experience, and rewards players with gear that still manages to look great today.

How one goes about defining World of Warcraft Classic for themselves will play a big part in how much they enjoy revisiting the Cataclysm expansion. For some, it was World of Warcraft introducing some of its worst tendencies, while others find that the more streamlined leveling process and faster-paced gameplay way more interesting and entertaining. When it comes to re-releasing it as part of World of Warcraft Classic, however, Cataclysm might just stretch what the word really means.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Classic leaves behind the slower paced leveling of days gone by, and even the core gameplay of all the classes is much faster. Along the way, it also leaves behind a lot of the charm that World of Warcraft used to have when it first launched. Getting into dungeons for some new gear was as simple as clicking on “Join Queue” and waiting for 15 minutes. Despite all of this, however, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Classic is still a surprisingly enjoyable game. While it doesn’t have as much in the way of nostalgia to offer players as World of Warcraft Classic previously did, Cataclysm Classic still feels different enough to modern-day World of Warcraft to make it worth revisiting every now and then.

This game was reviewed on PC.


THE GOOD

Faster leveling; Fast paced gameplay; Streamlined class design; Great quality-of-life features.

THE BAD

Leaves behind the nostalgia that kept players engaged with World of Warcraft Classic; Matchmaking features; Barely qualifies for a Classic release.

Final Verdict:
GOOD
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Classic is an interesting exercise, since it doesn’t really have much to do with the original World of Warcraft Classic anymore. The sweeping changes it makes to leveling, class and quest design, while interesting on their own, also supplements the more intriguing small-scale stories told throughout the game.
A copy of this game was purchased by author for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.

Amazing Articles You Might Want To Check Out!

Share Your Thoughts Below  (Always follow our comments policy!)



Keep On Reading!

Life by You Cancelled by Paradox Interactive

Life by You Cancelled by Paradox Interactive

An early access launch for Paradox Interactive's The Sims competitor was recently delayed indefinitely.

Indiana Jones and the Great Circle Clip Showcases Stealth Gameplay

Indiana Jones and the Great Circle Clip Showcases Stealth Gameplay

MachineGames' single-player first-person action-adventure game is due out for Xbox Series X/S and PC this year...

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree – What’s New?

Elden Ring: Shadow of the Erdtree – What’s New?

Shadow of the Erdtree may be more Elden Ring, but it's changing the base experience in ways players probably n...

5 First-Party PlayStation Sequels That Are Never Going to Happen

5 First-Party PlayStation Sequels That Are Never Going to Happen

No matter how bad we want these games, it's unlikely that we're ever going to get them.

Dark Souls 3 Is Still a Masterpiece in 2024

Dark Souls 3 Is Still a Masterpiece in 2024

The finale of FromSoft's Dark Souls series still holds up after all these years, but its mods elevate it to a ...

A Quiet Place: The Road Ahead Announced, Horror Adventure Game Launches This Year

A Quiet Place: The Road Ahead Announced, Horror Adventure Game Launches This Year

Published by Saber Interactive and developed by Stormind Games, the single-player title will release for PS5, ...