CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Considering that I haven’t been fortunate enough to get a Cataclysm beta invite, last night was my first chance to check out Azeroth after The Shattering. I logged onto the PTR and told myself that I wasn’t going to look at much. I just wanted a little, teeny-tiny preview.
It is completely and utterly fantastic.
I first played through the new 1-5 leveling experience as a Human Hunter, and I loved it. There are some familiar NPCs, but the storyline, quests, and even Northshire Valley itself have completely changed. There are great new quest mechanics and a lot more action. Yes, your first quest is to kill X number of wolves, but very quickly after that you’re killing orcs, infusing fallen soldiers with the power of the Light, and putting out fires with Ghostbusters-style backpacks.
And the armor! Your armor, even as a lowbie, is now high-resolution and it actually matches. It makes the old character models look a bit dated, but the word from Blizzard is that character model revamps will be coming at some point.
Then I went to the new Stormwind. Oh. My. Gosh.
It’s freaking HUGE now, most likely to accommodate flying mounts. Coming into Stormwind for the first time from Goldshire is epic… even the statue of Danath Trollbane that fell during the Cataclysm cinematic is laying next to the lake, as it should be.
*Note that in the the following screenshots, not all of the textures may be loaded, I was still downloading the patch in the background.
Whoever worked on the lighting for Stormwind did a beautiful job. The colors are richer, the textures more high-res, and the city now has a warm glow emanating from the lampposts and buildings. It feels like a real city now, not just a fortress with some buildings inside.
They’ve also added a lot of detail to the city… apple trees with apples that have fallen, working fountains with water sounds, a moat and drawbridge at the castle, a huge bank with a walk-in guild vault, a spacious auction house… and look! Behind the Cathedral…
After taking a tour around Stormwind, I took the tram over to Ironforge, which was fairly quiet. The changes aren’t as immediately apparent here, but again, the city seems much larger and more open. There are now flying guards on gryphons that patrol the city. Just to show you the scale, you can see two of those gryphons here.
I logged off shortly after this last night, telling myself that I wouldn’t look at anything more, lest I not have anything new to look at when the patch goes live.
But I can officially say that my jaded, I’ve-been-playing-six-years-and-the-best-WoW-was-Classic-WoW mind was blown. It felt just like 6 years ago when I was playing the game in open beta for the first time, it really did. It’s all new and there’s a sense of wonder and excitement in the old world again.