Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Receives Rave Reviews

December 15, 2010

By John Gaudiosi

There’s a reason Blizzard Entertainment still has over 12 million PC gamers subscribing to its World of Warcraft massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) six years after launch. The game studio takes its time with each new expansion and listens to the game critics and MMORPG fans. This directly translates to the record launches each of the three expansion packs has seen over the years.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, the third expansion in the franchise, became the fastest-selling PC game of all time by selling 3.3 million copies in its first 24 hours. This milestone eclipses the previous record of more than 2.8 million copies sold in 24 hours, set in November 2008 by Blizzard’s second World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. Given that there are over 12 million gamers who have picked up copies of this expansion since that opening day window – and many more will buy or receive the game for Christmas – Blizzard’s strategy continues to pay off. By the end of the year, Cataclysm will compete with Blizzard’s other blockbuster, StarCraft II, when it comes to global sales champion in the PC gaming arena.

Heading into this latest expansion, Blizzard focused on updating the entire game universe to take advantage of the latest PC technology, including new graphics cards from NVIDIA.

“We wanted to add more content for all of our fans that currently play the game and also revisit the old world both to add new content for players that are kind of re-enrolling in the game to start over again and also for players that are new to the game for the first time, trying to make sure that the experience is as good as it possibly can be,” explained Tom Chilton, game director for World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.

Over the years, Blizzard realized that each new expansion pushed the envelope of visual fidelity, but only for the new areas of the Azeroth. With Cataclysm, the developer went back and started to overhaul the other areas of the world to construct a world that is more cohesive from a technology standpoint.

While Hollywood can make a mint off a bad movie, gamers are wiser investors with their entertainment dollars, especially in this economy. Early reviews of Cataclysm have been positive from both game journalists and PC gamers. Metacritic.com reviews for the new expansion pack have received a cumulative score of 88 out of a possible 100, while user reviews have averaged 6.3 out of a possible 10. Many gamers have given the new expansion a perfect 10, while The Escapist online gaming site awarded Cataclysm a perfect score of 100.

“Blizzard tears WoW to the ground and builds it up more skillfully than ever before,” wrote game critic John Funk of The Escapist. “The new content is creative, has a tangible sense of story and progression that you wouldn't expect from an MMO, and is implemented so skillfully and smoothly that the bumps in the road are actually a bit jarring. Excellent art design goes a long way at concealing the cracks and wrinkles in a ten-year-old engine, but it is at its core still World of Warcraft and a fresh coat of paint and a significant tune-up can't change that. And yet, maybe it doesn't have to be anything else.

James Meeks of Daxgamers.com graded the new expansion a 9 out of 10, explaining that: “This is a rather fine expansion and will definitely have current players, new players, as well as returning players wanting to try out the new races, see the changes in the environment, engaging in new quests, as well as checking out the new race/class combination’s. Players will spend most their time exploring the shattered areas as well as the new areas, as well as conquering new challenges with their guilds and friends.”

GamePro.com enlisted Jaz Rignall, a gamer who has been playing WoW since the MMORPG first launched, to explore the new expansion pack in a review that delved deep into the new experience. Rignall awarded the new game an 80 out of 100.

“Cataclysm definitely feels more like the original World of Warcraft, but one that's combined with the newer, more refined, better designed presentation layer and convenience features that were developed during the Lich King expansion,” said Rignall. “For the most part, it's the best of the old, combined with the best of the new.”

PC gamers, many of whom likely have the latest graphics cards to experience all of the new details in Cataclysm, are happy with the new expansion, as well. Lambo442 gave the new game a perfect 10 and wrote: “There’s a huge amount of content added, significantly improved graphics, plus questing is now more fun, and quests are more imaginative. Worgens are the epitome of cool. Blizzard has exceeded my expectations again. For the Alliance!”

Jsowers, who also gave Cataclysm a perfect 10, wrote: “The developers have gone to great lengths to address the fundamental flaws present throughout the entirety of the genre. Many small cinematic flairs have been added to the game play and the experience as a whole has been greatly streamlined to result in a much more user-friendly experience. That being said, the hallmarks of World of Warcraft are here and present as strongly as ever.”

Another perfect score came from gamer Drillur, who wrote: “Every area has been redone, and if not completely redone, then slightly convenienced. The quest flow is amazing now! Start a Human and go thru Elwynn, Westfall, and Redridge. By the end of the three regions, each with their unique stories (well Elwynn is much the same), you will agree with me. Much better than classic. Everything continues to grow as the years go on”

Frank Pierce, executive vice president and co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment, said that the studio is cognizant of its history and its devoted fan base.

“When we launched World of Warcraft, which was six years ago at this point, that was still ten years after we launched the first Warcraft RTS,” said Pierce. “And so that was an opportunity for us to build on that franchise that the fans are very passionate about and familiar with. I think we really had some experience with an online community in our Battle.net platform already, and we already had an online community there. I also think there’s a lot of equity in the Blizzard label because of the quality experiences that we work so hard to provide the fans.”

The franchise is one of the few to appeal to both the hardcore PC gamers and a more mainstream audience. And Cataclysm will only strength the expansion into both of these bases moving forward.

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