For veterans, the overhaul to questing post level 80 to reach the new cap of 85 is the major part of the game at the moment since few guilds have yet got a team to raiding level (i.e. the larger instanced dungeons for teams of 10 or 25 players). For those who raided before, it’s a wrench to discard those lovely Purple epics in favour of quest reward Green items, but we knew this would happen. Epic level gear no longer drops as loot in heroic versions of the 5 man dungeons like it used to; it only drops in raids. However, some epics can be crafted by players and others purchased from reputation factions. Continuing the trend from Wrath, raiding has been made more accessible to everyone, so that smaller guilds can get a look in. There have been changes to raid progression so that they should no longer become outdated by the introduction of a new one before the majority of players have finished the previous one. It was a great disappointment for many that Ulduar, one of the best raids ever designed by Blizzard, became obsolete before its time (in terms of loot that dropped there), and it became difficult for guild raid leaders to get players to go back there.
But raiding is perhaps something to consider for the New Year, once everyone has geared up at least one character to the required standard. That won’t be a chore. The new zones are beautifully designed with entertaining quest-lines. For those who are familiar with the game, old favourites reappear, such as Harrison Jones the Archaeologist (no prizes for guessing who inspired him), with a very amusing story to follow in the Egyptian-themed land of Uldum. The zones each have a unique feel to them, from the underwater mysteries of Vashj’ir , to the newly-opened mountainous landscape of Mount Hyjal (which was present in the WoW map since the beginning but never before accessible outside of an instanced raid), and the deep caverns and crystal grottoes of Deepholm. (That zone, for me, was the most jaw-dropping of all the new ones.) There are new reputation factions to befriend, and this includes a new PvP faction in Tol Barad the World PvP area, who offer enticing merchandise once you’ve earned enough rep. You will probably need to purchase the gear offered by all the various reputation factions in order to be able to survive the heroic versions of the 5 man dungeons, the gear from which will be required in order to start raiding again. But the game is not just about raiding. With nearly two dozen new non-combat pets to collect, and nearly as many new mounts, including eight different stone drakes, there is plenty for collectors of such delights to hunt down.
Finally, some info about the new secondary profession, Archaeology. This is very addictive, but also very time-consuming. It becomes available for a character once he/she reaches level 20. At any time there are four dig locations available to you per continent, and this includes the previous expansion areas of Outlands and Northrend. These dig sites show up on the world map. You don’t have to compete with other players for nodes or items as in other professions, so a big hooray for that! You simply fly from site to site, use your surveying equipment to hunt for relics and dig them up. I won’t go into too much detail about the mechanics of the profession, but at higher level there are some great things to discover, including epic gear, various amusing ‘toys’ and again, mounts and pets. You do have to travel a lot, though, so I’d recommend just using one character to work on it, otherwise you could literally spend all your time digging! However, you do get good experience points from it. One player in our guild levelled nearly all the way to 84 without doing a single quest or dungeon, just concentrating on Archaeology.
I was greatly impressed with Wrath of the Lich King, and doubted Blizzard could top the atmosphere and game play of that, but they really have excelled themselves with Cataclysm. I can whole-heartedly recommend it to seasoned WoW players who might’ve taken a break, veterans of other MMOs who are considering giving WoW a try, or complete newbies to this kind of game. You won't be disappointed.