Eternally failing upwards
Let me be frank: If your standard for discussion of WoW as a whole or any of its expansions considers the game a failure because there are aspects that some players don't like or the designers decide can be improved upon, then you are arguing that a game that has lasted since 2004 with millions of subscribers worldwide was a failure. If that is your argument, I have to say, I only wish I could fail that thoroughly. I would be failing my way into a mansion and a yacht.
My own private Cataclysm
I have my own biases about Cataclysm as an expansion, and those biases are (but are not limited to) the following:
- The revamp of the old world zones was extremely well done. Levels 1 to 60 are an astonishing experience. I even leveled a character to level 70 four days before Cata launched, and the decision to simply give everyone the revamped old world without having to buy Cata was brilliant and highlighted those zones.
- The word Cataclysm is hard for me to spell. Seriously, I type catacylsm or cataclsym quite often. I have no idea why.
- Quest design in Cataclysm's zones is, for the most part, better than it has ever been. My one caveat is that, for myself personally, I am not a fan of the extent to which pop culture references sometimes take over. Uldum in particular loses me with the Harrison Jones quests, although once Brann Bronzebeard takes over, I'm back.
- As a raider, I felt adrift in the start, and the time between the launch raids and Firelands felt too long. The three launch raids also didn't feel at all like a starting raid experience, as Naxx/Sarth/Maly did. I think Firelands is an excellent, extremely fun, extremely well-designed raid, but it's also the only game in town for this tier and I'm starting to get tired of it. In general, if you're a raider or if you're not, endgame content felt thin on the ground compared to The Burning Crusade or Wrath, which had more dungeons and heroics and comparable raid content, as well as a lot more zones to level through.
A tale of babies and bathwater
However, just because I can find flaws in something, it doesn't follow that thing has failed. It's not even the case that the developers haven't already found flaws in it.
The problem with declaring something a failure in this context is that it ends the discussion, and I don't want the discussion ended. I'm still playing the game -- of course I want to keep talking about it and how it could be better, especially with the people who are in the best position to make it better.
If I could sit down tomorrow with the game's development team, the first thing I'd want them to know is how much I enjoyed Hyjal, Deepholm and both the Horde and Alliance versions of Twilight Highlands. I'd want to explain what I loved about Uldum and exactly why I didn't love all of it. I'd want to discuss Vashj'ir and why I get vertigo in that zone, and how it cost me some really awesome quest experiences on my first two play-throughs. I'd want to talk about how the Molten Front saved two of my alts and the specific fights I did and didn't like in the raids. In short, I'd want to talk to them -- not, you know, insult, belittle, or declare their work a failure. Because not only isn't it a failure, but that kind of blanket declaration ends the discussion. The designers aren't perfect. I'm not suggesting that they are.
This particular post is what got me interested to write about Cataclysm as an expansion at all, because I usually like to wait until the last content patch is out and we can reasonably be said to have experienced all of its content before I do so. I haven't gotten to kill Deathwing yet or even see much of the Dragon Soul raid. I have run the three new dungeons, fought one boss in DS raid testing, messed around with transmog on a variety of characters, and in general had a blast on the PTR. There's some awesome content coming in this last patch, and I don't think it fair to discuss Cataclysm's overall success or failure until that content is out. Quite frankly, the best really is yet to come.
My main criticisms of Cataclysm at this particular point in time is as follows: It didn't have enough endgame world questing content. I would have loved at least one more zone to run through once I hit 85. Relying on Tol Barad to make up for that required your faction to be successful to maximize the quests and still ran into the daily quest limit, especially once the Molten Front launched. The Molten Front itself was solid content, but it's very hard to run through it all again and grind up the marks to unlock content on your third or fourth alt. The starting raids didn't feel like they introduced you to raiding at all, and getting a raid of people who weren't used to raiding through them nearly killed me, necessitating that I switch guilds mid-expansion. ZG and ZA were solid content, but I really got tired of running the same two dungeons over and over and over again.
If you asked me about Wrath or BC, I could have come up with similar lists. I really hated Trial of the Champion/Crusader as a content patch. Hated it like fire. Does that make Wrath a failed expansion? Did the complete and utter lack of interest I felt in ever running Ogri'la on any of my alts or doing the Tempest Keep 5-mans after running them hundreds of times for a Sun-Eater just so I could tank Kara make BC a failure? No, of course not.
The game isn't perfect. It has never been perfect. It will never be perfect. Perfection is the end. Perfection means there's nowhere to go. Going places and doing things is the entire point. I want the game to never be perfect. That doesn't mean that Blizzard shouldn't strive for constant improvement, and I have to believe that's exactly what it does strive for, based on what I saw the past weekend. I already believe, based on the new talent preview, that the lessons of Cataclsym were always being learned.
In a sense, the entire fight against Deathwing is an objective correlative for this struggle to always improve the game. Deathwing's perfected Azeroth would be dead. I've argued before that change has been good for the game for the vast majority of its existence, and Cataclysm has been some of the biggest changes the game has ever experienced. Neth's point about the give and take between the designers and the players is apt and needs to be restated again and again. The game will forever be changing and being changed, and we'll forever see things we would have Blizzard change. Our task in every expansion is to tell Blizzard what we want in a way that allows it to make use of that information.
Constructive criticism is criticism that informs -- what didn't you like, why didn't you like it, what did you like and why did you like it, what Blizzard did right as well as what it did wrong, and why those things worked or didn't work for you. Blanket dismissal, personal attacks and cynical interpretations of every statement won't contribute to helping the game get better.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm has destroyed Azeroth as we know it; nothing is the same! In WoW Insider's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion, from leveling up a new goblin or worgen to breaking news and strategies on endgame play.