website tracking
Cataclysm Beta: Also Sprach Nespirah on Game and Player

Cataclysm Beta: Also Sprach Nespirah

Michael Ubaldi  //  September 9, 2010

Any doubts over the enjoyment of leveling have gone for good.


What a difference an hour makes. In last week's update on my activity in the beta for World of Warcraft's expansion Cataclysm, I confessed that I hadn't spent much time adventuring.

I had two reasons. First, my focus on class mechanics; second, the poor impression new quest content had made on me. On Friday, I pressed on to reach the next level — entering a new undersea location standing in such sharp relief to the zone preceding it that I wonder who designed which, and in what state of mind. Inconsistencies aside, any doubts over the enjoyment of leveling — such a means to an end after a year of dungeon-raiding — have gone for good.

Everything takes place in Vashj'ir, an ancient, aquatic domain. The first location is called the Kelp Forest, where players are deposited — hardly a spoiler under the title Cataclysm — after an untimely shipwreck. It is a narrow, shallow seabed densely populated with flora, fauna and quests. Its ostensible purpose is formative, acquainting the player with his character's castaway fate, remnant allied forces, and the magic and shrewdness used to survive underwater.


Unfortunately, the crowded environment — however vivid and lively its namesake — is less transitional than it is reminiscent of oceanic settings limited by technology. Players expecting an alien world, at the very least somewhere befitting an expansion, may first be nonplussed, then bored by quests lacking direction and narrative.

Maybe, come launch, the compulsion to reach Level 85 will see most of us through the Kelp Forest in half the morning — but it took me two weeks of desultory play. When I followed a quest bringing me into the Shimmering Expanse, however, I turned the corner on a granite stack and saw a titanic form beyond a ragged trench, devouring the horizon. It looked like a mountain at first. A closer examination showed organic features. Was it a structure? One quest later, I learned that it was the shell of some kind of mega-mollusk named Nespirah — one that, with perhaps a nod to Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Tin Man," could be entered.

The scale, now monumental, was matched by prodigious architecture. The chance discovery of an enchanted shard allowed a shaman to send my character into visions of a warrior who lived and fought in a decisive battle thousands of years before. Between these visions and the present struggle that had become entwined, I explored coral-encrusted ruins of a sunken empire. A pensive orchestral score, recently added to the beta, abetted the mood — but these sights would have been no less wondrous in silence.

Several hours of adventuring later, I remain in awe, eager to take my first character through when Cataclysm goes live. World of Warcraft's casual players, likely drawn to quests above all else, should take comfort that a fantasia awaits after a slow start — but if Blizzard's designers hop to it and reshape the dull Kelp Forest, they won't even have to.

Articles by Michael Ubaldi

July 1, 2011

February 12, 2011

G&P Latest

July 1, 2011

June 28, 2011

About  //  Editors  //  Contributors  //  Terms of Use