Blizzard Announces World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Launch Date

WoW players have been salivating over the question of when Blizzard's next expansion would launch, and the company has finally given its answer. Starting on December 7, gamers will be able to purchase and explore the new zones, races, and content the Cataclysm expansion will add to the existing MMO. Players who don't buy Cataclysm will still indirectly benefit from it—Blizzard has used the expansion as an excuse to revamp the entire world of Azeroth, including much of what was once considered 'classic' content.

"Cataclysm includes the best content we've ever created for World of Warcraft. It’s not just an expansion, but a re-creation of much of the original Azeroth, complete with epic new high-level adventures for current players and a redesigned leveling experience for those just starting out," said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. "With the help of our beta testers, we're putting on the final polish, and we look forward to welcoming gamers around the world to enjoy it in just a couple of months."

In Cataclysm, the face of Azeroth will be forever altered by the return of the corrupted Dragon Aspect Deathwing. Players will explore once-familiar areas of the world that have now been reshaped by the devastation and filled with new adventures. In an effort to survive the planet-shattering cataclysm, two new playable races -- worgen and goblins -- will join the struggle between the Alliance and the Horde. As players journey to the new level cap of 85, they'll discover newly revealed locations, acquire new levels of power, and come face to face with Deathwing in a battle to determine the fate of the world.

Our Two Cents: 

We're currently testing the Cataclysm beta (look for an article coming soon), but we're taking this launch announcement as an excuse to share a few thoughts early. Cataclysm adds all the sorts of things an MMO expansion typically contains—the new water rendering image, as shown above and below, is particularly gorgeous—but what makes the new game genuinely different is the degree of work Blizzard has sunk into revamping the original continents and zones.

WoW's new water rendering engine is gorgeous--objects, characters, and even spell effects can reflect realistically.

When the aforementioned Cataclysm occurs, the differences won't be confined to a handful of new areas on a conveniently discovered island/continent/suborbital space station. Instead, the effects of the devastation transform the existing landmasses of Azeroth, from the earliest starting zones to the former end-game areas. This is particularly important in WoW's case; the game has long encouraged players to level multiple additional characters (alts) rather than sinking more and more time into one persona. As a result, even casual players have often leveled multiple characters through the same content zones and the same quests.

Gamers with older hardware don't need to worry. The old engine (the one currently used in-game) is still available.

Blizzard isn't replacing all the original quests but the physical and political changes that sweep Azeroth in the wake of the devastation require a certain amount of change to nearly every zone. Players already familiar with WoW will also find that time has (finally) passed in certain zones. The Lakeshire bridge (under repair for the past six years) is finally complete, while the Westfall militia have built themselves a fortifying wall and defensible position.

WoW has always offered a great early game experience, and we're excited to hit the road again as lowbies—in addition to all the end-game goodies, raids, and boss fights in store.