Welcome To The World...Of Warcraft: Cataclysm
I've been waiting for this day ever since downing The Lich King.
It's the way of things, isn't it? You clear all of the end-game content from one expansion and circle around in a holding pattering until new fights, new mechanics, and new gear become available. Sure, some folks gravitate toward PvP (What you PvP for? Honor f$%king rewards?). Others knock out achievements in their spare time. But I enjoy raiding. So when the end-game content is clear, it's all about anticipation of what's next.
The Burning Crusade was 'meh' (aside from the pre-nerf Kael fight). I enjoyed Wrath of the Lich King a bit more. But the original World of Warcraft remains my favorite iteration of the game. And now, with Cataclysm, the action returns to Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor. We're back to the original storyline (I had always wondered when we'd see Grim Batol opened up), and we even get to fight Nefarian and Onyxia again. To be sure, Cataclysm looks to be the closest thing to vanilla WoW since 2007.
But that doesn't mean the game looks the same. Blizzard's own in-house development team continues to improve the 3D engine with revamped water and lava rendering, the addition of sunshafts, and an experimental DirectX 11 code path that we'll demonstrate to have a major impact on performance.
In other words, what you thought you knew about the way this game taxed your PC is changing.
I always chuckle a bit when I see folks talking about World of Warcraft as if it were the lowest common denominator of PC gaming. Yes, it's in Blizzard's best interest to make this massively popular title as accessible as possible to its millions of subscribers. But there's a gaping difference between the most entry-level settings WoW supports and the lushest options it offers. Cranked up to Ultra quality, this game can actually bring a number of respectable graphics cards to their knees. I have the benchmark results to prove it, too.
So, before the game goes live for everyone to enjoy, let's have a look at the detail settings you might want to use. I have 12 different cards from AMD, 12 cards from Nvidia, enough processors to show that cores, clocks, and cache do matter here, and a direct comparison between the DirectX 9/11 code paths.
The best news of all is the these game engine changes went into effect for everyone with patch 4.0.1. So, you can dial in the settings you want to use now and simply enjoy Cataclysm tomorrow.