World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is the third expansion set for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft, following the last expansion Wrath of the Lich King. It was officially announced at Blizzcon on August 21, 2009, although details were discovered earlier. After many rumors and much speculation, Blizzard officially announced the release date of December 7, 2010.
Before Cataclysm was announced as the official title of the expansion, it was known internally as World of Warcraft: Worldbreaker.
Shortly after the announcement of the release date, on October 5, Blizzard implemented the overhaul of the game's playing systems (Patch '4.0.1'), including new class builds, profession changes, stat removal, and overall gear overhauls.
The central plot of the expansion is the return of the evil dragon aspect Deathwing the Destroyer (originally Neltharion, the Earth-Warder). Last seen in Warcraft II, Deathwing has spent that time healing himself, and plotting his fiery return from the elemental plane of Deepholm. His return tears through the dimensional barrier within Azeroth, causing a sweeping cataclysm that reshapes much of the world's surface. In the midst of the world-wide disaster comes renewed conflict between the Alliance and the Horde, which is now under the rule of the warrior Garrosh Hellscream.
In the wake of Deathwing's rise, Azeroth has been transformed: previously lush jungle areas have been reduced to burning waste, while once-desert environments have undergone a similar-but-inverse change into fresh green growth. Likewise, the Alliance has pushed into the Barrens and destroyed Camp Taurajo, while the Barrens itself has been split in two by a massive volcanic fissure.
One of the primary features of Cataclysm is the redesign of the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor areas introduced with the launch of World of Warcraft in 2004; while the previous game design didn't allow for the use of flying mounts in 'old-world' areas, those areas have been completely redesigned with flight in mind for Cataclysm.
Major changes are being brought to these zones. Each faction will have a smoother leveling process, as all old quests are scrapped and replaced with new ones that will incorporate updated gameplay and mechanics that have been changed or redesigned since the game's release.
Along with the redesign of each zone, each race will have its own respective starting area, where players will do a series of quests in a chain that will bring them up to level 5-6, before sending them out of the small area, and into the rest of the world.
Each zone will also have its own storyline, through a series of quests, as to keep the player interested in doing side quests. Each of the zones that are faction specific, however, will cater only to those of the faction that controls that zone. Neutral, or 'contested' zones, will feature a PvP (Player-Versus-Player) based quest line, making the player compete against the opposing faction (Horde against Alliance, and vice versa) to achieve the desired goal of their faction. This feature makes usage of phasing, which was first seen in The Burning Crusade expansion.
- Level cap raised from 80 to 85
- Players will be able to use flying mounts in old-world Azeroth zones (flying mounts were previously restricted to Northrend and Outland because of design limitations)
- Redesigned and updated zones within Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms
- New towns and around 3500 new quests
- Redesigned low and mid-level quests to accompany updated zones
- Seven new dungeons: Blackrock Caverns, Throne of the Tides, the Stonecore, the Vortex Pinnacle, the Lost City of the Tol'vir, the Halls of Origination, and Grim Batol, all available in regular and heroic modes at level 85
- Three new raids: The Bastion of Twilight, Blackwing Descent and Throne of the Four Winds, plus the Tol Barad Prison raid dungeon after PvP zone completion (more raids planned to be released with later patches)
- Two previously released dungeons—Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep—will be re-vamped with an added Heroic Mode for level 85 players
- New battlegrounds and a new world-PVP zone, Tol-Barad (similar to the Wintergrasp world-PvP zone introduced in Wrath of the Lich King)
- A new secondary skill: Archaeology
- An overhaul of the Glyph system with three types of Glyphs: Prime, Major, and Minor. In addition, Glyphs are taught as a spell and can now be switched around without the purchase of additional glyphs. However, you will need a new material called "Vanishing Powder" to replace existing Glyphs with new ones.
- A rated battleground system, along with associated new rewards
- Newly accessible zones including Uldum, Deepholm, the Sunken City of Vash'jir, the Twilight Highlands and Mount Hyjal (previously only featured as a time travel destination within the Caverns of Time)
- Two new playable races, Goblins and Worgen
- Addition of new race/class combinations (Tauren can now be Paladins, Gnomes can now be Priests, Undead can now be Hunters, etc.)
- Introduction of new stats such as Mastery, which will enhance certain abilities (both active and passive) depending on the player's class and talent specialization
- Changes to class mechanics, including abolishing the use of ammunition and stand-alone warlock soul shards, consolidation of totems and buffs, the addition of holy power for paladins, an eclipse mechanic for Druids, Rage normalization, changes to the rune system, the change from mana to focus for hunters, and racial bonuses
- Warlocks and Hunters now attain a combat pet at level 1 without needing to do a quest. Warlocks get an imp, Hunters get a pet based on their race (Dwarves get a bear, Humans get a wolf, Undead get a spider, etc.)
- Revamp of the stat system, removing such stats as mana per 5 seconds (MP5), armor penetration and defense rating and integrating them in other ways such as talents or the new mastery stat.
- Major changes to the cities of Stormwind and Orgrimmar, with minor adjustments to others
- New starting areas for Trolls and Gnomes at levels 1-5
- Player talent trees have been reworked to a 31 point tree and players will have a total of 41 talent points at level 85. Consequently, the talent trees are being "trimmed", and will look (superficially) much like the talent trees players had available on WoW's launch. Although it seems counterintuitive, Blizzard actually says this will give players more options, as the talents they are trimming felt mandatory previously. Instead of the old method of one talent point per level (after level 10) players get one point at level 10, then a point every odd level (e.g. 11, 13, 15....) afterwards.
- Unlike the current talent system where a player learns his or her first talent point at level 10 and is able to place that point and any subsequent point wherever he or she chooses, in Cataclysm, at level 10 a player must choose a talent specialization (spec) and only spend points in that "tree" until they have reached 31 points. Once 31 points have been spent, he or she is able to use the rest of his or her attained points in any of the 3 trees. When the player chooses a specialization at 10, they will gain one major active skill that sets that spec apart from the others, and 2-3 passive skills that support that particular tree. This was done in order to make players feel as though they are actually specialized in a specific talent tree as soon as they are able to choose one, rather than at higher levels where enough points have been placed into the tree of their choosing to make that feel like their specialization.
- Experimental support for DirectX 11 through the command line.
- New raid and PvP currency systems
Many of these changes have already been put into place as of Patch 4.0.1, which added all the new systems (new talents, glyph system, spell changes, resource changes, pets at level 1, removal of stats from items and from the game, mastery, and others). In addition, the changes to old zones were made in patch 4.0.3a, which was released to live servers on November 23, 2010.
A previously-announced feature, called Path of the Titans, was subsequently removed from the initial Cataclysm launch for unknown reasons. Path of the Titans was to be an 'alternate' method of character advancement after the level 85 cap had been reached; while keeping the level cap in place, the Path system would have allowed a player to continue enhancing their existing skills and talents.
So thats that another 2-3 days at the time of this post before release. All of that comes from wikipedia. I'm just using this as page filler. Google never actually picks this stuff up or at least I never get any hits from it, also to remind me when cataclysm came out. I been playing World of Warcraft for about three years now. Got about 200 days of slash played time. Thats 200 days total time added up from over about 3 years. So in 3 years i've spent 200 days of that time sitting in a chair playing World of Warcraft.
You can see more about Cataclysm at this WowWiki page.