Western Plaguelands Before/After
[All before/after images courtesy of Tastes Like…Battle Chicken.]

I've been out of World of Warcraft for about two years now. So when Blizzard announced the expansion Cataclysm, I was fairly sure I would be able to pass on it. Could it really change the game that much? Two new races and five levels worth of new zones? No thanks.

What really blew my mind — and ultimately got me back into the game — was the patch that went live about a week before the expansion launched. For those unfamiliar with the pre-Cataclysm patch, allow me to break this down.

For the last six years, the world of Azeroth has remained virtually unchanged. With every new expansion, the level cap gets a bump and several new zones are added for player progression. The new zones that have been added over time are a vast improvement over the original game. Everything from quests to dungeons have only gotten better with each new expansion.

 

Andorhal Before and After

This has been a double-edged sword for Blizzard. While the new content shines, the old stuff looks dull by comparison. Blizzard's trick to get new players through "old" Azeroth quickly was to increase the experience from quest rewards, riding mounts for low-level characters, etc. While I believe most WoW players appreciated the effort, there was no denying that "old" Azeroth seemed antiquated and paled in comparison to the exotic locales in the Burning Crusade and the Wrath of the Lich King expansions.

What to do? You can't simply erase a virtual world that has existed for six years, can you? 

So Blizzard used the giant bone-dragon Deathwing as a catalyst (see what they did there?) to completely change the old Azeroth. No zone has remained untouched. All of Blizzard's design tricks, such as the amazing phasing tech introduced in Wrath of the Lich King, are used to reinvent the world and to give the player a brand-new experience.

Stonewrought Dam Before and After

How much will all of this content set you back? Other than the 15-dollar-a-month fee to play the game, nothing. Simply incredible. I've been playing games for most of my life, and I cannot think of anything even remotely close to this happening. How about you? If I'm missing something, tell me about it!

And when you're done, feel free to reactivate your long-dead account and experience the World of Warcraft for the first time — again.