Next week, the world of Warcraft will change forever with the release of Cataclysm. Here's everything you need to know before Deathwing the Destroyer comes over and trashes the place.
What Is Cataclysm? Cataclysm is the third expansion pack for World of Warcraft, which with 12 million subscribers is only one of the biggest games in the world.
How Does It Change The Game World? Deathwing the Destroyer, the antagonist upon whom the entire expansion is based, is a character that hasn't been seen in Warcraft lore since he was banished from Azeroth during the events of Warcraft II. He's now returned, and is understandably...upset.
Deathwing has ripped a dimensional tear in the very fabric of Azeroth, which is why the expansion is called "Cataclysm"; it's WoW's own apocalypse, with many of the game's regions radically transformed from what people will have been used to all these years.
Spots on the map that were once lovely are now charred wastelands. Conversely, old wastelands are now quite lovely spots! Visitors to the Barrens will also notice some rather drastic changes to the topography.
What Does This Mean For The Game? Beyond the cosmetic and story changes, there's been a lot of work done under the hood to World of Warcraft. Most importantly, the level cap has been raised to 85, with other big alterations including new towns, new quests, two new races (the Worgen and Goblins) and the ability to ride flying mounts across all of Azeroth, not just certain areas.
How Does This Affect Me If I'm A WoW Veteran? There's five more levels to grind out, for starters. There's also two more races to go and re-roll to check out, as well as the lure of re-exploring much of Azeroth to see how Deathwing's return has changed things.
What If I'm Not, Is Cataclysm A Good Place To Start Playing WoW? It may well be. Along with changes for high-end players, much of the groundwork of World of Warcraft has been re-tooled as well, with old quests replaced and a bigger emphasis placed on smooth levelling and a more involved storyline. You could almost say, between these and the cosmetic changes, this is World of Warcraft 1.5, so starting now would mean you're starting with a more polished and refined experience than those who began years ago.
Wait, Isn't Half This Stuff Already In The Game? If you've played recently, yes! A couple of patches introduced over the past few weeks have brought many of these changes online already. If you haven't checked in for a while, though, well, you're going to notice a few changes.
Does It Use The New Battle.net? It sure does. First employed alongside the release of Starcraft II, Cataclysm marks the first time a Warcraft release has been available, and will make use of from day one, Blizzard's re-vamped online portal.
When Is Cataclysm Out? It's out on December 7. At 12:01 Pacific Time, if you want to get specific.
Where Can I Read More About Cataclysm? Head here for our complete coverage of WoW's world-changing expansion.