You left Azeroth behind long ago, but you can't resist the rumbling of the Cataclysm any longer. It's OK, we understand. Here are some helpful tips to help you ease yourself back into the addiction.
Get A Head Start
Ideally the best time for you to return to World of Warcraft for the release of The Cataclysm was when the final pre-Cataclysm patch went live on Tuesday, November 23. This would have given you two weeks to explore the new world, get used to the new talent points system and worked out the kinks in your play style brought on by the sweeping changes made since you last played the game.
It's not too late though. By the time you read this there are still a few days to cram before the big day. That's plenty of time for you to...
Rebuild Your Talent Tree
Anyone that regularly quits and returns to World of Warcraft as often as I do is used to seeing this message at the top of their screen:
This means that some major update has occurred, changing the talents players use to define their roles in the game beyond the basic character classes. It's what makes a Mage an Ice Mage. Well, that and the ability to spam frost bolt over and over again. It's a gift.
So that sort of message is familiar, but the new menu that pops up when you choose to assign your talent points likely isn't:
What does this mean? It means that characters in world of warcraft are forced to specialize in one talent tree when they first begin spending points, and that talent tree will define their role in the game immediately. Notice how my Tauren Druid's class name changes when I apply those talents. I'm no longer just a Druid, but a Balance Druid.
The new system locks the other two trees until a player spends 31 points in the primary one, so if you're used to playing a character with a build balanced between two or more trees, you're going to have to learn to play a different way. This is why you should...
Take Your Old Character For A Test Drive
Because of the changes to talents and overall changes to the way the skills for each class progress, logging in after an extended absence and jumping right into the new high-level content come early Tuesday morning could be a recipe for disaster, unless you're a Frost Mage like my main. In that case you just keep on spamming Frost Bolt.
Otherwise you're going to want to get acquainted with the way your character plays. Some of the strategies you've used while soloing or playing through instances in the past may no longer be viable, and tweaks to equipment and the way statistics are counted into things like damage and monster threat levels could find you drawing unwanted attention from enemies or frustrating fellow party members that might not be patient with you re-learning the ropes on their time.
I've spent the past few days doing a little soloing with my high level Mage, and when I finally did get into a party to run an instance I made sure they knew I was returning after a long hiatus and might be a little rusty. I only almost got everyone killed once!
And while you're tooling around getting reacquainted with your old character, you should take some time to...
Familiarise Yourself With Your New Surroundings
Azeroth has changed a great deal. Blizzard made a video about it. Want to see it? Here goes.
I've made a of couple videos showing off some of the more interesting changes I've come across.
I've barely scratched the surface of all of the new content that's been released in the ore-Cataclysm patches. I still get lost in Orgrimmar, and I'm sure the folks in Stormwind are having a lovely time dealing with the restructuring that's been done on the Alliance side of things.
If you're a high level character in World of Warcraft, the last thing you want is to have to hop on the trade channel (it's always the trade channel these days) and ask someone where something is. The NPC guards will give you directions, but in a twisting, multi-level zone like the new Orgrimmar, those directions are next to useless. I spent 20 minutes the other day trying to find the Mage trainer. The arrow said I was standing right on top of him, which I was, but he was in a cavern below me.
Taking some time to get to know the new Azeroth can keep you from feeling like a total newbie upon your return to the game, through some folks relish the uncertainty that comes with exploring new, unfamiliar terrain, which leads me to my final suggestion...
Try Starting Fresh
There's a whole new world awaiting level 1-60 characters. Why spend all of your time trying to achieve the five new levels between 80 and 85?If you've been gone from World of Warcraft for an extende3d period it's pretty obvious that nothing on the server your high level character was languishing on was important enough to keep you there. Why not take this opportunity to start over somewhere new?
It's not just about the Goblin and Worgen being introduced in the expansion proper on Tuesday, though the Goblin starting experience in particular should not be missed. Every race has been gifted with a new starting experience, promising a deeper, more involved story than ever before.
This is one of the biggest draws of the Cataclysm for me. I've created so many alts on so many different servers that I could take a character from level one to level 60 in my sleep. That's not the case anymore. Fresh challenges await!
Those are just some basic tips for preparing yourself for the plunge back into a very different Azeroth. I'd also suggest visiting the World of Warcraft forums for helpful tips on how to respec your character's talents, suggestions on new-old places to explore, and insults to yourself and your family members. It can get a little rowdy, but at least they don't make you use your real name. And don't be afraid to come back to take a peek. You've proven to everyone that you've got the willpower to quit playing. We're all very impressed. Now get back in here and play with us.