World of Warcraft Cataclysm Launch Smooth So Far

World of Warcraft Cataclysm

Well we made it, we're still here, the servers are operational, the random disconnects were few, the lag wasn't intolerable, and the World of Warcraft will never be the same.

Cataclysm launched worldwide this morning while most of us slept. It was, you have to admit, a trifle anticlimactic. After all, some of the biggest game world changes occurred weeks ago.

That's when Blizzard rebooted Azeroth, wrecking the place and blaming it on a dragon no one's seen yet. Storylines were revamped, new quests added, races and classes overhauled, the earth and heavens rearranged, and the interface refined enough to make several add-ons superfluous.

Last night the final pieces unlocked: Two new playable races, Worgen for Alliance and Goblin for Horde, new high-level zones for characters level 80 to 85, guild achievements and leveling for group advancement, and, best of all, the option to fly your mounts around Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. Yes, that last means the world just got a lot more dangerous for noobs working mainland PvP zones.

It's a minor miracle the turnover went this smoothly. I was sure it wouldn't. After all, Blizzard's Battle.net web servers bugged out yesterday for four hours, preventing latecomers from logging in to purchase the game. Heck, my guild mates spent the better part of last night's buildup sharing tales of Lich King launch glitches.

But no, service ticked along unceremoniously on my crowded PvP server last night. Players initially flocked to mainland flight trainers and dropped hundreds in gold to snatch up flying licenses. I'm hovering over Stormwind City as I type this, still wrapping my head around the notion I can go anywhere I like. It's surreal.

Somewhere, level 80s are racing through the new content to be first to 85. It took a European playing a warlock just 27 hours to level from 70 to 80 back in November 2008 when Lich King came out. That may be a grinding, joyless way to play the game, but then so is getting every achievement in stuff like Batman Arkham Asylum or the original Assassin's Creed. Gamers love bragging rights.

If you're in it for the PvE experience, don't expect Deathwing, the new uber-boss, to make an appearance for at least a year or so. The now penultimate Arthas instance in Icecrown Citadel wasn't unlocked until over a year after Wrath of the Lich King launched. Blizzard staggers content to keep players interested (and, of course, subscribed).

Incidentally, the official strategy guide's a nearly 500-page paper brick. I stopped by my local game store at midnight to snag a copy.

Just don't drop it on your $250 headset, as I did last night. It will break stuff.

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