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This is once again cross-posted from trixter.tumblr.com.
After several days of sampling the new content and trying to play while feeling kind of shite, I finally got a chance to properly hunker down with Cataclysm this weekend. I wasn't as enthusiastic about Cataclysm as I was about Wrath of the Lich King, but considering just how many of my happy buttons Wrath pushed with its concepts it's to be expected. That doesn't stop it from being awesome.
My Death Knight Dariahn made it to level 84 and a half along with his paladin boyfriend Tendaros (aka my BFF Zack). I learned a very important lesson about myself while leveling with him: The moment you put me in a group with another person, I immediately turn off my brain and start abusing /follow so I can browse Etsy for ferret sweaters/things with foxes on them/alter statuary/etc. This is a habit I really need to break. I developed some serious alt-tab ADD in between expansions and I need to stop and smell the Cinderbloom again.
We leveled the pair through Vash'jir from 80-82 and Uldum from 82-84, with a healthy smattering of instances throughout. Vash'jir is absolutely breathtaking. As the first all-underwater zone, it's a significant change from what I'm used to. Questing there with a partner was a challenge since it isn't always clear from the dot on the map whether your buddy is above or below you, but being able to call into the next room helped. The entire zone highlights how much denser the world has become. Critters, targetable and otherwise, scuttle and swim wherever you look. Massive ruins and coral formations are everywhere. I found the area a little disorienting, with the extra dimension putting a wrench in my sense of direction, but I was starting to get the hang of it by the time we left.
The Egypt-inspired Uldum is the complete opposite of Vash'jir, giving Dariahn and Tendaros a chance to dry their armor out in the hot desert wind. You're thrown into a conflict between cat-people, a faction of whom the Black Dragonflight is trying to recruit to their cause. This zone also hosts an extended Indiana Jones homage with the return of Harrison Jones, this time trying to find the "Coffer of Promise" before a Hitler-esque goblin hands it over to Deathwing. The desert nature of the zone makes it less visually stimulating than the colorful kelp forests of Vash'jir, but it's still impressive.
Five levels doesn't give Blizzard a lot of room to cram in new things, but the most striking thing we noticed was just how fast your HP stacks up once you start putting on quest gear and leveling. Tendaros hit 100k in his tanking set at level 84. Dariahn is just over 80k as DPS. Tanking Stonecore at level 84 was significantly easier than tanking it at 82 (based on my scientific comparison of how much Zack cursed). I haven't started leveling my 80 resto shaman, but I can only assume healing scales just as much. DPS, on the other hand, barely seemed to scale at all. I will admit that I've been putting off fussing over things like hit caps and ideal stat balance until 85, but I've only seen a tiny increase in DPS from 80 to 84, and judging by Recount in the instances I've run that seems to be common. The tank may have more than doubled their HP, but DPS is rising at a much more modest curve. There's also a greater need for crowd control, something Zack was more than happy to encourage. It made me as a Death Knight feel kind of useless to see a hex target, a sheep target, a sap target...and Dariahn just stands there looking pretty. Knowing that I'll actually get some use out of my random polymorph macro does move Meridith (my mage) up a little higher in my leveling priority, though.Tonight we'll be hitting the Twilight Highlands, which Zack has assured me is "where it's at". I'm sure I'll have plenty to say about that, as well as goblins and worgen, in the coming weeks.