World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is the third expansion set for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft, following Wrath of the Lich King. It was officially announced at BlizzCon on August 21, 2009, although dataminers and researchers discovered details before it was officially announced by Blizzard. The expansion was officially released on December 7, 2010.
Cataclysm sold more than 3.3 million copies in the first 24 hours of its release including digital presales, and 4.7 million copies in its first month of release. It held the distinction as the fastest selling PC game, overtaking the former holder World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King which sold 2.8 million copies in its first 24 hours, until Diablo III, also a game released by Blizzard Entertainment, took its place by selling 3.5 million copies in its first 24 hours. Diablo III remains the fastest selling PC game to date. It also used to hold the record for the most number of copies sold for a PC game in the first month, selling 4.7 million copies, until Diablo III took over its place with 6.3 million copies sold in its first month.
The central plot of the expansion is the return of the evil dragon aspect Deathwing the Destroyer (originally Neltharion the Earth Warder). Last seen in Warcraft II, which took place more than two decades earlier, Deathwing has spent that time healing himself, and plotting his fiery return from the elemental plane of Deepholm. His return tears through the dimensional barrier within Azeroth, causing a sweeping cataclysm that reshapes much of the world's surface. In the midst of the world-wide disaster comes renewed conflict between the Alliance and the Horde, which is now under the rule of Garrosh Hellscream. With the elemental realms now open to the world, chaotic elemental spirits and their tyrannical lords emerged to help the Destroyer and the nihilistic Twilight's Hammer cult bring about the Hour of Twilight: the end of all life on Azeroth.
The Cataclysm is responsible for a number of political changes within the Horde and Alliance. With the wake of the cataclysm, the Horde's leader, the orc shaman Thrall, stepped down from his duty as Warchief of the Horde to better help the world of Azeroth as a whole. This duty was relinquished to the former overlord of the Warsong Offensive, the Mag'har orc warrior Garrosh Hellscream. Looking for ways to gather more resources and new territory for his people, Hellscream has initiated several brutal strikes against the Alliance, using the cataclysm to the Horde's advantage. The human king Varian Wrynn deployed many of his forces to fight against Garrosh's aggression, storming the Southern Barrens and Stonetalon Mountains, while Garrosh, unlike Thrall, embraced war with the Alliance.
Rise of the Zandalari
Alarmed by the terrible losses of life among all trolls, the Zandalari tribe traveled around the world to reunite their race and rebuild their once-powerful empire. The Zandalari restored the fallen cities of Zul'Gurub and Zul'Aman, and begun to conduct bloody raids on territories that had once been "theirs." The burgeoning troll force hoped to lead a great war against the other races of Azeroth, but the honorable Vol'jin of the Darkspear tribe stood against their murderous agenda, and recruited champions from both the Horde and the Alliance to invade the ancient cities and stop the onslaught.
Rage of the Firelands
After a ferocious series of battles, Azeroth's heroes banished Ragnaros the Firelord and his elemental minions from Mount Hyjal. Yet, threats to Hyjal persisted, including traitorous druids who had abandoned their allies and joined forces with the elementals. Fearing another elemental invasion, the defenders of Azeroth made a daring assault into Ragnaros' blazing realm: the Firelands. Among the seething flames of this elemental domain, Ragnaros was at his most powerful; only the greatest champions of the Horde and the Alliance, aided by druidic champions like Malfurion Stormrage, could dare hope to defeat the Firelord.
Hour of Twilight
At the peak of his insanity, Deathwing the Destroyer fought to drive the world into twilight — a devastated future bereft of all life. The Dragon Soul, a powerful artifact lost in the past, was the only weapon capable of truly stopping Deathwing, and so the guardians of Azeroth — the Dragon Aspects — sent a number of valiant heroes racing through time to retrieve it. Despite being attacked by the mysterious Infinite Dragonflight as they travelled the timeways, the champions returned the artifact to the present and delivered it to the wise shaman Thrall. With his aid, the Dragon Soul was deployed against the Destroyer during a brutal battle that began in Azeroth's skies and continued into the roiling heart of the Maelstrom at the center of the world. Through the combined efforts of the Aspects and their allies, the madness of Deathwing was finally brought to an end.
With the release of Cataclysm, the maximum player level has been raised from 80 to 85. The game's two main continents, Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms have been redesigned with a changed appearance, including flooded areas and lava canals, and some new areas. The quest system has been refreshed with almost 3500 new quests along with new and streamlined low and mid-level quests to complement the redesigned areas of Azeroth. Ten new dungeons and five new raids have been added as well as a new secondary skill, Archaeology. The glyph system has been overhauled to now have three types of glyph: prime, major, minor. Furthermore, glyphs are now permanently learned and require a reagent to remove from a slot.
Two new playable races have been added, the Worgen for the Alliance and Goblins for the Horde. In addition, existing classes have been expanded to be available to more races. The major cities of Orgrimmar and Stormwind experienced major changes. Lastly, the existing talent system has been overhauled. Players were awarded their first talent point at level 10, the next at 11, and then once per two levels until level 80. Player that reached levels 81 through 85 received a talent point at each level bringing the total to 41 talent points. Talent points allow the player to choose new and/or improved abilities.