[Cataclysm Beta Report: These articles are based upon what we see and experience in the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm beta test. Keep in mind that this is not based off a finished product and things may change upon later beta versions and the final release. Also, be aware that, although we try to avoid major spoilers, there are so many major changes to the world of Azeroth that some spoilers are inevitable.]
One of the first things I did when I logged into the level 80 druid I transferred over to the Cataclysm beta servers is hop into my Swift Flight Form and ascend high above Thunder Bluff. It was a surreal feeling that I had only dreamed of before, no thanks to Blizzard constantly saying that they had no intentions of redesigning the older zones to allow for flying since the mechanic was introduced in the game’s first expansion. I guess everyone is allowed to change their minds, right?
After sitting in awe of being able to fly around in circles above Thunder Bluff, I expanded out, exploring other nearby zones. I flew over toward The Barrens and remembered that it is split up into two zones now, separated by a deep chasm filled with lava. I attempted to fly from the Southern Barrens into the Northern Barrens over this chasm. My euphoria was suddenly interrupted when my flying form disappeared and I plummeted into this chasm, right into a pool of lava. Luckily for me, the pool was deep enough that I didn’t receive any falling damage. Once I got out of immediate danger, I quickly realized there was no way out of this pit.
I had discovered my first beta bug. It turns out just about every other tester on the planet knew of it, as well.
So, I had to teleport myself to Moonglade to get out of the chasm, and began exploring once again. You get a whole new sense of the world when you can fly around it, not just on a pre-determined path, but at your own whim. You can go as high as you want, as far as you want and in whichever direction you want.
I next took to the skies – partly on my druid and partly on a pre-made alliance hunter (which comes with a Raven Lord ground mount and a Bronze Drake flying mount) – to check out the Eastern Kingdoms. Here we see two of the major cities that were the most interesting to see from the sky. Why? Because previously, both the exterior of the Undercity (the Ruins of Lordaeron) and much of Stormwind was just a façade placed there to give the appearance of a large city. You couldn’t actually go to the places you might have seen from a distance. Now, the cities have been redesigned so you can. You can actually fly to the very tippy-top of the castle in Stormwind – it is an actual, physical, in-game model, not just a backdrop to fool onlookers. So, that experience was pretty cool, and I’m sure players will delight in the feeling of flight in these tried-and-true areas once the expansion goes live.
There is, however, a couple things that disappoint me. First off, the tops of the trees are fugly. Could they have done a better job with the textures and visual detail from up above looking down? Most definitely. Secondly, when I try to cut corners and fly over a huge body of water (like the bay between Wetlands and Gilneas), I suffer from fatigue. Why should I be limited to flying around the coastline to get to a location when I should be able to fly in a straight line, thus shortening the trip? I can understand not allowing us to fly intercontinentally (is that a word?), but the “deep water” areas should be moved out a ways from shore and completely gotten rid of over bays and such, so as to allow more freedom of travel.
One more thing I would be remiss if I forgot to mention in an article about flying in old Azeroth – there are a ton of new flight points, thanks to the redesigned zones and quest hubs. A few flight points that are on the live servers now were removed, but not many. These are made up for with numerous new flight paths being added, including ones in each race’s starting down. For example, Razor Hill and Azure Watch now have flight paths now.
Overall, however, flying on your own in old Azeroth is an awesome experience that every player with the training will be able to experience once the expansion goes live. Many of the zones are still designed with ground mounts in mind, as they will mostly be frequented by low level players, but that doesn’t mean high level characters can’t enjoy the sights from high above.