Blizzard has made it official (more or less): the newest expansion for World of Warcraft will be coming sometime soon. Blizzard hasn’t given an exact release date, just a date it won’t be released! Cataclysm, the follow up to Wrath of the Lich King, will be out this year. Best guesses put it in the fourth quarter 2010.

This should be a feature packed expansion. Some highlights:

Two new races: Goblins for the Horde and Worgen for the Alliance.

The level cap has been bumped to 85.

The Cataclysm is going to tear apart much of Azeroth making the starting zones different. This ripping apart is done by the new end boss, a big mother of a dragon!

We’ll finally be able to use our flying mounts all over the world.

A new secondary profession, archeology.

The sprucing up of the starting zones and making the leveling process more straightforward (and hopefully more fun) is needed especially if Blizard hopes to keep luring in new players. The smoother and the quicker the process the better, especially through the first 20 levels when your character is less dangerous than a bunny with an attitude.

I’ve never minded levelling to end game but I also don’t love it, so I am glad there will be only five more levels. Truthfully, when leveling my mage, Zappersz on Rexxar, the grind started to get to me around level 78, so it’s nice that they’ve cut back this time. I am actually digging the idea of archeology (sorry, bad pun). Not that I am that into shoveling (I can see it now, we’ll have +50 digging talent shovels!) or for that matter WoW history, what I am excited about is the flexibility this new profession is supposed to give us in customizing our characters abilities. Maybe just maybe the game won’t be so gear-centric?

From what I understand stats are also going to be simplified, which is good I was tired of needing a spreadsheet to figure out my DPS. For mages, stats like spell power and haste will be gone and everything will be based on intellect (this brings me back to my D&D days). I wouldn’t be surprised if they based haste on agility, though this would be a change for mages so I’m not sure how that would go down.

On a smaller scale, I’ve read that fishing is going to be improved. Fishing is useful but more boring than cutting your toenails while watching paint dry. It’s hard to stay awake and you have no control where your cast goes. Making WoW fishing like Legend of Zelda fishing would be appreciated.

One thing I noticed while cruising the forums is that some players are unhappy with the release date. The complaints I read were basically from players who are already well into Ice Crown Citadel. Complaints boil down too, “Man, my guild and I will be done with ICC this summer and we’ll have to wait months and months for new raiding content. That sucks!” My answer is simple: it maybe bad news for higher end raiding guilds but for the average Joe player the timing isn’t bad at all. My guild is just into the second wing of ICC, so the timing may be perfect for us. I’ve read a fair amount of complaints that Blizzard now caters to the lowest common denominator in WoW. There’s a reason for this: there are a lot more players out there that fit the average Joe description than elite raiders. To quote Star Trek, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of a few.” You get the idea.

All in all I think this will be a much welcome expansion for WoW.