Pretty much since World of Warcraft’s third expansion – Cataclysm – was released, it’s not uncommon to come across a forum post or the like that includes people that has no clue about how a storyline works in a MMO-based game, and what the difference between adding and modifying content is. What makes people so confused, is the fact that the content of the first 60 levels (of the current 80 total) is going to be redone, as the world is torn apart, as Deathwing enters the show, once agan. During this post, I’ll attempt to explain what my view on all of it, which should be correct as well.
When did the Cataclysm happen?
The common misunderstanding is that new content is always happening after previous content. While this is indeed true for highlevel content, it’s certainly not true for all of it. We can use a good example from each of the existing expansions to support the claims I’m going to be doing.
Burning Crusade: Races was added, taking lore with them to explain how they joined their respective factions before or during the starting areas. As the levels progress, Emissaries are often spotted throughout the capitals, to represent that they had indeed “just” joined, and was seeking to aid their factions, in what way they can.
Wrath of the Lich King: Death Knights, the new class, was added – champions dying at the plaguelands, meant to be raised as The Lich King’s new order of Death Knights – and joins the respective factions at the time when the Dark Portal opens, and steps into Outlands. As the Draenei and Blood Elves were part of the factions, they could naturally die at that point in the timeline alongside the other races, and be raised. They could not be fallen of the Third War (Warcraft III), as Draenei wasn’t in Azeroth at that point, and Blood Elves weren’t aligned with the Horde yet.
Now, as said, the main point is to figure out when the actual Cataclysm takes place. Since it affects the world that the first part of the content happens, people will experience it already at level 1 (the two new races even seem to have a small time of their quests before, prior to “normal” WoW timeline). They can choose to be Death Knights as well, which meant some of them died and was raised before Arthas was defeated in Icecrown, and since they had already waded through the cataclysmed world, it must’ve happened before the whole of WoW’s storyline.
To back it up, the first few sentences of the Cataclysm Trailer, is as follows:
As the terrible war against the Lich King continues, the proud defenders of Azeroth fight to secure a lasting peace. But there can be no peace, when the world itself is devoured by rage.
First of all, the war against the Lich King has lasted pretty much since Warcraft III. Second of all, it’s not stated if the cataclysmic event actually happens at the time where we – the heroes – fight the Lich King. He’s merely the biggest immediate threat after the Legion had been pushed back in Outlands, and removed from there.
With the time aspect covered, the obvious question pops up fast: “But what about Deathwing?”. You see, Deathwing is smart. He didn’t strike at once, as he would otherwise had to deal with the Legion and the Lich King – so he plots his plans, while we do the dirty work. On the way, we have however already crushed some of his plans: The Twilight Dragonflight (a subject I’ve discussed not one or two, but three times), seen over 3 notable places. First, there’s the Netherwing-area of Shadowmoon Valley. Next, the events of Night of the Dragon. Third, the death of Sartharion in the Obsidian Sanctum. With these events spanning over the Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, while Deathwing was “hiding” below Grim Batol… further supporting that the Cataclysm must’ve happened before the final parts of the battle against the Lich King.
While all of the above is pure speculation, I’m wondering how it could be any other way, and still be presented in a believable matter. I’m surely looking forward to every small tidbit of information about it all at least.