I know it’s not but it felt like it
In a nutshell, if the metric is the player’s feeling of immersion in a huge conflict, cata’s release would be at the extreme end and it’s not just because of the world revamp.
The revamped zones were geared towards painting the picture of a world war, to contrast the vanilla world where the war had not reached most corners of the globe yet.
Therein lies one key, yes it had. To us, at the time, it had. Vanilla is high on the spectrum too, so is BfA but that was BfAs job. People give legion flak for scoring low on this metric but faction war geared changes are easier to add and leave all over the world than demon war ones. They could’ve done more but this post isn’t that post. It scored low
So it’s understandable when people say cata had an unfair advantage because it was the world revamp xpac but cata and everything else aren’t in two separate boats. The feeling of a far-reaching conflict was replicated from the game’s inception to now. bfa innovated a lot with partial revamps, even a war raid just like in MoP. MoP did a good job w the factions racing to build that beachhead, remember recruiting local wildlife?
It’d be hard to do as many different things (successful or not) as bfa in an earlier era but I’m just saying it’s possible to do and you don’t need to revamp the world, you need surgical insertions of questlines in key zones. Changing a zone isn’t enough either. Cata made it feel like the faction militaries were mushrooming because of new technologies, more and larger ships etc. This phenomenon can be seen in a lot in WotLK and WoD. People give WotLK praise for scoring high mostly thanks to sound writing resulting in sympathy for the npcs we are accompanying who in most cases were military
So that’s getting into what I actually wanted to talk about. aside from a world revamp, why did cata have such success at painting a picture?
So Wotlk already explored cool aesthetics for the expeditionary forces deployed in a new land. It also set in motion great story arcs for npcs who we would see lead the expeditions. They expanded on that in cata by putting the new zones all over the globe. This was key. Even fewer new zones felt like something more because they weren’t clumped together. They were also individually important although in a way, that came w diminishing returns IMO.
But suddenly the faction militaries, accompanied by applicable reputations, exploded all over the globe and made it really feel like a world war. Now, you get sent to places from a job board in the middle of a redesigned orgrimmar and immediately join ongoing struggles over territory. It seemed that the war we had avoided for two expats had finally found the horde and alliance.
Novels around this time were focused and began to go from mostly book characters to mostly in-game main characters. Of course not everyone reads em but it’s a contribution to the zeitgeist I think.
Ima wrap this up. If cata felt so big, was it? Obviously no because it’s been too long since cata. people complain about raising the stakes all the time, saving the world every goddamn two minutes or every canonical year. They are right to do so. This trend is what forces the faction strengths to multiply, making the wars of back then by definition of smaller scale as compared to the wars of now.
But cata did a great job on this particular scale and it’s a key reason why people play the game is for horde vs alliance action. it’s possible to portray that action in many different ways and they really did
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