As we’ve discussed in the past, WoW’s Expansions follow themes.
Burning Crusade‘s theme was Outland. The two new races were strongly tied to it. The premiere event was the opening of the Dark Portal. The creative seed everything grew from, was Outland (especially the setting).
With Wrath of the Lich King, its theme was the Scourge. The premiere event was the Scourge invasion. Northrend was/is infested with them. The new class was tied to them. Once again, a creative seed.
Last week someone complained to me that Cataclysm had an incredibly weak theme. “What do Worgen have to do with the Maelstrom?”, he asked. And there I realized the problem.
There is a common misconception floating around WoW right now. Before BlizzCon, the original debate was “Maelstrom or Emerald Dream?” The answer, from what we understood, turned out to be Maelstrom.
We were wrong.
Cataclysm is not the Maelstrom expansion.
Its easy to be misled due to the inclusion of the Maelstrom zone(s) and the goblin race. But Cataclysm is not the “Maelstrom Expansion” we were speculating about; it’s something else entirely. Blizzard pulled a fast one and slipped in something none of us were expecting.
So then… what is Cataclysm? What is its theme?
It’s “Vanilla WoW 2.0”.
It’s what Blizzard would have done in 2004 if they knew then what they know now.
With this idea in mind, the theme suddenly blazes to the surface and everything ties together.
Why goblins and worgen? Because they probably should have been included since 2004. The same goes for Hyjal, Grim Batol, heck even Malfurion Stormrage.
As for Ragnaros and Nefarian? It’s Vanilla WoW 2.0.
So does that mean C’Thun will be back eventually? I wouldn’t be surprised. Check out what’s being set up in the WoW comic book.
So what about the lore? How does it handle Vanilla WoW 2.0? Well, Metzen and crew figured out a lore reason to redo classic Azeroth. They then named the expansion after it.
This lore also gave them the opportunity to solve a big conundrum:
One of WoW’s greatest villains, Deathwing, simply didn’t fit in well with any speculative, future expansions. But as a new Uber-Boss for classic Azeroth, he fit like a glove. To really lock it down, Metzen and crew then intertwined Deathwing into the expansion by having him be the cause for the Cataclysm itself.
So what does Vanilla WoW 2.0 mean for the future? Well, it potentially means the game is still afoot. At this point, there could still be an actual “Maelstrom” expansion, and we could also still have “Emerald Dream”.
We’ll just have to wait and see.