I can rush through my impressions too, and say this: this is far, far, far inferior to the Icecrown Citadel patch (3.3) for Wrath of the Lich King.
The End Time dungeon is a fun concept, overall. The dungeon itself has shortcomings — namely, the landscape is bland and uninteresting. Heck, the Tyrande encounter is played in the black of night, with very little visibility of your surroundings. However, the Murozond fight is a lot of fun thanks to the mechanic involved (Rewind Time).
The Well of Eternity dungeon is about the level of quality I expected. I have not played fully through, but there are some unique landscape and related art assets, whereas End Time simply reuses Dragonblight’s dragon shrines.
The Deathwing encounters look fun. I have yet to try them.
Transmogrification is fun and a welcome feature. Void Storage is also a great bonus. Some balance tweaks were made to bring up low DPS (Ret Paladins, BM Hunters, Shamans), so those are a plus as well.
Everything else. As I said, End Time is a bland, bland, bland dungeon. The imagery of Deathwing impaled on Wyrmrest is striking… however the rest of the dungeon is almost featureless.
A great deal of Dragonblight and Wyrmrest assets are reused here, especially in the Dragon Soul raid. They even reuse the Eye of Eternity. I’m all for “lore accuracy” and “the persistence of lore” but come on! To spend so much of this final patch in Northrend reminds me more of what I did in Wrath than it does of something “new” — i.e. the Cataclysm. Also, the majority of the Dragon Soul raid encounters feature rehashed boss models from days passed.
The ending. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it. It is a fantasy fiction cliche, let me say that. It also features more of Thrall and Aggra, whom players are already sick of seeing — especially Alliance players. I’m a diehard Horde player, and even I’m getting tired of seeing World Savior Thrall and his Wifey. Aggra is not an interesting character — she’s had very little “build up” before falling in love with Thrall, and has been a guiding force in Thrall’s transition from badass Warchief to boring “family man.” This wouldn’t be too terrible in terms of character development, save for the fact that Thrall’s replacement Warchief is GARROSH HELLSCREAM. Augh. Horrible.
Cataclysm’s story is concluded. I’m not impressed. Wrath had an obvious storyline that they held to throughout the expansion — we went to Northrend to stop Arthas, and although we also dethroned Malygos and cleared out Ulduar along the way, we succeeded in that goal. The Argent Crusade made their push from their staging grounds to the Tournament Grounds and then to Arthas’ doorstep itself. This happened throughout the patches and leveling experience.
In Cataclysm, we didn’t have that feel. It felt so disjointed. We did not have a strong involvement with the Dragon Aspects as we went along. Ysera was only a token presence in Hyjal, Vashj’ir was a completely separate storyline, Uldum also had a completely removed and farcical storyline, Deepholm touched on Deathwing-ish story threads but ended up focusing more on a war between Earthen and Rock Troggs, and only in Twilight Highlands did we see more of the Big Villain’s involvement. Yet, Alexstrasza had only one confrontation with Deathwing… the majority of the zone was instead dedicated to a Dragonmaw v. Wildhammer showdown. This resulted in a story that felt more like “Stuntees” versus “Orks” than anything involving the End of the World.
In the end, Deathwing was a poor antagonist with an uninteresting backstory. They could have expanded on it, but chose not to. His supporting cast was minimal and also uninteresting. This forum post I wrote yesterday evening about sums it up:
Yes, the Antagonist was crucial. Also important was the supporting cast.
Illidan was pretty cool. Who else was cool: Akama. Maiev. Illidan also had ties to Tyrande, Malfurion, Kael’thas, Vashj… etc.
Arthas was also cool. Who else was cool: King Terenas, Jaina Proudmoore, Mal’Ganis, Kel’Thuzad, Sylvanas, Uther, Muradin… etc.
All these supporting characters had history with the antagonists. They were friends, enemies, compatriots and detractors.
Deathwing only truly shared a connection with the other Aspects — beings we have never been able to truly get to know. They’ve never been in the spotlight before their bit parts in Wrath, and then Cataclysm. And even so, they were very unapproachable thanks to their immense power and responsibility. We didn’t know Alexstrasza like we knew Muradin Bronzebeard or Kel’Thuzad. We didn’t know Ysera like we knew Maiev or Tyrande. And what’s worse, zero effort was made to involve us in their lives. Instead, Blizz tried to link Cho’Gall and Benedictus with Deathwing, but they came off as a very vacant “minion/master” relationship. Ragnaros had no reason to obey Deathwing or even to report to him, his agenda was his own. Nefarian and Onyxia were always so far removed from their father, their machinations were their own… and don’t get me started on Al’akir’s “involvement.”
Blizz gave us almost zero insight into Deathwing’s past, and also his fellow Aspects. We couldn’t connect to him or those who hated/respected him. Only in the “Twilight of the Aspects” novel did we see a more personal side of Nozdormu, Kalec, Ysera and Alexstrasza. The novel. Not in the game we, the fans, are already playing… where we can see vibrant, interactive storytelling… but on the bookshelf, making money for the Book Team. This proves that they could have inserted us players into the Aspect storylines, familiarizing us with their history and who they are, but opted to only do so outside the game.
And it’s true. More Deathwing-related storytelling occurred in the novel than anywhere in the expansion pack. Players have a right to feel “robbed” of a fun experience in Cataclysm, because it simply wasn’t there. It was in print.