New Warcraft details from Blizzcon!

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

World of Warcraft players got some seriously huge news from Blizzcon in Anaheim, Calif., today: There is a brand-new expansion pack called World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Fans screamed as some of the rumors floating around the Internet were proved to be true. SCI FI Wire just sat in on the World of Warcraft panel at Blizzcon, and we got you some serious deets on the new features.

The trailer showed us exactly why the expansion pack is called "Cataclysm." An ancient evil has resurfaced in the land and changed the face of the classic Warcraft realms. The entire world has changed, and destruction has overtaken familiar landscapes. Fire, cliffs, ruins ... and, strangely enough, grass in Tanaris. The lost islands have become a refuge for the Goblins, and the maelstrom is churning. The level cap was raised to level 85, not 90, as some had speculated. It was suggested that Blizzard wants to push off level 100 as long as possible. We will be seeing new playable races, guild leveling, a new secondary profession, and the ability to transfer from Alliance to Horde and vice versa, creating a new character on the same level within your server. And the biggest announcement of all, the return of the World of Warcraft Big Bad himself, the black dragon Deathwing.

Deathwing debuted in Warcraft II. He was originally one of the five dragon aspects, warding Earth and protecting Azaroth. Some 10,000 years ago, during the War of the Ancients, he began to hear the voices of the old gods, and they drove him insane. He had himself covered with metal plates to replace his scales. Recently the whispers of the old gods have gotten stronger, and Deathwing has awoken from his slumber and erupted into the world. His explosion into the world is the cause of the Cataclysm. Tsunamis, storms, violent eruptions have destroyed the Earth. He actually draws up the elemental planes. Titans created the planes to contain the elementals and bring order to the nascent planet. Elementals weren't exactly happy about that.

The new playable races were met with cheers, though each faction thought the other should have been theirs. The Worgen class is the new race for the Alliance. The developers felt that the Alliance needed a monster race, and these certainly qualify. They were formerly human, but as the Scourge marched south, the people of Giltheas got antsy. A spell was called down, but it was every bit as dangerous as the Scourge itself. The Worgen are a sort of a werewolf-style creature and appear to be quite a bit larger than humans. We were told that the big question in the expansion is whether the Worgen are from somewhere else or somewhen else. We were told that the Worgen starting point is badass, and we'll update you as soon as we check it out.

The new playable race for the Horde is the Goblin. Goblin society has broken up between factions and is now ruled by trade princes. The Goblins have been neutral in the past, but the playable Goblins are a specific group from Kezan in the Lost Islands, a new playable area in the world of Azaroth. The Cataclysm has hit the world hard, and these Goblins have been shipwrecked on Kezan. They begin as a neutral race even on the island but are forced to become allies of the Horde. They were also referred to as the comic relief of the game.

Upheaval comes in the form of tidal waves, tsunamis, volcanic explosions and unending storms. Every zone in the game has been changed. Barrens has been split into Northern Barrens and Southern Barrens. Desolace is now a green and lush area after the Cataclysm allowed water to enter. A place you know as a 25-35 area may now be 45-55, and the Alliance has finally lost Southshore. New pieces of land have appeared as well. Darkshore has been completely redesigned, and the people of Aberdine have been forced north to a brand-new camp to the north. The Stonetalon barrier has been blown open, and Azhara is now a Goblin 10-20 zone. The cities were also revised (Undercity is now rebuilt), and they're all flyable.

There are seven new playable zones in World of Warcraft; Mount Hyjal, Uldun, Lost Isles, Isle of Kazan, the Sunken City of Vashj'ir, Deepholm, Twilight Highlands and Gilneas. The Sunken City is an underwater level, but the developers promised us that it wouldn't be annoying to play. It was originally the home city of the evil high elf Lady Vashj, which sunk under the sea after the Sundering. There will be new tech, allowing combat on the sea floor to be exactly as it is on land, and there will be seamless movement between swimming and floor fighting. It also holds the Gateway to the Abyssal Maw. Underwater mounts were also announced. Deepholm is in the elemental plane of earth and where Deathwing broke through to Azaroth. It's also the central hub of the new zones, with portals allowing quick travel between them.

Uldun, off the coast of Tanaris, was described as an Egyptian-style landscape. Uldun has always been rumored to hold a super weapon, and it will be revealed through questing. There is also a brand-new creature class in Uldun called the Tol'vir, stone creatures created by the Titans. Mount Hyjal is a zone under siege, and the World Tree is in danger of being burned. But ... the Night Elf Malfurion Stormrage is back from the Emerald Dream, and he and the forest god are here to protect it.

The designers said that they've finally been able to do with Hyjal what they always wanted. Finally, the Twilight Highlands. Grim Batol, which was here before, has been sheared in half by Deathwing's super heat. It's the headquarters of Twilight's Hammer, which has become super-powerful since the Cataclysm. There are two new port towns, one for the Alliance and one for the Horde, and the red dragons, having been pushed back, have their headquarters here.

There will also be plenty of new dungeons and raids in the new world, including the Firelands, Uldum, Blackrock Caverns, Grim Batol and Skywall. (The final two include both a raid and a dungeon.) And there are two Heroic Dungeons in Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep.

Guild leveling will include a "mass resurrection," and new race/class combos will include Tauren Paladins, Gnome Mages and Dwarf Shamans. There will also be Phased Terrain. Phasing was added fairly recently, and they're taking it up a notch to help make the quests more compelling. The shot we saw was as a coastline and it looks stunning.

We also got a look at the new secondary profession, Archaeology. There are now a ton of ruins in the world, and you can explore them at archaeology nodes. Talent trees are not going to be expanded, but there will be new talents to explore. The just-announced Paths of the Titans will allow you to choose your path without being limited by class, adding a new dimension to your game. A new Mastery System will streamline your talents, which will now give your character bonuses.

For you PvP players, some new zones were announced as well. Tol Barand features a dungeon and extra-profitable daily quests. There is the Battle for Gilneas Battleground and some brand-new arena maps. The major PvP feature is the Rated Battlegrounds to get your rating up and get access to the same types of gear you can get through the arena system.

No word yet on a release date. Blizzard's line is "it will be released when it's ready."