It's quite easy for me to spot when I'm starting to burn out on a MMO, especially World of Warcraft. The first sign is that I start to run circles around Stormwind or Ironforge instead of doing anything productive. I still sign up for and attend raids, I might do a heroic or two. The second is that I start to either download or patch other MMOs. The third is when I stop signing up for raids and stop logging in at all.
In my last journal, I complained about the lack of end-game content in Cataclysm and mentioned that I was afraid that I'd hit a wall soon. Looking back, I'm can only conclude that I did - and fast. The reason is simple, there is not enough for me to do at level 85.
That's not to say that I've raided everything there is to raid, I even have a heroic or two left to complete. What I've seen of the raids so far has been a lot of fun too, challenging with interesting mechanics. No, the problem comes when trying to find activities outside raids and dungeons - the bread and butter of the game. And the list of available things to do is quite short, and I've been hard pressed to find anything except doing dailies or PvP.
I know I'm not alone with this problem either. I'm not going to be one of the people that use my personal experiences as a way to claim that the game is in any way dying. Come on, it's World of Warcraft - it's not going anywhere. All I can point to are members of my guild that seem to have run into the same issues. Our main tank started to complain ages ago, our guild leader decided to take a long break from the game, raid attendance is down to the point of raids being cancelled instead of having too many sign-ups. This happens in many guilds over time, but I'm more used to see it happen during the summer months - not during chilly January and February.
Even my most dedicated World of Warcraft-playing friend haven't logged in for more than two weeks. Seeing him, that has stuck with the game through thick and thin before, not caring anymore - it's an eye-opener.
In many ways, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is an ambitious expansion. It revamped a large part of the old world, the Azeroth we "grew up" in. It allows new players to catch up to the old guard, while the veterans have a lot of new content to level up alts through. It showed the kind of design philosophy Blizzard operates according these days - streamlining, more focus on storytelling, easier systems to grasp. Love it or hate it, that's how the near future of World of Warcraft is going to look (until the devs change their mind again).
The main goal of the Gnome Journal has been to take a look at the higher end of Cataclysm over a longer period of time, as an alternative to the reviews that often focused on the new leveling experience. And the sad truth is that I've never been more disappointed with World of Warcraft before, and that's coming from the person who hated what happened to the raiding game and the lack of challenge in Wrath of the Lich King. While the journey between level 80 - 85 was in most parts amazing, and some of the new zones are frankly awesome, the lack of content outside of dungeons and raids gives the expansion no staying power. I can't make myself go back to the Cataclysm zones only to mine, or do dailies that I couldn't stand after a week.
I'm not a fan of labeling World of Warcraft a single player game, mostly since I've been doing so much together with my guilds. But that's how it feels right now. Like the only thing missing is the final boss, then the credits can roll I can proudly claim that I beat WoW. Then I can throw in the disc from time to time to play some multiplayer with my friends.
Would I recommend World of Warcraft: Cataclysm? For a player new to the MMO genre, absolutely. For a returning player that wants to level up to 85, sure - with the added point that there's not really anything to do once that goal has been accomplished.
Good bye, once again, WoW. I am sure we will meet again. But if you need me, I'll be in one of the other MMOs I play.