World of Warcraft waits for no one, least of all Deathwing, the skeletal dragon responsible for shattering the world of Azeroth, which, incidentally, happened last night.
There goes the neighborhood.
I know, I thought we had until December 7 for Cataclysm's apocalypse too. But no, Blizzard rolled out patch 4.0.3a with ceremony yesterday evening, smashing the world to pieces, or at least some pretty substantial swathes of it. I just logged in and puttered around Desolace with my Night Elf and noticed an island that looked like someone took a monster jackhammer to it.
I suppose that'll be the new game now. "Spot what's changed." Here's what hasn't: The new goblin and worgen (werewolf) races won't be available until December 7, nor will levels 81 to 85 and the new quests commensurate with those levels. But everything else seems to be in place, including all the new race and class combinations, which you can read about here.
"Deathwing's return has had an immeasurable impact throughout the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor," wrote Blizzard on its Cataclysm blog. "Players will notice drastically altered terrain, thousands of new quests from levels 1-60, and updated level ranges for some zones to improve the questing flow."
In other words, whether you buy the Cataclysm expansion or not, you'll benefit from the updates immediately. New cinematic trailer and login screen. Tons of new quests (all your existing ones have been reset). Low level damage has been "retuned" (read: reduced) to "bring combat times at low levels to a more reasonable length," i.e. longer. Druids, paladins, priests, and shaman have had their talent trees reset. And those of you racing to hit level 80 before the new upper limit unlocks should be pleased to know that the experience total required to advance from levels 71 to 80 has been reduced by 20%, increasing your leveling rate by 25%.
Blizzard's also maintaining a blog for hot fixes applied post-4.0.3a, which you can track here.