Our merciful Blizzard overlords have granted me access to the divine realm known as the Cataclysm Beta. I've not had much time to look around yet, but so far it looks good.
After installing the beta, I had to go through a very lengthy patching process. There was over 3 GB of patches to download and install, but I guess that's the consequence of dramatically altering the world. As an added bonus, the EU patching server was down for the last 2 patches, so it took me some time to find manual downloads of the patch-download-executable.
But after an evening full of patching, I managed to start up the beta and log in. At that point my wife said what any sane wife would say: "Ooh, Cataclysm beta. Can I try the Worgen starting zone?" Since resistance is futile, I relinquished control of my computer and pulled up another chair for my new spectator position.
Worgen Starting Zone (Spoiler alert!)
The Worgen start out as ordinary humans, inhabitants of Gilneas. There is no narrative yet for the introduction sequence. I assume that will be added at a later stage, possibly even after the beta. You start in Gilneas City, which is under attack by Worgen. Your first quest-giver is Prince Greymane (the son of the King). As you slowly retreat through various parts of the city, you'll notice very heavy use of phasing. Three main quest-givers (Greymane Jr and Sr as well as a local mayor) move with you through the use of phasing.
Eventually, you're cornered in a cathedral and an NPC yells something about a cutscene about your transformation to a Worgen that's supposed to show, but is not yet implemented. After this non-existent cutscene, you find yourself, as a Worgen, on the brink of being executed when there's a debate between NPCs whether or not your humanity can be saved. Obviously, you're given the benefit of the doubt and you continue to quest on, with familiar quest-givers recognizing you and saying things like "Oh, it really is you, $name". At this point the Forsaken are attacking Gilneas from the sea to the south and you're tasked with stopping them.
One thing I noticed is that Blizzard really polished up the new-player-tips. They now include graphics such as a part of the UI that is being explained or a mouse with the correct button highlighted for some new action. It takes you through the basic concepts of the game, such as combat, trainers, looting, vendors, etc... in a nice way. For veterans it's useless of course, but I can see new players gaining much more from this than from the old tip-system.
Back to the L80 Druid
This morning I had a chance to actually log my Druid. I've seen very little yet, so there's not much to say. The newly announced talent system has not yet been implemented, so saying anything about talents is somewhat pointless. There was a new skill on the trainer though, Skull Bash. It's available both in Cat (25 energy) and in Bear (1 rage, probably not final) forms. It has an 18 yd range and when used causes you to charge the target and interrupt any spell being cast with a 5 second school-lockout. The base cooldown is 1 minute, but it can be talented (Brutal Impact, though that may change with the upcoming overhaul) down to 10 seconds, making it equal in power to Kick from Rogues, but with the charge effect added. What will happen with Feral Charge is not known yet. It seems to be a bit too much to have this charge effect as well as Feral Charge, both on short cooldowns. Not that I would mind though...
More spoilers follow
In other news, Orgrimmar looks great. Much more city-like. But there are no mailboxes yet, so I had to fly (yup, flying in Azeroth is long overdue) down to Razor Hill (which is pretty much unchanged) to fetch my mail (nothing interesting in there). Then I went to Vashj'ir to check out some of the new areas. One thing I noticed is that there isn't really anything that directs you to the new areas. I would've expected an ingame mail and/or plenty of pointer-quests in popular places, but other than one quest to travel to Vashj'ir, there wasn't really anything. Maybe that's still on the todo list.
Going to Vashj'ir is a little event on its own: You board a boat together with some Orc Warriors that are chatting about a new island having emerged close to Stormwind, which is going to be claimed by the Horde so they have a staging area for an assault on Stormwind. Originally, this is the goal of your journey. Once in the area, you see a capsized boat with some survivors standing on it, asking for help, but large tentacles come from below and pull them down. The tentacles then attack your boat and you're pulled away and thrown into the sea. As you sink, a naga approaches you and tries to pull you away, when a Draenei Shaman from the Earthen Ring rescues you. You wake up in a sunken boat, where a bubble of air remains, the Shaman is there to give you your first quest. The reward for this is a spell that allows you to breathe under water and move 60% faster while in the Vashj'ir area. You're then tasked with rescuing the others from your ship and then gathering supplies for the Orc troops.
And that's as far as I've come. There will be more :-)