Today sees the launch of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, which represents a destructive "reboot" button on the world of Azeroth. The old has been made new by virtue of fiery explosions that have rent the very earth in twain, and WoW gamers will have to find their footing all over again. As you might imagine, it's made one big-ass mess, which is compounded by the fact that there are no janitor classes in the game to sweep it up (the next hero class, perhaps?).

However, the notion of an in-game cataclysm is hardly the sole domain of Activision-Blizzard; on the contrary, large-scale apocalypses pop up all the time in MMOs. After all, nothing grabs the attention like the end of the world (but hey, you still feel fine)!

In a list that in no way is meant to capitalize on any expansions that may or may not be on the market, we're going to strap on our Kevlar suits, slather our arms with 1000 SPF sunblock, and take a brief tour of 10 worlds that have dated cataclysms -- and lived to tell the tale.

1. EverQuest II: Gods 1, Moon 0

In SOE's "Not a sequel so stop CALLING it that!" EverQuest II, we discovered what would happen if you ticked off a whole pantheon of gods. Hm, let's see... advanced technology rendered void? Continents torn apart? Fifty percent of Norrath's moons exploded? Yeah, there's nothing like gods pitching a hissy fit.

Even though EverQuest II was forged out of a cataclysm, John Smedley invoked deep irony by musing that EQII could still see another one in its future. There's still a moon left -- oh wait, that's no moon! It's a space station arming its mega-laser cannon!

Poor Norrathians.

2. Guild Wars: Searing memories into our mind

You gotta hand it to ArenaNet -- it really knows how to spoil your mood. After crafting one of the most lovely, involving introductory areas in Ascalon, the meanie devs brought it all crashing down by literally searing all of the goodness away in a localized apocalypse. Players picked themselves up off the ground and looked around in bewilderment at the ruin the world had become, not quite able to believe that it was impossible to go back to the way things used to be.

Unless they rerolled, but shush.


3. Fallen Earth: Public transportation was the first victim

Fallen Earth's backstory reads like an ambitious writer's attempt to cram in as many end-of-the-world scenarios in a single game as possible. Natural disasters, killer viruses, open war, zombies, mutants, nuclear missiles, you name it -- and yet, somehow the chickens survive. Unfortunately, the monorail could not say the same.

4. Star Wars Galaxies: Dev-induced mayhem

If Massively comments are any indication, the wounds still run deep and painful over SOE's decision to rework Star Wars Galaxies' fundamental setup with the notorious New Game Enhancements (NGE) update. The NGE failed on so many levels that it essentially became a cataclysm all its own, reshaping the game's core systems while panicked players fled for their very lives.

Massively: Legally obligated to bring up the NGE once a week, minimum.

5. Tabula Rasa: Space invaders

Talk about one whopping motivation to kick butt! Back in the doomed Tabula Rasa, an alien invasion force known as the Bane not only attacked Earth but proceeded to exterminate humanity and civilization on such a massive scale that only a handful of survivors escaped. As one of those soldiers, you have one mission: to take the fight to them and ultimately reclaim Earth. Happily, in the final days of the game, marooned players were treated to a return to Earth at last... but it was almost unrecognizable. And we're not just talking New Jersey, here. Like, the whole place.

6. The Matrix Online: I took the blue pill

Another canceled MMO, another post-apocalyptic Earth. Tenuous connections, don't fail me now!

As we all know from our history books, the machines we created ultimately went to war with us, we nuked the planet, and the machines used our bodies for power while sticking our minds in a virtual world. Then, Agent Smith, Elrond, Megatron, Rex the sheepdog and V started multiplying like crazy, requiring a little MMO smackdown. It's too bad The Matrix Online went offline, because it taught us an important lesson: If the world is becoming a pit, it's time to escape into a crazy-fun MMO!

7. City of Heroes and Champions Online: Metropolis Now

Other than sharing a superhero theme and the mind-loins of Jack Emmert, City of Heroes and Champions Online both have something eerily in common: the prior destruction of a major city. In CoH, Paragon City was invaded by the alien Rikti in 2002, reducing large swaths to rubble overnight and requiring the construction of large force fields to limit another incursion. Champions Online went even further with the city-kablooey theme, as Detroit was obliterated by a massive superhero vs. supervillain battle and then rebuilt as Millennium City.

Meanwhile, in the real world, we Detroit residents are still waiting for the whole "rebuilding" thing to happen. Stupid superheroes.

8. MapleStory: The big bang

"Earth-shattering change and chaos" -- yup, sounds like a cataclysm to me! Well, either that or a teenage breakup saga played out over Facebook.

MapleStory -- perhaps the most popular online game that no one plays (quiet, Beau, you play everything, you don't count) -- is reworking the entire world and classes with its Big Bang update. "This winter, everything will change!" the trailer proclaims. Presumably, it goes on to say, "Because I'm totally seeing Tiffany now and I've blocked your phone number!"

9. Final Fantasy XI: Crystal geth

Here we see the author completely taking Eliot's word for it that just prior to the events of Final Fantasy XI, the Crystal War nearly destroyed the world. The author attempted to research this claim by reading the FFXIclopedia entry but was stunned into a light coma by the excessive apostrophes and powerful sentences like "Even with a mountain of their own dead to impede their advance, the endless waves of Quadav continued to push forward."

Go Quadav! That's the spirit! Ignore the pile of goo that used to be your best friend's face!

10. Star Trek Online: The center cannot hold

The setting for STO is nothing short of a cataclysm for the entire franchise; the Romulan homeworld has blow'd up real good, Klingons have declared war on the Federation, and the entire galaxy is about 24 hours away from complete anarchy. Compared to the relatively peaceful days of Star Trek: The Next Generation, STO is the darkest era of Starfleet yet, especially for captains who cannot afford the best ship upgrades from the C-Store.

"Remember when we used to be explorers?" Picard once groused.

I hear ya, buddy. I hear ya.

Justin "Syp" Olivetti enjoys counting up to ten, a feat that he considers the apex of his career. If you'd like to learn how to count as well, check out The Perfect Ten. You can contact him via email at justin@massively.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.

This article was originally published on Massively.
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