I did not play WoW consistently during Cataclysm. I am merely trying to understand the arguments put forth for the why people have such a negative perception of the expansion. Share in some constructive discussion!
Is it possible that the dislike for Cataclysm may not be as all encompassing as the online forums seem to imply? Perhaps much of the disdain came more from burnout than actual disliking of content? If not, we can try to build a few examples of things that may have created the negative image / experience. Here are a few I've thought of. I will add more as I keep up with the thread.
1) The villain, Deathwing emerged right after a monumental, loved villain was just defeated. In direct comparison, and so soon after, it is very easy to critique him as a villain. He had less depth (in his Cataclysm rendition) than Illidan or Arthas. In the end, Deathwing was not pure failure of a villain, though it appears that he felt irrelevant until 4.3.
2) The world got bigger, but at the same time, vastly smaller. The new zones, dungeons and raids upon release, in addition to the Firelands, were great from an art standpoint (subjective, but you can tell much effort went in). The likes of Uldum, Deepholm and Vashj'ir were well crafted. Hyjal and Highlands were a little more conventional, but great zones nonetheless. The difficulty in trying to come back to the old world (like many players seemingly wanted), is that they littered zones around the world. Because it felt problematic to have to travel to each one (though I disagree with this notion), they created a portal system in the faction capitals, effectively shrinking the world.
3) The faction capitals became the central hub of players again. BUT, this had not been the case to such a high degree since vanilla, a time before queues. In the attempt to make guilds more compelling and attractive, Blizzard added conveniences like mass summons. This, in addition to portals, LFD / LFR and all amenities present in faction capitals, players did not have many reasons to leave the city.
4) Very slow content rate mixed with some bad rehashing at the wrong times. The troll dungeons did not feel like genuine content, and after such a long wait, it was very frustrating. Also, dragon soul used uninteresting environments (aside from spine). As a point of perspective though, in Naxx, Malygos and Sartharion (the first raid tier of WotLK), only Malygos used a unique environment.
5) PvE content appears to have been inferior post-patch 4.0 raids were not very much enjoyed (apparently with the exception of Heroic Ragnaros). No unique art for bosses in Dragon soul felt bad. Further, the low raid boss count per raid made them feel limited.
If you genuinely liked or disliked the expansion, give some compelling reasons why!
I am not saying that Cataclysm is good or bad. The point I am making is that, maybe our negative perceptions of it are more towards the systems that did injustice to the actual content of the expansion (see above post). I am curious to see some thoughtful opinions on the matter. "Nah cata was so bad, bad game, bad expansion, bad company", is a near useless thing to say.
Added 5) and cleaned up some wording.