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World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King

World of Warcraft

Blizzard is famous across the world for their highly popular expansion packs. Every game released by the developers of Diablo, Warcraft, and World of Warcraft, is bound to be followed by one or two outrageously successful expansion packages, and World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King is no exception.

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There are few gamers out there who have not dedicated at least a fraction of their lifetime to the workings of World of Warcraft. The behemoth of online role-playing games has very successfully herded millions of players across the world, and saps a large chunk of our days in exchange for endless quests, landscapes, loot, and good times. What Wrath of the Lich King aims to do is improve and expand upon these concepts – further still, after the initial expansion release of The Burning Crusade – in an attempt to please the dedicated players and newcomers alike. And oh does it deliver.

Everything that the original World of Warcraft and its first expansion, The Burning Crusade brought to the table has been expanded and improved on greatly in Blizzard’s newest expansion: a level cap of 80, hundreds of new quests, a new profession, an achievement system, new dungeons, the continent of Northrend, and a new “hero” class: The Death Knight. I’ll dive into the details of all these new features in an attempt to welcome the veterans to the shores of Northrend, and to welcome newcomers to the lands of Azeroth.

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It seems appropriate to start with the fundamental groundwork of this world: quests. It’s World of Warcraft’s plethora of compelling quests that drives players to enter the world of Azeroth over and over again. What quests were once before has been altered in an absolutely positive way. For those of you familiar with World of Warcraft, you’ll know how repetitive and mundane questing can be; collecting multiple items, killing multiple enemies of the same type, and so on. What Wrath of the Lich King aims to do on the continent of Northrend is immerse the player into the quests. What was once a task now feels like a goal. What was once a chore is now immersive and interesting. As you explore the new lands of Northrend you will quickly realize that the requests of your common quest-giver now stray from the path of standard fare and lean more in the direction of story expansion, making the player feel like they are affecting the world that they inhabit. What’s even more spectacular is how successfully Blizzard managed to pull this off, given the vast numbers of players populating the world at any one time. Work to add a new member to your given faction (be it Alliance or Horde), converge on enemy strongholds and battle to capture them, and ultimately, scale the icy peaks of Icecrown to bring down the Lich King: Arthas. If you have to grant the folks down at Blizzard at least one major success, it’s the depth and solidity of their lore, and how this aspect of story telling has been integrated into the questing system. With Illidan down following the events of The Burning Crusade, it seems only appropriate that Arthas and his scourge is the next target. What this goes to show is that minor details do wonders for immersing a player into a world that’s not their own, be it quest-completion initiated cinematics, environment altering outcomes, or voices in your Death Knight’s head urging you forward.

Regarding the Death Knight, allow me to introduce you – if you haven’t already been formally acquainted – with Blizzard’s first “hero class”. What separates World of Warcraft’s first new class and hero class from the rest? Those familiar with Blizzard’s successful Warcraft 3 strategy game will be familiar with the hero units, and the Death Knight has been the lucky first chosen unit to be represented in Blizzard’s online role-playing game. However, the title of hero comes with a cost. The Death Knight hero class begins at level 55, and requires a character of the same level to exist on your account – a small price to pay for the interesting new features that the Death Knight brings to the table. As a disciple of the Death Knight Arthas, you are born (or resurrected) as your chosen race as an instrument of his bidding, which in Arthas’ case is evil. As you play through the initial quests in the exclusive Death Knight zone, Ebon Hold, you will experience some of Blizzard’s most astounding quest-detail work. From voices in your head urging you to kill innocent peasants, to a gripping task of murder, the Death Knight is introduced both to the world and to players as a keen tool of chaos and discord amongst Azeroth. As the game’s first plate-wearing hybrid tanking class (tanking with a two-handed weapon rather than a shield), the death Knight excels at quickly downing casters and suppressing melee damage, and is sure to please the crowd who felt that their warrior tank didn’t pack enough of a punch. The introduction of the hero class has set a new stage for the World of Warcraft and has left players craving more and speculating on what the next hero class will be.

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If the multitude of new quests in Northrend and the entirely new class to play doesn’t quite turn your crank, then you can turn your attention to the handful of new dungeons (all fitting snugly into the Northrend lore) to be completed. Tagged along with the new profession of inscription, which allows players to modify moves – much like enchantments modify weapons – and the multitude of “achievements that Blizzard has introduced to the game (things like “explore the entire world” and “kill an opposing member of each race”) will keep players busy far after they have reached level 80, which is an achievement in itself.

And speaking of “beyond level 80”, what would the World of Warcraft be without its hefty and successful player-versus-player content? What Blizzard has done to encourage a new level of animosity between factions is introduce a highly contested zone on the Northrend map focused entirely on player-versus-player content (or “PvP”). Siege towers, fortifications, and strongholds are littered throughout the PvP-focused zone, and as players battle for supremacy over the designated structures (which initiates at regular intervals throughout the day), they will be introduced to the controlling of siege weapons – vehicles that function as a mount would, but possess abilities capable of dealing massive amounts of hurt to enemy units and structures. Whichever faction is fortunate or skilled enough to come out on top after the battle has concluded is granted a boost to their stats for the duration of the victory period, lasting 40 minutes. Trust the folks down at Blizzard to find yet another way to encourage us to want to kill the unsuspecting player who has gone to fetch a fresh hot pocket.

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The only notable downside to Blizzard’s expansion is the limited focus aimed towards veterans of the game. Although the content may appeal to newcomers of the world of Azeroth, the Death Knight’s required creation level of 55 and Northrend’s high-level zones leaves players who are entirely new to the game with nothing to offered from the expansion pack, and will be forced to level a new character to at least level 55 before they are even granted the chance to experience the bulk of the content that Northrend and the Death Knight boast; a dedication of time and energy that newcomers may not be willing to spend in order to take advantage of all that Wrath of the Lich King has to offer.

With a highly improved and immersive questing system, a new profession to master, a largely PvP focused zone, a level-cap of 80, and a devious new class to play, fans of World of Warcraft will be greeted with a multitude of new reasons to sell their souls and their time to Blizzard’s outrageously successful online RPG. Those concerned with picking up a copy and being forced to contest with over-crowded zones and starting areas can put their stresses to ease. Blizzard has very successfully managed to control and filter the large waiting time that players faced in The Burning Crusade by creating two distinct starting zones for Northrend. Also being introduced is a player-specific starting zone for the Death Knight, which escalates into the player-inhabited world of Azeroth after a specific series of quests have been completed by the player leading up to level 60. It’s safe to say that Blizzard has learned from their past mistakes, and the outcome is an expansion pack that delivers on every front of the casual or hardcore online gamer’s expectations. Readers beware: This is one online game that hooks you in and doesn’t let go without some kind of heavily organized intervention or your inability to pay the $15 monthly charge. Good luck.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @JaminSully.

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