World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King (PC)

Reviewed at launch, November 2008. Not that you can review an MMORPG very easily in a short space of time.

For over a year now, 11 million people around the world have been eagerly awaiting the release of the latest World of Warcraft expansion pack, hungrily lapping up every single scrap of information they could find on the game and the exciting changes it said it would bring. Finally, Warcraft fans’ patience have been rewarded well with this latest installment. At least they have providing they’ve already reached the end game of The Burning Crusade. For that reason alone, if you’ve never played World of Warcraft, you should probably stop reading now. Yes, now. There is nothing here that would convert you so there’s no point reading my ode to Wrath of The Lich King.

The story behind Lich King, for once in a MMO, is surprisingly interesting and actually allows for some interaction by the player. At least if you play as a Death Knight that is. Frankly, if you’ve bought this expansion pack, you’d be mad to not try the class out as it’s one of the best new features. The class is only accessible to those players who already have a level 55 or above character on the same realm, another reason why this game is only really for those who have been playing World of Warcraft for a while. Once unlocked and a character has been created, you start out in a special area, Ebon Hold, located within the Eastern Plaguelands which covers the Death Knight starting area. For the next level or two, prepare to experience some truly impressive set pieces. The Death Knight is a class that has been resurrected by the Lich King himself, Arthas, to become part of the undead army, the Scourge. At the very early stages of your development, you learn the basics such as how to runeforge your weapons (make them even better basically) and to learn the basics behind the unique rune-based resource system that aids your class. It might all sound a little uninteresting written down on paper, but it’s actually surprisingly intriguing. Especially as the further along the quest lines you go, the more you actually pay attention to the storyline and the changes that unfold. I doubt I’m the only one but I’ve found with other class quest lines, I’m more interested in getting on with it and leveling up than actually reading the point of the quest, but due to some unique quests, I did actually pay attention to the plot line behind the Death Knight quests. It made a pleasant change, especially for a predominantly solo player such as myself. Of course, don’t expect to be one of the rare few Death Knights on the server; they’re stupidly popular at the moment and for good reason. Besides being something new to try out, they’re also very cool looking very quickly, and they’re pretty powerful too with their ability to both provide DPS and tanking abilities. What’s not to love? Besides all the obvious features provided by the Death Knight starting area, there’s also the subtle inclusion of the ‘phasing’ technique which allows players to view certain phases of the world environment depending on what place they are in certain quest lines independently from other players. Sounds confusing? Basically it means you can see an event unfold while another player alongside you, who is at a different stage than you, can’t see it. This is most obvious within Ebon Hold but also features in a few other Lich King zones, hopefully in the future it will become apparent in more zones as it opens up more opportunities for engrossing story arcs, something that can be easily missed out on in MMOs such as this.

Besides the class addition, there are also new zones abound, 9 to be exact. All these zones are primarily aimed at the 70+ players but players around 68 should be able to get by if they’re careful. Obviously the level cap has been increased to 80 so it’s nice to have some new zones to grind your way up. Luckily grinding isn’t essential for progression as zones such as Borean Tundra offer a huge wealth of different quests to complete. As well as this new dungeons have also been included with an array of methods to explore them, instances can be organised for 5 person groups, right up to 10 person raids or 25 person raids. Finally, a purely PvP zone has been added in the form of Lake Wintergrasp which aims to offer more PvP functionality in the form of arranged raids as well as new daily quests. A cynic would say it’s Blizzard’s way of dealing with Warhammer Online’s PvP features, but a gamer will just be pleased to see more on offer!

The Inscription profession has been expanded slightly since the recent patch with the ability to level beyond 375, keeping tradeskillers very happy. Plus for the more graphic conscious player, graphical improvements are noticeable with real time shadows, bigger draw distances and improved models. Amazing the difference such minor things can produce. World of Warcraft may never look realistic but it will always have a very unique charm, and Lich King has certainly improved upon this.

For current World of Warcraft players, you’ve no doubt had it pre-ordered since the release date was announced and are busy working your way through the new content already. It also doesn’t really matter what I’ve said, you’ll be happy and already salivating at the idea of another expansion pack which is inevitable. But for retired players, it’s a trickier decision. If you quit with a high level character on your account, then it’s worth coming back to experience all the new content. However if you were always a casual player with lower level characters, it might not be worth your while just yet. Return by all means (you can’t let that addiction go that easily!) but don’t pick up Lich King just yet, wait until you’re level 55+ then try it out. For the uninitiated gamer who hasn’t yet experienced World of Warcraft, much the same can be said. Lich King won’t convert you in any way as it’s not aimed at the newbie like Burning Crusade arguably was (thanks to the new class and races), so if World of Warcraft didn’t appeal to you in the first place, it still won’t now and you may as well take 50% off my overall score as it’s just not for you. Personally, I’m off to go live in Northrend for the Winter!