World of WarCraft: Wrath of the Lich King Review (PC)

The Lich King is the big cheese behind the legions of scourge undead and now that heís awakened he wants Azeroth stone cold. If youíre a follower of Blizzardís real-time strategy series Warcraft then itís likely youíll know all about the underhanded dealings of the scourge. One major difference thatís evident throughout this expansion to the icy realm of Northrend is the leap in theatrics and storytelling. The quests themselves are more varied and itís now quite common to find specially scripted events between the more common kill and loot ones.

One quest had my warlock enter into a village where I was asked to enter into the realm of shadow to find out some of the goings on. Aside from having to dodge spirits as otherwise Iíd get booted out, thereís an entirely scripted scene with the Lich King but some may never even be discovered. Curious and believing this is what I went there for I got just a little too close to his majesty and he more than let me know it. He pulled me close and pinned me to the ground, then had a little chin wag with his spirit wenches before having a good laugh and killing me, yeah, thanks buddy.

Death Knights are welcomed home, after a good pelting with vegetables
Blizzard are giving iconic characters more of the spotlight

Aside from all the extra levelling on offer, the ton of new gear and factions to suck up to, itís the lore thatís gotten a real upgrade and suddenly itís a heck of a lot more interesting to read and find out whatís going down in Northrend. This was always an area Blizzard kept in mind but now with what theyíre delivering here it makes everything else before look diluted and shallow in comparison.

The Death Knight is the new class and itís getting the poke and prod from the community as they test the waters with this new addition. Unlike any of the other classes though the Death Knight will accept any race and you begin at level 55, whatís more youíll be serving the scourge as an undead champion. Youíll be kneeling before the mighty Lich King himself as he has you and other Death Knights wipe out a scarlet crusade stronghold from existence. Itís likely you wonít find a better series of examples of exactly how much Blizzard has honed their skills as an MMO developer than here. It introduces so many new elements and the new found diversity of quests and scripting, like pinching a steed by hopping on and bolting for it, or flying an undead dragon and bombarding the smug crusaders from the skies while they try and shoot you down. The Ďvehiclesí in whatever form they take are somewhat tricky at first to get used to and they tend to come with abilities much like your own characters and pets.

It can be said that Wrath of the Lich King offers much more in the way of a traditional setting for World of Warcraft as it moves forward in the timeline. Burning Crusade was something of an oddity and not just in terms of the weird Outland; fragmented chunks of dirt some holding itself together. The land of Northern is teeming with life, whether thatís peaceful stag-like deer grazing or hawks soaring overhead. Thereís even more interaction between the wildlife itself as some animals will clash with one another. One quirky quest has hawking whatíll have you feed a caged hawk and then give it a target to swoop in on. It all ties up nicely as you Ďbecomeí the hawk and have hit and run eagle eggs on the side of a rather steep cliff face. Your little hawk is no match for the matriarchal eagles though if they catch you pinching their eggs, if that should happen you end up using some abilities to ditch the angered mum before trying again.

The beautiful and serene Crystalsong Forest, still deadly mind
Northrend has two areas to begin your journeys (68-72)

When it comes to world design the teams have Blizzard prove they know what theyíre doing, the zones tie in one with another majestically. Whatís even better is that if an area gets a little stale for your tastes you can visit another side of Northrend that will offer the same level of enemies but help keep things fresh. This is always a problem for any MMO, if youíre kept questing in the same zone time and time again itís bound to lose that spark Ė Stranglethorn Vale is case in point. One of the most serene and majestic of zones is Crystalsong Forest which is home to the floating city of Dalaran. Itís in stark contrast to more expectant woodland and icy plans youíd expect from Northrend and even the accompanying music helps lift the zones impact. Dalaran is Wrath of the Lich Kingís equivalent of Shattrah city from the Burning Crusade and it allows you to portal to all the major cities throughout the game, so itís a great choice to call home.

Achievements are the new hot thing for Warcraft and some even come with goodies as part of the reward for unlocking them. In true Blizzard style they range from the more expectant and mundane of completing ĎXí number quests, to tongue-in-cheek gems like giving /love to all the critters in Azeroth, and finally for pulling off the near impossible of tasks. Titles are increasing their presence in World of Warcraft and so itís quite common now to see other players as the ĎChampion ofí such and such, and some are also achievement rewards like after youíve managed to scour all the lands; ALL the lands, let that thought sink in for a moment.

Aside from the unique ability for Death Knights to imbue their weapons with certain bonuses at their special Ebon Blade hideout, which is actually a floating ex-Scourge base, all characters now have access to Glyphs. These are the result of the new Inscribing profession and are similar to Jewel crafting except itís not a weapon or piece of armour thatís the target but you yourself as they help boost abilities and talents. There are major and minor glyphs with the full six slots opening up as you ascend the levels and you can remove or overwrite ones you already added, but they will be destroyed in the process. Itís a great way for any character thatís generally unable to either afford the gold or time to get pristine gear with socket able slots. Major glyphs have more of an effect but the minor spaces should never be discredited as every little helps.

Some NPCs never change but others have thrilling new quests types
The Death Knight quests are a fantastic ride so hop on quick

With the opportunity of now reaching level 80 the talent trees for all classes have gotten another revamp. I found the Death Knights abilities to be the most interesting of the bunch as it includes things like Shadow of Death which not only increases your strength and stamina but will also raise you as a ghoul for 45 seconds to keep fighting. Much like the warrior or rogue, the Death Knight builds up its own power bar it calls runic power. These let you fire of some of the better moves that really give an opponent a hard time for it. I did begin to wonder though if the new class was just a bit too powerful especially when you can be accompanied by a pet ghoul, if you invest the talent points, and cut a swath of destruction with little down time. Every class once in a while falls out of favour with the community en masse and itíll be interesting to see when the new cool kid on the block gets his turn.

Wrath of the Lich King is nothing short of proof that Blizzard still knows how to keep things fresh and still has the thinking power to serve up the creative, and the crazy. The more Ďordinaryí Northrend surpasses the great works the team poured into the fantastical Outland zones. Itís still early days though with the Lich King but Iím certain that this is a great step in World of Warcraftís future, donít miss out on it.

Top Game Moment:
Working for the new badass boss in town, the Lich King himself, before expectedly getting betrayed and given the cold shoulder. No pun intended.

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By nobuargaoda (SI Core Veteran) on Dec 06, 2008
World of Warcraft is a masterpiece. It's a great games, and rich in character development. Two Thumbs up!
By Nicolas19 (SI Core Veteran) on Dec 07, 2008
To be honest, I'm too afraid of being "sucked in" into this game to give it a try. I have a habit of literally "addicting" into some games, and of what I heard, it's one of the most overwhelming titles ever.
By nobuargaoda (SI Core Veteran) on Dec 07, 2008
Have you try this game, Nicolas19? because i think you will love this game too. I'm a big fan of blizzard games, and blizzard never disappoint me!
By Nicolas19 (SI Core Veteran) on Dec 07, 2008
No, I haven't tried it. Perhaps after my exams... As I said, sometimes spend too much time playing instead of studying. I'll give a chance to myself now, and to this game, after:)
By Nicolas19 (SI Core Veteran) on Dec 07, 2008
By the way, I love Blizzard games, too. Starcraft was my first, totally binding experience, a colossus in gaming. Just as DiabloII, Warcraft3, etc.
By Dreamspace (I just got here) on Dec 16, 2008
Sexcellent game..well not a game..but a world :)
13 euro's a month..goodie amount to pay for the hobby :)
By izak (I just got here) on Jan 04, 2009
i mean the wow game is good but the expansion pack sux big time.TBC wos far bather then wowlk ther is nothing new in wowlk ,if u just started to play wow u will love it if u play wow for 2 years u will get bored in no time just like me :( overall i am rly
By senecaz (SI Newbie) on Feb 28, 2009
nice game. wow really is amazing but its expensive haha i so dont want to be addicted to wow coz if i do its gonna drain all my money.. lol. i also played other blizzard games the diablo II with expansion and warcraft 3 frozen throne oh i miss kardel haha
By ying12345 (SI Newbie) on Mar 15, 2009
ying12345 how did they make it any better?
By ying12345 (SI Newbie) on Mar 15, 2009
i mean tbc was amazing but now you can get all of the new cool armour sets and all that, my only grievance is that there arent actually any new "sets" of armour, its only lots of pieces with the same name, but yeah great ep, keep 'em coming blizzard!
By Benadeto (SI Veteran Member) on Apr 05, 2009
this game is so fun. its basicly another world.
to the kids who played warcraft 3 for the first time and then went outsite pretending to be a elf priest, this is the game for you!!
Nick ( Benadeto )
By kesolovac (SI Veteran Member) on Jul 08, 2009
COOOOOL!!!!! :)