World Of Warcraft: Wrath Of The Lich King PC Review
Wrath of the Lich King (WotLK) is the second expansion in the World of Warcraft series. For those of you who have been experiencing a media blackout or living in a hole for the last few years, World of Warcraft is Blizzard Entertainment’s massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) and amongst games of this type, it is the most widely played and most popular with over 11.5 million active users.
There will be two people buying this, people who play World of Warcraft and those that don’t. As a World of Warcraft player, my perspective is that of the first type, however I will do my best to explain what this means for a new player as well.
WotLK allows the player to access the ice bound continent of Northrend – unsurprisingly located to the north of the existing continents. This new area contains challenges for players from level 68 all the way up to the newly available level cap of 80. For those of you who have played Warcraft 3, the reason for heading to Northrend is that the Lich King, having possessed Arthas, has become active again and in a drearily predictable manner, threatens the life and limb of every inhabitant of Azeroth. I won’t go into the specifics of what occurs as you progress through the new expansion but naturally enough, there are many powerful allies of the Lich King to defeat. Killing enough of these will hopefully give you the resources you need to defeat the Lich King himself.
Since this is an MMORPG, getting every expansion is more or less a necessity, so if they wanted to, Blizzard could simply have been lazy and just churned out a clone of the previous expansion but with a frosty theme.
Thankfully, they have implemented a versatile new gameplay mechanic to be used in both questing and player versus player (PvP) combat. This is to give players new methods of transportation beyond the ubiquitous mounts, but these new forms of transport aren’t only for moving around the world. They range from rocket powered planes to dragons and siege engines. These new vehicles each have an individual range of attacks and are only acquired for the duration of a quest, instance or specific bout of PvP. The ability to give players a different set of skills through use of these vehicles has made several interesting quests possible and enabled one of the more entertaining instances (essentially an extended 5 player quest) in the entire expansion. Their use in PvP is that it changes the whole focus of PvP in the area of the game where they are available, changing it to trying to attack or defend the fortress of Wintergrasp which will change hands if successfully assaulted, giving the controlling players a number of benefits.
Another change is that each class gains two unique new skills, one at level 75 and one at level 80. Particularly notable ones are a crowd control spell ‘hex’ for shamans who have been crying out for one since the game was first released, and the level 80 mage spell ‘mirror image’ which may not be the best spell of the bunch, but is certainly the coolest as it summons 3 copies of the caster who can cast spells just like the original, albeit with reduced damage.
A new character class has been released with WotLK, the death knight. Death knights are only available to players who already have at least one character above level 55 and themselves start at level 55. They are a hybrid spellcaster-melee class but unlike the other hybrids who use mana, death knights use a pair of unique systems to use their abilities. They have six runes: two blood; two frost and two unholy – certain abilities need to use one of more of these runes to activate and once used, the specific rune is temporarily unavailable. Furthermore, using these runes generates runic power which works in a very similar manner to warrior’s rage, having a maximum of 100 runic power stored at any one time and draining away slowly when not in combat. The runic power is then used to power a selection of different abilities.
Since this is an expansion, the game’s engine remains the same, so the graphics essentially remain unchanged. For a new player, this means the graphics aren’t as impressive as any single player games you might have played, due to the size of the world and the need for it to run smoothly on lower spec computers. For experienced players, on the whole, you will know what you’re in for, the background scenery is still attractive and varied, if basic. The only real change is the appearance of equipment; in the previous expansion the appearance of items was hit and miss, often sporting hideous colour schemes, or plain ugly design. By and large, this has been improved on in WotLK, all the weapons and equipment that I have seen while playing have looked at very worst, acceptable and in some cases, just plain awesome, even in low quality items.
The music is very atmospheric and well composed. On the whole it matches the theme of each area and is a significant improvement on the previous expansion’s musical score. The in-game effects are the same as they always were, although in keeping with the new music, ambient sound effects have been improved and overall tend to enhance the atmosphere of each area. The only sound effects worthy of note is death knight specific voice modulation, giving them a very cool evil sounding voice.
The Brady Games official strategy guide for WotLK contains a lot of information that is useful for beginners. Unfortunately, by the time you have reached WotLK content, you will no longer be a beginner! There are a few bits and pieces which will be useful to more experienced players, specifically information about some of the earliest instances, strategies for the bosses, information about which items they can drop when defeated and quests which can be completed in that instance. It also helpfully tells you what items can be purchased from each faction after gaining a certain amount of standing with that faction. This really helps you plan your reputation grinding ahead of time. Most, if not all of this information is available online for free, however having it in a single book certainly saves time searching for it and alt+tab’ing out of the game.
For an experienced player the new expansion brings a large number of interesting quests in a new style and another form of PvP combat, along with an interesting selection of new instances. For a new player Blizzard has done a few things to make sure that WotLK will not make your journey to maximum level any more difficult then it would have been before, although it will be a bit longer.
As I have mentioned, if you wish to progress within WoW, you have to purchase the expansions, this obviously makes it hard to rate them. Compared to expansions for other games I would say that WotLK has a lot more content and this content is of a consistently high quality.
Before you flame me, this isn’t the score I would give WoW as a whole, just this expansion!