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World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Member Review for the PC

Hawk_one By:
PUBLISHER Blizzard Entertainment 
DEVELOPER Blizzard Entertainment 
T Contains Blood and Gore, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Note: As I'm not getting paid to review games, I don't feel like I have to test out -everything- in WotLK, especially since this game has so damn much of everything that it would take either two months of really intense gaming, or half a year of moderately intense gaming. This review is based mostly on my experiences with my main character (an 80 night elf rogue that sneaks around on the European Bladefist server under the guise of "Cablecarguy") and a very cursory look at the new class, the Death Knight. I've played WoW since April 2008.

Wrath of the Lich King is the latest expansion in World of Warcraft. And thus, what is important to tell about is what is new compared to Burning Crusade, and assume you know the core game already. And since the game itself is so frickin' methodical at heart, I find it fitting to go on in a slightly more methodical manner than usual.

On quests, and Northrend. It starts somewhat slower than the previous expansion. I mean a boat trip isn't the same as the Dark Portal, and you don't immediately get that je-ne-sais-quas but it's pretty awesome feeling that happened when you entered Hellfire Peninsula. Heck, they even take the flying mount away from you!

However, in Burning Crusade, the heat didn't really turn up after the good start. You proceeded from one area to another, and that was pretty much it. Shadowmoon Valley was "just another quest area", really, and the big event was to get a flying mount. Here, it's also a big event to get your flying mount back (at 77), but there will then still be a lot more left to do.

In any case, it starts a bit slow, but it doesn't stay that way. The Wrath of the Lich King is an expansion that unfolds, and as you get off the boat, it doesn't take that long before you're either treated to seeing the outsides of Utgarde Keep, or even better, the Nexus. In fact, the game is set up so that you first go to Nexus for a reason, and are flown there by a dragon, allowing you to calmly sit back and enjoy some absolutely gorgeous designs. And as you move on, you're treated to areas that are richly diverse (and sometimes stunningly beautiful), and when you finally get to Icecrown, there is no doubt whatsoever that -this- is the final area. The best way to put it how it looks? "Mordor on Ice".

The majority of the quests are of the usual variety. However, it's not -all- that is there, because there are a fair amount of veichles you will use. Upon entering said veichles - anything from a refurbished shredder to an undead gryphon skeleton - and some of them are quite fun. Others are quite bugridden, on the other hand, which can be a real pain in the ass. And quite often, you will have to actually use the custom abilities very well in order to complete the mission, and no amount of leveling or gear-equipping will make them easier. In other words, use that brain of yours!

Regarding phasing. Phasing is another thing that must be mentioned, since it's heavily tied in with many of the main storyline quests (that's right, there's a main story in here now, which even includes some -really good- surprises). Basically, as you complete quests in some areas, they actually change. After defending a high vantage point, your allies can move in and make a base. After shooting down dragons and undeads with a cannon, they stay dead in that area forever. And when someone who hasn't done those quests come to these areas, he can't see you, nor you him. You see dead things, he sees them as still being alive. It's also thanks to phasing that the Lich King can make his presence known when it's the proper time, and not just stand there all the time waiting for you.

In short, phasing makes for a more dynamic gaming world, and I'm 100% for that. Only direct problem is that group quests can be more difficult to take, since you now can't have anyone joining your group just to help you out for fun (or gold), regardless of whether he's done the pre-requisites to the quest.

However, the phasing and the new quests and temporary veichles and whatnot creates a somewhat strange problem. You see, since Northrend is by far the best place to stay in by far, I just can't imagine starting an alternative character, because I will then (with one class exception) have to spend 58 levels in the original game, which by comparison is completely outdated. Then ten levels in the almost as outdated Burning Crusade, and -then- you get to experience more variety again.

About Achievments Some of you might think I don't like the introduction of achievments, after reading my blog on the "100% complete" notion. However, as far as I can tell, WoW has always been an achievment type of game in the first place (Have you downed Onyxia? What is your ranking in Arena?), it's just that in the past, the only way to measure it was in the form of epic gear of various tiers. Now, on the other hand, you get to measure it in many other ways. And if achievments is what the game is all about, then it simply makes sense to measure them (whereas having achievments in a Zelda game would be frickin' weird, for comparison). Besides, it's not like you get a cut-scene for doing 100 achievments, then 200, then 300, etc.

One of the things people in my guild's asked me the most about is what achievments and achievment points do. I tell them that it doesn't do anything that changes the gameplay, but I also tell them that this is a good thing! Come on, imagine that you must win all the Battlegrounds with a Perfect Score to get an Epic dagger that has a chance to stun the opponent on hit. Or you have to kill all the Horde leaders in their main cities for that awesome shield with the perfect stat-combo for your pala-tank. Think you'd like that? I wouldn't. Achievments are meant to be truly optional. And the only way to not "force" anyone to do an achievment they otherwise don't want to do, is to not have any game-changing rewards for it.

The war. Naturally, there is also new PvP-content. Wintergrasp is an entire world area dedicated to PvP, and there's a new Battleground called "Strand of the Ancients". Wintergrasp can actually be visited at any time in between the battles, which start every third hour, and lasts for up to 40 minutes (or until either faction reaches their goal in destroying the other faction's buildings). It contains herbs and mine nodes and that kind of thing, as well as a tiny raid dungeon that you can only enter when your faction controls the area. So there's a reason to stick after the battle's over.

In both Wintergrasp and SotA, you now have access to different veichles, as well as walls and other structures to destroy. The veichles even PvP out somewhat, since it doesn't matter what class you are, or amount of epic gear you have, when you drive that catapult that flings plague rocks and has a flamethrower in the front. What matters is how well you use them. In any case, they're fairly fun to play (and have a really good honor-per-minute ratio), at least when no bug shows up and skewers the result.

Miscellaneous stuff. The new class balancing in the form of new talent trees has turned my rogue more versatile than before (I'm running a dagger-based allround Sub-spec. In the past, that spec had a weak point in raids and tough Heroics. But now, I'm a mean, lean DPS-machine that keeps on making the damage no matter how long it takes to down the boss), but on the other hand, rogues are much closer to the average when it comes to how each class is ranked for PvP. Sure, we still got our old tricks and a couple of new ones, but other classes has so many new tricks, so it's evened out. I'm sure there's a big bunch of whiny kids who feel that rogues have been destroyed by this "indirect nerfing" (i.e. receiving less of an upgrade than other classes), but really, rogues are still an easy and fun class to play. It's just not the hated 1-man ganker class par excellence anymore.

There are many less serious moments in the game too. I don't know what I like best of the many silly things that have happened. To have a stampede of mammoths trample a boss into the ground; to feed a stick of dynamite to a big worm, that then explodes into chunks of gory meat that I then pick up; or to take control over one of the Abominations, and having him self-destruct, taking out up to 20 other mobs with him... And if you're anything like me, the first time you see Bambi(na) and her mother, I bet you'll probably shoot the mother with your gun, take a screenshot of it, and put it up on the net somewhere saying something like "now we know who shot Bambi(na)'s mother!". You sick bastard.

In conclusion, I think it's fair to say that if you've found another MMORPG that you like better, this expansion probably won't reel you back. However, if you're still merely wondering about another MMORPG, then Wrath of the Lich King will probably keep you wondering for at least a few months more. It has its amount of bugs, and some of them will probably persist for a bit longer than I'm comfortable with. But it's almost as polished as you would expect (and sometimes quite a bit more than expected with regards to the world design), and a generally very solid addition to the WoW universe, giving it an "honored" reputation with me.

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