Wrath of the Lich King Preview

World of Warcraft is the dominant force in the current MMORPG market for a very good reason. Blizzard has created a game that can cater to a wide variety of players ¨C die-hard PVP¡¯ers, individuals, large-group players, and crafters all have a place in World of Warcraft. The next expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, promises more for the players. There will be more lands to explore, more quests to complete, more skills to learn, and more enemies to master. The entire continent of Northrend is finally available for players to explore. Wrath of the Lich King also has a number of improvements over the current state of the game that the fans will definitely enjoy. The design team has taken full advantage of their years of experience with World of Warcraft ¨C the new content practically gleams with perfection. There are few features to try and capture new players, but with WoW¡¯s prevailing power in the MMO market, do they really need to capture new players

The first thing that most World of Warcraft players are clamoring to hear about is the first Heroic Class released into the game. The Death Knights are a power house with unique abilities and a very unique flavor. Death Knights start in their own area with unique quests. Since Death Knights are immediately jumped up to level 55, the players are forced to go through the starter quest to unlock their abilities. The quests slowly unlock more and more talent points (used to specialize your character) and abilities. At first it sounds like a grind, but as you play through the Death Knight starter quests it truly gives you a sense of what your individual play style is. By learning and experiencing, players can have a very good idea of how they want to spend their precious talent points.

The new regions in Wrath of the Lich King are expansive and interesting. Each area has its own feel and challenges. One of the improvements players will notice almost immediately is the change in how quests are handed out. In the retail version of WoW and its first expansion, the Burning Crusade, players often had to run pell-mell all over the game to receive and then turn in all the quests. An infamous example are some of the dungeon quests like the Stockade instance for the Alliance players. Quests into the Stockades require players to spend almost as time running around getting or turning in the quests as it takes to complete the dungeon. In Wrath of the Lich King players will often find a single quest that leads into an area. While in that area there will be several other quests available, often in sequence. It¡¯s the same effect, but it is much easier on the players. By leading players through one quest after another, it also provides a sense of immediacy. Sneaking into the catacombs of the Utgarde keep and discovering a dying man asking for your help is a good example. The unexpected becomes more fun and interesting.

The crafting systems continue to grow with the depth and breadth that World of Warcraft players have seen for years. Tailors and leatherworkers, blacksmiths and alchemists, jewel crafters and enchanters all will find new recipes to create wondrous and useful items. The new craft of Inscriptions will add another layer of player customization into WoW and should be very interesting. With inscriptions players will be able to create things like scrolls to give themselves and others short-term buffs. Inscriptions will also be able to create ¡°glyphs¡± that apply a permanent effect to one of your skills. The gathering professions will still have their unique place in the WoW economy. New metals, new gems, new herbs, and new leather products will be available throughout the world.

With all the good things that can be said about Wrath of the Lich King, it is important to note a single concern about the expansion. I¡¯ve spent my share of time playing the expansion¡¯s beta, but I have also spent a great deal of time talking to other players with access to the beta. In that time I¡¯ve found one complaint cropping up time and again ¨C Wrath of the Lich King is ¡°more of the same.¡± It is World of Warcraft done bigger and, I feel, better. These experienced players have expressed enthusiasm but also concern that the expansion only brings polish to a popular game. There are only a few true innovations in the expansion. This isn¡¯t a real problem for fans of the game ¨C and there are many of us. It is only a single concern.

Wrath of the Lich King is still a work in progress. I suspect it will remain a work in progress until shortly before the expansion¡¯s release. Blizzard has a reputation for delaying games as long as they need to in order to create something wondrous. With Blizzard¡¯s history of releasing ground-breaking, innovative, and engaging games like Diablo, Warcraft, or Starcraft, players have high expectations for Wrath of the Lich King. Having experienced the beta I can tell players this: Fans will enjoy the game. It brings a breath of fresh air into the World of Warcraft experience. This expansion will be worth the waitt.


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