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

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Death Knights are terrific in both play style and aesthetics. Just look at that armour!
Death Knights are terrific in both play style and aesthetics. Just look at that armour!

Death Knights are terrific in both play style and aesthetics. Just look at that armour!

There's also very little reuse of buildings and structures from the previous continents in the game, making Northrend feel distinct from Azeroth and Outland, but still a part of the overall game world, thanks to a consistent use of architectural themes for the two playable factions. A greater emphasis has also been made on bringing the story to the fore, allowing players who are interested in the plot to get immersed into the lore more easily. Part of this refocus to a more story-driven experience is due to Blizzard's aim to reignite interest in the Alliance versus Horde conflict, which was sidelined by the battle against the Burning Legion in Outland. While the two sides do still have a common enemy in Arthas' Scourge, hostilities between the Alliance and Horde are very much in progress again. Beyond the PvP Mecca of Lake Wintergrasp, other PvP objectives are able to be fought over throughout Northrend, adding an extra incentive to hone your 'ganking' skills.

Blizzard has made other tweaks and improvements as well, including a new profession (Inscription, which uses glyphs to modify class spells) and more cosmetic changes, such as new haircuts. The largest change to the game balance, however, has been the introduction of the Death Knight 'Hero' class, which has already proved to be immensely popular. Even if you have no intention of playing a Death Knight character all the way up to the new level cap of 80, it is worth rolling a Death Knight just to get a taster of the class and finish their starting area: The Scarlet Enclave, beyond the Eastern Plaguelands.

You start your journey as a Death Knight in a Scourge necropolis, called the Ebon Hold, taking orders directly from the Lich King Arthas himself. The Ebon Hold quest chain is well implemented and gives players early access to some of the features available later in Northrend; including mounted combat and instanced quest events that change the look and feel of the map area, depending upon the section of the quest chain you're completing. Particular highlights are the battle for Tyr's Hand that requires to you to soar into the fight on the back of an undead ice drake, and a climatic assault against the Argent Dawn at Light's Hope Chapel. The class itself is a joy to play and may quickly become a favourite with many players. It is an intriguing hybrid of a tanking class with a high damage-per-second rating, and should you pursue the Unholy talent specification, you will have a non-time-limited pet ghoul to provide extra muscle and may additionally summon a gargoyle in for an airstrike once every few minutes.

This undead dragon is just one of the new combat-capable mounts available in the new expansion.

This undead dragon is just one of the new combat-capable mounts available in the new expansion.

Melee combat is governed by runes (two each of frost, blood and unholy), which act similarly to the combo points used by Rogues and feral-spec Druids. Landing blows in melee combat generates runic power (essentially rage points) which can then be used to cast spells or inflict diseases on enemies. So imagine then a class that plays like a demented cross-breed of a Paladin, Warrior, Rogue and a Hunter, with added evil and arguably the sexiest set of starting armour in the game. And if you use the Blood Presence ability, your Death Knight can self-heal during combat, making tackling three or four mobs at a time (by yourself) a realistic proposition. Oh, and Death Knights also have a buff which allows them to walk on water, even if they're mounted. We're talking sub-zero on the coolness scale here. The Death Knight is a great addition to the class roster and its level 55 starting point will ensure that Outland doesn't become a deserted afterthought in the minds of players for some time yet, avoiding one of the key failings of the Burning Crusade release, when Azeroth was abandoned immediately following the opening of the Dark Portal.

If there are any grounds for serious criticism, it's that Blizzard has been a little conservative in terms of the quest design. There are still far too many blatant grind-quests and though there are some genuinely inspired quest chains (the Winterfin Retreat chain is fabulous, particularly the mission to rescue the absolutely adorable murloc tadpoles) with fresh feeling settings, their feel is not. Perhaps complaining about grind in an MMORPG is like complaining about the Sun setting, but a little more variety would have been nice. Another area that has agitated the WoW hardcore is the introduction of 10-man raids, which has been cited by some players as a dumbing down of the endgame content. However, given that the requirement for 25 and 40-man raids in The Burning Crusade presented a huge obstacle for casual players to make progress in the endgame, perhaps it would be wise to defer judgement on this until a larger percentage of the playing population reaches the level cap and we begin to see the long-term effects of the change.

With the release of Wrath of the Lich King, it's difficult to see how anyone will loosen World of Warcraft's stranglehold on the MMO genre. With its spectacular design, dazzling polish and ever-compulsive gameplay, World of Warcraft seems destined to remain the everyman's pick of PvE-focussed MMO for the foreseeable future, and with the implementation of new PvP mechanics, Blizzard is no doubt looking to tempt back players who jumped ship to Warhammer Online and Age of Conan as well. Time will tell whether it will succeed or not, but if Blizzard's approach to the genre over the last four years has taught us anything, it's that it plays for keeps. The competition needs to take note, because the bar just got raised that little bit higher...

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george2's Avatar

george2

u shouldnt this is a great game i play it 24-7
Posted 11:41 on 11 December 2009
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noseworm

I'm ditching this for Football manager Live.
Posted 15:53 on 20 January 2009
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demon_may_cry

See My Signature
Posted 04:24 on 05 January 2009
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Anonymous

Yes yes, world of casualcraft. Very exciting. Now all the talentless mouthbreathers can get a chance to see all the content too, yaaaaaay!
Posted 21:49 on 28 December 2008
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alex

i have lost 2 friends to warcrack addiction
Posted 14:38 on 11 December 2008
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Magic

well said Iain McC, wel said.
Posted 09:40 on 09 December 2008
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Iain_McC

@lewn: A lot of your criticisms apply to every single MMORPG ever made, so I don't think you can really call out WoW specifically on that. Like I said in the review, I would have preferred more variety in the quests, but complaining about grind in MMORPGs is like complaining about the sunset or getting old - pretty futile, since there's nothing you can really do about it. (except write your own MMORPG, perhaps)

You also appear not to have grasped the very concept of making a game appeal to as broad an audience as possible. Yes, the instances can be done relatively quickly - that's the entire point. Needing to spend four hours or more on a single run in an instance is impossible for a lot of players, whereas one or two hours is a much more reasonable amount of time to take out of an evening for people like me who have a 50-hour-a-week career and a girlfriend, but still like playing games.

Similarly with the graphical improvements - there's no point revamping the graphics engine for a game with 11 million subscribers if you ramp up the engine to the point that only 2 million of them have PCs capable of running the new engine. Not exactly what I'd call a great business strategy.

And for the record, I've been playing WoW pretty much since it came out and have about 60 days /played. And I can't see myself getting bored anytime soon, not when the design and attention to detail are as good as they are in WotLK.
Posted 02:01 on 04 December 2008
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lewn

Honestly the expansion started strong, but now I just cannot be bothered to log in. Yes it is far and beyond tbc but after 4 years I expected a bit more.

Graphically some of the zones are quite pretty, starting in Howling Fjord is a very nice experience. Whereas Borean Tundra is like a jigsaw puzzle someone put together wrong. There is some improvement in the engine, but not so much that it will stress peoples machines like the newer games.

The new armour looks very nice, both in terms of design and how they are rendered. What is disappointing is that new items in WoW is very limited. Think Conan, within a month everyone will look the same. It's essentially carried on from the S4, Sunwell items with equipment looking the same based on type. For example, the very nice new plate shoulder model is used over 20 times from 71 to 80. Quest rewards, drops etc.

Quests are the same old, with the exception of vehicle quests that send you out and about in them, problem being, do it once and you've done it all.

A lot has been said about the instances, but having done most of them it's a blink and miss affair. Early instances are quick, frantic affairs. Finished leaving you standing around thinking: "Was that it?"

I could go on, but safe to say. 6/10

If you still play WoW, or are relatively new at it you will love it. If you have been playing for awhile and was looking for a new angle you will quickly find it boring.
Posted 14:23 on 02 December 2008
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Iain_McC

Not everyone has the time to PvP or raid their way to full sets of Tier 5 epics... if I had, I'd definitely want to hold onto them too, but since I only had rare gear and a couple of faction reward epics, I'd pretty much replaced everything by the time I got to level 72. As I said, it depends on what you start out with. (Not to mention how attached you are to your old gear - one thing I found slightly disappointing about the new leather gear is that while the textures and new models are pretty enough, did they all have to be so painfully brown?)

You're quite correct about the professions - a lot of the new recipes trump the old ones by a considerable margin, but I was expecting that since the same happened with The Burning Crusade. I presume it's a measure to try and level the playing field to allow more casual players to compete more effectively with the more dedicated hardcore. You can argue this one either way, really - I tend to think it's a good thing, because it encourages more casual players to play, since they're not being left behind so badly by the people who can plug 30+ hours into the game a week.
Posted 10:28 on 01 December 2008
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Veriloquus

It's totally not true - my T5 epics are still with me and I'm 77 now, I've exchanged a bit of my healing offset which was full of greens and rares meanwhile.

What bothers is that all old profession recipes are obsolete - the trainer even gives you Greater Moongoose! - and green gems are better than old epic ones...

Nevertheless Blizzard has got it lesson, this time I don't think all those evenings wiping in Mount Hyjal were not for nothing.
Posted 18:19 on 30 November 2008
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Iain_McC

Well, it depends if you've got top-tier PvP gear or not, but you can certainly expect to have replaced most of your equipment by the time you've finished the first two or three map zones.

For example, one of the first quest rewards for my Druid in Borean Tundra instantly replaced my epic Staff of Natural Fury (I still haven't quite been able to bring myself to sell it yet, I was rather attached to that staff!), and a lot of the new grand master level crafting recipes will instantly supersede level 70 rare gear.
Posted 14:47 on 28 November 2008
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Bloodstorm

Not as such no. I'm still using alot of my 70 gear on my mage (just reached 72)
Posted 14:47 on 28 November 2008
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FantasyMeister

Trying to review a WoW expansion must be incredibly difficult, so thank you for giving me a great overall view of what to expect if I ever go back.

In my case I didn't leave WoW for another MMO, I left WoW to concentrate on my growing pile of console games and I'm finding the sheer variety of gameplay a welcome change. I do miss the grinding, but I don't miss pressing the same 3 buttons on my keyboard for several hours each day.

Sounds like if I ever go back I'll have a lot of nice stuff to look forward to. I do have one question though if anyone cares to answer:

Does your level 70 equipment instantly become obsolete after the first couple of new levels as it did going from 60-62 with Burning Crusade?
Posted 14:20 on 28 November 2008

Game Stats

9
Out of 10
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
  • Death Knights
  • Masterful art direction
  • Grand-scale design
  • More of the same old grind
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 13/11/2008
Platform: PC
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Genre: Fantasy RPG
No. Players: 1 + Online
Rating: PEGI 12+
Site Rank: 105 11
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