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Review: Wrath of the Lich King 545

Posted by Soulskill
from the slaying-pixels-for-fun-and-profit dept.
Since shortly after its release in late 2004, World of Warcraft has held the position of the most popular MMO, quickly outstripping predecessors such as Everquest and Ultima Online, and continuing to hold the lead despite competition from contemporaries and newer offerings, like Warhammer Online. When World of Warcraft's first expansion, The Burning Crusade, was released, it built on an already rich world by using feedback from players and two extra years of design experience to work on condensing the game to focus more on the best parts. Now, with the release of Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard seems to have gotten themselves ahead of the curve; in addition to the many changes intended to remove the "grind" aspect that is so prevalent in this genre, they've gone on to effectively put themselves in the player's shoes and ask, "What would make this more fun? Wouldn't it be cool if..?" Read on for the rest of my thoughts.
  • Title: World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
  • Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
  • Publisher: Activision Blizzard
  • System: PC
  • Reviewer: Soulskill
  • Score: 9/10

The first thing you'll notice as you set foot on the expansion's new continent, Northrend, is that the art is extremely well done and the vistas are visually impressive. During the first expansion, the primary mode of travel shifted from land-based mounts to much faster flying mounts, and it's clear that the designers of Northrend kept this well in mind. The size and scope of everything has been ratcheted up, from soaring spires and mountains to massive icebergs to spacious valleys and canyons. One of the early zones, Howling Fjord, starts you off looking up at incredibly high cliffs with nothing but a rickety wood-and-chain elevator to help you reach the top. While doing quests at the base of the cliffs, you can't help but wonder, "What's up there?" Later in the zone, you'll find grassy fields and misty forests gradually giving way to snow, ice formations, and new buildings that are a big step up, artistically, from what was seen in the original game, or even the first expansion. The various creatures you encounter are new and more detailed as well. Sleek, aggressive-looking Proto-drakes circle lazily above a burning forest and enormous Storm Giants stomp through the plains, catching unsuspecting adventurers by surprise and leading to more than a few untimely deaths. Fan-favorite Murlocs have undergone a transformation, appearing all the more ready to make a meal of you. Even the seas have gotten more detailed; icebergs look like nothing that could have come out of the original game, and the waters are now teeming with Warcraft-ized orca, hammerheads, and walruses.

Each zone brings a unique art style. Soon after finishing the starting zones, you'll enter Dragonblight, where the skeletons of giant dragons litter the frozen tundra and battles between dragonflights rage overheard. Again, the kinds of things you'll see in Wrath of the Lich King just didn't happen in the original game, and rarely in The Burning Crusade. There are plenty of spots where the design team clearly said, "Ok, let's set this up so the players will just get here and stare at it for five minutes before remembering what they're doing." If you enjoyed exploring earlier parts of the game, Wrath of the Lich King will blow you away. One of the later zones, Storm Peaks, is exactly what it sounds like; a dark, snowy mountain range in which you'll find yourself traveling up and down as much as side to side. The absurdly high mountaintops give the area an epic feel, but Blizzard didn't stop there. Rising up from many peaks are ancient structures, or ruins in some cases. They do wonders for arousing curiosity, and you clearly get the impression that Something Big was here. The northern part of the zone where the dungeons are located is a stronghold for giants, originally built for the Titans, according to Warcraft lore, and it definitely looks the part.

One of the major headlines of Wrath of the Lich King was the introduction of the game's first new class — the Death Knight. Dubbed a "Hero Class," it is only available to players who already have another character at level 55 or higher, but the Death Knight itself starts at level 55, rather than level 1. This is partly due to the class' level of complexity, which is slightly higher than most others, and also to encourage players to try them out by not requiring the time involved to go level up from the very beginning. The Death Knight's resource management system is based on runes and runic power. You start out with six runes available, and using your abilities will consume one or more of them. The runes will then refresh themselves after 10 seconds, giving you the opportunity to use them again. Abilities also generate runic power, which can be used to fuel other spells. Death Knights can wear plate armor, and are intended for use as a "tank" class as well as dealing damage. They use big, two-handed weapons while tanking, rather than a one-hander and a shield, and they're stronger than most against magic. The class was balanced quite well by the extensive beta testing, though minor tuning is still underway to bring each of the three talent trees in line with Blizzard's goals. If you do nothing else in this expansion, it's worth starting a Death Knight and going through the introductory quest line; the story and visual effects are amazing.

Wrath raises the level cap from 70 to 80, so you'll spend most of your time questing and (should you choose) running dungeons for your first few weeks (depending on how much you play, and to what lengths you're willing go for efficiency; the first player to reach level 80 did so only 27 hours after the expansion launched). Gear has effectively been reset again, but not as severely as it was in The Burning Crusade. Powerful level 70 items will last in some cases all the way to level 80, but they should be replaced quickly once you start doing "endgame" activities. Actually getting to 80 isn't a problem; you should make it there with hundreds of quests to spare. Much like the first expansion, Wrath packs quests quite densely throughout most of the zones, so you needn't feel compelled to finish quests that don't interest you or do group quests when you'd rather fly solo (although the rewards for such are often good). The quests themselves are as much a step up from The Burning Crusade as it was over the original game. Many still follow the standard MMO format of "Go slay 10 demonbears," or "Go collect 10 cow eggs," but the quests tell stories, ranging from small and self-contained to grand and overarching. They paint a very clear picture of what's happening in Northrend, and what its inhabitants are doing to fight the Lich King.

In addition to those basic quests, Blizzard did quite a bit to spice things up. One of the most popular quest lines of the first expansion was an arena event in which you and your comrades fought off an increasingly difficult series of enemies. Wrath has three such events, each with its own story and flavor. Bombing runs are back, but they now usually make use of a new vehicle system which lets you hop on a creature or contraption and control its unique selection of abilities. One quest gives you a tank you use to rampage through a field of thickly packed undead, using the buzz-saw on the front to cut down any in your path. Another has you riding on an airborne troop transport, dropping smoke flares by the harpoon launchers of an enemy encampment to protect your allies as they are deployed to fight. One of the more epic quests lets you take control of a massive Storm Giant and use it to take out an even more colossal boss while crushing swarms of skeletons underfoot. Another way Blizzard found to keep things interesting is what they call "phasing" technology. One of the long-standing complaints about the MMO genre is that there is very little permanence to a player's actions. When Player A rescues a princess from an evil wizard's tower, he's very shortly going to turn around and see her back in the tower, waiting for the next player to do the same quest. Either that, or when Player B comes along, the princess is already saved, and he missed out on that content. Blizzard's solution was to implement different "phases" of an otherwise static zone. You'll start out in the beginning phase, during which, for example, a town is under attack. Completing a quest to fight off the attack bumps you into the next phase, where the town is safe and its fighting force is going on the offensive. Now, a player who hadn't done that quest could come from the same place as you, and stand where you're standing, but you and he would see two different things. His town still needs saving, yours doesn't. This is used to great effect in Icecrown, one of the later zones. You get the feeling as you do quests that you're really taking over parts of the zone; towns spring up, one-time battles are fought, and the appearance of the zone at the end is quite different from at the beginning. Another great use of this technology is for an invasion of one of the old capitol cities. You ride to its defense alongside faction leaders, participating in a good balance of plot and action.

The instanced dungeons in Northrend are also a step up over their predecessors. As with the outside world, they've gotten bigger and more impressive, often setting the group's path against an expansive backdrop to make it seem like you have a ton of room, even when you don't. Blizzard whittled down the length of most instances, aiming for a start-to-finish time of roughly an hour. The "trash" mobs between bosses are typically few and varied; the progress made since the original game in that regard is quite evident. You no longer have to worry that hopping into a group with random strangers could turn into a three-hour affair. Blizzard has gone out of their way to create new and interesting boss scenarios as well. An instance called "The Oculus" is a disjointed series of platforms which can only be accessed by flying. After finishing off the first boss, you free a group of NPCs which offer you a choice in Drakes to ride — Red, Yellow or Green — each of which has its own abilities. It behaves like a vehicle; you direct its flight path and choose when to fire off spells, and it carries you from platform to platform where you'll find later bosses. For the last boss in the instance, you actually use the drakes to fight, battling with spells far too powerful for a normal character to control. In another instance, one of the bosses hops on his flying mount and heads outside while you fight your way through a gauntlet of smaller NPCs to reach the end of a hallway. Periodically, he'll drop down and blast one side of the hallway with ice, making an already hectic fight even more dangerous. When you reach the end of the hallway, you'll find harpoon launchers which you use to shoot down his mount and force him to land and fight. One of the instances in The Burning Crusade had a boss which would use mind-control to make your group fight each other for a brief time before resuming the battle as normal. Wrath of the Lich King takes this one step further; the last boss in one of the new instances casts a spell which will dump each player into his own phase and spawn copies of that player's groupmates. The copies then try to kill him. Each player is tasked with killing their own group to survive. As they succeed, they're shunted into other players' phases until they're all back in the original, at which point they re-engage the boss.

Heroic Dungeons return in Wrath, giving players the option of a harder version of an instance that results in better loot. They're tuned better this time around; Blizzard wanted to make the transition from normal dungeons to heroics to raids a smooth one, and they've done a much better job than at the beginning of the first expansion. They've also expanded the "heroic" philosophy to raids as well. Now each raid dungeon has two settings; a "normal" 10-man version, and a "heroic" 25-man version, each tuned appropriately for the size of the group. Wrath launched with four introductory-level raids, and more difficult ones are planned for the next few content patches in the coming months. As we discussed previously, the current raids have been conquered already, but unless you're willing to devote many, many hours to playing the game, reaching the end of the content before more is released won't be an issue for you. Blizzard revisited Naxxramas, a raid instance hailed as the best in the original game, but one that only a few percent of the World of Warcraft population ever got to see. It's now the primary starter raid, tuned to be much more forgiving than it was in 2006, but still able to make unprepared groups struggle. The other raids are quick, involving one boss each, compared to the 15 in Naxxramas. The fight against Malygos is an encounter where Blizzard shows off just how cool they can make a boss fight; if you don't mind spoilers, you can take a look at a video and explanation of the fight from the folks at TankSpot. One of the other raid bosses, Sartharion, lets the players decide how difficult they want the fight to be. Sartharion is a dragon, and in his lair, there are three drake mini-bosses which can be quickly and easily killed beforehand if the raid so chooses. If they aren't killed, they join in the fight when the raid takes on Sartharion himself. You can choose to leave one, two, or all three drakes alive, effectively giving the fight four difficulty settings. The more difficult the encounter, the better loot you'll receive. Very few raids can manage the fight with all drakes alive at this point. Blizzard has stated that we can expect to see more of this type of selective challenge. It allows them to tune the raids such that more people can see and complete them, but still give the more hardcore players something tough to work on.

Blizzard has done a number of other things to make the game more player-friendly. Professions have been revamped in several ways. First, all professions will, in some way, make your character more powerful, either through crafted gear or through passive bonuses. Second, those bonuses are available sooner, so you don't necessarily need to drop thousands of gold grinding out the last few points in order to get that upgrade. Third, recipes are mostly easier to obtain now. The developers have instituted an interesting system for Jewelcrafting in particular: Each day you can do a quest once which will give you a currency token. You can then spend those tokens to purchase many different recipes. This does two things; it guarantees that all of those recipes will be attainable eventually for minimal work, and it lets you choose which ones you want to get first. They've also made other, PvP-related recipes available by simply engaging in PvP. A few still drop in various spots around the world, but they're much less rare than the ones in The Burning Crusade . Others drop at the end of instances, and yet more are made available by increasing reputation with some of the factions scattered around Northrend. Virtually everything you do will make progress toward filling out the profession. Other professions have similar mechanics, but aren't as fleshed-out. Alchemy and the new profession, Inscription, have "discovery" abilities which will allow you to learn new things, but have a lengthy cooldown. As with Jewelcrafting, it's nice that you'll get everything eventually, but in this case you have little control over which "discovered" recipes you learn. Inscription itself is interesting; you essentially enchant your spells and abilities to behave in a slightly different manner. Often you can sacrifice an unimportant aspect of a spell to make it better in another way; for example, one of the Mage glyphs increases the damage on their Frostbolt spell, but removes the slowing effect placed on the target.

Tanking has received a huge make-over in Wrath. No longer is the focus on building threat; it's more about mitigating damage. This removes a lot of the headaches involved in grouping with strangers. Tanks also do quite a bit more damage than they did in the past, making it more fun for people who like to see big numbers. The success of instance groups used to rely almost exclusively on the tank and healer, and while they're still very important, the focus has shifted more to include the damage-dealers. Many fights are significantly easier with better damage output (and some are almost impossible without). It's a welcome change; all members of the group should contribute to its success. Reputation grinds have been made easier as well. Instead of using the method of the first expansion where running dungeons in a particular place increased your reputation with a particular faction, they now use a "championing" system. Wearing the tabard of whichever faction you choose will allow you to gain reputation with that faction regardless of which dungeon you enter. So, you can always run your favorite instance, or do a different one every night while still working toward whatever reward you'd like. That seems to be one of the major themes of Wrath; putting choice back into the players' hands.

PvP has been a bit slow to get started, since many players are still on their way to the level cap. The next arena season is due to start in a couple weeks, after which I'm sure we'll see a round of minor nerfs and buffs to smooth out any issues that arise. Wintergrasp is alive and thriving, however, as the first dedicated world-PvP zone. The concept is simple; one faction controls the central keep while the other tries to break through the walls and capture it. Fighting and scoring kills will increase your rank during a battle, which will allow you to drive increasingly powerful siege vehicles. You can use them to knock down walls, chuck barrels of poison vast distances, or to try to run over enemy players swarming around your wheels. Defenders can man turrets as well. Blizzard has tried to address faction imbalances with a buff called "Tenacity." It essentially makes you more powerful the more your faction is out-manned. In extreme cases, it can turn players into the equivalent of raid bosses — ones that know to take out your healers first. The faction that controls Wintergrasp also has access to a raid dungeon, and the boss inside drops PvP gear. It's a fun, quick way to cap off a victory. One of the things I like best about Wintergrasp is the spacing between the battles. A battle lasts for a maximum of 40 minutes, and when it's over, it's over. A new one won't start for another couple hours, so there's little reason to stick around. The new battleground, Strand of the Ancients, also makes use of vehicles and an attacker/defender relationship. It's definitely a break from the old battlegrounds, but a welcome one. Honor point rewards for both are pretty good — unfortunately, if the costs for PvP gear from the beta are to be believed, the effort involved to build a PvP set will be the last serious grind left in the game.

When Blizzard first announced Wrath of the Lich King, there was speculation about whether it would continue the success of The Burning Crusade or if the World of Warcraft juggernaut would finally begin to run out of steam, as MMOs often do several years into their life. With the early previews and later throughout the beta, we got hints that such was not the case. Now that we've had time to explore the finished version of Wrath (or at least as "finished" as any MMO project ever is) it's clear that the legendary "Blizzard polish" is there, in addition to a great deal of innovation within a single game. They're not just releasing the equivalent of new maps and models and skins — the whole game is evolving into something much more consistent and coherent than the original game. If any company in the MMO game industry could afford to rest on their laurels, it's Blizzard — but they're not. And I already wonder what they'll have in store for the next expansion.

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Review: Wrath of the Lich King

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  • by weave (48069) * on Monday December 08, 2008 @01:35PM (#26035485) Journal
    As I camped in the cheese shop waiting for some wine to spawn so I could complete a daily runner quest for the cook in the Dalaran inn, I thought about all the battles I've fought and the thousands who have died from my powerful spells. Wow, can life get any better that this?!
    • by jamie (78724) * Works for Slashdot <jamie@slashdot.org> on Monday December 08, 2008 @01:46PM (#26035701) Journal
      The mages in Dalaran were teleporting cities back when you were killing Scrawny Rats for coppers. You better smile when you hand them their wine.
    • by megamerican (1073936) on Monday December 08, 2008 @01:59PM (#26035939)

      That quest is one of the only humane in the game. Many of the quests are horrifying if it weren't cartoonish.

      You get to torture a prisoner with electricity, throw molotov cocktails at starving trolls, poke young apes with a sharp stick to piss off its mother and many other disturbing things.

      It's like they read a report from Amnesty International on Iraq and made quests with them!

      • D.E.H.T.A. (Score:5, Funny)

        by weave (48069) * on Monday December 08, 2008 @02:11PM (#26036167) Journal

        What, you haven't done D.E.H.T.A's little P.I.T.A quests yet?

        Loads of fun. You get to kill Nessingwary's people (that you used to pal around with) who are killing rhinos, and then down the road you end up having to kill the rhinos for Fizzcrank's quests!

        It's all about the gold!

        • Re:D.E.H.T.A. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Opportunist (166417) on Monday December 08, 2008 @05:23PM (#26039261)

          It's always about the gold. Give the player a chance to make a decision. One being "moral" one, with little reward, while the other one being "immoral" with greater reward and watch how people decide. Most, if not all, will go for the latter choice. That doesn't make them immoral people. It's a game. Nobody gets hurt and if they have to eat babies to make progress, people will suck their little brains out. People are usually aware that they're playing a game, that it's a bunch of pixles they "abuse" and they wouldn't do the same in reality.

          That's the difference between computer game players and managers of international companies.

      • by papasui (567265)
        I'm fond of the daily one in Moa'ki Harbor that involves killing the mother and stealing her kids.
        • Re:Cheese runner (Score:4, Interesting)

          by tygt (792974) on Monday December 08, 2008 @02:53PM (#26036963)
          If you're talking about the "Planning for the Future" daily, the quickest way I've found to do this, if you can take some damage, is to run through and grab the young without engaging in combat.

          With this strategy you avoid fighting (and stray damage will kill the young) and can pick them up while being beat on.

          Note that if you attack something, you can't pick up the young again until you go out of combat, but being hit doesn't put you into that state.

          Of course none of this changes the fact that you're engaging in some 1930s-type Canadian/Australian-style cultural genocide (taking young from families to raise in a different society), but given a choice between complete genocide (kill them all) versus a cultural shift (teach them not to kill us and live peacefully together), I think the choice is reasonable.

      • Re:Cheese runner (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dr00g911 (531736) on Monday December 08, 2008 @04:17PM (#26038367)

        That's part of the overarching theme of the expansion.

        Arthas' own personal road to hell was paved with the best of intentions, but he was only capable of seeing the world in stark black and white -- no middle ground. Blizzard wants you to squirm at some of the tasks you're set to carry out. They want you to disagree with (if not outright hate) your overzealous faction leaders (I'm looking at you Varian & Garrosh).

        You get involved that way, and I've found it's been remarkably effective in making me feel like *I* accomplished (spoilers here). I was actually completely hooked with the forsaken, storm peaks and icecrown quest chains.

        That's the beauty of the Alliance/Horde deal. There are no true "good guys" or "bad guys"... just shades of gray, and there's a slippery slope next to the moral high ground. Pretty sure that's the parallel to Arthas' fall that they're intending to make.

        Yes, I think the writing and pacing were quite good this time out. :)

        Part of that is evoking ANY kind of feeling when you're doing quests, even if it's reprehensible stuff. You connect that way.

        • Re:Cheese runner (Score:5, Insightful)

          by dr00g911 (531736) on Monday December 08, 2008 @04:31PM (#26038535)

          Ew, replying to myself.

          Had to clarify one bit... by Arthas, I mean Arthas Menethil, NOT The Lich King. Arthas is (debatibly) part of the psyche of the Lich King, and is his body.

          Depending on how far you've gotten in Icecrown, you might have learned that they're not necessarily one and the same (from a little human ghost child that keeps randomly popping up, whose name is an anagram). They don't come out explicitly and say it, but I'm betting that they want the Arthas half of the Lich King to be sympathetic. Bad choices made with the best of intentions, up to a point. And they've succeeded. Won't go into any more detail as not to spoil those who are taking the content slowly (which I recommend).

          Really interested to see where the storyline picks up once we're able to face the Lich King himself. Things might not work out quite how people have been assuming.

      • Re:Cheese runner (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday December 08, 2008 @04:42PM (#26038679) Homepage

        You get to torture a prisoner with electricity, throw molotov cocktails at starving trolls, poke young apes with a sharp stick to piss off its mother and many other disturbing things.

        Meh. Having already helped the Forsaken devise a new version of the plague that created them in order to wipe out the Alliance (and others?), a little bit of torture didn't seem like it was that bad.

        I did love how the guy says "Oh, we in the Kirin Tor can't use such tactics... so I'm just going to hand you this little magic mind-stabber, and rearrange these shelves while you do whatever you want to do." Remind you of anything?

    • by papasui (567265) on Monday December 08, 2008 @02:13PM (#26036197) Homepage
      Only if I was Jack Sparrow and random hot girls showed me their tits on a frequent basis.
    • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Monday December 08, 2008 @03:34PM (#26037729) Journal

      It could be worse, it could be a cheese shop that doesn't have any cheese [wikipedia.org].

      "Not much of a cheese shop really?"

  • My Review (Score:5, Interesting)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Monday December 08, 2008 @01:43PM (#26035645)
    Here's my mini review: Wrath of the Lich King is superb. It isn't perfect (but nothing is) but it does many things exceptionally well. First and foremost among them is that the player's character actually does change the world. From minor things like helping an outpost get a flightmaster to dealing with major political intrigue with the Forsaken, the player's character has a notable impact on the structure of the world. While the game has it's fair share of "Kill 20 grapplegromets", the addition of the world-changing quest chains is wonderful. Also, each zone has at least one notable story arc of quests that really pulls the character into the lore of the world. Wrath of the Lich King's biggest success, among many things that it does well, is it's character immersion. I give Wrath a 9.5/10.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CFBMoo1 (157453)

      At first I like how it changed the world with the phasing technology. Then I encountered a very glaring problem.

      Person A has a quest later in a quest chain to kill Dude X.

      Nobody wants to help Person A except a few guildies who haven't even started the chain. Persons B and C want to help A kill X but because of the phasing technology X isn't visible to them and Person A vanishes when entering the area where X is and all they see are mobs from the start of the quest chain.

      Getting help to do some group quests

      • Unless I'm mistaken, none of the quests in the early stages of those quests are group quests - they can all be completed solo.
        • PvE vs PvP (Score:3, Insightful)

          The quests didn't present much of a PvE challenge even to a resto druid two levels under the quest level. However, on a PvP server, I've had a friend get ganked while doing quests like these. I went to help him only to find I can't help since I'm in the restored town and he's still trying to restore it. Also, while most of us at Slashdot are adults, there are kids who play these games. Sometimes, it's just nice to lend a hand when someone needs it. Thought I still really enjoy the phasing aspect, it would
      • Really? I obviously haven't covered all of WotLK yet, but I've made it to 80 and spent a fair bit of time in Icecrown where they make the most use of the phasing and so far haven't ran into any quest chains that were not soloable.

        Give me an example please... That way I can make sure my guild can run it in "sets" to avoid this problem.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        For the most part, the quest lines are designed to be soloed. I had a tough time with some of it because I multi-box (run three accounts on three seperate computers) now that I have completed that chain on my three mains, I can't use any of them to "boost" any of my secondaries.... will have to do it again. Still, since the quest lines were designed to be soloable, I'll do okay.

        However, where the phasing can be a little annoying is that even if all three of my toons are on the same phase, the phase transiti

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Fross (83754)

      Appreciate your thoughts, thought I'd add my review too.

      WotLK doesn't really do anything new. All the "new" things in the original review are tweaks/combinations of previous things. I point people in particular to AQ40/old Naxx bosses, for instance.

      The storytelling questing is pretty good, but IMHO not a patch on the original Onyxia chain or anything like that. TBC had almost no decent "storytelling" questing, the original WoW did. A lot of people sadly missed out on the whole BRD/BRS/MC/BWL chain aroun

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I don't think it's appropriate to compare WAR to WoW. Warhammer is a great RvR game, with a PvE thing tacked on that has some limited value that serves RvR. I hope they don't attempt to "fix" PvE to be more like WoW, because I'm convinced they'll hurt RvR in doing it.

        World of Warcraft is a PvE game with a lousy RvR/PvP tacked on. They have hurt PvE numerous times in order to make RvR work, but RvR there is fundamentally flawed. Arena more or less was the icing on an already poorly baked cake. They'd have do

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fozzyuw (950608)

      My favorite thing? THE ARMOUR ACTUALLY MATCHES! (and looks cool to boot!). This is dramatically prevalent as a Death Knight, who's first big shoulder quest reward from Outlands is a bright green thing. Entering Northrend, you look like a clown. By the time you finish one of the starting zones, you'll actually look something tough again.

      I like it.

  • fan favorite whats? (Score:5, Informative)

    by X0563511 (793323) on Monday December 08, 2008 @01:44PM (#26035663) Homepage Journal

    Fan-favorite Murlocs have undergone a transformation

    Anyone who has played this game more than a few hours knows that Murlocs are not fan favorites. In fact, they are nearly universally detested; Murlocs are one of the most irritating mobs in the game.

    • Hardly universal. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Petersko (564140) on Monday December 08, 2008 @01:49PM (#26035745)
      "Anyone who has played this game more than a few hours knows that Murlocs are not fan favorites. In fact, they are nearly universally detested; Murlocs are one of the most irritating mobs in the game."

      A quick poll of the six friends I generally play WoW with reveals that the most irritating mob in the game is the hyena. Four (including me) are indifferent to murlocs, and two would play them as a character race if they could.
      • I'd play a murloc. Sure they are annoying to fight because pulling one usually results in pulling half the beach, but they are still just all kinds of neat.
        Hell, my wife actually has the murloc sound as the ringtone on her phone.
    • by Talderas (1212466) on Monday December 08, 2008 @02:18PM (#26036287)

      Mrgl mrgl.

    • Murlocs are great!

      Play the RPG! [newgrounds.com]

    • by CEHT (164909)

      Murlocs in trade channel is one of the many reasons why I turned off trade channel altogether. They can go on for hours from what I heard.

  • Unfortunately (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kierthos (225954) on Monday December 08, 2008 @01:47PM (#26035719) Homepage

    they spent all the time making the game look very very pretty (which, I must admit, it is), and none of it creating anything for any of the professions. There are glaring holes in most of the professions, not to mention the things that have been broken since the launch of the expansion (and let's be fair, in one case, for the last four years), and don't seem to be on the "Fix anytime soon" list.

    • "Unfortunately they spent all the time making the game look very very pretty (which, I must admit, it is), and none of it creating anything for any of the professions. There are glaring holes in most of the professions, not to mention the things that have been broken since the launch of the expansion (and let's be fair, in one case, for the last four years), and don't seem to be on the "Fix anytime soon" list."

      I may regret asking, but can you elaborate on this claim? I don't see the holes, and the peopl
      • Re:Glaring holes? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Talderas (1212466) on Monday December 08, 2008 @02:23PM (#26036373)

        There are currently 4 cooking recipes missing. They are unobtainable, yet they are required for the Northrend Gourment achievement in which you need to cook 45 of the 46 Northrend recipes. Additionally, you need at least 1 of those recipes to learn 160 recipes for an achievement.

        Those are some pretty glaring holes right there, considering they're prerequisites for other things.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Guysmiley777 (880063)
          No, those are not glaring, those are minor.

          Glaring would be "there is only one recipe that gets you from 410 to 420 cooking and the mob that drops the ingredient needed for it only exists in one location in the world, one at a time".

          Fretting over your achievement e-peen is minor.
        • by morcego (260031)

          You are wrong. You need to cook 45 out of 50 recipes, 46 of which are possible to learn right now.

          No, it won't be easy, specially if you need to use your cooking awards to buy spice and cook raid food, but it is entirely possible. Much more easier, I have to say, than getting the fishing one, where you need to win the weekly tournament (yeah, I've got all the coins already, as have many others).

          Also, regarding cooking, those feasts you can cook now are simply wonderful, and worth every moment I spent leveli

      • I can see one hole in leatherworking, which is rather annoying. The set items which I make are usually replaced at a rate faster than they can be used.

        For example, early in the new content a leatherworker can create several different leather and mail sets. In order for a character to use all of the pieces of those sets, he needs to be level 74 (Example: Iceborne Helm [wowhead.com]). By that level, you have probably already spent some time in instances and hopefully won a few gear drops, which replace those set piece
    • what are the 'glaring holes' in professions ? holes for what ?

      the fact that there are now scrolls that enchanters can scribe their enchants into and just put them on ah, instead of peddling their service from trade channel like monkeys and going around trying to enchant people ?

      or the fact that gems now actually make considerable difference ?

      what ?
    • Most of the crafting professions are not finished yet. The max skill level is 450. Most crafting professions don't have recipes/plans/etc. that require 450 yet. They will be added to in the upcoming content patches, along with new raid encounters. I am an alchemist and they have yet to add any quality epic trinkets.

      Its called Wrath of the Lich King and you can't yet fight him!

  • Icecrown. Which is Mordor under ice. Even has an eye, though with the new phase system you do remove it from existence in your copy. Still I got the distinct impression of Mordor from the archietecture. Throw in the cinematic from Wrath Gate quest line and this area just screams Lord of the Rings, but with dragons. The cinematic even does a good Sauron like view from over shoulder view for when the Lich King first appears. Instead of a ring its a sword this time. Still impressive.

    The areas are much l

  • by BitHive (578094)
    Anyone who plays for more than a month is insane. Grind, grind, grind, don't tell me it's not. Even my friends with level 70 accounts just grind all night. And pay for the privilege.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by UnknowingFool (672806)
      The problem with a lot of MMOs is that you need to grind to get anything good (like in life). Otherwise why play if everything is just handed to you? The changes that Blizzard has made makes it easier for casual players (a few hours a week) to get the better stuff. It's still a grind but doesn't require as much as it used to.
    • by ender81b (520454) <billd AT inebraska DOT com> on Monday December 08, 2008 @02:24PM (#26036395) Homepage Journal

      Anyone who plays game X is insane because all you do is hit buttons Y all night long!

      Just don't play it if you don't like it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Really? Grind?

      Huh.

      I've got one level 80 character and I don't remember any grinding. I remember repeating *one* set of daily quests to get a faction, and the rest was doing quests. And while there are some "go kill 10 bears" quests, there are a lot of "take this hippogryph and fly over the besieged town and pick up civilians and bring them back here". Or "here, take this harpoon, go up to this arena that's a thousand feet in the air, and use the harpoon to latch onto another hippogryph, swing up to it,

      • for i second the experience. please mod stuff that give out solid information than ambiguous opinion, up.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dr00g911 (531736)

        I've seen almost zero grind for anything this time out.

        It's been a few weeks since launch, and I play casually (hate the casual = person who doesn't raid meme going around). Guild with myself and 3-4 real life friends who are almost never at the same level to run stuff together.

        I've gotten exalted with all the factions whose loot I wanted, simply from questing and picking a tabard when I log in to run heroics.

        Quest, run a few dungeons, get what you need.

        Playing a few hours a few nights a week, I've gotten m

    • Yea, but we get to grind while chatting with old friends and making new friends along the way.

      Otherwise, I wouldn't need to be online.

      Maybe you are looking at it the wrong way...

    • if you are still SOMEHOW grinding instead of questing (for whatever godforsaken reason) in Northrend with a level 70 character,

      you shouldnt be playing any games. really. you dont have the cognitive power to correctly interface with a game ...

      but what you said, which is contrary to EVERY single wow player i have been about and talked with, tells me that you are probably a shill or a fanboi, and dont know zit regarding what you are talking about.
  • by tacarat (696339) on Monday December 08, 2008 @02:00PM (#26035959) Journal
    ... I'm not going for a second month. It's nice and all, but there's not enough change for me to feel less burnt out. Maybe in another few months. By then I'm going to have to deal with being very far behind everybody in terms of levels and progress. Bah.

    Maybe I should just start a toon in the Hello Kitty MMO.
    • Maybe I should just start a toon in the Hello Kitty MMO.

      At least there you'll be accepted for wanting to play casually.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mweather (1089505)
      Try Eve Online. It's space-based, but no level grind at all, and you never fall behind your friends. Skills are time based, you set the skill you want to train, and you learn it, whether you're playing or not. I wish there were a decent fantasy or other non-spaceship game that did the same.
  • My thoughts... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CFBMoo1 (157453) on Monday December 08, 2008 @02:11PM (#26036145) Homepage

    The game world outside of dungeons is awesome. There's all kinds of quests and activities to get lost in messing around with. I had a goal when this came out and that was to do every quest I could find for the expansion outside of dungeons in the new zones.

    After reaching that goal I realize that the dungeons themselves are too simplistic for my taste. Honestly I loved the long quest lines involved with going in and out of old dungeons like BRD, UBRS, etc. Now they feel more like a 5 minute ride at the amusement park. Just not fun anymore.

    So yeah, the game world itself in the new continent is really well put together. The dungeons feel not really as involving as the older ones were, almost unfinished because when I'm done with a run I'm like, "That's it???"

  • Anonymous Coward (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 08, 2008 @02:15PM (#26036231)

    >As we discussed previously, the current raids have been conquered already, but unless you're willing to devote many, many hours to playing the game, reaching the end of the content before more is released won't be an issue for you.

    I beg to differ. My guild is made up of full time job workers, who took time to level up to 80 instead of just staying on 24x7. We set up an appropriate time to do our first raid based on when 25 people would have reached 80...and we're done with everything in the game at this point.

    While I agree the expansion has some fantastic art (as always with Blizzard) and various interesting game mechanics much as you describe here, for my group of friends who consider themselves middle-of-the-road in terms of how "hardcore" we are, this expansion is far FAR too easy.

    (By "done" I mean we have killed all 25 man and 10 man instances - we did not have time to get around to a second run on Sarth in the more difficult mode, because last week was the first week we raided). We've also killed all the city world bosses. So now there is nothing new for us to do in the game, already. It's very disappointing.

  • Kill other players! Ain't no other way baby.!

    • by genner (694963)

      Kill other players! Ain't no other way baby.!

      And gain experince by doing so.....oh wait Warhammer does that not WOW.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Monday December 08, 2008 @02:28PM (#26036477) Homepage Journal
    it IS fun.

    they really removed the grind shit from the game. they made quests easy, but MANY. quests are so well devised and written in many story backgrounds that merge in a big backdrop. they just make you continue, follow the questline and see more and more. its like an interactive movie in which you can modify your own character and do things your way. but the difference is, there is nothing stopping you from watching this movie undisrupted -> no 'extreme tough' quests that you will need to set up a full fledged group, no annoying long grind quest that will take your attention from the story going on etc.

    design ? visuals ? breathtaking.

    they have apparently noticed that you dont need to lower yourself down to 'scratch, crappy, punk-cartoonish drawings' level because you dont want to put forth a humongous graphics card requirement -> they went the art route, and designed and made the environments so artful, so pictoresque that you foten stop by to look around. i even loitered around the river that is in between howling fjord and winterspring zones -> considering im half powergamer, it is a feat that a game environment made me do that. another pointer is, the fact that this time i care about the zone names, their geography and remember them -> previously i didnt give a crap, just another zone to go by, i would say.

    it is clearly a labor of love. these people sat down and apparently wrote a complete novel for this expansion. wintergrasp is just one of the many zones, and wyrmrest dragon temple and its quests/story is just 1/4th of that zone, but even wyrmrest temple has as many story, action, quests as 2 burning crusade zones combined. vanilla wow ? dipshit, compared to WotLK. tbc now looks like a long torture in distant past.

    i've been playing wow for its pvp system for a long time. it has unmatched 40 vs 40 battlegrounds that take only 3 seconds to get in and hop into action. i didnt care about rest of the game, because story was lacking for my taste. but now, im actually going to embark on the instancing/raiding thing, because apparently it HAS become fun this time. hell, azjul-nerub instance, which is an instance you merely pass while leveling from 70 to 80 at level 73, stupefied me. i cant even tell about how it is, it is that out of the ordinary. huge vertical caverns woven by spider webs, giant spiders of various types, stuff going on around you without your intervention or participation -> it feels not only alive but stupefying.

    yes. this shit IS good this time. so that even trolls have shut their mouths up in wow forums, and the ones that are there are complaining about its and bits only, like 'vanilla wow content is abandoned now' -> which noone gives a damn about.

    get it. play it. its good. even if wow had annoyed you with its shitty story (compared to my kotor taste) and in the huge grind torture in the past 3 years, this expansion will totally redeem all of that, and give lots of smooth flowing gaming fun.
  • Same old (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Alarindris (1253418)
    I've been playing for 3 years now, and it's still basically the same deal. Grind to 80 and then raid.

    Don't get me wrong, I love the game, but it's still just a content patch. Sure, new spells, some of the stats and mechanics are different, but it's still the same game. Also, for those saying 'I played wow for a day and it's a big grind', you're missing the whole point of the game. It's meant to be a SOCIAL game. Get to 80 and join a guild, raid for a while, and you'll see what the game is intended t
  • Music (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Khomar (529552) on Monday December 08, 2008 @02:40PM (#26036727) Journal

    I was kind of surprised that there was no mention of the soundtrack for the expansion. From what I have heard, it is absolutely amazing and really adds to the feel of the various zones.

    Here are a couple examples:

    Totems of the Grizzlemaw [youtube.com]

    Arthas, My Son [youtube.com]

  • Over the last year, I've played Warhammer: Age of Reckoning and Age of Conan.

    I really feel sorry for both of them.

    The bar's a bit higher now. The sheer variety of quest types now in WoW is just ludicrous. They put in a medevac quest.

    Just mull over that a second. A fantasy MMO with a medevac quest. Fly in, pick up people in a siege zone, and fly them out.

    And yes, it was awesome.

    Quest lines where they basically give you invincible superpowers just so you can see the lore happen. The implementation of pha

  • The Technology Angle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EXTomar (78739) on Monday December 08, 2008 @03:14PM (#26037375)

    An interesting thing to be noted in "Lich King" is the use of the "phasing technology". There are issues with the way it works as implemented now but I really see this as a jump in the technology of MMOs because it provides direct feedback to the player while doing quest progression.

    With the way "phasing" works, players can now see results of their progress. For instance, a quest NPC can now say to players "I need help building a fortress here. I need you to..." and sort of mean it. As they work through the number of steps each time they come back they see a little more of the fort come together. What starts out as little more than some guys standing in an empty space can turn into a functioning town with vendors and new buildings and other facilities. There is a lot of "trickiery" used like sending you conveniently away to deliver or gather something so it can swap in stuff but in the end you really see the results of the work done. As horrible as grinding is, at least this is some big feed back to it which is better than the old fashion NPC who would say "thanks for the help" and never quite get around to building anything.

    The problem is and forever will be concurrency. If you completed all of the quests to build up the fortress you will see the fortress. If your friend who hasn't been there before let alone completed any of these quests, at best will see nothing but the NPC asking him to help with building the fortress. At worst, you two maybe grouped and can't see each other. It sometimes gets hard to lend a helping hand to a friend if you aren't seeing what they see let alone particulate because they aren't even "there" with you.

    Although it has issues, I really see this as having a lot of potential. I wonder if Blizzard could make an expansion with this stuff where an entire area/continent/world is overrun with bad guys but as you work through the content and quests you slowly but surely, and "heroically", fix the world. The end result with any MMO expansion is you fix whatever story/disaster/crisis that popped up. With this "phasing technology" they can start to approach that where people who "finish" the quests and content leave the area "evil free".

  • /yawn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by doomicon (5310) on Monday December 08, 2008 @03:17PM (#26037427) Homepage Journal

    I quit WoW when it started making the following statements...

    "I HAVE to login so Bigsilly can get his 5 matches in..."
    "I HAVE to login, they're one short for Kara..."
    "I HAVE to login, I have to keep up with my dailies to purchase an epic mount.."

    blech!!! No fun anymore, From what I've seen WotLK isn't breaking the mold, just a new paintjob on the same car.

  • by ivan256 (17499) on Monday December 08, 2008 @03:18PM (#26037441)

    The direction Blizzard was going with Wrath is clearly an improvement on what was already a good game....

    It's too bad they didn't finish it before they released it. It's missing that typical Blizzard polish. Spelling errors and other glaring issues with quest text and NPC speech (including directions that send you to the wrong place, or places that just plain don't exist instad of the correct location); items with no names so strings like (null) and "%u" and "doodad_whatever" pop up all over the place; professions with no additional recipes long before you reach the skill cap; a new vehicle system that has no fewer than four completely separate implementations and user interfaces (half of which break); add-on API functionality that doesn't work or isn't documented; zone phasing technology that needs some of the kinks worked out; achievements that you get without actually accomplishing them, or don't get when you actually do.... etc...

    They needed to keep working on it for another month or two before releasing it.

  • by rickwood (450707) on Monday December 08, 2008 @03:31PM (#26037677)

    The Death Knight area is interesting and fun. Then it's over and you find yourself saying, "Thrallmar. I can't believe I'm back in Thrallmar."

  • by Zaphod-AVA (471116) on Monday December 08, 2008 @07:20PM (#26040951)

    I quit Everquest when it became clear to me that many game design elements were not merely bad, but actually sadistic. Since then I have one unbendable rule:

    If I have to walk/run/do nothing for ten minutes in a row, I uninstall the game and throw it away.

    Does World of Warcraft now pass this test?

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman

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