World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King - Staff Review  

Chillingly Progressive
by Anna Marie "Paws" Neufeld

More than 80 Hours
+ Fantastic story and lore additions
+ Many game facets streamlined
+ Classes continue to evolve and adapt
- Less accessible than previous expansion
- Not enticing to new players
Click here for scoring definitions 

   It is time to suit up in some long underwear, grab a pair of mittens, and head to the frozen wastelands of Northrend. Now is the time for both the Alliance and Horde to strike at the heart of the Scourge and de-throne Arthas the Lich King once and for all. However, the road to Icecrown Citadel may be rockier than either faction ever expected in the second expansion for the lauded MMORPG, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. This review is aimed towards readers who already have a basic understanding of the World of Warcraft universe. For those requiring a refresher, check here for a review of the base game and this for the first expansion.

   Combat has changed little, but the subtle differences do add up considerably. With the rise from level 70 to the new maximum of 80 comes another ten talent points and two additional tiers in each talent tree, making the end of each a 51-point talent that has great strength and versatility. Some classes now require additional or different stats (for example, spirit has widened its net to include some damage dealers in addition to healers), and important raiding stats such as hit and defense ratings have increased proportionally to reflect the higher level of mobs encountered. Very little besides how some abilities work has been altered, though of course there are regular patches to ensure balance is maintained throughout the ten classes including the new Death Knight which will be touched upon later.

   The crafting system has again been enlarged, with the new maximum craft level being 450. Each new tier of dungeons brings additional recipes that create tradeable items. These pieces remain competitive throughout the course of end-game raiding, a welcome change from last expansion. A new craft is also available called Inscription; paired with Herbalism, scribes pound their herbs into powders which in turn create ink. These inks are then used to write scrolls, fine-tune enchantments, and create the centerpiece of the new craft, glyphs. Each player can equip three major and three minor glyphs by the time level 80 is reached and these change the way various abilities and spells act. Some are merely cosmetic, such as changing a mage's polymorph spell from sheep to penguin, while others change the way a class performs, such as a druid glyph to ensure their taunt never misses.

Achievements Achievements

   While there's no major problems or complaints regarding music, it simply doesn't feel as epic as it did prior to Wrath; it's not an issue of quality, it simply lacks a certain amount of style and flair that existed previously. While some may enjoy the change in tone and pace, this experiment is one that not all players will appreciate. The visuals have taken a step up, which is both good and bad; for those with high-end computers, the game looks fabulous. For those who were teetering on the edge of minimum requirements or with a mediocre internet connection can kiss any content above level 70 goodbye.

   The game's difficulty took a pretty severe nosedive for Wrath, both in daily play and in raiding. Some of this is better game design -- shorter quests along with those that can be done in parallel have lead to dungeons being easily accessible. Vehicle quests help break the monotony of the "go here, kill this" standard formula. Heirloom gear purchased at level 80 adapts to the level of your alts, and provides a boost to experience gained. Blizzard has also taken into consideration the growing number of dedicated (as opposed to casual or hardcore) raiders, and has created not only ten and twenty-five man raids, but heroic versions of both which award better gear for a higher level of challenge. Advancing from 70 to 80 through questing will take the player thirty to forty hours, though with the large amount of activity available to players (including daily quests, dungeons, achievements, and raiding) it isn't improbable that a player will invest hundreds of hours in the game.

   The game's interface has received several touch-ups over the life of Wrath, including an in-game calendar system, and culminating in a large overhaul of the quest and map system. Quests are now marked on the map (this can be disabled for those who dislike the feature), which is more interactive as it is wrapped into the quest log for easy reference. Script-wise, there's a huge amounts of text that was added in with nearly 1500 new quests for the player to discover. Copious amounts of lore have been pulled in, often from the Warcraft novels, and the expansion has been fantastic about building onto itself instead of moving from story arc to arc without much intermingling as was seen in the original game. Achievements have also been added, which reward players with points based off of the number of goals performed, both mundane and incredible. Currently achivement points are for bragging rights only, but they could be used in the future to purchase vanity items. Some achievements may gift the player with rewards such as tabards, pets, titles, and mounts.

Days of our Lives Raid Calendar

   The amount of originality within Wrath is refreshing. It introduces the first Hero class, which starts at level 55 and is powerful compared to its old-world counterparts. A new technology called phasing is used to evolve zones as players progress between the various questlines. What may be an enemy-held fortress will be claimed by the player and their faction, complete with quests and flight path. Though not every boss is using a new game mechanic, the use of older mechanics has been twisted in a fun fashion, with the good ideas being brought forward from The Burning Crusade and the bad ideas being left behind. The story is also fleshed out in much greater depth, particularly in comparison to previous entries in the series. As a comparison between the final boss of the previous expansion versus this one, few players knew or even cared who Kil'jaeden was. Anyone who doesn't know who Arthas is will meet him a dozen times on the way to 80 and should loathe him in full measure by the time Icecrown Citadel is reached.

   Wrath of the Lich King does a fantastic job providing a little something for every type of player, whether they be casual or hardcore, quest or achievement centric, interested in raiding or PVP. What it continues to fail to do is bring in new players who weren't swayed by the core game. Those who may have left the game previously will undoubtedly come back for a second look and may even choose to stay. Blizzard however needs to be careful to not alienate hardcore players by making the game too easy, otherwise this expansion was certainly a step in the right direction.

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