Wrath Of The Lich King

Well I’ve been playing (read: reviewing) Wrath of the Lich King for some months now and, for the most part, thoroughly enjoying it. The new content is surprisingly actually quite good and, in my humble opinion, far, far more entertaining, varied and fun than that of classic World of Warcraft and The Burning Crusade.

Wrath Of The Lich King, in addition to our staff shortage and a sheer burden of “real” work, has played a fairly big part in the lack of frequent content updates in the beginning of 2009. It’s definitely renewed my interest in WoW, refreshing the addiction to, perhaps, the strongest it has ever been.

Wrath Of The Lich King, amongst other things, introduces the concept of multi-person mounts and integrates mountable vehicles into several decidedly entertaining quests and instances. One instance will even see you riding on dragon-back, taking down flying dragon mobs, landing to engage ground-based targets and bosses before finally taking on a boss whilst mounted where your gear will make no difference and it’s all down to strategy (and picking the right kind of dragon). I personally find these a refreshing change from the seemingly endless similar boss fights I’ve encountered in WoW over the past few years, but there are many complaints levied against Blizzards increasing affection for vehicles which seem set to find their way into a raid instance in the upcoming patch.

To keep the ease of questing on a flying mount from ruining the early content in WoTLK, Blizzard have also chosen deny you the ability to fly until reaching 77 and purchasing a 1k gold “Cold Weather Flying” skill. As frustrating as that might sound, this motivated me to get a little mining done and, by the time I hit 77, I not only had enough for the skill but had picked up epic flying skill and a 280% speed mount too with cash spare to go towards my partners riding skill. Once you’ve got an epic mount in the bag, if you’re a miner you can make liberal use of it to farm large amounts of Saronite which, interestingly enough, can be given the magic treatment by Jewelcrafters and Disenchanters to yield a massive profit by converting it into enchanting materials.

Another welcome and recent addition to World of Warcraft is the concept of achievements. Following in the grain of the achievement systems that squeeze every last drop of replayability out of console titles these days, Blizzard have introduced an achievement system that will prompt you to explore the world, try new skills and attempt feats of strength. My favourite thus far has been a little nod to Leroy Jenkins, an achievement that demands you slay a certain number of dragon whelps in a small amount of time; easily achieved with AOE. This particular achievement, as an example of rewards, grants you a “Jenkins” title and legitimises your frequent cries of “leeeeeeeeroy”. Our guild, Serious, has been tackling some of the heroic achievements which require you to take down bosses in some of the most difficult ways possible, we may wipe more times than a dih… (okay I’m not going to say that) … but still have oodles of fun doing so, along with that feeling of satisfaction when, even though half of us are dead, we’ve taken down the boss within the time limit, or without killing its minions.

After years of being somewhat behind the curve in World of Warcraft, I finally feel like we’ve caught up in WoTLK. We’re having a whale of a time our own, brand spanking new guild “Serious” on Talnivaar tackling the new instances and raids. Plot-driven quests leading into instances seem to have reached an unparalleled level of quality, with a dash of voice acting, plot twists and a small sense that you’re part of what’s going on in the world. Alas, in WoW things can easily happen outside of their logical order, and you can encounter the same event several times depending on who you quest with and where you go, so the immersion is often shattered and is tenuous at best. Still, there are areas which will dramatically change as you proceed through quests, factions you can ally yourself with (somewhat like the Aldor/Scryers situation of TBC), world PVP areas with NPC enemy mobs to hack through when there are no players to encounter and, generally, an awful lot more going on.

You will easily hit level 80 without completing all of the quests, but the achievements and the lore give you plenty of motivation to go back and complete them once you’ve kitted yourself out in raid “epix” and can steam-roll any quests without breaking a sweat.

Blizzard continue to push out the boat with respect to the level of detail and beauty they can squeeze out of the WoW engine. The new areas are absolutely vast, varied and, in some cases, overwhelmingly stuffed with things to do. There’s plenty of wow factor (haha) to be found in instances and raids and plenty more epic sights to be seen in the non-instanced world. The city of Dalaran is so excessively detailed, in fact, that, like Shatrath a year or so ago (only more so), it causes serious frame-rate issues for those of us with less than super-computer powered systems. Such issues are frustrating, but somewhat expected now after seeing the same thing in Ironforge and Shatrath in their respective eras.

There’s so much more, but I think I’ll leave it to future blog entries posted in sync with our guilds progression through the new end-game content and re-visits to older instances. Overall, WoTLK has re-invigorated an interest in WoW that was completely crushed by difficulties in progressing through TBC content; we never really got past Karazhan and Gruul which are early raid instances in which we would have geared up for the later ones.

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