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Friday | December 9, 2016
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WOW: Wrath Of The Lich King (PC)

WOW: Wrath Of The Lich King (PC)

It is hard to believe that World Of Warcraft was released only 4 years ago as its path to success seems almost embedded into modern culture on a variety of levels. WOW as it is commonly known has held the MMORPG crown since it was released and with over 11 million subscribers it is hard to imagine its popularity will fade anytime soon. Wrath of the Lich King is the second expansion to Blizzard’s game and has already sold in massive quantities. I am a long time fan of the series, so I am here to find out if it is worth your money.

The expansion packs from Blizzard are very formidable, there is a plethora of content such as a new level cap, an entirely new continent and a new player class – the first since the game was released. As WOW players are already aware, there is a considerable standard already and with the newest pack Blizzard are clearly targeting high level players.

The level cap has been increased to 80 and the new continent of Northrend is not available until you have a high level character at your disposal. This means if you are new to the game you will have to fight your way through the ranks via the original content then the first expansion … it is only then than you will get access to the new land. While this sounds painful to some in fairness Blizzard have made the process up to level 70 quite rapid via patches released in the run up to the Lich King release. Those who activate their accounts now will not have to spend as much time in the original release territory or Outland from The Burning Cruscade as those who wet their MMORPG appetites when the original content was just released.

As I mentioned earlier there is a new class, this is the new Death Knight, and he starts at Level  55. If you already have a high enough level character you can unleash a Knight straight away as Horde or Alliance and experience a very strong quest line. There are about 50 quests that start with your character battling against the forces of good while infiltrating some operations and attacking strongholds. You can also kill citizens while riding on rampaging frost wyrms and generally unleash your inner evil …  we all enjoy that in the comfort of our homes, right? After this initial sequence however you will take a detour through Outland as you have to level up for entry into Northrend before you get the option to rejoin the story of Arthas (The Lich King).

Writing a review on this game takes some time because you have to live this game for considerable time before you even get a handle on the overall impact a new class will make within Warcraft’s World. They are already a fun class to play and they seem to be forming a good addition to raiding groups. Death Knights have a very unique system to their play styles which is linked to their resource systems. They start fights by devouring different types of runes which activate various skills and each of these skills has a cold down sequence. Using skills means you build up runic power to access other skills and therefore combat with a Death Knight means that you need to manage your rune cool-downs to trigger abilities and then balance them with those that consume runic power.

Talent trees strengthen various aspects of the class and depending on how these points are allocated you can be more effective at generating and maintaining this runic power, or you can toughen your stamina or increase your attacks while unlocking a number of interesting skills. The Death Knight can also come back to life for a short time after being killed as a ghoul and project an antimagic zone to stop incoming magic spells. Additionally while in this mode they can call down gargoyles to inflict damage on foes, summon a ghoul companion or blow up corpses. If you combine all these special abilities with the fact that the Knight wears plate armour they end up being very tricky to deal with in combat. The death grip ability in PVP is extremely devastating as the player can magically haul foes to their location from considerable distance. Blizzard deserve some kudos for this because they could have played it safe and released a new class with very similar skill sets to what is already created, but they reinvented the wheel to a certain extent with the Death Knight.

Some gamers reading this who haven’t yet dipped their toes into the MMORPG pool will be dubious to the fact that these titles have no ending, in that, the game is endless. This is obviously needed to keep subscribers hooked to their monitors and paying the monthly fees, however this time around I feel the narrative and storyline is more tightly focused to appeal to a slightly wider audience. The level process this time around is much more interesting and compelling.

Players get plenty of time to interact with the Scourge leader as he appears on a regular basis such as a dungeon run through Drak’Tharon Keep on the borders of the Zul’Drak and Grizzly Hills. His sword Frostmourne is a very attractive weapon and he uses it with dramatic glee to emphasise his dialogue or target a victim.

The story is very strong indeed for an MMO and long standing fans of the franchise will be engrossed for quite some time. I still don’t think people who hate the genre will find it attractive, but as we all know it is still a very specialist style of game.

Graphically Blizzard have pushed the tried and tested design a little further because Northrend looks gorgeous with much more diverse landscapes and a wide variety of campaigns at hand. They have enhanced the quest structures as well and this deserves some discussion.

You still spend time collecting as before but quest chains are mixed in with vehicle missions, such as daily dragon battle quests at the Wyrmrest Temple. There are also Giant riding sections in Zul’Drak and these go some way to add variety to the overall quest missions. Some of the environmental sections are complex in design as well such as the jungles of Sholazar Basin. Storm Peaks are also worthy of a mention as they cater to players with flying mounts and offer a great view over the landscape vistas.

Dungeons are still apparent and players can battle tougher content to get rewarded with superior items for their character. These start with 5 character raids into the Nexus and Utgarde Keep to more difficult ones Like Gundrak, which are brief but entertaining escapades. Those who like a challenge will be pleased to enter into the 25 character raids which are obviously more organised and team oriented styles of play.

Player V Player is well catered for as well, on open PvP servers you can attack anyone of opposing factions however Blizzard has added a considerably more ordered system to its game over the last few years and this is expanded upon in Wrath Of The Lich King. Wintergrasp for example is a zone catering entirely for PvP, this is Blizzards effort to give more structure to larger scale conflicts. Players can enter the zone and after a timer counts down either defend or attack a fortress. Think of a scaled down version of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning’s implementation and you get the idea. This makes for a nice change of tempo from the other quest structures and you can use siege equipment to break pieces of the castle off which adds a nice touch to the PvP gameplay.

There is also a new profession, called Inscription which allows players to power up existing skills. An achievement system has also been incorporated into the game which mirrors the same ideology as the Xbox 360. It works well to keep the user base active outside of material rewards.

Wrath Of The Lich King includes a new capital city called Dalaran and it is a metropolis floating over forests of Crystalsong on Icecrown’s border and has access to other major cities via portals as well as battlegrounds. It has its own instance as well called the Violet Hold where groups fend off waves of attack from enemies and bosses.

While not cutting edge, the game has received some graphical improvements such as real time shadows and improved detail models. Granted, anyone with a semi decent gaming pc will be able to run the game at maximum settings without problem but it still has occasional scenes of beauty and panoramic vistas. The character animations are also as good as I have seen in this genre and when you combine  this with the distinctive nature of the spell casting it is clear that Blizzard still have a graphically effective platform.

Musically, the score is just as high quality as ever, it gives a full sense of realism of the zone you are travelling and works wonderfully in the confines of the game.

Blizzard are not resting on their laurels, certainly they are making tens of millions each month with subscription fees, but the Wrath Of the Lich King has been tweaked, enhanced and fine tuned to offer the best and most diverse content to date. The graphics are improved, which aids the feeling of immersion in a virtual world but I have to ask the question. Can Blizzard keep this game at the top indefinitely or is something waiting around the corner to steal its glory? Right now, I recommend you jump into the WOW experience and find out what you have been missing.

Gameplay

92/100

As polished and refined as a MMORPG can be. Be prepared to lose a lot of your life in this game.

Graphics
83/100
Getting dated, but the enhancements this time around breathe more life into the environments and character models.
Sound
88/100
The new zones have beautiful new scores which set the mood nicely.
Value
93/100
Blizzard have added a lot of content to cater for the high level audience. Should have long term appeal.
Overall
(not an average)
92/100

Excellent and if you haven’t jumped in before, now is the time. Be aware however, this game is addictive.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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