Well here we go yet again, almost 2 years after the release of the WoW expansion The Burning Crusade we now have yet another expansion upon us called Wrath of the Lich King. The big question here is, has Blizzard really done innovative things with this expansion, or is it just more of the same old stuff?
First up let’s go over what this expansion brings to the table and that is the following.
-Hero Class: Death Knight
-New Continent: Northrend
-Massive World PvP
-Brand-New Dungeons and Raids
-Engaging, Epic Storyline
-New Profession: Inscription
In the screenshot below you can see one of the biggest reasons to purchase the expansion and that is for the hero class the Death Knight. When I first got this expansion I had no intentions of leveling a Death Knight at all, in fact I leveled my priest from 70 to 80 and that’s all I intended on doing. Then one day I was out leveling my priest up and I got attacked by a Death Knight and when I seen what they could do and how hard to kill they were I decided I had to have me some of that.
So shortly after my priest hit 80 and the news that there would be a spirit nerf coming in patch 3.1 I decided to mothball the priest and move to the Death Knight. I really wasn’t looking forward to leveling another character at all; even though the Death Knight starts out at level 55 I still wasn’t interested in leveling it to 80. As a side note it took me about 8 days to go from level 58 to level 80 and that was putting in some hard core hours aka 12 hours a day and doing quests the whole time with quest helper.
When you do make a Death Knight it not only starts out at level 55 but things like its first aid are already at 275 and so you don’t have to level that up from level 1 and that’s nice. Be aware none of the professions you take for the Death Knight are leveled at all so you will have start from level 1 with those.
When you make your Death Knight you are in this area that only other Death Knights can go to and it’s in this area that you level from 55 to about level 58. Also whenever you have to train new talents you have to come back to this area to do so, major cities in the game do not have any Death Knight trainers at all. Blizzard made sure to give the Death Knight a portal it can call up and with that you can always get back to your starting area quickly to do whatever you have to do.
One thing you will notice when you do level the Death Knight from 55 to 58 is it only takes about 3 hours to do so and by the time you’re done your fully geared in all Blues and you even have an epic ground mount, Blizzard even throws in a insignia of the horde like trinket to make sure you can be freed from stuns. Another interesting thing is the Death Knight can also do Rune forging and these are basically enchants that only a Death Knight can do on his own weapon. These Rune forge enchants are very powerful and will not stack with standard weapon enchants so you can have one or the other but not both on your weapon.
For me the Death Knight was a stunning character to grind up to 80. All the characters I had made before were all cloth wearers and the Death Knight is in plate. The fact you can go into outlands with a death knight at level 58 and take on 6 mobs at once and not even come close to death was unreal. I don’t know how much of that is just from being in plate armor or the fact it’s a Death Knight or maybe it’s both of them facts combined that make the Death Knight really deadly when leveling it up to 80.
I had a friend of mine leveling his Death Knight the same time I was leveling mine and we done a lot of quests in outlands together and there wasn’t too much the two of us couldn’t kill together. The two of us also completed numerous quests where you needed from 3 to 5 people and we did them with ease. There was the odd 5 person quest thought that was simply too much for us and in them cases we only needed an extra person and then we would get the quest done with no issues.
In the screen shot below you can see the Death Knights flying mount and this to has an interesting feature in that it can scale with your flying skill. So for example if you have the non epic flying skill then your mount moves at that speed; however when you get the epic flying skill your mount will be moving at epic flying speed. The fact you don’t have to buy two mounts for this is pretty cool but keep in mind the Death Knight flying mount cost about 900 gold I think it was so it’s not cheap.
The other interesting thing about the Death Knight is all of its talent trees seem to be good at both dps and tanking and that’s odd. With a lot of the different classes in the game you have one tree for dps and then another for tanking. Do to the fact the Death Knight is so versatile also means there are a lot of different talent specs to try and see what you like the most. When I first made my Death Knight I put most of his talent points into the Unholy tree and did that for damage and now that I’m a tank I still have most of my points in the Unholy tree but also a few talent points in the frost and blood trees.
If there is a negative side to the Death Knight it’s the fact everyone has rolled one and that means there are way too many of them and not enough of the other classes being played. A lot of guilds that are out there now are full up on Death Knights and don’t want any more, at least on my server, so this is something to consider when thinking about making one.
The next big piece of the expansion is the continent of Northrend and you can see that in the screenshots below. The new continent of Northrend was a joy to play in with the exception of Borean Tundra. I don’t know what it is about Borean Tundra but that whole area didn’t impress me at all. The first time I played in Borean Tundra I got my priest to almost level 71 and then canceled my account. After my friends harassed me into turning my account back on I was pleased to see the other areas in Northrend were not as boring as the Borean Tundra was.
Overall all the new areas on the new continent were done really well. The place I liked the most was called Sholazar Basin. Sholazar Basin reminded me of Nagrand from The Burning Crusade in that it was all nice and green and looked like a happy place to be in. Other areas like Icecrown have a much more sinister look to them and are encapsulated in ice and snow. I’m always amazed at the detail Blizzard manages to work into these new continents when they do the expansion packs. The draw distance has also been increased with this new expansion and it gives a lot of these new areas an epic feel to them do to how far the draw distance goes out.
Below are 2 screenshots, the first is of Sholazar Basin and the second is of Icecrown.
The only negative thing I can think of in regard to the new continent is the fact it looks so good that when you go back to the old world wow you really don’t want to be there because it looks so out dated graphically from what you see in the new continent. The other thing that still bugs me about the old world wow is you still can’t use flying mounts there and that’s a huge pain in the ass. When you go back to the old world wow you are stuck using the flight master if you want to get around and they don’t take the shortest routes from point a to point b. I hope during one of these expansions Blizzard finally makes it so you can fly around in the old world wow. And for those confused by the term old world wow I mean from level 1 to 60.
When I purchased the Wrath of the Lich King expansion one of the things I was most interested in was to see how they managed to do the world PVP I had read about. The screenshot below shows the continent of Northrend, in the center of the map and off to the left you see an area called Wintegrasp this is the new world PVP zone that was added with Wrath of the Lich King.
What makes this world PVP different is the fact it’s an area of the continent of Northrend. In previous expansions there was no world PVP like what you see in Wrath of the Lich King. The main way to get into this new PVP zone is via a portal that will spawn in the city of Dalaran about every 2 hours or so.
The way this world PVP works is that every 2 hours the Alliance and the Horde will portal into the area and fight over the base that’s there. Whoever wins in that fight takes control of the base and that in turn gives their entire side access to a special instance that’s located inside of the base for about 2 hours.
The main reason to fight over the base is to get access to the instance called “The Vault”. With the vault you have 2 modes you can do the instance on, one is normal and the other mode is heroic. In the normal mode you can only have a max number of 10 people in your group and in the heroic you can have up to 25 people. The normal and heroic versions of the instance are identical in terms of looks but the heroic version drops much better loot then the normal version does. The other difference between normal and heroic modes is the difficulty, heroic instances are harder to do then the normal mode is. Another interesting thing about the vault is that it can drop both PVP gear and PVE gear.
I remember the first time I entered a Wintergrasp PVP battle because the lag was so bad. In fact the lag was so bad I never went back in there for a few weeks. I did eventually go back in and the lag wasn’t as bad as the first time but it’s still pretty bad. The machine I have here is no slouch in terms of graphics performance and in a lot of the Wintergrasp battles you would end up seeing less than 20 frames per second and to me that’s one of the biggest reasons I try to stay out of there as much as possible.
Wintergrasp is so demanding on the game server that you can normally see when a Wintergrasp battle is just starting because the whole server starts to slow down regardless of where you are in Northrend. The main reason for the performance hit is the amount of players that you see in any given Wintergrasp battle. Sometimes you can have several entire raid groups entering battle on the horde side alone and so when you’re talking about a couple hundred players roaming around an area together that usually means massive amounts of lag and not to enjoyable of an experience.
In the screenshot below you can see one of the siege machines that you use in Wintergrasp to break down the walls so you can gain entry into the base. I’m not really a fan of any of the vehicles that were added in Wrath of the Lich King. To me the vehicles just don’t feel right and most don’t even move fast enough so I avoided them as much as I could while playing the game.
Speaking of control another thing I didn’t like about Wrath of the Lich King was the quests where you had to take control of a guy and do a quest. Like the vehicles I talked about above when you take control of some of the big guys to do a quest they just feel really clumsy to use and you also don’t get a very good view based on how big the guy is on your screen, even when you’re zoomed all the way out.
The new profession inscription is pretty interesting and overall I think it adds quite a bit to the game. For those that don’t know an Inscriptionist can make glyphs and these glyphs can do things like make a spell that cost a regent not cost a regent anymore. You have 6 glyph sockets by the time you get to 80 and that means you have 3 major glyph sockets and 3 minor glyph sockets. You can buy the glyphs off the auction house just like you would with anything else. It should be noted that like the gem system you cannot reuse a glyph and if you want to put another glyph in a socket that contains a glyph the one that was there first will be overwritten by the new glyph.
Below is a screen shot of the page you insert your glyphs into.
The next screenshot you will see below is one of the achievement system and this is something that at first glance might just seem like a stats page but I think it may have changed the game a bit. Prior to the achievement system being added into the game there was no real reason to do any of the old world content anymore. With the achievement system in place you can get titles and other things if you achieve certain things in the game.
A good of example of the achievement system is the “leading the cavalry” achievement. In order to get this achievement you have to obtain 50 riding mounts and that’s a lot of mounts. You get some of these mounts by going back into old world content and getting exalted with different factions. When you finally get 50 mounts you get the achievement and then you also get a reward and in this case it’s an albino flying mount that you don’t see many people on because of how much work is involved in getting 50 mounts.
The achievement system has people in the trade channels in local cities forming groups to go back and do old world instances in order to get an achievement. A lot of people in this game feel a lot of the old world content gets ignored when each new expansions comes out and now there is a reason to go back and do old stuff that you may have never seen before.
What I really wish is blizzard would give more rewards for achievements then they currently do. Right now the big reward for doing some of the achievements is the titles and also the odd very good flying mount.
The one achievement I liked the most was the “For the Horde” achievement and to get that one you have to go and kill the leaders of 4 main alliance cities. This achievement can be tricky to get because you need a group of 40 guys and have to hope the alliance players are not on the ball when you come running into their main cities. The alliance also has the same achievement and they have to kill the horde leaders in the different horde cities. When you get the “For the Horde” achievement you get a war bear ground riding mount. What really sucks about this though, is that if you manage to defend your leader you can get an achievement for that but you don’t get a mount or even a title so there’s not much incentive to put up a fight when each side storms the others cities and that’s a shame.
I really hope Blizzard expands on this achievement system and starts to offer more rewards for certain things other than titles and flying mounts. The amount of stats the achievement system can track is also really impressive. You can see for example how much gold you have made from the auction house or how much gold you have made from quests. You can also track your kills you have and better yet you can track if you have completed all the quests in a certain area of the game.
The one thing that puzzles me is the achievement system can tell you when you have done all the quests in a region however there is no way to have the map show you any quest givers you may have missed in a region and that can get frustrating when you’re trying to get the achievement for completing an area and you can’t find a quest giver.
While on the topic of quests, the one thing that has to be addressed is the quest items you need to complete quests. Currently there is no way in game to make it so your quest items stand out in your bags. When you’re like me and have 4 16 slot bags and always have them full of junk it can get really annoying trying to find a quest item in your bag. From what I have heard there are user created mods that address this problem but I feel it’s something blizzard should address in game. They need to give characters in game a bag that only holds quest items and then make the quest item blink when you’re near a quest giver and have to turn that item in, that would solve this annoying problem.
In the screenshot below you see the barbershop that was added to the game and this is also interesting in that for the first time in the game you can finally modify the characters look even if it’s only their hair style and facial features. Blizzard needs to take this idea further and make it so you can change the other aspects of the character such as being able to use dies on your clothes and make things look the way you want them to.
One thing I have noticed about this expansion over previous expansions is to me it seems more unstable in terms of crashing. I found that while checking out different parts of Northrend there would be certain spots where the game would just freeze. Most of the time when the game did freeze like this the game would come back after 30 seconds of not doing anything but there were times it crashed out to the desktop. Sometimes I would be able to predict when the game was about to freeze because you could see the frame rate just drop like crazy to the point the game was a slide show and then it would just freeze. I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come for Blizzard, I can remember when the standard wow game would crash as well but those crashes were very few and far between so I hope things don’t get worse as the new expansions come out.
Below are the computer specs I run Wrath of the Lich King on.
-XFX Black Edition GTX 260 896 Meg 216 Core Video Card
-Evga Nforce 790I Ultra SLI Motherboard
-Intel Core 2 Duo X6800 Extreme edition CPU Rated @ 2.93 Ghz and running @ 3.09 Ghz
-2 X 1 gig sticks of Crucial Ballistix DDR 3 ram running @ 1800 Mhz
-2 250 gig Seagate SATA 3Gb/s 8 MB cache hard drives
-1 500 gig Seagate SATA 3Gb/s 16 MB cache hard drive
-Audigy Platinum with Live Drive sound card
-Pioneer DVD/CD burner
-3 ½ Floppy drive
-750W SLI Corsair Power supply
-Windows XP PRO SP3
Before I get any e-mails about my User Interface in game here is a list of mods that I use and you can get them from wowinterface.com or curse.com
QuestHelper this is a mod that will save you a lot time when doing quests because it shows you where you have to go in terms of completing quests.
XperlClassic this is the mod that allows me to move my unit frames around on the screen and it has a ton of features.
TitanPanel this is the mod that you see at the top of my screen in most of the screen shots and this thing does a whole host of things like show you how much XP you’re getting and how much money you have on all your characters and the like.
Bartender4 probably one of the best mods out there do to the fact it allows you to move your tool bars anywhere on the screen and that’s how I got all my tool bars in the middle of the screen.
There are other mods out there that I use from time to time but I try to keep the amount of mods I use to a low number since if you get to many mods loaded up you start to get into performance issues with the game.
In conclusion Blizzard once again has put together a worthy expansion and it’s something end users should pick up if they have already purchased the previous expansion. Despite how good this expansion is there are still issues that haven’t been addressed in game such as mining bags not holding gems despite the fact you get the gems from mining. You still can't view two professions on the minimap at once. So for example if you take mining and herb picking as your two professions you have to switch between the two different display modes on the minimap manually all the time in order to track them as your moving around the landscape and this is a huge pain in the ass.
If you would like more information on Wrath of the Lich King you can go to their web site here.
Below are a few more screenshots of the game enjoy!
The first screenshot shown below is of a server crash. Most of the time when you get a server crash in wow you get disconnected and then have to wait to reconnect. What was different this one time was you didn't get disconnected but instead all the bots/npc's that are in Northrend vanished and in the city of Dalaran you had what must of been a thousand bots/npc's all over the city and as the screen shot shows it got pretty crowded.