World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Review
MMORPG.com writer Joe Iuliani writes this review of Blizzard's most recent release, the second World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King.
Let me be honest with the MMORPG readers upfront. Wrath of the Lich King has been released for close to two months and unless you've been living under a rock, chances are you've heard a few things about it. Let's face it there's no way one review can cover all the elements of this expansion. Good thing there is ample coverage, guides, and additional reviews covered right here at MMORPG.com. Well without any further covering of my own short comings or promotion of the website you are already reading, on with the review.
Wrath of the Lich King is $%#@ing AWESOME. There it is folks. Quite frankly that could be enough to say and it would a fair and accurate assessment of the expansion in my opinion.
What more needs to be said about World of Warcraft that folks don't know already? I'll save the readers the tedious ramblings here. The key features of WotLK are the introduction of World of Warcraft's first hero class The Death Knight, ten more levels raising the maximum level to eighty, new PVP zones, and a brand new continent Northrend.
I pondered what would the best way to approach this review, and decided to go old school format. For long time MMORPG readers you'll recognize the "classic" break down of subjects. Sure it may be a little clinical, but it's my hope you gain some insight to how the game ranks, rather than something that reads as just another fan-boy's ramblings, although there may be some of those, as well as a rant thrown in.
I am running the game with Windows Vista Ultimate on a Dual Core E6750 @2.66, Dual ATI Radeon HD 3850, 2 Gig Corsair RAM and cable modem. Once in the game, the game play was mostly smooth. I played the game on the factory default settings and never saw the need to adjust. In fact in never occurred to me to adjust them until I just typed this. Of course there were the standard 800 plus queues to battle. The most notable lag for me was found in the most heavily populated areas, such as Dalaran (the new major hub of WotLK) a lesson a think would have been learned from introduction of Shattrath. I mean really, do the Horde and Alliance need to share a city?
When the Burning Crusade was released, it was new, but was it anything that really caught the players' attention? In my opinion it was not. Many of the creatures looked liked different color versions of the original game. I don't care what you call them or what you color you shade them a murloc was a murloc. That is far from the case with WotLK, Blizzard really seems to have outdone themselves on the designs of the graphics, environment and creatures with this expansion. There are a tremendous amount of unique looks through the Northrend continent. I personally enjoyed the whole Norse aspect to the expansion. There are Vikings, Viking Women, and Undead Vikings, it's just a great departure from the pre existing look of Warcraft. Sure there are some old creatures making their way back into WotLK, but how many different ways can you really make a spider or wolf look?
This is the second time in my history of purchasing collector's editions, that the accompanying soundtrack has escaped the confines of its cellophane prison. Most of the music was the standard fair that we've come to expect from most MMOs, there's your standard ominous dungeon percussion, and general synthesized tunes. Yet, throughout some zones, there were hints of Celtic music, and I could swear there was a piano in there somewhere.
No real improvement for the basic game User Interface as whole. It's still the standard we've come to expect from WoW. The one notable exception is the variety of user controlled "vehicles" throughout the expansion. During questing, instances and even PVP players will have an opportunity to control a variety of NPC "vehicles". Take control dragons, mammoths, tanks, and weapons each with their own set of abilities. These user controlled items add a tremendous amount of fun to the game. Whether it's riding around on a dragon blasting enemies with a variety of breath weapons or doing your best Ash impression in steam controlled tank to mow down the legions of the Scourge, this additional feature is bound to be a crowd favorite.
The achievement points added to WoW pre WotLK personally enhanced the leveling grind for me. Sure I was in a rush to reach level 80, yet oddly I was compelled to explore the entire continent of Northrend first. I personally didn't think the grind to 80 was too bad. There are more than enough quests to propel a player through the levels. In fact if you really wanted to you could solo your way to 80 quite effectively. A tad anti-social? Perhaps, but it beats the hell out sitting looking for group for an hour. I feel it's great for getting those bubs in the extra moments before work or school. Dungeons in WotLK don't seem to take nearly as long as their previous counterparts either. Maybe I'm just used to the time commitment, but it truly seems that the game is much quicker now. Another addition I feel bears mentioning is the removal of dungeon grinding for faction. Let me clarify that statement. Yes you do still need to grind dungeons for factions' experience, but you don't have to grind the same ones over and over. Oh, and over and over again. How is this done? The introduction of faction tabards is the key. By wearing the appropriate faction tabard any experience earned in any level 80 dungeon is distributed appropriately. Need Ebon Hold faction, but want to hit the Nexxus, go ahead. I think it's a great innovation.
The World of Warcraft website is an extremely well thought out website. I really don't see too much room for improvement there. Unless the time comes where browser based transaction affect game play I think this is as good as it gets. WoW's site is full of the game information a player can hope for as well as solid gaming community. Additionally their active gamer forums are second (ok maybe far from second) only to those here at MMORPG.com
In my opinion if the expansion falls anywhere short, it is unfortunately here. I know I am only a millionth of their customers so why should what I think matter? Let's all call it what it is, we gamers all think we are the only player that counts and to a certain extent we're correct. Service has improved over the years, but it still seems like it takes forever to get a response from a GM. Additionally, hailing from the East Coast, those extended service Tuesdays; almost always go over their estimated time, not by ten or fifteen minutes, but often two or more hours. Tell me up front and it won't be so bad, tell me at log on time and I get cranky. I have achievements that need achieving. It's been four years; this should be a science by now. Is it selfish of me to think so? HELLS YES!! But I'm a gamer and that's how I feel. On the plus side this only happens once a week so is really that bad? On any day but Tuesday I would suppose not.
One last Customer Service rant: Server queues. I can't help but think that something could be done to resolve this. It's not a player's fault that there are a large number of players per server. In my opinion there is NO reason for a player to have to wait in excess of ten minutes let alone an hour to play a game you pay for. Hopefully over time that will resolve itself, but currently to all it a nuisance is an understatement. There should be some kind incentive for server changes. An Achievement, a title, a mount or even an in game pet, may be enough to get some motion.
Service not withstanding Wrath of the Lich King rates Fantastic - This game has exceeded the expectations that we have for an MMORPG. Not buying this game could be a colossal mistake.
Sure, accuse of me sucking up to the potential biggest game of 2008, but I truly don't see how a game gets much better than this at the moment. Sorry Blizzard the service keeps you from a Perfect this round. Let's hear from all of you out in the Forums. What's been your favorite addition? Love WotLK? Hate it? Let's hear it folks.