Review: World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King

John Funk | 10 Nov 2008 09:00
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Something that drives many players away from MMOs - or prevents others from starting in the first place - is the "grind" factor. WoW has always been comparatively light on the grind compared to many other MMOs, though there's no question that it still exists. Lich King takes further steps to curtail the time-sink requirements, and while some hardcore players might lament what they see as WoW catering to casual gamers, to put it bluntly: these changes make it a better, more accessible game. Perhaps the most significant change is the decision to let players tackle the end-game 25-man raid dungeons with a group of 10 (scaling the enemies and encounters accordingly) - after all, it's much harder to get 24 other people together than it is to find 9 friends. The 25-man version will still offer superior rewards for the truly hardcore, but this option means that more players will have access to the complete Lich King experience.

For those who have never played the game but have friends or family who do (and really, who doesn't?) or who have just been curious, ... well, the thought of getting to level 80 is a bit more daunting than getting to 70, let alone 60. Burning Crusade came with two new races for level 1 players to start with, but almost all the great new content in Lich King is for high-level characters, and even the Death Knight requires someone to have a level 55 character already. So why start now with Lich King?

Even though changes like the overhauled class and game mechanics or the introduction of more robust interface and graphic options affect all characters and players across the board, it's true that most of the content in Wrath of the Lich King is aimed at veteran players. Since the launch of Burning Crusade, though, Blizzard has worked on polishing the old-school content, and the trek from 1 to 60 is both quicker and smoother. With Lich King, the journey from 60 to 70 will be similarly sped up, and the brand new Achievement system is an entertaining diversion that old-timers didn't have.

Furthermore, the leveling experience - questing, discovering new storylines and exploring new zones - has always been one of WoW's strongest points since the beginning, and that hasn't changed. For a new player, the journey should be as fun as it's ever been. For everybody else, the end-game at level 80 is better than it was at level 70 or 60, and getting there is just as fun.

Wrath of the Lich King is a tremendously more ambitious - and tremendously more successful - expansion pack than Burning Crusade was, and feels like a return to the roots of Warcraft. It's more WoW, but it's a better WoW in essentially every way imaginable. No game is flawless of course, but Lich King is a title worthy of the Blizzard name and reputation. It might just remind people why exactly there are eleven million people around the world playing the game today. The Kool-Aid has never tasted so good.

Long live the King.

Bottom Line: WoW has never been better. It's more accessible, there are more options for players than ever before, Achievements and Siege weaponry are awesome, and the Death Knight introduction is phenomenal.

Recommendation: With Wrath of the Lich King, there's been no better time to start, resume, or continue playing World of Warcraft.

John Funk can't decide if he wants to get his Night Elf Druid or Troll Mage to level 80 first, but is stocking up on Mountain Dew anyway.

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