Thursday, February 12, 2009

Review: Wrath of the Lich King

Reviewing a World of Warcraft expansion is a little like sampling a new kind of cheesecake. Of course it's got a different type of topping, but in the end, its the delicious center that continues to bring you back. Thus is the same for the Wrath of the Lich King. Unlike the Burning Crusade, Blizzard have actually outdone themselves. Considering how massive the scope of the game actually is, I'm going to break this review down into a few categories.

Let's get the most noticeable part out of the way first. Blizzard's art design for Lich King has gone above and beyond to make the game look beautiful, even if it's still running on a nearly five year old engine. They've made many, many improvements with not only the art direction, but the overall style. In all honesty, they've raised the bar so much that one nearly groans with the prospect of going back to the old world to do nearly anything. To sum it up quickly, Lich King is pretty. I'm sure there are better words to describe it, but it is too difficult to come up with the perfect definition. You'll understand what I'm getting at the minute you take your first zeppelin/boat to Northrend, and you'll never want to go back.

At the core of it, Lich King still has the main gameplay style that has made World of Warcraft so addicting over the past few years. The classes are still teetering on imbalance(as well as being imbalanced in some cases), however Blizzard plans to fix this with the upcoming(as of this writing) 3.1 patch. Each class has been expanded to once again gain new abilities and talents with the level cap's increase to 80, but each also retains their unique sense of style that keeps them different. With the expansion, Blizzard has also released the Death Knight hero class. While I had my doubts, they have managed to create a new class that does truly feel new and unique, even with all the others still remaining. The Death Knights themselves also have one of the single most epic quest chains at the beginning your play as one. 

Speaking of quests, it looks like Blizzard has learned a lesson or two from the past few years. Quests have evolved from "Bring me 10 bear asses" to much more fun variants. Of course there are the standing cut and dry MMO types (Escort, Kill X, Bring back Y, Talk to Z), but they have also added in some pretty awesome quests. For example, a quest in the Storm Peaks has you jumping between flying dragons with a harpoon, kicking off their riders, or a series of quests in Icecrown for a eerie little boy, that lets you experience some of the best moments in Warcraft Lore. That's not to say that the fun quests are only available at the higher areas, as even Borean Tundra has its own share of them.

Like any good game, Wrath of the Lich King still has its problems. There are the standard bugs, exploits, and rude players, but it does come with its own unique issues. Death Knight overpopulation is a big one, with any /who search usually providing 50% or more of the results as Death Knights. Then, you have the unbalanced PvP part of the game, where currently, player front end (or burst) damage is so large, that most healers don't even stand a chance, and are rendered near useless. There's also the gripe that the current PvE content is too easy, but considering it is supposed to be entry level content, one should not expect it to be too difficult.

Last Word 
Wrath of the Lich King is a very compelling addition to what was already an excellent game, if you're already a fan, go and get it, you won't have any regrets. For everyone else, now is a great time to jump in and see what WoW is all about. Oh, and those of you who left due to the story of the Burning Crusade? This one is much more memorable, and it doesn't need space paladins.

Score: A