In all fairness, WOTLK does everything that WOW has always done very, very well. Zones in and of themselves are always dramatic, and at times stunning, particularly Icecrown and Zul’Drak. A great deal of effort has been made to make zones feel bigger than anything Blizzard has created before, as is evident from the vertigo you’ll get on flying towards the flying city of Dalaran (see ‘Swoop, magic, swoop’). Character models are still cartoony and lacking in detail compared to Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, but environments are still ahead of the competition.
This makes scoring this expansion rather painful. There is so much love for the lands, the lore, and the characters in the Warcraft universe, and so many fantastic ideas that exist to go into the Northrend Saga. Somehow, Blizzard managed to take potentially the least interesting idea in history – an entire continent made of ice – and lace it with fascinating ideas, quests, and areas to explore. The problem is that these ideas aren’t held together very well, and players have to push through more ho-hum content than we’ve yet seen from a Blizzard product.We hasten to add that it isn’t bad content, but we’re now four long years into WOW.
If you’re on that boat, and want to continue playing a game that is enjoyable and addictive yet, ultimately, doing the same bloody thing it did on its release, then beour guest. You will love Wrath of the Lich King, because it does exactly what many want it to – it elongates a successful game model in a pleasing, easy-to-consume package, much like various successful sports franchises. The instanced content is excellent, the Death Knight is a well-balanced war machine that looks good in black, and the storyline – once you hunt it down and wring it out of Northrend – is crafted well enough to sate even the most die-hard lore nut.
But by any standard, this far into the development of an MMO, and with two years since your last expansion, the envelope should be pushed a little. Blizzard could’ve shaken up the genre here. Wrath of the Lich King has had two years to innovate, build and refresh WOW, but all it seems to have done is prolong the same experience that people have been waiting to continue for years. Whether or not that’s a bad thing is up to you.
Nov 17, 2008