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World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King review

AT A GLANCE
  • Great lore
  • Wintergrasp is a lot of fun
  • Death Knights are cool
  • More of the same
  • Bitty, disconnected areas
  • Lacks Blizzard innovation

Entering Northrend is done by zeppelin or boat, depending on whether you’re Alliance or Horde, to either the Howling Fjord (accessed by Menethil Harbour or the Undercity) or Borean Tundra (accessed through Stormwind or Durotar). The Fjord’s Valgarde houses the Alliance dangerously close to the newly-awoken Viking giants, the vrykul, while the Horde end up doing more bitch work for the Forsaken at New Agamand. In the Tundra, the Horde’s Vengeance Landing is immediately accessible, as is the impressive Warsong Hold, while Valiance Keep is all that stands between the Alliance and a swift reaming by the ever-more-bold undead Scourge.

In comparison to the demonic, explosion-filled war zone that The Dark Portal had waiting for you, your entrance to the north is actually rather relaxed. You’ll slip in somewhat unheralded and begin collecting quests and go to work trying to establish your side’s agenda. Wherever you choose to land, it seems that old habits die hard – The Forsaken are up to new and unusual ways to make members of the Alliance suffer, while the goodie-goodie humans are trying to get along with the locals and protect their supply routes.

In fact, you’ll find a great many of the initial quests eerily similar to your experiences in The Burning Crusade, with kill X of Y quests, pick up X of Y quests, and bombing runs against large groups of otherwise unreachable opponents. It’s not that these aren’t fun or well balanced, it’s more that they lack the furious extremes of Outland. While two years ago you were fighting hellboars on charred terrain while juddering devices of the Burning Legion fought overhead, a great many of your first hours in Northrend are spent killing the wildlife or scuffling with the locals. This is an expansion of exploration, and feels more like an expedition, not an adventure.

The best example came from our personal experience jaunting around the Howling Fjord in our first few hours. Feeling the advantage of jumping off the beaten track, we sought out Winterhoof, a camp of both Tauren and Taunka (apparently their ancestral cousins), thinking that it would be ripe for the adventuring. On arrival, we received a quest that had us picking up hippogryph feathers around generic, icy/green terrain, amongst a few others involving the killing of elementals and wildlife. we threw up our hands – hadn’t we left this shit behind in the Hinterlands?

This isn’t to say that Wrath of the Lich King is a litany of repetitive boredom – far from it. There are some wonderfully intricate, atmospheric and well-done quests within the Frozen Hell. Zul’Drak, the home of the ice trolls, is simply one of the coolest environments in fantasy lore. You’re sent into gigantic troll ruins at the request of gods (gigantic Totem animals), fighting vicious ice trolls protected by eerie dancing tiki masks with floating spears. Lightning crackles in the sky, and Blizzard do their best to build on the lore started rather briefly in WarCraft III expansion The Frozen Throne.

In fact, the best parts of Wrath of the Lich King seem to be when Blizzard breaks away from making a successful MMO and focuses on pure, unfettered adventure. Be it the Death Knight quest line, the battles between the Skybreaker and Orgrim’s Hammer, insulting a vrykul’s mum, or fighting a Scourge Veteran and an army of skeletons alongside a Horde Hero, WOTLK shines when it doesn’t feel like it’s setting up the treadmill for generation after generation. Lake Wintergrasp is a great example of this. Only accessible past level 77 (when players are able to learn Cold-Weather Flight and mount their respective winged beasts), it’s high-level PvP chaos that rewards good teamwork. Either the Horde or the Alliance takes control of Wintergrasp Fortress, where they must destroy the enemy’s siege engines and workshops before they can blow the fortress to smithereens.

More Info

Release date: Nov 13 2008 - PC (US)
Nov 13 2008 - PC (UK)
Available Platforms: PC
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Blizzard
Developed by: Blizzard
Franchise: Warcraft
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Blood and Gore, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence

10 comments

  • mars505 - November 19, 2008 4:35 a.m.

    Shadowbane has better graphic , this is just a disgrace to real mmo developers across the world The lore is the same lore that Blizzard knows by heart, where is the challenge , this is just retarded , sell more magazines I guess and live in a world of commercial hell and no backbone.
  • cmhuff1 - November 18, 2008 1:49 p.m.

    This game deserves the nine, but he managed to leave out anything good about the game. Yes the starting zones are kinda lame, but wait till you get to dragonblight. The instances are fun and fast, but so much that you don't enjoy them. The new spells and abilities make you relearn your class a bit, making them feel a little new and exciting. The quests are mostly repetitive, but there a lot of new additions with flying and mounted quests that are a lot of fun. And he didnt even mention phasing, where a world even occurs for you at the end of a quest chain that permanently alters the terrain or world around you. And the lore quests behind the Lich King have been really fun and interesting. My mage is almost 74 at the moment, and i'm loving every second of this game. Yes it's a little more of the same, but the same is really fun. ps. This game is not Warhammer. Stop comparing it to Warhammer. If want an open ended MMO with rampant PVP then go there and have fun. Warcraft has always been a PVE oriented game with PVP elements.
  • Akiira - November 18, 2008 11:29 a.m.

    this review talks about alot of bad things for a 9
  • DeadGirls - November 18, 2008 9:35 a.m.

    Can WoW please be over? Let's put our time and money into something new and great.
  • Cryose - November 18, 2008 1:22 a.m.

    First! Wow, I should get this, it looks great.
  • burningmunkey - November 24, 2008 5:33 a.m.

    Gamesradar, I love you guys - ur the best. But, this is a pathetic review! 80% of what youre saying is negative, yet you score the game a 9?? Don't get me wrong, WOW is one of my fav games - but please, for the love of God - write a proper review that has the score to match it!
  • anduin1 - November 23, 2008 8:14 a.m.

    if your a WoW player then theres many things they did change but to the casual viewer it would seem like more of the same -> questing/running instances to level (a MANDATORY element of every single mmo out there) but the innovation is that the post-initial quests have some new things to them. From mounting into tanks to blow enemies apart now to strapping into a cattling gun to mow down undead to cover NPC's for a quest. Id say this is a far better release than Burning Crusade. I wouldnt give it higher than a 9 for some of the same reasons as well - some quests are too grindy for my taste and some of the zones are way too small.
  • mars505 - November 19, 2008 4:33 a.m.

    Rewarding a 9 for more of the same, the Mine of Moria should be getting a 11 with this theory. I wait patiently to see this happen.
  • wolfdude - November 18, 2008 6:43 p.m.

    some reporters just love to pick at nothing to put together a review yes at the moment lich king is a bit un balanced but that will change as it did with the burning crusade p.s i think its a master peace :) :)
  • wowpaladin09 - January 12, 2009 9:32 p.m.

    I like the new expansion especially the death knight character, but it makes me need to farm for more [url=http://wowgoldpig.com]wow gold[/url] for my DK equips and skills

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