With each successive expansion, the “level-price” of entry is growing higher and higher. The Burning Crusade was designed mostly for characters that were already very high level. And now Wrath of the Lich King requires near-max level as well. So why do you have to be so obscenely powerful to enter Northrend?
As lead designer Jeff Kaplan explained on Monday, “Players between levels 30 and 40 already have so many things to do in WOW that they haven’t run out of content yet.” So in Wrath of the Lich King, “it’s really all about the players who’ve reached max level, whether they solo or whether they PvP, whether they raid or roleplay: if they are max level they all feel that they want more.”
As such the entry zones in Northrend are aimed at levels between 68 and 70, and are interestingly a million miles away from your first faltering steps through The Burning Crusade’s Dark Portal. Back then it was dramatic, but the entirety of Azeroth seemed to be on the other side - with everyone crammed into a single place and hoping they didn’t lag out, kill each other, or both. This time, however, you’re entering into either the lush, verdant Howling Fjord or the autumn-tinged Borean Tundra, and it’s a great deal more spread out than before.