Giant Bomb Review

91 Comments

World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Review

5
  • PC
  • MAC

Wrath of the Lich King provides even more reason to continue playing a four-year-old game.

[EDITOR'S NOTE] When we decided that we wanted to cover Wrath of the Lich King, we determined that an expansion review like this one would only really be useful to people who are still playing World of Warcraft--or people who played a lot of it and stopped, but might be interested in coming back. Since the four of us haven't played World of Warcraft in ages, we decided to enlist the assistance of the upstairs technical crew. Andy McCurdy has been playing World of Warcraft since the beginning with no serious breaks, so we figured he'd be the best guy to figure out if the new stuff Blizzard added is worth your time.

Give or take, Wrath of the Lich King marks World of Warcraft's fourth birthday. Think back to what you were doing in 2004. You were probably into the Xbox or PlayStation 2, and perhaps you were really excited about that Halo sequel that all the kids were playing. Maybe you were a little ahead of the curve and were waiting patiently for God of War, which would ship the following Spring. Point being, it's been a long time since World of Warcraft's initial release. But over those four years, Warcraft has changed. It's almost turned into a platform unto itself, with the kind of monthly improvements that other MMO developers have often talked about but never get around to implementing. But Blizzard's good ideas have a way of actually making it into their game, a trend that continues with this latest expansion. Wrath of the Lich King implements a mess of cool improvements, pushing the game forward and further cementing World of Warcraft's place at the very top of the genre.

The Lich King Arthas beckons you to his icy realm of Northrend.
While there are plenty of meaty gameplay changes to consider, the most major improvement that Wrath brings to the world is in its story. This expansion elevates the delivery of lore in World of Warcraft via a new set of real-time cinematics, player-perspective landscapes that change as a result of your actions, and inventive new quest designs. A large number of the newly available quests surround the story of Arthas, the fallen knight who originally appeared in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, and the land of Northrend. The game doesn't expect you to remember the events of Warcraft III, though; a suitable amount of backstory on these events is also included.

One of the most exciting elements of Lich King's quests is that some them give you the feeling that you're actually changing pieces of the landscape. One quest produces an in-game cinematic of an epic fight with the Scourge, the fall of an Alliance hero, and the devastation of a town. From then on, players who have completed this quest see the area as completely devastated from the battle, while others continue to see the land whole, as it was previous to the encounter. This epic feeling of taking part in larger world events continues as you fight alongside notable computer-controlled faction leaders, rampaging and invading a player-controlled town. This is a key point--Lich King actually makes you care about the fates of the world's NPCs by having you fight alongside them against other human players. These NPCs are further fleshed out and made meaningful via some terrific voice acting from key characters in the more-meaningful quests. These elements add a lot of character to the experience.

Wrath of the Lich King also adds World of Warcraft's first new class, the Death Knight. Denoted as a "hero class," you can only create a Death Knight if you have a character that is already level 55. Death Knights start at level 55 and come equipped with a full set of rare gear. While forcing players to have a level 55 character establishes a decent barrier to entry, it hasn't completely stopped the "new-class-itis" that typically infects an MMO when a new character class is added to the game. Expect to see a lot of DKs running around until the newness factor wears off.

Expect to see a ton of newly made Death Knights pillaging the frozen north.
Death Knights are in the service of the Lich King himself, and start in the floating city of Ebon Hold. A rather entertaining series of beginning quests will quickly elevate you from the starting level of 55 up to around 58 or so, providing a steady stream of talent points that will expose you to the class' new abilities faster than a traditional new character would. Still, the additional abilities come at a gradual and manageable pace. The final quest in this starting line contains a satisfying in-game cinematic that also serves as the severance of the bond between the Lich King Arthas and your Death Knight. At this point, you're free to travel to other areas in the world.

As far as abilities are concerned, Death Knights focus their power through runes which are embedded onto their weapons. There are three types of runes: Blood, Frost and Unholy. Each of these match up to a corresponding talent tree. Death Knights have two of each rune type, which are consumed by their special abilities. For example, the Death Strike ability costs one Unholy rune and one Frost rune. Runes restore their power 10 seconds after being used, so playing a Death Knight requires some micromanagement of which abilities you want to use in which order. Given that only seasoned players can even create a Death Knight, this setup is a skill-based way to make the class fun and unique.

Inscription is the new profession featured in Wrath of the Lich King. Inscribers can create glyphs that enhance the skills and spells of other players. Each player can have three major and three minor glyphs. Major glyphs enhance a skill or spell by increasing its potency, such as increasing the damage it causes, the healing it does, or the duration of the effect. Minor glyphs add smaller gains to less-used spells, or provide novelty effects to existing abilities. Mages with the minor glyph of polymorph, for example, will now transform their target into a penguin instead of a sheep.

Blizzard has overhauled the other professions quite a bit, providing a direct benefit to the players who've leveled up their professions. For example, enchanters receive item enhancements that can be used only on their items, and blacksmiths receive the ability to add sockets to their existing armor. Even gathering professions have benefited from these changes. Miners receive a buff to hit points for all the sweat they've put in, herbalists receive an area-of-effect healing wave where flowers grow from the ground, and experienced skinners receive an added chance to critically strike opponents in combat.

There are a lot of unique scripted missions that add variety to the questing.
Although not a unique idea, Wrath of the Lich King has introduced an achievement system that is incredibly fleshed out with nearly a thousand achievements available for players to unlock. All achievements are worth points that contribute to a player's overall total, while some harder-to-obtain achievements also provide special mounts or status titles. One example involves killing all four opposing NPC faction leaders (no easy feat), which rewards you with a pretty bitchin' black war bear to use as a mount. Players can compare their achievements with other players at any time. The only issue with the achievement system is that it isn't retroactive for anything other than quests, so you might find yourself doing a lot of stuff over again just for the sake of achievements. Really want that war bear? You better get yourself and 50 others to the Undercity at 4am...again.

The game also introduces some other fun, just-for-kicks additions, like a barber shop where you can change your hair style, hair color, and facial hair. Tired of your old look? Have a hair color that doesn't go with your cool new gear? No worries, just fork over 10 gold for a whole new look. Oh yeah, and getting a haircut is an achievement, too. Just like real life!

As usual, Blizzard has absorbed some player-made tools and interface mods and made those concepts official parts of the game client. With Wrath, players now have access to a calendaring system to keep track of special events and gatherings. That might sound silly to a less-serious player, but if you've been playing World of Warcraft long enough to get this deep into the game, you probably understand how important it can be to stay organized with your posse. This calendar is available both in-game and on the WOW website, which is handy.

Generally speaking, a lot of the changes that have been made in Wrath are great at making the game more accessible. You can tell that Blizzard learned a lot from the release of the previous expansion, The Burning Crusade. For example, BC had all the players funnel to one starting zone to begin their climb to level 70. This caused big bottlenecks and made some quests hard to complete because two million other adventurers were trying to do the exact same thing during the first few weeks of release. Wrath provides two starting areas for players in the new area of Northrend, and the areas have a lot of different branches that give you different ways to get up to level 80. Also, access to Northrend has been made very apparent with a boat that leaves from Azeroth's major cities, rather than having players quest out to the little-visited Blasted Lands to teleport to the new areas, as in Burning Crusade.

Instances now come in both 25-man and more-casual 10-man versions.
Wrath also expands on the scripted quests previously introduced in the last expansion. This gives the new quests a lot of great, unique moments. Want to control a flying dragon and dogfight with other dragons? Want to assault a lumber mill and take it away from an opposing faction? Want to drive a steam tank, launching ice bolts at zombies while you attempt to deploy gnome saboteurs to destroy enemy plague wagons? Wrath offers all of this with the usual goofy, over-the-top style that has become the series' trademark. These unique, scripted quests provide a pleasant variety for players who are tired of the all-too-typical kill-and-gather quests. That's not to say that the game still doesn't make you grind, but getting one or two of these more-interesting quests each night feels like a nice reward after killing those 15 plagued spiders that took you 30 minutes to find.

The new dungeons also seem to have been designed with accessibility in mind, with shorter lengths in lots of the leveling instances. In these new areas, it's not uncommon to blaze through a five-man dungeon in under 30 minutes. That may not sound like a good thing, initially, but since it lets you see the more-interesting boss fights more frequently, it's actually a very good thing. Late-game raids in Wrath can be run in 10- or 25-player mode. This is cool because it lets players who might not be in a large, organized guild still have a chance at seeing some content that they might not be able to see otherwise. Both versions offer the same content, but the 25-man version offers slightly better loot. This change is great for casual players while still giving the hardcore guilds an incentive by making the top-tier loot exclusively available to the players who are organized enough to play with 25-man groups.

Player-versus-player combat is still a major part of World of Warcraft in this expansion. Players have new abilities to access in PVP battles, and Wrath adds an additional multiplayer battleground called Strand of the Agents. Strand puts one team on offense and the other on defense and opens with the offensive team making a Normandy-style beach landing, followed by an attack on the town gates of a city that the defenders must keep safe. Players can drive battering ram vehicles to knock down walls, but must also be careful of artillery mounted on the city walls. After the offense captures the city or time runs out, the factions swap sides.

Northrend is full of well-designed new areas and things to do.
Wrath also adds two new arenas to Warcraft's competitive Arena system, where groups of 2v2, 3v3, and 5v5 matches occur. The Orgrimmar Arena is designed like a Roman colosseum where teams enter on a platform underground and are raised up to the floor when the match starts. It has moving pillars that can interrupt ranged attacks. Walls of fire erupt from the ground, causing damage to players standing nearby. The Dalaran arena takes place in the sewers of Dalaran with players starting in pipes and being pushed out by a stream of water when the match starts. The first arena season for Wrath of the Lich King starts December 13th, a month after the initial release of the expansion. Right now, PvP is a little random, since many players are still coming to grips with the new abilities.

While what's in the box and on the servers is great, it's not quite as much as was originally promised for the expansion. Several raids, including an epic battle with Arthas himself, aren't available at the time of this writing, and are scheduled to appear in an upcoming content patch. Also, promised features like dual specs, which will allow players to flip between two sets of talent configurations on the fly, haven't made it in yet.

But it's hard to complain too much about minor omissions like those when the current content in Wrath of the Lich King is so broad and so solid. This package makes for an epic and excellent expansion to World of Warcraft, one that will certainly keep longtime players coming back. And the increased accessibility and streamlined nature of World of Warcraft 2008 compared to World of Warcraft 2004 mean that even players who gave up a long time ago will also find plenty of reasons to return to Azeroth.
91 Comments
  • 91 results
  • 1
  • 2
Edited by Death_Burnout

Nice to see a WoW Review, nice one Andy. Shame that my interest in WoW is lacking ever since i reached level 30 and finally realised "wait...what am i doing here!?"

Clearly this expansion should help with the better quests

Posted by TomA

Kool,i wasn't expecting a review for this because Jeff.Vinny,Ryan,and Brad don't really play MMO's.But great review Andy!Once i get to 55 i'll be getting this:)

Posted by JohnD212

Sorry the two idiots above me fail to recognize that the game is actually very good. Forgive Blizzard for knowing how to put out a good game...and forgive GiantBomb for recognizing it. Oh how American of you two to hate something that is so popular. OHHHHH you're so cool...too cool for WoW. Ok...so don't play and guess what...that'll make their subscription just a tad bit less than 11 million....I think I see a tear at Blizzard over losing you. I will never understand why people like you make comments about games you hate.  You are both a mess. GO back to your twitch fest on your PS3's and leave the rest of us 11 million players to enjoy a 5 star game.  CYA

Edited by PapaLazarou

For me WOW lacks customization on the character creation screen, no player housing and a crap crafting system. I also wish the game had a harsher death penalty like perma decay on items, wounds on your Health and Mana/action bars, BF and losing levels and items. In EVE Online it really made PVP scary and more exciting because in that game you can lose everything you have in one death if you're dumb enough to be caught like that.

I wish LA and SOE never ruined SWG :( 

Posted by AaronBelfast

@ John: Yeah, I was thinking that!

And Andy, nice to see you enjoyed the game, but it'll still be good to have you and Snide back!

Posted by Daniel_Newton

I don't play WoW but it's great to see a review by Andy, that is something I certainly didn't expect! Great review Andy!
So, when is Coonce's review coming out? :D

Posted by Kraznor

New editor demands new shirt. And there should be a Dave shirt as well, that dude was awesome in that episode of the Bombcast.

Posted by Dan

There's going to be a lot of woW hate in these comments, as ever, but to be honest Lich King is a 6 star expansion pack on your puny 5 star scale.

Posted by Kohe321

Good review Andy. Wotlk is great!

Posted by unholyone123
Posted by thefjk

Nice review man, but as a recovering WOW addict (been clean for 6 months now) I don't want to go back. With all my characters deleted, restarting the game will be a pain in the arse. I won't set foot in Azeroth again!

Posted by Pleasureizmine

no u

Posted by welly

got it. worth it.

Posted by breton

Bring back 40 mans.

Posted by klarax

A dedicated player of WoW giving 5 stars. No suprises there.... Fools,..

And i agree with many people hear, 5 stars are being given out for every game lately. sheesh !!!
Posted by OGCartman

Awesome, and agreed.

Posted by albedos_shadow

I demand more Andy and Dave reviews!

Edited by BawlZINmotion

Unlike the Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King is WoW at its best and deserves that score. Good job sir.

PS. I thought we all left the review hecklers back on other sites...
Posted by Brackynews

First, 5 stars won't be rare if reviewers stop wasting time with the crappy games. ;)
Second, we're in the gold-rush season right now.  Best release window of the year and such.

Suck it up, grumpy-gusses.  If you need some balance in your life it's called Metacritic.

Posted by MagicKiwi

WOTLK is awesome and vastly improves on WoW. Play it before you determine they shouldn't give it 5 stars.

Posted by addictedtopinescent

Good review, but I will hate you forever if it makes me go back into WoW, I liked my new social life. 

I wonder how far can Blizzard push WoW, when will people move on from it ? Anyways congrats to Blizzard for making one of the best, most long lasting games ever made.
Posted by PitifullPete

I think I can answer this one: Until their next MMORPG

Posted by imayellowfellow

great review, im glad u guys decided to get a more informative opinion

Posted by jakob187
Snide, you forgot something in your review:

*ZOMGTHEYRIPPEDOFFWARHAMMER*

Blizzard having to rip other people off = yikes.
Posted by MrMiyagi

Yawn.

Posted by unholyone123

Damn! Now we have to deal with WOW fan boys/girls. Thanks a lot guys, now we'll be scrubbing the smug off the website for weeks! 

Posted by RHCPfan24

Who is Andy? I don't know...

Posted by GioVANNI

Great review!  Dave and Andy are a great addition to the Giant Bomb Team. 

Posted by Vager

Theres a few errors with the review: Arthas was introduced in Warcraft III before the expansion. Death Knights don't start with rare gear they get it by doing all the intro quests. And the Arthas in-counter was never promised. They said that they will release it later in a content patch. Though I'm not sure about the other raids.

Overall I completely agree with the review, its loads better then the Burning Crusade. There are a lot more epic quests compared to the few in BC.

Posted by Jayzilla

I've never played WoW, but right on for Blizzard putting out yet another great game.

Posted by McBain

I think this is Andy's first review, right? Anyway, can we expect a video review?

Posted by jeterman29ny

Ok, I refuse to believe every game is a 5 out of 5. Now comeon!

Posted by zityz
Posted by rerty

Good review man , really well broken down and written.

Posted by Wright

oh my god. you guys have a ROBOT!? you gotta have him on the bombcast.

Posted by oobs

would like to hear daves account of tihngs too..would be cool to have his thoughts..maybe he and andy can do a video review together similar what they did with war hammer

Posted by TooWalrus

Great review, I'm having fun with this, well, when i'm not in classes or working.

Anyway, Warcraft ripped off Warhammer, which ripped of Tolkien, who ripped off Beowolf or some shit. It's the enjoyment of the game that counts.

Posted by betakill_14

I love Giant Bomb! You guys rule!!!!

Posted by Anderson

While I'm not likely to return to the land of Azeroth any time soon, the review was very well written and gave me an excellent understanding of what's what in the new content.  Very well done, indeed, Andy.

Posted by Trilogy

Nice review and an awesome expansion so far. I'm really enjoying it.

Posted by Hagzor

Nice review man , Been playing for a week and it is a vast improvement on bc. But like other guy said i thought we left all these bs comments behind us, go back to where u came from trolls.

Edited by snide
Warning... somewhat fanboyism ahead. Thar below be content of an individual with little writing skill that spends most of his day looking at code and needing his nigh times to relax. It is not tied to the site in any official capacity and as usual comes with the disclaimer of my awesome postion of never having do deal with the difficult  job of reviewing games for a living. I just make boxes look pretty.

----

For those asking my opinion, I must admit to editing this review for style/grammar and agreeing with the majority of Andy's points. I definitely haven't put in as many hours as Andy into the game and am not qualified to review it, but on the whole think Wrath is a much better expansion then BC.

Outside of Wrath, at a personal level I think Blizzard is destroying at its job as a subscription based content house and think that gamers that haven't touched this game in the past year are really missing out on.... well, what games will likely be in the future. That's not to say that they can do no wrong, as any fan of a content creator (be it games, film, tv or whatever) always learns. But right now you've got a company making really good decisions, and it almost feels charitable to shell out only 15 dollars a month, and 40 bucks a year to be a part of an ever-changing world. Because honestly, the rest of the industry is doing pay-per-download DLC stuff and that really feels archaic in comparison.

Wrath shows more then anything a company that spends most of its time thinking about the longevity of their product above all else. IMHO fanboy opinion, there are only two companies doing that well right now, Blizzard and Valve. They are the only two building their franchises into platforms. Well, maybe Nintendo too, but there's nothing great I can comment on them this season.

That's not saying you should be playing WoW. At this point you already know if you should or you shouldn't and my opinion won't change your mind. All I'm saying is that if you are an FPS, RTS or whatever fan, you should look at WoW and think... man, why isn't my favorite franchise doing that right now? If you think about it, they really should.
Posted by Coldbrand

So what happened to the WAR coverage?

Posted by lukusluke

Stop looking at just the stars and read the review, I honestly could care less about "stars."

Posted by I_am_Lono

This site should be renamed Giant Bomb-containing-5-star-reviews-for-all!

Posted by zyn

Nice review Andy!

Personally, I think Wrath of the Lich King is a much more refined expansion than The Burning Crusade - in terms of questing, earning money; and the size and scale of battles and locations.  With the introduction of specific mount skills (such as: when driving a tank or riding a dragon) it adds a much more deeper combat system.

And the 10-man OR 25-man instances is a MUCH APPRECIATED addition to the game for those who don't have the time to organise 25 people or simply have enough people for such high level instances (much like myself and my friends).

Posted by philuk19

Nice review, but the current trend of 5/5 (10/10) games just seems alittle overboard on all review sites. Maybe im just to critical of games, but I also think a 10/10 star rank  would allow more flexibility in the rating system.

Edited by ElectricHaggis

I'm currently playing WoW again but I doubt I'll actually make it to the Lich king content. Nice review by the way.

Edited by ahoodedfigure

The most I've participated in this game was looking over someone's shoulder.  Once when they were actually playing, and another time when someone was on the website, trying to figure out what build he was going to do for one of his characters.  I'll admit gaming is a hobby of mine, but it seems like WoW is a hobby in and of itself.  I like the ease of picking up a game, and I also like the ease of putting it back down again.  Maybe I'm just not built for this sort of thing :)

P.S., I hope Andy reviews another thing and is disappointed with it, so we get to see a sad robot!

  • 91 results
  • 1
  • 2