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WoW:innumerable changes and tune-ups to Lich King

Author: inwowgold Source: http://www.inwowgold.com

As you quest through one of Northrend's first zones, the Borean Tundra, you'll be struck by two things. First, you'll note the stark beauty of the landscape, with its Aurora Borealis painted across the sky, its icy wastes stretching to the horizon, and its herds of mammoth wandering the permafrost plains. It's a tribute to Blizzard's oft-praised art direction that a four-year-old game engine can be made to look this good (all the same, Lich King won't be giving Far Cry 2 much competition when it comes to graphical razzle-dazzle). The second thing you'll notice is how filled the place is with things to do. You'll seldom travel far without stumbling across a new quest hub bursting with missions to be completed. Blizzard keeps the addictive fires burning by giving you multiple advancement tracks to think about at the same time. Longtime World of Warcraft players become so attached to their characters because, in all those digitally-stored statistics, they see a portrait of themselves, a map of their leisure time carved in 1s and 0s. To the old standbys -- experience level, equipment, honor gained from player-versus player combat, reputation with various factions - Blizzard's added the new "achievements" system which tracks everything imaginable, from how many dungeons you've explored to how many pets you own.

There's also a new, player-versus-player zone in the center of the Northrend continent, called Lake Wintergrasp. It's a never-ending free-for-all where players from both factions engage in siege warfare for control of strategic objectives that will give them access to special gear that can't be acquired any other way. Though the previous expansion took baby-steps in this direction, with player-versus-player objectives scattered throughout each Outland zone, this time Blizzard is doubling down with a more serious commitment to the idea.

To all this is added the first new character class since the game's launch in 2004 - the Death Knight. In a departure from previous classes, the Death Knight begins at Level 55 instead of Level 1, eliminating days of low-level busywork. In play, it's a cross between a warlock and a warrior - using dark magic and necromancy to summon zombies and plagues as aides in battle, but fundamentally a blade-wielding melee class. Rolling a Death Knight unlocks one of the expansion's most intriguing storylines, in which you begin as a lackey for the Lich King himself, seemingly bound in service to the undead army.

Still, Lich King is not without its flaws. Play a few hours and you'll quickly see the core gameplay isn't substantially different from what it's been all along. The combat system is still the old model of activating various skill buttons in the appropriate sequence. As always, Blizzard's approach is low-risk and evolutionary, not exciting or original. Lich King lacks some of the bolder innovations you'll see in other online RPGs -- such as Warhammer Online deeper integration of player-versus-player combat into the quest system, or Lord of the Rings Online emphasis on creating a narrative experience to rival single-player RPGs.

Also, Lich King is somewhat indifferent to new players. While the first expansion, Burning Crusade, beckoned first-timers with new beginner zones and fresh races, Lich King only offers substantial content to players who have at least reached level 55 (the minimum required to unlock a Death Knight). If you're a newcomer to World of Warcraft, there may not be a compelling reason to pick up this expansion until you've played long enough to be sure you're in it for the long haul.

Nevertheless, these are minor quibbles when weighed against the sheer generosity of what Wrath of the Lich King offers. Seeing the innumerable changes and tune-ups to the game engine and the rules, you get the sense that World of Warcraft is a finely-tuned machine that its makers just can't stop tinkering with in an obsessive effort to keep it fresh, relevant, and above all, fun. For now, mission accomplished.

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