WoW – Wrath of the Lich King

Wrath of the Lich King is the highly anticipated latest expansion to the OMGMMORPG – I mean seriously massively multiplayer online role-playing game, with over 11.5 million subscribers – World of Warcraft (WoW). Inns across “Azeroth”, the birthplace of all characters in Warcraft, were empty for the first time since the occasional server downtime as hoards of photosensitive players from across the World of Warcraft went /AFK to purchase Wrath at midnight on its release, November 13.

Due to a complex and rather ambiguous carrot-and-stick system of ‘rewards’ I had set in place for successful completion of my final year at university, I bode my time until the end of first term trolling forums like an alcoholic sniffing round Spoons before opening time, to get a taste for the game before I could allow myself to log on over Christmas. Wait, a girl who plays WoW? Not only that, but one who is willing to sacrifice the remnants of a social life to publicly review it? Yes reader, you are not mistaken.

When a non-WoW player thinks of the sorts of people who play Warcraft, their imagination probably leads them to the types of characters one is likely to come across during my hometown’s Collectormania festival. He is long-haired, probably bearded and still likely to be battling acne despite having left puberty just short of an eon ago.

However, as much as MMOs like Warcraft are known for their addictive qualities, most players like myself are considered “casual” non-raiding players. Well, I’ve raided a few times but that was like a really long time ago and I was young and impressionable, just a phase I was going through. And whilst I haven’t yet been able to explore some new features which have been introduced since Wrath, such as ‘10-man’ raiding – which make the ‘40-man’ dungeon runs of the classic WoW game feel like a distant and rather orgiastic in-game hangover – there are many other delights to be sampled.

Although, where exactly these delights were, on first stepping foot off the zeppelin from “Orgrimmar” into the Horde base of “Warsong Hold,” I was not too sure. From one Orc stronghold to another, my beautiful Blood Elf mage – Medaeu – navigated her way through its dank, dingy and quite unremarkable walls to the outside quest-givers. My first few quests in the new region of “Northrend” had me exploding spawn holes and swatting flies, sorry – Nerubians, and to be honest few of the 277 quests I have completed so far in the area have proved to be little harder than fly-swatting. I don’t consider Medaeu to be particularly overpowered, and whilst she was initially kitted out in full epics, they have slowly been replaced by +level 70 gear, which lends me to think there’s more ankle-biting going on than rending in this area unless there’s a warrior about.

Despite the absence of any real difficultly curve throughout level progression, for those of us who swore we would throw ourselves off the edge of Mount Hyjal if a stocky little dwarf demanded we singlehandedly attempt the extermination of a whole region’s worth of wildlife – *cough* Nesingwary – players should be pleased to find that the quest dynamics in Wrath offer up a little more.

The “Sholazar Basin” area is what the developers should have done with Nagrand. Satisfaction washed over me like the salty waters of the “Veiled Sea” lap against the webbed feet of the native Murlocs of “Darkshore”, as my newest encounters with legendary hunter Hemet Nesingwary and his cronies in Sholazar, sent me on a fruit-finding mission to brew my own ‘Kungaloosh’ – a refreshing change to the “kill 50 of ‘x’ creature” quests of the previous expansion. Questing is becoming more quirky, and players can expect some delight from quests such as ‘Kick, What Kick’ which although on the face of things appear relatively mundane – i.e. shoot the apple atop the head of a much begrudged dwarf – have subtle idiosyncrasies encoded into them, for instance an unsuccessful shot might have the chance to take out a nearby bird of paradise, which is itself rapidly gobbled up by a baby Crocolisk called Crunchy.

More significant gameplay changes, such as the introduction of ‘phasing’, have had my boyfriend about as excited as the last time he saw photos of Elisha Cuthbert in her panties. The poster-boy of Wrath – the new Death Knight class – is introduced to the game within a phased world, where different quest-givers, characters and environments appear depending on how many of the relevant quests you have completed in the starting area.

Both Horde and Alliance players can experience phasing on a much larger scale, during the siege of the Undead capital – Undercity – where characters on certain stages of the quest, the city appears to be inhabited by demons. Familiar Horde non-player characters such as Varimathras and Grand Apothecary Putress who are killed during the siege, are wiped from the face of WoW. Well, that is, your World of Warcraft.

As for the Death Knight, there really was no appeal for me in abandoning Medaeu to retrain a Death Knight who as far as I could tell from all the forum whining in the days after Wrath’s release, are the brats of the World of Warcraft, and where the ‘hero’ element of the class which we were promised by Blizzard was, is also dubious. As far as I can tell, Death Knights are just the Paladins’ older, crustier brothers with an attitude problem.

When it comes to letting a Death Knight tank in your guild, the answer should always be “no” – unless they have ‘Ensidia’ or ‘Method’ floating above their heads – because their high starting level, 55, probably means they have less experience as tanks than Warriors or Druids who have been taking since early-level instances. Many players who feel that a quick brush-up on a WoW Insider guide to tanking as a Death Knight is an adequate replacement for days worth of /played as a tank, are sorely mistaken, as the many wipes sat through with a Death Knight at the helm of an Utgarde Keep run is testament to.

But at the end of the day, this is a game developed for existing players, and there will be few who can stand by whilst level 80s gallivant around main cities across the World of Warcraft and resist the temptation to grind their way back to the top. Although I, like many players who find it hard or impractical to dedicate every waking moment to the game, did this with a heavy heart. All the gear that I had acquired – my player vs. player set, alongside some fairly respectable raiding gear – would quickly become redundant and just when I could really begin to enjoy the endgame experience and hold my own against and alongside even hardcore players, I would have to start again. And just when I began to feel sorry for myself, I found solace in the aptly entitled episode of a popular American cartoon which featured four boys who sacrifice their lives, looks and dignity to defeat an in-game menace: Make Love not Warcraft. Yes reader, I would do just that.

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