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World of Warcraft: The Wrath of the Lich King preview for PC
 
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Computer game cover
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The Return of King! No, the other King.

At this years Blizzard Convention, 'Blizz-con', in Anaheim CA, Blizzard officially announced the second World of Warcraft expansion pack for the 9 million player strong MMO. Since the release of the Burning Crusade this past January, the inhabitants of Azeroth have been distracted by the events and adventures made available to them in the recently opened world of Outland. This has been factored into the storyline of the second expansion pack, Wrath of the Lich King where the Dread Lich Arthas, the villainous undead lord of Warcraft 3, has been slowly and secretly regaining his power. He now stands at the ready to exploit the current situation where most of Azeroth’s forces are being distracted by the ongoing and prolonged combat in the Outlands against the Burning Crusade. Arthas’ plans involve attacking the unsuspecting lands of Azeroth while their defenses have been weakened.

The New Frontiers and New Weapons

In Wrath of the Lich King, players will journey to the frozen northern continent of Northrend. It is home to dozens of different types of creatures and a few races unseen since Warcraft 3: The frozen throne. Northrend is promised to have more player zones then Outreach had in the previous expansion including the first outdoor PvP zone. This PvP zone will flag all players for Alliance vs. Horde player versus player the moment they step across the zone line. It will play an important part in the events taking place within the realm of Northrend. This zone is the first of its kind due to persisting across all server types, including PvE-only servers.

Blizzard will be adding a lot of new PvP content such as player controlled siege weapons and fully destructible buildings to use them on. Initially, siege weapons will be used as a part of the new battleground opening with the expansion. Blizzard -keen to keep some surprises for us, as usual- has not released any details on what to expect from the new battleground or the possibility of a wide implementation of siege weaponry in the older battlegrounds.

Moving Day for Dalaran

Northrend will have a capital city that all members can call home during their stay. The long protected city of Dalaran is on the move and is heading to the ice reaches of Northrend. Dalaran will be a floating city that will provide players shelter and all the convenience of a full city during their adventures through Northrend and the battle against the Arthas. Though Dalaran will be a floating city, it will be easily accessible from ground level using flying mounts. Yes, current flying mounts are fully supported and you will not be required to purchase a new mount to navigate the treacherous terrain of the Northrend tundra.

Another special characteristic of Northrend are its multiple entry points. Players will have a choice to enter the area through its western or eastern peninsula to begin the entry level content. Learning from the lessons provided from the Outlands in January, this will reduce a great deal of lag and overcrowding that was experienced by World of Warcraft players who participated in the Outlands playing content in the entry zone of Hellfire Peninsula.

The Coming of the Scribe

Though trade skills in general will receive a score of new recipes that will be made available from the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, the most significant trade-skill change will be the addition of yet another brand new profession called Inscription. Though most of the details about the Inscription have not been disclosed, the basic premise behind this new profession is the ability to 'inscribe' an item that players can then use to enhance existing skills, spells and abilities. Though no specific examples were given, it was explained that with an inscription used on a players fireball, healing spell or melee attack ability, depending on what inscription was used, the spell or ability can gain a bonus to damage, critical strike chance or other bonuses. Currently, it is unknown if Inscription will have an associated harvesting profession that can be used to provide materials of creating inscriptions. It is currently believed that Inscription will resemble Tailoring and enchanting which would mean that it will not have an associated “harvesting” profession.

A Level 80 has a good hair day

One of the most important additions from the uPComing expansion another increase in the maximum Level available. When Burning Crusade launched in January, the old level limit went from 60 to 70 and in Wrath of the Lich King, players can advance to Level 80. Ten new levels with all new skills and abilities to discover! Again, Blizzard did not disclose any details on the skill sets for any of the classes for the new levels. But don't worry, we have been assured that the skills and abilities earned by increasing your level will out-do the abilities earned in Burning Crusade.

A member of the Blizzard Wrath of the Lich King development team was quoted, "Epic barber shop for the win!". The comment was clearly made in jest and good humor, however it did convey the idea behind the concept: Wrath of the Lich King now provides new character customization options. So after long years of player feedback, the Blizzard dev team finally caved and made it possible to change your character's hair, skin tone and dance style. Players will finally be able to change the cosmetic attribute of their veteran characters and new characters will be offered a larger variety of player customization options. Now maybe finally we get kill off that blasted Macarena Dance once and for all.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

But wait, the great news isn’t over just yet! The biggest and most significant addition coming from the Wrath of the Lich King expansion will be the long awaited addition of the first ever playable class, the Death Knight. The Death Knight is not a normal player class, it is Blizzards first World of Warcraft 'Hero Class'. The Hero Class is a category of class that requires the player to unlock for his/her own account. An epic storyline-driven quest will explain the origin and relation of the Death Knight and the relationship it has with both the player and the Lich King Arthas. By finishing the quest you unlock the ability to play as a Death Knight. Details are hazy at best, but it appears that becoming a Death Knight does not mean that your character will be changed or altered in any way. So the quest will not change your Warlock into a plate wearing Death Knight. Instead, you are granted the ability to create a brand new character as the Death knight class. Even the fact of starting a brand new character as a Death knight isn’t what it seems however. The Death Knight starts its life at an advanced level. Though the Blizzard dev team would not give a definite answer on what level exactly, it has been stressed that you will not be a level 1 Death Knight starting in Elwynn Forest. In fact, the dev team put more emphasis on possibly starting around the level 50 mark just as a ball park figure. As a side note however, they did hint towards a mount specifically tailored for the Death Knight class.

Runes

What is known thus far about the Death Knight Hero class is that it will be a plate wearing Tank/DPS class specializing in Dual Wielding and Two-Handed Weapons. The Death Knight's abilities will focus on being able to tank effectively without the protection of a shield and the use of any specific Death Knight magic. Its spells are split into three schools, Ice, Unholy and Blood. Unlike the spell casters currently in the game, Death knights will not have a mana pool. Instead they use a Runeblade feature.

This allows the Death Knight to carve a set number of runes onto his weapon which he can expend to cast a spell of the corresponding school type. As an example, if the Death Knight chooses to carve two Blood Runes, Two unholy Runes and Two Ice runes into his weapon, he will have two Blood spells, two Ice spells and Two Unholy spells at his disposal during combat. The runes can be changed around to better suit the situation that the player finds himself in. After use, the runes go into a cool down state and will become available again after a certain amount of time.

The Death Knight will be available to both Horde and Alliance players and Blizzard stressed that -despite the name- the Death Knight is not restricted to any single faction or race. Yes, sadly, the world of Azeroth will now be exposed to the maniacal madness of the concept of a Gnomish Death Knight. NPCs are not likely to receive the Death Knights with open arms and warm feelings, but will still identify the character as a member of its own faction.

Currently there is no set date of release. When asked for an estimated release date, Blizzard issued the long standing answer of, "It will be released when it’s done". For now, let us continue our adventures in Azeroth and sit in anticipation of the coming Wrath of the Lich King. As more information and details of the newest features become available, we will certainly keep you posted.

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