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Wrath of the Lich King – Beta!

August 7, 2008
I wanted to use the name Gary, but it was already taken.

I wanted to use the name Gary, but it was already taken. So, meet Raphael.

Much to the dismay of my good friend Scott Spencer, the other day I received an invitation to partake in the beta test for World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. When I first saw the invite email (I had only signed up for the Beta a couple of weeks previously), I was mildly interested. When Scott realized that I had gotten it, he was ready to kill me for it.

I don’t think he was joking. I’m pretty sure I saw him hovering outside my basement window last night, a rusty longsword in one hand and a shining Symbol of the Scourge in the other.

The first thing I noticed is that it’s still just World of Warcraft with some palette changes. There are some new items with new attributes and some new special effects (the rainbow glow while using the Runeforge is nifty), but for anybody hoping for significantly different visuals, don’t hold your breath. You’ll pass out on your keyboard and probably enter a string of nonsense letters into the Trade chat channel – but everybody does that already, so that’s not a big deal.

New colour palettes and swirly colours aside, some of the more interesting things to note is that WotLK (that’s what all the cool kids are calling it) allows you to make a level 55 character right out of the box. I chose a Blood Elf, and then (of course) chose the new class – the Death Knight (pictured above). You start out on the balcony of the Dread Something-Or-Other, and your first few quests involve meeting some of your superiors, getting a fancy sword and learning how to engrave it with runes.

Rune Engraving allows you to assign special abilities to your weapon, like Frost Damage, Fire Damage, Health Bonuses et. al. This can be done as often as possible, but must be done at a Rune Forge – a forge in the shape of a giant skull with a fire inside it’s jaws. It’s a simple task of standing in front of the forge, selecting the rune you want to engrave and then selecting your weapon. Rainbow colours swirl and Bob’s your uncle, rune-engraved sword.

After some intial quests to get your bearings, you are sent to a forward camp for the Lich King where you meet the enemy, kill civilians and get your mounth, the Death Charger. You also need to put up with people yelling “How do u get mont?” and “Whre da horzes at?”. I assume that all these people have played WoW before, so why they don’t understand that you need to follow quests to play the game, I don’t know. Another initial quest has you having to challenge other Death Knight players to a duel five times. It was the first time I had ever really done PvP, and winning five times certainly gives you blood lust. I challenged three more times even after the quest was done.

Quest rewards seem well-balanced, and getting blue items right out of the gate is pretty cool. Every few quests a feedback form pops up and asks you some questions about the quest. It’s a good idea to fill these out and give some extra feedback, because it will make everything better once the game goes retail.

Combat is unchanged. Click target. Click attack. Click abilities. Abilities are now powered by rune power, which recharge quickly and allow you to hit enemies with things like Death Coil, Chill Touch, and Rainbow Unicorn Sunshine Power (I made that last one up, I can’t remember them all). This is one of the major sticking point with me and many others who have played MMOs, and from what I understand some new designers are trying alternatives to this point-and-click combat system. I have yet to try any out myself, but I thirst for more immersive combat akin to Oblivion.

One thing I haven’t looked into much yet are Achievements. These are goals that are independent of levels and quests, but is something that people are able to strive for. Anybody who has played Lord of the Rings Online will recognize the concept – Achievements are obtained by increasing certain skills, exploring certain areas, killing certain creatures, and so forth. I’m not familiar with Achievement awards, but I’ll be sure to post something when I find out what they are.

All in all, the game is the same with some new things stuck onto it. Will those new things keep people interested long enough? Yes, that and the new level cap of 80 means that people will strive to get there, to collect everything that can be collected and be the strongest whatever they can be.

So, honey, send the kids to your parents’ place and cancel my trip to Gen Con because I’ve got to hit 80th level before Scott does. My geek cred depends on it.


From → video games

One Comment
  1. Mel permalink

    Cancel the trip to Gencon??? For WoW??? You never cease to amaze (and confuse) me!

    Now, sending the kids to my parents – that is something I could totally agree to!!!

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