Review: Wrath of the Lich King

David Holloway
18 November, 2008
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If ever there was behemoth of a gaming franchise, it’s World of Warcraft, or WoW for short. Over the past four years, Blizzard Software have accumulated more than 11 million users, all willing to pay around US$14.99 per month for the privilege. For WoW obsessives, last week was the equivalent of Christmas with the release of the second expansion pack for WoW, Wrath of the Lich King (WOTLK). For Mac users, WoW is one of the few Massively Multiplayer Online Roll Playing (MMORPG) games with full OS X compatability, hence its loyal Mac following.

It’s difficult in a few hundred words to explain all the changes that have occurred with the release of Wrath of the Lich King. Because WoW is an ‘always on’ virtual environment, any changes are felt by most users. The most obvious change is in level achievement. Until this release, Level 70 was the pinnacle for players; that’s now extended to Level 80. For anyone wondering why their friend or loved one spends so many hours in the game, it can take a first-time player up to three or four hundred hours to get to Level 70. Add another 72 hours minimum to get to Level 80 and you can now see where your bandwidth is going. For the record, it took me around 22 days (528 hours) over 9 months to get to Level 70 – all for the sake of this review of course.

Aside from loads more content in the form of quests, raids, battlegrounds and Player vs Player options (all set on the new ice-bound continent of Northrend), there’s a whole new class to play – the Death Knight. You can start a Death Knight at Level 55 if you have a Level 70 character on the same server, so there’s been quite an influx of Death Knights in the game. All the other classes have had additions and/or alterations to their attributes and there’s now a formalised achievements system whereby you can track your progress in all the aspects of WoW — from exploring new territory to the number of other players you’ve ‘killed’. There are dinkier additions like the Barber Shop where you can alter your character’s appearance, but they too can be fun to play around with.

For gamers who like a good storyline, WOTLK has a more tightly woven narrative than its predecessor, The Burning Crusade. I find the whole WoW ‘lore’ a bit cheesy myself when compared to The Lord of the Rings or even the Star Wars series of movies, but that aside it does provide context and even some humour at times. The soundtrack is also top notch and actually adds a lot of ambience to the new content. Blizzard have actually make some really attempts to innovate in relation to gameplay. Players can control siege weapons and even master multi-player mounts which can carry supplied needed for longer quests. On the downside, a lot of the quests are the bog standard ‘Kill 15 Crypt Walkers’ or ‘Seek out Fartacus the Great in The Nexus’ – they’re more of a means to the end of achieving Level 80. To be fair, it’s hard to avoid such quests in a game like this but a little less predictability would be nice in some sections.

Australian Macworld Buying Advice. For regular WoW players, this is a no-brainer purchase – the new content will also bring back a lot of previous WoW players. For new players, you’ll probably find some discount copies of the original World or Warcraft and the first expansion, The Burning Crusade – you need to be at Level 70 to explore the new content, so start out with the original to get a feel for whether this is your thing. Be aware though – if you do enjoy it, you’ll likely end up spending more hours than you ever imagined in your quest for Level 80. Even then, you’ll be waiting for the next expansion so the grind to Level 90 can commence.

Wrath of the Lich King

Price $59.95
Minimum system 10.3.9, G5 1.6GHz or Intel Core Duo, ATI Radeon 9600 or NVIDIA GeForce Ti 4600 class card or better, 1GB RAM
Company Blizzard Software
Cons Patch updates can be bandwidth intensive
Product Wrath of the Lich King
Rating 4.5
Pros New features, not just more content. Achievement system a highlight

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