ANAHEIM, Calif.--Directly after the World of Warcraft player-versus-player presentation that kicked off day two of BlizzCon, a different team of designers took to the stage to discuss dungeon and raid content in the upcoming Wrath of the Lich King expansion pack. There are several new dungeons being introduced in the expansion next month, and while we were afforded brief fly-throughs of most of them during the presentation, the most interesting information came not from the giant video screens but from the team members talking about their design philosophies for the new content.
If you're a seasoned raider in World of Warcraft you know that the most challenging endgame dungeons are currently the reserve of a small minority of players who, through either great skill or good fortune, belong to top guilds. That's great if you happen to be one of those players, but with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion the designers are hoping to introduce dungeons that can be enjoyed by a much larger percentage of players, even if they get to experience them only at lower difficulty levels.
Five-man dungeons and raids will support both regular and heroic difficulty settings, and in addition, the raids will support both 10- and 25-man groups--scaling the difficulty (and the loot) accordingly. Furthermore, armor pieces from class-specific quests that drop during raids will be slightly different depending on how large a group you're rolling with, and pieces from the two sets will be compatible. So, for example, if you're wearing a full set of 10-man gear and then your guild steps up to the 25-man raids, equipping the superior pieces that you get in them won't cost you your set bonuses. Furthermore, if you've ever felt the need to run the same dungeon over and over again because you needed a particular piece of armor to complete your set, you might be pleased to hear that at least some of those armor pieces will be available from vendors in return for tokens dropped by bosses. Those tokens will work in much the same way as the Badges of Justice that were introduced in the Burning Crusade expansion, except that there will be two different types (Emblems of Heroism and Emblems and Valor) for the 10- and 25-man raids respectively.
Highlights from the dungeon-specific portions of the presentation included the following:
Halls of Lightning
This five-man dungeon takes advantage of the Warcraft lore revolving around the titans responsible for all creation. The quests inside the dungeon have been written in such a way that they feel like a continuation of the storyline in the zone where the dungeon is situated. Reinforcing the idea that the dungeon exists in the world of Northrend are windows and balconies from which you can see (an instanced version of) the zone outside.
The first boss is described as a "roamer," so there will be some strategy involved in deciding where you fight him as well as how you fight him. You'll be able to see the second boss watching you from a balcony when you enter the dungeon, though you won't encounter him until much later. The final boss, whose battle will incorporate storytelling cinematics at the start and finish, is a large air elemental who, in keeping with Blizzard's desire not to reuse boss models on smaller enemies in the world outside, has a very unique look about him.
Ahn'kahet - The Old World
Set in a gigantic cave underneath Northrend, this five-man dungeon will tell the stories of increasingly old gods as you move deeper down into it. The deeper you get, the more ancient the enemies and the art style become.
During the first boss encounter, numerous small enemies will hatch from nearby eggs. There will be some strategy involved when it comes to clearing these because some of the larger hatchlings will eat the smaller ones. The second boss is some kind of vampire that will occasionally target and attempt to feed on a party member. And the third boss will be an orc member of the Twilight Hammer order who surrounds himself with followers at the start of the fight and then attempts to sacrifice them one by one. If you don't manage to kill the chosen followers before he does, he'll gain a significant buff. The fourth and final boss is a "faceless one" who won't put up much of a fight early on but who, after a time, will stop everything and then phase each member of the party out into his or her own instance where they will be attacked by their colleagues. As players manage to defeat the clones of the rest of their party, they'll join other players' instances where they can assist them.
Chamber of the Aspects
This raid takes place outside on a landscape dotted with lava flows and the like. There are five different-colored dragon bosses, the most powerful of which is a black drake. The other four bosses will purportedly be quite easy to defeat, but hardcore groups looking for a challenge should skip them entirely and go straight to the black drake. If you do that, the four other bosses will join the fight and make things significantly more challenging. Succeeding in this fashion won't go unnoticed or unrewarded, and your drops will include a black drake mount in addition to all of the usual epic items.
The other raid that was shown briefly was the Eye of Eternity, which you'll be able to get into only if at least one member of your party has already obtained a key from a different dungeon. All we got to see of the raid on this occasion was a platform floating in space with a blue dragon flying overhead. We were told that said dragon will land and come looking for a fight when you attempt to use the key, but it didn't work on this occasion because the guy running the demo had some kind of invincibility cheat activated.
There is plenty of new dungeon and raid content on the horizon, and the fact that all of it should be accessible regardless of whether or not you're in a top guild is certainly good news.