World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King - Death Knight Hands-On

We get hands-on with the new class being introduced in World of Warcraft's second expansion.

by

PARIS--We've seen a fair bit of what's to come in Wrath of the Lich King, the second expansion to Blizzard's mammoth MMO World of Warcraft; we've slain foes in Northrend in a recent visit to Blizzard's Southern California offices, run through the Howling Fjord at last year's BlizzCon, and heard all about the changes to the raiding system. We'd also heard a lot about the game's new class, the Death Knight, but hadn't been able to actually play with one--until now.

Before we get into the heart of the matter, let's recap. When you get into the expansion, you will be able to create a Death Knight if you have a character of level 55 or higher, but you will only be able to have one per account per server, according to the latest information from Blizzard. Unlike other classes, this character can be any race you wish--which is likely to annoy those who take their lore seriously.

After creating a Death Knight you're dumped into in the middle of the Plaguelands, the scourge-ravaged area home of the ruined city of Stratholme, to the east of Tirisfal Glades, home of WOW's undead.

Your Death Knight starts life at level 55--that's five levels below the pre-Burning Crusade level cap--with a selection of mostly uncommon gear (greens), with a rare (blue) weapon. The selection of spells is limited; you have one "presence" available, blood, which boosts damage by 15 percent and heals you to the tune of 4 percent of the damage you do. The most obvious difference as you enter the world is your character portrait; surrounding your portrait and health bar is the blade of a vicious-looking sword, with six glowing, coloured runes embossed on the blade beneath your health bar.

All Death Knights look set to start with the same set of gear, and it looks mean.

The runes represent the three new types of spell castable by the Death Knight, as we'd previously been told. These are essentially global cooldowns for those classes of spell, with two bites at the cherry--in the initial setup, at least. Some hybrid skills use runes from different schools, and ensuring you're using all your runes as much as possible looks likely to be the key to maximising damage with your Death Knight.

Of the skills we got to try during our play session, Death Grip was probably the most novel and useful. While it dealt no damage, it acts as a lasso--cast it on enemies within 30 yards and they are instantly teleported next to you and taunted into attacking you for the next three seconds.

When you first enter the world with your Death Knight you have no talent points to spend and a very limited array of skills, but thankfully this is rather rapidly corrected as you reach Light's Hope Chapel and meet the Death Knight trainer--the aptly named Siouxsie the Banshee--along with a few other associated NPCs. You won't have to walk all the way, though; as a Death Knight you start life with a summonable epic mount. Tooled up with 45 talent points to spend you can take advantage of the three skill trees, though there aren't many additional skills available until you clock up a few more levels.

At level 55 the play mechanic for all three trees is fundamentally the same; you will still do most of your damage at melee range, with a small number new skills available from each talent tree. We found the Frost route to be the most effective at level 55, with talents to increase your critical strike chance and attack speed in abundance letting you tear through enemies at and just above your level with relative ease. Frost Strike will become your weapon of choice, as it converts your next melee swing into a powerful frost blow. The area-of-effect Howling Blast is useful when you're in a tight spot, as it deals treble damage to frozen targets, and deals frost damage to all hostile targets in a large radius.

The Frost tree also lets you give your weapon a temporary icy enchantment, which adds frost damage to your attacks and gives your melee blows a chance to lower your enemies' frost resistance, as well as imbuing your weapon with a nifty blue glow. This, combined with the red glow imbued from one of the speed-boosting talents, makes the Death Knight a rather impressive-looking foe as he slashes those before him.

The Blood tree is more useful in parties, with abilities to improve your Blood Presence, boosting your total health and those of your party, as well as granting the useful Mark of Blood. This spell will have particular use in instances and party running, as it grants your entire party 10 percent of their maximum health when a marked creature dies, as well as transferring 5 percent of the healing done to the marked creature to all your party members.

Health is a particular focus of talents in the Blood tree; Blood Gorged boosts your damage by up to 10 percent when you have over 75 percent of your maximum hit points. There are also talents that boost your attack power based on your total armour, and ones that increase the health and strength of you and your party when your Blood Presence is activated.

The top of the Blood tree also provides some fun bonuses. Heart Strike reduces your target's health by 20 percent for 30 seconds, and Dancing Rune Weapon can double your melee damage for a certain amount of time by creating a replica of your main weapon that mimics your attacks for up to a minute without the need for any additional runes or action on your part.

The final tree we got to play with was Unholy. This is reminiscent of the skills attributed to the Necromancer in Diablo II, and looks likely to come into its own at higher levels when you can summon minions to fight by your side. It brings back the old favourite spell Corpse Explosion, as well as boosting the strength of you and your summoned minions and increasing the damage and effects of your disease-related spells.

Runic Power is the one new mechanic with the Death Knight we are yet to cover. It is essentially a hybrid between energy and combo points and is required for a range of impressive moves. It is displayed via a small arc-shaped meter to the right of your character portrait. When the meter is full the entire blade that backs your portrait and rune bar glows blue to let you know it's time to unleash all hell on whatever poor beastie you're beating.

Runic Power decays with time and is generated as you burn up runes when casting spells--with talents available in all trees that boost power gain from certain skills--and is used up as you call in certain skills. These either consume all Runic Power available in one hit--Death Coil converts it all into a powerful shadow blast--or drain it slowly to maintain a spell's effect. One such slow-draining skill allows you to summon a gargoyle from the heavens that exists for as long as you have Runic Power available (or up to a minute). Combined with skills that boost your speed and critical strike chance as you fight, these skills look likely to make the Death Knight a fearsome force once he or she gets going.

We look forward to sitting down with the game for an extended period and reporting back on the next 25 levels' worth of skills and talents, and how the gameplay changes for the Death Knight as you become more powerful. Stay tuned for more information.

Discussion

217 comments
btwillett2003
btwillett2003

Actually, the WoLK is not 50 dollars. Wal-mart has it for 39.99 so have fun and stop &*^%@ noobs!

scubactor
scubactor

trickazzmark, nothing will happen to your lvl 70 character(s). but, you'll get an additional one. a dk that starts at 55. as long as u have a 55+ you can make a dk.

trickazzmark
trickazzmark

so just to make things clear for me...if you decide to turn your character into a DK, and you happen to be level 70, you get knocked down back to 55?

Crashspeeder
Crashspeeder

@Xionethic I think xanisk89 and you are on the same page. He was merely quoting the post he replied to.

Xionethic
Xionethic

To xanisk89 Alright wow freak... don't need to make us wow players look like wow is our life.

TheLandWarrior
TheLandWarrior

I have a question? So a death knight gets his powers from his armor and sword? So does your weapon and armor level or something? I might be wrong here but thats why I am asking. Thanks

xanisk89
xanisk89

"They added 2 new classes, which also ruined the game because it made it to where the Alliance and Horde had no differences in classes to choose from." By the way those were not new classes...they've been there. They added 2 new races though...but anyway as far as adding new crap..well I don't know about you but if you're someone who has even 1 70 or maybe even 2 or 3 you get rather bored doing the same thing. It's nice to get a new expansion to reach the next level and gain even better equipment. The game shouldn't have you in the same stuff you wore at lvl 60..This is a game about upgrades and gaining that one more level whether it's to lvl 80 or to get a better piece of epic equipment.

xanisk89
xanisk89

" CloudStrife97 Posted Aug 6, 2008 10:09 am PT No matter what anyone thinks this is just another 50 buck expansion that is going to trash the game more. Ppl spent months to get to 60 than BC came out, that expansion ruined the hard work and made everyone try even harder, 50 bucks to play their game more. They added 2 new classes, which also ruined the game because it made it to where the Alliance and Horde had no differences in classes to choose from. Now this is the same thing, 50 bucks so u can play their game more, spend months getting to the highest lvl then make a new character to spend more time playing, mastering, and questing in the new zone. " Complain complain complain...It's a freakin' MMO if it's not fun then don't play it....sheesh I'm tired of people like you trying to bring down others who enjoy this game.

CloudStrife97
CloudStrife97

No matter what anyone thinks this is just another 50 buck expansion that is going to trash the game more. Ppl spent months to get to 60 than BC came out, that expansion ruined the hard work and made everyone try even harder, 50 bucks to play their game more. They added 2 new classes, which also ruined the game because it made it to where the Alliance and Horde had no differences in classes to choose from. Now this is the same thing, 50 bucks so u can play their game more, spend months getting to the highest lvl then make a new character to spend more time playing, mastering, and questing in the new zone.

TJS52
TJS52

OK I have a few this to say about other comments posted here. 1. There is going to be a full length movie. 2. They are not going to make warcraft 4 no matter how much you cry about it. Blizz already said that they are done with warcraft RTS games and they are finishing the series in WoW. But anyways I can't wait for this game and I think it is going to be a lot better than BC. In BC they didn't take any chances but now the game is going to be completely different and going to be great.

JamesFlamez
JamesFlamez

There is a full length movie in the works.

bdog632
bdog632

this is gonna be an awesome expansion pack, but they should come out with w4 soon. oh and maby it is just me but wo else thinks they should make a full length movie. that would be awesome so anyways a movie would be awesome if they would make one.so my name wow name is gutar on the server bronzebeard if anyone wants to join my guild or anything like that just message me all right peace

Izakary
Izakary

"WHAT A **** IDIOT WHO WROTE THIS skill allows you to summon a gargoyle from the HEAVENS !!!! A Death Night cant SUmmon STUFF FROM THE HEAVENS HE CAN ANIMATE DEAD !!!! NEW **** !!! FFS Read your Material before you SAY SOMTHING !!!!!!!" Failed Kindergarten huh Buckwheat? He was talking about the Sky, not the heavens as in God/angels... and last time I checked Gargoyles didn't come from underground.

gamer_easy
gamer_easy

"Stop making expansion packs and make Warcraft 4!" Defo, but wont happen soon cuz of SC2 and D3 "WHAT A **** IDIOT WHO WROTE THIS skill allows you to summon a gargoyle from the HEAVENS !!!! A Death Night cant...bla bla bla..." Is it a crime if he writes something wrong? Take a pill.

Antinate
Antinate

Why go Death Knight when you can instead play a Disciple of Khaine in a game that actually has the potential of being fun? Oh I went there.

proruler
proruler

Why play World of Warcraft? You should try Warcraft:frozen throne, got so many mods! Uther party, TDs , Counter-strike and castle fight. IN MY CHOICE AS A SHAREHOLDER, I WOULD ASK THEM TO MAKE WARCRAFT:RENEW

tissebent
tissebent

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

TheCyberKnight
TheCyberKnight

This game was boring a year ago, and a new "expansion" isn't going to change that.

revenger681
revenger681

I sure hope they have more than just this class and a few more dungeons... Hardly an "expansion".

A2Kkilla
A2Kkilla

Stop making expansion packs and make Warcraft 4!!! :(

_camolas_
_camolas_

Answering "agressive_scp", deathknight is a class, not a race... u don't create it from a lock or warrior, but from an elf or taureen, or any other race; deathknight is another class such as warrior or mage; and it seems to be an hybrid class, both melee and caster.

agressive_scp
agressive_scp

I have a question since i dont quite understand it. When u create a DK is it always the same kind of Dk, or for example if you create a DK from a warlock the DK will be a caster type fighter, or if u create from a warrior it will be a melee fighter? Or that doesnt matter and whatever class youc choose the DK is the same?

Joshua250
Joshua250

A lot of his spells remind me of random heroes in DotA. Dark Seer, Axe, Pitlord etc. The Death Knight sounds really fun, though his lasso-y thing sounds mean.

Dannik52
Dannik52

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Sparky2002
Sparky2002

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Furiouspol
Furiouspol

Yeah 21121 was defending people who play WOW and to faith256 I think that if you have a lvl 55 or higher character you will simply get to start a new character as a death knight, not transform another character into one. To halofan every game could be said to ruin lives, same with the internet, or how about playing sports in school? everything is a matter of perspective. Every cat thinks the mouse deserves to die, but the mouse has a very different opinion

Flame_Devil999
Flame_Devil999

Isn't 21121 defending WoW and going against the people saying that people who play the game have no life? Seriously, read into it more before you flame others.

blackdud4378
blackdud4378

i play wow but im not a addict i play it like once every few daysfor 2-3 hrs becosue well i dont have time becouse of dam school and soz about spelling

Faith256
Faith256

Curious thought tho...does that mean if u use a lvl 70 character he becomes level 55 :)

Faith256
Faith256

ROFL I think whats really funny is that the release date just got shifted to 2009, while everyone is focused on the incomplete Diablo 3...whoopi :p

M4ND410RI4N
M4ND410RI4N

Halo2_fan391 and 21121 what those it give you to bull @#$% on this game ? Don't you realize that pepole reading those page are pepole who like the game ? No one here will think that you guys are cool or smart. So if you hate it and read those page then go insult pepole w.t.f. are you doing with your life ??? i don't think im the one wasting my life playing a game so if your plan is to make yourself look dumb, congratulations! you did not fail at all !

Leignheart
Leignheart

this is for 21121, dude i dont play wow, but i mean you shouldnt rag on people, you shouldnt call it a waste of life, thats extremely rude, sitting in an office all day can be considered a waste of life, playing football can be considered, just about anything can be considered by someone, this game most likely provides an escape for a lot of people, and they can also talk to there friends, so how about everyone just let go of the hate and not judge people who play this game or any game. its bad attitude people have nowadays, i just hope it will get better. gl everyone. peace

raimgamer
raimgamer

Waiting this game anxiçiously dude!

wisemancw
wisemancw

@rinkug4: i agree on that, cause not everyone likes hybrid tanks but i am pretty sure a good deal of people will try it out too and see what it is like, and not everyone is going to make it their main

21121
21121

"I feel bad for losers who sit on their ass all day, pressing the same 3-4 buttons. What a waste of life..." dude instead of slating people who play WoW - why dont you go outside and do something usefull yeh? whats the difference between spending 5 hours on WoW and 5 hours on MGS4 or Gears? oh yeah - WoW is labled for SAD people right? and no i dont play WoW. But yeah i reckon its gonna mess it up a bit...the DK is a cool theory, but in the end - youre gonna have loads of people just leveling them instead of raiding/using their other characters. I mean people complain enough about hybrid classes in WoW already - another one is just gonna cause havoc lol. But then i suppose almost everyone will have one...so maybe it wont be so much of a problem.

Dannik52
Dannik52

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Nharia12
Nharia12

Yeah, players who are heavy into WOW lore will gripe that any class can play. But for those who remember the band Siouxsie and the Banshees they'll be having a field day with Blizz's reference.

Antinate
Antinate

WoW is too much repetition of the same thing for a new class to make any difference anyway.

asdfpo
asdfpo

Netherscourge has a very good point this is gonna screw the game over for a few months

Netherscourge
Netherscourge

DK's will be a problem for a while... If everyone is playing a Hybrid Tank, who the heck is goign to be left to DPS or Heal? Likewise, people who DON'T play Dk's and stay on they mains, are gonna be wondering why all their guildies are Level 55 DK's and not raiding anymore with their mains. DK's are going to kill raiding (thank god) for a few weeks while everyone levels them to 80. I personally think it's great. But I've pretty much given up on WoW anyway, so who cares.

RinkuG4
RinkuG4

everyone always cries about the fact that they afraid for some strange reason everyone is gonna make a dk and ruin the way things are for world of warcraft... lol but you gotta think, not everyone is going to main as a dk, everyone still has their regular mains they would like to finish up and gear up at 80...I mean everyone will try the DK , no doubt about it, but you got alot of 70s worth making lvl 80s and gearing them out.