World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Updated Hands-On - New Zones, New Quests, New Story Elements

In this hands-on look at Wrath of the Lich King, we explore the Borean Tundra, one of the two starting zones in the new continent of Northrend.

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So far we've brought you the latest on the Death Knight and a look at one of the starting zones in the new continent of Northrend, Howling Fjord. Now that World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King is finally in beta, we've been able to sit down for an extended period of time with the new content and have plenty to report back on. So far we've spent most of our time in the Borean Tundra--the second starting zone, which has plenty of quests to get experienced players going from the current Burning Crusade character-level limit of 70 to the second expansion's level limit of 80. First off, a caveat. Because this is a beta, many things are subject to change. Oh, and another caveat: We were playing as the Horde this time around. The next preview will be from the Alliance point of view, but this look at Wrath of the Lich King comes through the eyes of a troll.

The back of a dragon is generally the best place to be.

Getting to Northrend is a simple affair for Horde citizens: Jump on a zeppelin from the new landing tower near the gates of the orc capital Orgrimmar, and you will soon find yourself gliding peacefully into the very heart of Warsong Hold, the Horde's foothold in the Borean Tundra. If you opt to get a zeppelin from the new tower by Undercity, you will find yourself in the Howling Fjord, which we saw at BlizzCon last year during our first proper look at this expansion.

The first thing to note about the Borean Tundra is how large it feels, especially considering that no one--not even those people who have shelled out several thousand gold to max out their riding skill at level 70--will be able to fly around Northrend as they arrive. The intemperate weather requires specialist training, apparently, and this will not be available to those fresh off the proverbial boat. The zone contains six flight paths and more than that number of distinct areas and factions seemingly fighting for control. The central Horde fort, Warsong Hold, is under siege by the spiderlike creatures of the Scourge, which are running rampant through the surrounding quarry, while the coast is shrouded in dense fog and sees battles between the walrus-esque Tuskarr race and mysterious raiders from the mist.

To the far west the Blue Dragonflight hold an island called Coldarra, under the watchful eyes of both red dragons and the mages of Dalaran and Kirin Tor. North of the Red Dragonflight's base of operations you have another quest hub in the form of a smaller Horde village, itself under attack by a number of restless spirits angry at the passage of a caravan over an ancient burial ground. To the west of them is a ruined temple that overlooks a Murloc encampment, now ruled by a well-meaning druid in a Murloc suit originally there to do some anthropological research. Among the ice floes off the coast near these friendly Murlocs are a number of more hostile ones, not to mention an orca or two out to make your life that little bit more confusing.

Several of the expansion's environments offer subzero temperatures...and new dangers.

Moving across you have a crashed Scourge ziggurat in the far north, spewing out undead to make war on the Mechagnomes and their mechanical defenses who occupy a good chunk of the region's hot springs. The Nerubians--those spiderlike Scourge creatures--hold a good chunk of the springs too, sandwiched between the Mechagnomes, a number of elementals born from the steam itself, the Horde village, and an Alliance airstrip.

On the eastern coast there is a wrecked Tuskarr village--complete with the misty raiders from earlier--as well as, in the far northeast, an ancient temple city that has been overrun by the Scourge.

Completing the circle back toward Warsong Hold you pass through one of the richest areas of wildlife--a lush, dark-green zone filled with elephants, caribou, and yet another little group called DEHTA--Druids for the Ethical and Humane Treatment of Animals. These druids are an offshoot of the Cenarion Expedition and are in Northrend with the specific aim of protecting the wildlife there. This means that if you have recently killed a beast in the zone, you'd better stay away, because the mark of blood remains on you for a few minutes after killing a creature--even if you're provoked or attacked--and DEHTA doesn't take kindly to that. If you go near these druids without washing that blood off your hands first, you're in for a shock. They are, as you might guess, completely opposed to every World of Warcraft player's favorite dwarf, hunter Hemet Nesingwary and his hunting cronies, who have moved on from their big-game hunting expedition in Nagrand to go for the really, really big game Northrend has to offer. While we have yet to encounter the little man himself, attacking and thwarting his minions is an important part of the DEHTA quests, which also include such tasks as sabotaging traps, freeing trapped baby elephants, and other such acts of kindness. We're not yet sure if doing quests for Hemet Nesingwary later on will decrease your standing with these more ethical folks, but we'll let you know as soon as we find out.

If you want to conquer the realm of the lich king, you may need a new suit of armor and some other fancy gear.

While on the topic of ethical questing, some of the quests in the Borean Tundra do raise a number of interesting ethical points that seem like a departure for the game. One in particular involves beating up a guard who is a member of a certain faction until he is nearly dead, dragging him back to the faction (the mages of Dalaran, in this case) by a chain, and then proceeding to torture him for them--using a charmingly named item called a neural needler--to extract useful intelligence on the whereabouts of a recently kidnapped colleague of the mages who sent you out in the first place. We did the quest--we needed the experience points, and it offered a useful reward--but it did leave something of an odd taste in the mouth.

To give you an idea of the size of the zone and the number of quests contained within it, questing only in this zone has got us from level 70 to halfway through level 71, with several of the above hubs still having a significant number of useful quests to do. This means that not only do you have a wide range of useful quests to choose from, but everyone else does too--and remember that there are two entire zones to start from as you embark on your quest to level 80. While these areas will always be fairly crowded when the expansion is released, it is good to see such a significant amount of choice being offered to try to spread the questing hordes out a bit.

While so far we have seen only a few truly new mechanics in Lich King, a few changes did jump out at us. First up is the emphasis on quests that do not require a group. These were not prevalent in the Burning Crusade's starting areas, but they appear to be even less so now. There are a significant number of quests that are faster if you're hunting in a party, but the vast majority can be completed solo without problems. Secondly, there is a new questing mechanic that has already been alluded to: the chained escort. In one case this involves hunting a baby dragon, harpooning it, and dragging it back for experimentation--another quest with a moral question mark over it, some may say. Another example is the aforementioned guard-snatching quest. One other nifty little change is obvious almost the moment you step into the quarry outside Warsong Hold. The Nerubians have grabbed soldiers from the hold and have spun webs around them. If you free the soldiers, you'll have an ally of roughly equivalent power to yourself to fight alongside you. These are primarily shamans, mages, and warriors, and while their assistance is short-lived--once they repay their debt to you they return to the hold--their sheer numbers mean it is possible for a single player to be supported by four or five computer-controlled equivalents as they exterminate the Scourge infestation.

Last one to level 80 is a rotten, frozen, haunted egg. Wrath of the Lich King will launch later this year.

Overall, we are very taken in by the new content we've seen in Wrath of the Lich King. It is varied and engaging, and while none of it is revolutionary, the signs are good at this relatively early stage.

We will report back soon with more on the Death Knight class, the other zones throughout Northrend, and anything and everything else you can expect from World of Warcraft's second expansion pack between now and its release--which is currently scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year.

Discussion

171 comments
Oni
Oni

I'm sort of torn. Even though this expansion sounds amazing, the thought of having to spend another 100 hours doing raids/Heroics to get my toons geared to the point they are now sounds excruciating. Even though I'd love to see it a graphics update, that's out of the question. Might as well just start working on a sequel to WoW if yer gonna do that. WoTLK will be fun and offer alot of content I'm sure, but like others have stated, the new MMO's on the Horizon could steal away some of WoW's thunder. We wont know till the game comes out. Good luck Blizz!

Sir-Sharkman
Sir-Sharkman

WOW is an amazing game, but I believe blizard is simply using it as revenue to fund future projects. Graphics: Outdated PvP System: It's Old News Everyone Has it Now Gameplay: Everything has it The fact is, WoW was so easy to copy that literally hundreds of new games like LOTRO took its design and made a better game.The game was great while it lasted, but after ten years, somthing always pops up that destroys an MMORPG's player base. Warhammer will probably be WoW's downfall, amazing grahics, amzing gameplay, best PVP of all tiome will be WH's stereotype. But even Warhammer, after another decade will be defeated. It's a cycle, and WoW will be the cycle's next victim.

mj23foreva
mj23foreva

WOW has three things going for it that other companies will find hard to compete with. 1) Already having such a huge subscriber base Blizzard does not need to massively market this game to reach its intended audience. Everyone in the world has probably heard of WOW. I've met 60 year old grandmothers living on a farm that play this game. Other companies will have a hard time duplicating this. 2) Blizzard's name is HUGE. There is simply no other gaming company that can compare to Blizzards resume. For such a small company that Blizzard was before the merger, it still outsold everything EA pushed out. Its fans are diehard and absolutely trust the company with their lives. This is what got WOW so big in the first place.(Mythic is a great company but does not even come close to WOW) 3) Simplicity(both gameplay and graphics), the game can be extremely simple for a casual gamer. Other games just dont understand how to attract people to MMOs. And most of the world dont have Core 2 Quad CPUs with 8800Ultra in SLI. WoW found a way through its ART to bypass the huge computer requirements. I mean after 4 years the game is beautiful to look at. Sure it doesnt have the phyics that todays game process, but its art direction is second to none. Thats how theyve gotten by all these year without updating their graphics.

thedeluxe
thedeluxe

How about a high definition content pack like the old half-life had for those with a machine capable of running it. Maybe throw a dx10 shader or two at the engine with the option to turn them off. While the art direction is beautiful and nearly seamless, it really does look dated. With no regard to visuals it should still be a pretty impressive expansion. Nothing wrong with more content. All in all...I can't wait to get frostbite.

deviant9
deviant9

Yeah I agree, its just the same old same old... I think i'll cancel my account. The game just needs a major face lift! For the graphics not to have change since launch is a real shame. Great game and had fun over the years but I think ill call it a day and leave it to the hardcore players to stomach! Maybe they could make a new WoW for the very few ppl that have more than a pentium 3 and a 16MB vid card :D

jp-gnr
jp-gnr

I think blizzard should think of graphic improvements , the game looks like s*** in terms of graphics.... In my opinion blizzard is milking the game completely until the release of diablo 3.

Phoenix73nj
Phoenix73nj

Blizzard really does a nice job with Wow. Sadly, I can't play anymore Wow. Just sort of oversaturated having played since launch till about a year ago. Glad to see the expansion looks neato. It'll be a long time till I get a real FPSMMO I guess... sigh.

enofr
enofr

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

enofr
enofr

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

sammoth
sammoth

Ok there is a flaw with your statement your comparing a video game to Real Life. You have to work to pay your bills esp that $15 amonth for WOW. You have to eat 3 times a day so you don't drop dead. Also I know taking a bath is hard for some WOW players but, you need to do that too. Here we go again with someone taking offense to what we have to say. It's an Opinion nothing more. If you don't like the comments or opinions then don't read it. I never said anything about people enjoying it or not. It'sjust an opinion about it. Grind that one into your fanboy heads for a bit and think about it. Why is it ok for people to praise the game but, not people to dislike it ?

enofr
enofr

The human mind thrives off repetition (and comfort). Thats why more and more people will admit to enjoy their daily grind (called work). Why they turn on the TV everyday when they come home. Eat 3 times a day. Pick thier nose. Take a bath every morning rather than every night. Enjoy catching the same old blockbuster cookiecut action movie. Prefer one genre of game towards another. Bash people here over and over. Bottomline, lifes a grind. Get used to it. Enjoy what you enjoy. And let other people do the same. People might say - well what about the joys of discovering something new? Well. Yeah. It feels great at first. Until everyone starts doing it. Then you just love it for the comfort it gives your everyday life. "ahh. Hard days work. Looking forward to a bit of wow when i get home, yes indeed!" :)

graavigala
graavigala

still looks boring and repeating of same old...

sammoth
sammoth

Ok Mr. Fox, I am kind of done with you at this point about this. If you can't take criticism about a game then so be it. We are allowed to state opinions abut games if we choose. If you have read anything I said I quit WOW and this is not going to bring me back because it looks like the Same Ole Same Ole. I played since Beta and was in one the of the first horde guilds on my Sever to finish MC, BWL, AQ so don't tell me what I can say or not say about this game.I know the same ole grind for the crap i had to do in Wow jut to raid time and time agian. I never said WOW was a bad game I just stated that the expansion looks like the Same Ole Stuff. Most MMORPG'S are but, some are different you just find the one that works for you. I have also played alot of PNP and MMORPGS before WOW even came out. UO and EQ are just 2 of the many. Also if you think Wow is so original maybe you should take a look at some of the Old Warhammer stuff that was a PNP over 10 years now you will see alot of similar things. All Wow did at it's time is make it work most companies where already doing what they where doing. Then it became "popular" Key Word. and it still is "kudos" to them. Get over it and get over yourself.

foxjackass
foxjackass

Yes I know you kill the same monsters over and over. But they always add new items, new quests, new boss fights. So its not always the same thing over and over in WoW. And not only that but they keep up with the up to date things as well. Such as if its Easter they put easter eggs in the game for you to find. Halloween you kill the Headless Horseman. Christmas, thanksgiving, etc. etc. And WoW isnt the only MMO I play. LOTR, Guilds Wars, City of Heros. And why is everyone telling me to move on. Is it a crime to play this game for to long? I keep in touch with my cousin in Iraq with this game. Now we dont always use WoW to talk to eachother but its a funner way to do it. And Weitojor if paying $15 a month for this game is a idiotic thing to do then there are 11million users that are idiots? And one top of that every MMO you got to pay for... So basically you are calling even more people idiots.

Gamesterpheonix
Gamesterpheonix

Looking at the screens...I think its looking pretty impressive from a new stuff point of view. I think it will last just a little bit longer. Its a very nice touch as it comes to an end.

Weitojour
Weitojour

Fox, I played wow for almost half a year. Until I realised how ridiculously addicting and repetitive it really was. You say that in shooters all you do is shoot people in the head? Well yeah, thats the premise, but all you do in wow is kill the same god damn monsters over and over while they constantly switch their skins. Oh, and you pay 50 cents a day for that priveledge. Only an idiot would pay $15 dollars a month for WoW while all these great MMOs are coming out. Age of conan anyone? I'm not saying WoW is a bad game, I'm merely saying "Been there done that.", and I think you should move on as well.

Sammojo
Sammojo

"For example Halo 3 and COD 4 are incredible addicting fps's but are not tactical in any way shape or form. " That's a pretty big statement about COD4, many would say a wrong statement.

awesomeangel
awesomeangel

can somebody please tell me how much do i have to pay monthly for wow plz

DirtyAaron5249
DirtyAaron5249

I can't wait. This looks like a really good expansion.

foxjackass
foxjackass

First of I'm not immature. Second my brother in law is a GM on my server so I have been with this game ever since it started. And I am not addicated. I play 2-4 gours day. Weekend's I can play all day if i aint got notin else to do. I am studying to be an auto mechanic and this is something I do on my free time. And yes I know my raants are poorly written cause I write them early in the morning before I got to work and I am still half asleep. And yeah we are living in the age of console games. Most people I have talked to hated the game FEAR when it was a computer game just cause they couldent learn how to control the keyboard. But once it came out for the PS3 all of that talk they were saying of how it had poor graphics and everything changed after they just had to use 5 buttons to do everything. That is the main reason people dont like computer games cause you got like 20 buttons you got to deal with and most cant keep up with that. I can understand why yall cant deal with it sometimes. But just stop putting down this game if yall havent even played it yall's self. And if you have played it then yeah I'm not talking about you cause it wasent your game and you dont like it. But for all you people that just go to your rooms and play your brain dead console games that even a my 1 year old nephew can play and never even tried this game you cant say crap about this game since you never gave it a chance got to understnad it. P.S. The part of the basement was sarcasim!

jdog_129
jdog_129

Fox I can understand where you are coming from, we are truly living in the age of consol gamers, many of whome do not enjoy playing games with any level of depth. For example Halo 3 and COD 4 are incredible addicting fps's but are not tactical in any way shape or form. WOW offers a uniquely tedious for some addicting for others experience. But fox your rant was poorly written .

AnubisNohman
AnubisNohman

Holy that was some rant by skeletor down there, maybe his mom should keep him in the basement so he stops screwing around with beast man. This expansion looks pretty cool, kinda looking forward to level 80.

Deano
Deano

the graphics are more than fine, it's still better than most of the mmo's out there. So I don't see that as a valid complaint since that's never been the goal of mmo's to push the graphics boundary.

Ztoky
Ztoky

One thing I'm really looking forward to is the improvement of the graphic. It looks more polished and they've finally put in some nice animated shadows. The pictures above has the usual wow graphic but don't get fooled there are footages out there showing the improvements, it's worth checking it out for you guys who maybe are complaining about the "outdated" graphic.

sammoth
sammoth

Well Fox enjoy your little immature rant there. Gonna get you banned for a bit just like I am sure your immature rants will in WOW. Have a Nice Day =). People like you are the reason why alot of us left WOW to begin with.

bryan2020
bryan2020

The expansion sure looks nice and all, there is something about wow though that buggs me, to do anything major in the game like for example joining a raiding guild or joining a pvp guild you will have to spend alot of time just to get there and the grind never stops. Been playing since beta, I've stopped for about 9 monts now on my account (played for my friend twice in Tk to show him tactics). I don't think I'm coming back. Maybe play a private server every now and then atleast : ). happy gaming to you guys .

larim
larim

I play Warcraft and am most certainly buying this as soon as it is released. I know some of you will say 'How can you play this, it is so outdated, boring, repetitve,..' yada-yada Firstly I am not hard core so my life does not revolve around the game, however i love the fact that i can pick it up, anytime and have fun doing something random with random people. Wrath offers more of the same with added bells and whistles. Brilliant. Bring it on! To all those opposed...go play something else for goodness sake. have fun doing it too.

couly
couly

"my mom probally likes that to 'cause it keeps me in the basement" - Pray for this child please.

foxjackass
foxjackass

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Neo_revolution7
Neo_revolution7

Woot!! cant wait for this expansion even tho i have to make a new char or unless my 22 human war didnt get deleted from the time my comp gave out last year

CreatureRising
CreatureRising

By the time this comes out i will have 70s on both Horde and ally i have 70 on Ally now Working on my 51 ATM

Nikalai_88
Nikalai_88

People act like game development is split between innovation and polish, but really most of it is the design part... and Blizzard is one of the best at it.

CodyTG
CodyTG

Why are epeople talking about Xbox and PS3 on a WoW news article? Damn..

CodyTG
CodyTG

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gokazz
gokazz

@jameskaldas sony has selled only 14.60M cuz ps3 sux a$$.and yeah wotlk sux cuz the vehichle combat is crap idea.it would be like youre a horde leveling in shared area but peacefull and an ally comes with a tank and blows you up into bits.that idea is TOTAL CRAP!

Avitu666
Avitu666

WoTLK...looks like more of the same....

jameskaldas
jameskaldas

I don't want to see anyone comparing WoW to Playstation or Xbox. You would lose anyways(WesleyLikesMetal) because playstation has only sold this amount of consoles: 2.30M Japan 5.50M America 6.80M Others 14.60M Total and you can be sure that not ever owner plays the same game for its numbers to compare. (Grand Theft Auto IV being the highest sold game at a touch over 4 million) I quit WoW too btw. Once u cant get in a raiding guild, there is not much to do, so i got bored. And people saying WoW is just a copycat need to see beyond their own bias because there is a lot of unique things. Granted offcourse there is alot of 'copying'. MOST GAMES DO! And if a company can come in and say that I can do this better than you can! then power to them. http://www.vgchartz.com/ to see nintendo owning

aclark24
aclark24

I still refuse to get my level 60 characters, to 70!

Jin_Kazawa
Jin_Kazawa

People still play WoW? Hehe. Well, I kinda lost track on expansions. Fans will enjoy this (cause it's kinda boring right now) and the others will just give it a bad review. That's it. :)

eiadrtr
eiadrtr

nice flying mount and looks good too

SnappySnake
SnappySnake

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

WeslyLikesMetal
WeslyLikesMetal

I'm so over WoW fanboys thinkin this is the best and only video game on earth, all because it has millions of players. Xbox and PS3 also have millions of players. I agree with alot of people that are saying Blizz need to change the game a bit and introduce some fresh ideas. WoW is classed as an MMORPG but I sure as heck cant see any RP elements in it whatsoever (even on the Role Playing servers). Unfortunately, I think the MMORPG genre is dead and buried. ps - Don't knock old school gamers, its just not cool.

sammoth
sammoth

BINGO !!! Anyways enjoy the expansion for who that like it . Most of us will move on. This game is not the best thing since sliced bread. It was just good at what it did. "Here's what I have to say, foxjackass; WoW is nothing revolutionary. Blizzard simply took parts of previous MMO's and streamlined them (kudos for that, to be fair). It's a well made game, but there's nothing original or groundbreaking about it. It's hard to understand this, if WoW is the first MMO you've ever played... and I feel sorry for everyone that has missed out on previous great MMO experiences. The problem with WoW is that it has produced millions of fanboys that have never played other MMO's, then these fanboys bash new MMO's that try to be different and unique. Too many developers are now stuck on trying to make a WoW clone (which is like a clone of clones), that we have not progressed anywhere lately with MMO's. (I had hopes for Age of Conan, but FunCom did a poor job overall with their delivery of the game, but I digress.) The only groundbreaking thing WoW has achieved is their subscriber numbers. Unfortunately, saying something is good because other people like it is never a smart idea. That is a path fraught with ignorance and stagnation. (Oh, and people have met online and gotten married in earlier MMO's, so nothing new there either.)"

PsychiKleftis
PsychiKleftis

Here's what I have to say, foxjackass; WoW is nothing revolutionary. Blizzard simply took parts of previous MMO's and streamlined them (kudos for that, to be fair). It's a well made game, but there's nothing original or groundbreaking about it. It's hard to understand this, if WoW is the first MMO you've ever played... and I feel sorry for everyone that has missed out on previous great MMO experiences. The problem with WoW is that it has produced millions of fanboys that have never played other MMO's, then these fanboys bash new MMO's that try to be different and unique. Too many developers are now stuck on trying to make a WoW clone (which is like a clone of clones), that we have not progressed anywhere lately with MMO's. (I had hopes for Age of Conan, but FunCom did a poor job overall with their delivery of the game, but I digress.) The only groundbreaking thing WoW has achieved is their subscriber numbers. Unfortunately, saying something is good because other people like it is never a smart idea. That is a path fraught with ignorance and stagnation. (Oh, and people have met online and gotten married in earlier MMO's, so nothing new there either.)

foxjackass
foxjackass

This game is a master pieace for all of you that dont like it. This is the first MMORPG that has reached a massive group of people all around the globe. Some play it just to pass the time and some play it cause they aint got notin else to do. There have even been people that have met on this game and got married in Real Life. Oni isnt making excuses to play, she is stating that there is another way to sit there and pass by the time but still communicate with Real Life People. On WoW you get to talk to Real Life People and not just communicate with NPC's like you do in GTAIV or other games like that. Now I'm not putting down those game, I play them to. (Hardcore GTA fan) But this game has just opened up a new window for games to go through. Who know's maybe the next GTA will be a MMO... that would be awsome! Anyways this expansion is going to offer some new abilitys, new activites, and a new class. Which is great. And the air fights look like they are going to be real fun also... anyways got board of typeing. Tell me what yall got to say now!