World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Updated Hands-On - Through the Howling Ford and Borean Tundra

We take a look at not one, but two new starting areas in the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion.

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Logging into The Wrath of the Lich King feels just like logging into normal World of Warcraft. Things don't start to get a little bit different until you travel to a major city for, what else? A shave and a haircut. When you see the red and white barber's pole, you'll think "Why not? I've had this mullet for 70 levels. It's time for a change!" So you'll sit down in the barber's chair to flip through hairstyles, hair colors, and facial-hair dos just like you would in the character-creation screen; except that this time, your new look will cost at least a dozen gold. Now, before we go any further, we must warn you that this preview may contain spoilers on the expansion's new content. Also, please note that our impressions are based on an unfinished beta version of the game, so all information here, haircut-related and otherwise, is subject to change.

This do is all the rage in the frozen north, ho ho ho!

Once you settle on a new look (Good-bye, comb-over; hello, red Mohawk!), you'll be ready to introduce your new self to the new zones. You're free to travel to either the Borean Tundra or the Howling Fjord, but you should definitely check out the Howling Fjord first. The quests here tend to run a level lower than they do in the Borean Tundra. They're also more concentrated around their respective horde and alliance strongholds. Once you've gained three to four levels in the Howling Fjord, you'll easily breeze through everything in the Borean Tundra for another quick and easy level or two. That's the beauty of having two starting zones; you'll always be ahead of the level curve if you complete them both.

The Howling Fjord is a zone dominated by the Vrykul--huge Viking men with terrible manners. Though there are many factions, none of them are friendly. As you make your way through the Howling Fjord quest lines, so too will you make your way through each Vrykul village. In many cases, you'll simply kill a set number of them, but in others, you'll burn their towers, blast their structures, and kill their dogs. Some of the best quests, though, involve a pirate stronghold known as Scalawag Point. The first two characters you meet are a Blood Elf-worshiping artifact collector and a beefy Tauren bookie. The quests of these two characters intersect because the collector owes the beefy bookie money; so don't be surprised if, when turning in a quest to the collector, another player comes in and kicks his butt.

You'll also meet the pirates' second in command, who won't let you get a word in edgewise before she assumes you're there to kill her boss; then she tells you how. You'll track him to a cave, where you'll face him and his giant bear pet. Both are tough as nails, so make sure to bring friends. Other quests in the Howling Fjord have you freezing contaminated spores, as well as shattering them, hunting critters with your brand new falcon pet, and running around in the body of a reactivated rune golem. This, in turn, will get you ready for the siege weapon warfare in Lake Wintergrasp and Strand of the Ancients.

Lake Wintergrasp is not a battleground or an arena. Rather, it's an entire world zone dedicated to player-versus-player combat; the first in World of Warcraft. The basic idea is that one faction will defend a keep and the other will assault it. Each battle will last a set amount of time, with both honor points and arena points on the line. Also, as you gain honorable kills, you'll gain ranks and access to siege weapons. At the first rank, you will only be able to make a simple catapult, but assuming you are able to kill enough of the enemy, you'll gain access to siege engines and flying machines. While the siege weapons will be balanced like rock-paper-scissors, it is less clear how Blizzard intends to balance the zone itself. Because this is an open-world PVP zone, it is likely that in any given battle, one faction will be able to field more troops than another. Blizzard is considering ways to equalize this, such as bestowing bonuses on a faction that has lost several battles in a row or on one that is fielding far fewer combatants. When we know more about the subject, you will, too.

Look familiar? Naxxramas assaults Wintergarde Keep in the Dragon Blight.

But while the new battleground and the new world PVP zone will go through changes in the future, the Borean Tundra already seems ready for retail. This is another starting zone on the other side of Northrend from the Howling Fjord. This area is beset by both green giants (decidedly not jolly) and the scourge. You'll fight cultists, purge the undead, and beat back the mean greenies as they emerge from their warships. The best confrontation in the Borean Tundra, though, is between Nesingwary's Expedition and a group of animal rights activist druids. Nesingwary, as always, wants you to kill animals to bring back pelts, tusks, and claws. However, as soon as you kill a critter in the Borean Tundra, you become marked for death by the druids for a few minutes. Assuming you haven't recently killed anything furry or feathery, you can approach the druids for quests that involve saving trapped animals and attacking hunters. You can easily choose a side or play one against the other for even more gold and experience.

Regardless of the starting zone you choose, you'll quickly come in contact with members of the opposite faction, and if you're on a PVP server, that means a fight. When the beta began, certain classes were unbelievably powerful; it seemed like paladins could kill you just by targeting you. Then, things shifted around a bit, and rogues were destroying everyone with instant poisons. Most recently, warlocks became PVP gods with a massive buff to a talent that had previously been comically lackluster. Things have been changing so much so rapidly that it is impossible to tell what the PVP landscape will look like when the game actually retails. Only two things are apparent: There is still a long way to go, and when we finally get there, we'll be able to blast each other on foot, in tanks, or from the air.

Aside from all that, the actual business of leveling a character in Northrend should be very familiar. You'll talk to non-player characters in town, then head out into the wilderness to kill bad guys, wreck plague spewers, and hunt condors. If you've been leveling a character on one of the live servers and enjoying the accelerated pace of the experience gains, you should know that leveling in WotLK is currently very slow. Each level will take a great deal of time and effort; you won't simply zoom all the way to level 80. Then again, doing so would rob you of enjoying all the wonderful effort Blizzard put into the new areas it has crafted and the thousands of lines of clever dialogue it has written. You should stop and smell the peace bloom because every new zone in Northrend is full of amazing sights, such as a giant, overturned tree in the Grizzley Hills.

To give you a sense of scale, that tiny blotch at the bottom of the stairs is a troll.

Overlaying all of Blizzard's efforts in Northrend is a patina of new graphical quality. This new layer is one of detail and sophistication. You're still definitely looking at World of Warcraft, but the models and environments all look slightly more realistic than before. It is as though, before your eyes, WoW is evolving from a cartoon into an impressionist painting. Where the old graphical style used broad strokes with simple colors, WotLK features finer details on everything from trees to orcs. If you can imagine the original World of Warcraft being painted by a nice, fat brush, WotLK has been colored by one with a much finer tip. And then, floating above it all, is a beautiful rendition of aurora borealis. WotLK doesn't push any graphical envelopes, just stylistic ones.

Of course, this preview hasn't taken into account the new trade skill, Inscription, or any of the new dungeons, but each of those assets warrants its own full preview. And even if we could reveal all the secrets of Northrend to you, we wouldn't want to do so. This article has exposed but the very tip of Northrend's iceberg, with an entire mountain of adventure, gear, and PVP content waiting underneath its surface. In the meantime, we'll keep chipping away at Blizzard's ever-growing massively multiplayer online role-playing game, and we'll let you know as soon as we unearth more.

Discussion

165 comments
FishtheFish
FishtheFish

I've been playing about 2 years also and I've got to say that so far my leveling in Northrend has been fantastic.

realymightymang
realymightymang

i've been playing WoW for 2years and it only ever gets boring when u have 5 lvl 70's... and have done everything... thats when u can say its boring and ive never grinded anything... besides maybe an odd primal.. i think its an AWESOME game...

Cobacel
Cobacel

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

StephenBassford
StephenBassford

I don't understand people who complain about "grind grind grind". I have a 70 Shaman in a Sunwell guild, and I have never whined as much as yall are. Learn to have more fun in the game. Pvp, professions, arenas, instancing, raiding. There is way more to WoW than grinding. It has 11 million players for a reason. It's the deepest MMORPG online, and set the bar high for others (like Diablo did). All it comes down to is this, if you like it, then buy it. Don't spread your tears all over the comment list by whining about how its more of the same when you haven't dug deeper yourselves...

Vlaimir_Lem86
Vlaimir_Lem86

@ Vargre666 Im with you on pretty much everything you said. But WAR is far from balanced and fair. I mean it is, and it isnt. When my lvl 40 white lion comes across a lvl 40 witch elf, no matter what i do, i will always get beaten by him. Even tho we are both a dps class. Being able to do 5k dps in 2.5 seconds is retarded. The mirror of the white lion is obviously the Marauder. But they are BY FAR more durable in pvp than myself. PvE i wouldnt say so, cause the lion can act as a tank. Also the Magus VS Engineer is absolutely terrible. The Magus can use his ability to pull everyone towards him, once every 20 seconds. While the engineer can go the same, BUT has a 3 second "cast" time to place the mine on the ground. That ability is "supposeidly" getting nerfed in the next patch. We will see. All and all, WoW is a MUCH better pve game. Hands down. (i would rather pve raid than pvp anything in general). But for pvp, WAR is good.

revamparts
revamparts

Same as Maximo, I've played for over two years but no more. Cold weather flying mount? Haha, I've already bought a flying mount, what a sink. Oh yeah and go clean up Uldum and the areas on either side of Searing Gorge. The original world map isn't even complete.

revamparts
revamparts

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

maximo
maximo

Nothing new here I played for 2.5 years. It seems more of the same... grind grind grind. and haircuts? lmao. thats original

grandin105
grandin105

If you want a mature conversation, socialize with peers in the real world.

Gwarpup
Gwarpup

Ya I remember a time when all the morons didnt know how to type and you could have decent conversations online with other smart mature people. Nowadays every punk kid knows how to type and brings their fake ghetto attitudes in mass to all the online communities drowning out the minority of intelligent people. Its like trying to have a beautiful public park that is constantly trampled by thousands of spoiled, loud & abusive punks that vandalize every tree, blade of grass, flower, and pond. Its a sad world in many ways when people cant appreciate anything good.

ApocLypse_basic
ApocLypse_basic

Yay for more pointless complaining that ultimately leads to more pointless complaining.

Azuki
Azuki

Yay for repetitious grinding that ultimately results in more grinding.

kvozar
kvozar

What's all about? Oct 1, 2008 11:12 am GMT Yes, real sing in games is to enjoy it, it's look, virtual world, story (my most preference)...

Docthebutcher
Docthebutcher

The biggest problem i see in LK is the 7-8 million whinning Death knights running around trying to get a instance run. I am also considering to get the first level 80 Death Knight on my server laid, challenge might be 7 days but I am not sure that is possible. I am still working that out

Docthebutcher
Docthebutcher

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

unbentonslaught
unbentonslaught

kingroyw you are no longer a NERD! congratulations!"hands kingroyw a fruit basket" here is your prize!!!

BlazeEagle
BlazeEagle

The siege engine feature is a big plus in my book! If done properly, that should be loads of fun! Plus, I like exploration & all the new content will be ton's of exploring fun! If anyone's playing WOW just to kill monsters and/or each other, that's an insult to all the creativity that goes into a game like this! Ton's of games allow one to have killing sprees already, so in WOW exploration adds a nice experience besides straight up killing!

House-Max
House-Max

any ppl can play any game they wanna. the taste of gamming does not make anyone nerd. if wow players are nerd.. what about cs players??:) in my opinion all are players...or gammers does not matter what game are u playing. prove u are smart and act nice dont talk bad about others before meet them

dpach
dpach

wish my pc would run this game, but if it did i probly wouldnt play it cause im going to pay to play

schwin57
schwin57

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

Trollbane
Trollbane

I think that the "Borean Tundra" sounds too much like the "Boring Tundra" lol bad choice of words

Trollbane
Trollbane

Looks good, to bad I quit WoW

KingRoyW
KingRoyW

You'll never reach the top, the bait will always be tugged further and further away as you make progress towards it. But if you do get it, it suddenly becomes worthless because the new super bait has been introduced. WoW is just a vicious cycle that I'm glad to have exited.

FCB_2100
FCB_2100

I would also like to point out for those concerned, that the gear in WotLK is NOT as much of a jump in stats as TBC was. If you go to WoWHead or any other source and check out the gear in Wrath, you'll see quite clearly that if you so chose to, you can keep your precious t6+ gear. Also, no matter what game you play, if there's an expansion, and one that raises the level cap no less, the previous set of end game gear will always be replaced rather quickly. To comment on the other subject, I am looking forward to getting back to more of a classic gothic architecture and typical fantasy setting. Although, my one complaint that, so far, a lot of the items are very, very similar in look. A lot even the exact same model. On that note, I am definitely excited for this expansion to come out. =D

johnfellul87
johnfellul87

I cant wait to get back to castles and villages, i was getting tired of crystal mountians, spaceships, and other outworldly-crap. i want castles, dungeons, etc. ROLL ON LICH KING!

delvedeep
delvedeep

To Yz1, You act like WotLK is a completely different game. You went through BC and you'll probably go through WotLK so what's the point of complaining? If you don't like WoW at all, then you won't like WotLK. But, the fact that you're even posting here should indicate that you have some interest in playing. Either that, or you're just a douchebag. BTW, learn some grammar. BAHA! Anyways, I've been playing Warhammer since it came out, and I can say that this expansion is going to bring me back to WoW for sure. Warhammer's good. I would even consider it very, very good. But WoW. I mean, come on. It's freakin' WoW. It's hard not to choose WoW over any other MMO right now for me.

wargammerzs
wargammerzs

I cant wait for WOTLK: new graphics, new dungeons, the whole zone for pvp looks interesting, siege, new zones, DK, new prof, and it just goes on and on

SaurabhAV
SaurabhAV

sorry..but 2 years for getting t5 is sad.

boshlonavish
boshlonavish

To all the people complaining about their purples being replaced by greens, I'm pretty sure the jump from pre WotLK gear to WotLK gear is much less significant than the jump from pre BC to BC gear. In other words, your purples should last you well into your 70's, maybe even right to 80.

Yz1
Yz1

WoW player will finaly get bored and they will leave game cause nothing new.Wow=GRINDING

Yz1
Yz1

i raided for 2 years so i can get good gear t5-t6 and now my gear will be replace by green no thx WOTLK WILL SUCK

Dead_Dez
Dead_Dez

Yah War may take a few of Wow's players but will they continue to play War and not Wow? I haven't played War, so I can't really say how good it is, but one thing is for sure i can't wait for Wotlk. Death Knight class will rock!

Keasar
Keasar

Ya I can't wait for WotLK 70 greens that are better then my 70 purples.

dg3215
dg3215

SK8er 909 is a fanboy plain and simple WAR is a great game although I do have to agree with him that it is not a WOW killer.. But I think it will defently pull more than 100k from WOW..

Sk8er_909
Sk8er_909

For all those users who say WAR is better than WoW..is smoking some good stuff b/c there is no way in hell that WAR is a better game..maybe a little better graphics...I picked up WAR last night to see if it would keep me company till WOTLK but man, was I wrong...WAR has annoying sounds (like when u jump) and those who get owned in PVP on WoW, play on a PVE server..dont complain that u got no skill...to me, WAR is a decent game, but there is no way in hell im playing that game when WOTLK comes out...there is a reason why WoW has over 10 million users...and i think Blizzard can afford to lose 100,000 players and gain like 1 million or more when WOTLK comes out..Not saying WoW was the best, but its the best out there for a casual gamer and a hardcore gamer...See ya on WOTLK

bigpimppapa
bigpimppapa

I been playing WOW BC it is OK but they are all leaving game. I was selling Iron ore at 20g at AH for over 20 days now I can not get rid of it for 8g.

Meg-Static
Meg-Static

I'm soo lookin forward to it!!! Hope they do keep warlocks as the pvp gods :D. Ryknow 70 Undead Warlock - EU. Earthen Ring.

Waximizer
Waximizer

warhammer online: age of reckoning nothing else to say

cat2milk
cat2milk

Vargre666 if you want to play a balanced game play Guild wars.... in wow you see if you have skill if you can kill classes that are hard to beat like when i kill a warrior on my rogue i am overcome with joy

frankjs1
frankjs1

Sooo excited! Cant wait for the gear ,lvling, and sleepless nights in the new dungeons and raids...Wooot

Vargre666
Vargre666

I had been bashing WAR since I played the beta. Im here to say how very wrong I was in doing so, and how very glad Im not playing WoW anymore. WAR is by far the finest RVR game thats ever been made. Tired of over powered characters owning you every time you cross thier path? Tired of getting ganked and griefed by some idiot 10 lvls higher than you? Tired of playing for 10 hours a day, waiting for that purple to drop, looking for a decent PUG? Tired of grinding, the same old maps, the same old bs? I could go on and on, and im tempted to. But if you answered yes to any of those, try WAR. Its amazing, its fair, its a beautiful game. And i cannot stress enough how FAIR it is. It really will show the difference between those who have skill, and those who dont.

werthog14
werthog14

Sweet! i just got back from over a year of not playing WoW. I need to get to 70 quick!