World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King • Page 2

On an Arctic roll.

Moving deeper into Northrend, Dragonblight is a snowbound region of icy forests and cracked mountains, punctuated by the grandiose shrines of the five Dragonflights and Wyrmrest Temple, where the Chamber of Aspects will offer a series of different single-encounter short raids with dragon bosses. You'll also come up against Arthas for the first time here - the final encounter with him won't be until the final patch of the Lich King cycle, some time after release - and be reunited (violently) with the insane Scarlet Crusade.

Next door, Grizzly Hills provides a pure hit of early-level nostalgia, a flashback to classic WOW. Special guests include the endearing, troublesome Furbolg and Kobolds, human characters that hark all the way back to low-level Westfall, the exploitative Venture Company, the Worgen werewolves led by a resurrected Arugal, and a shattered, evil sister city to the Alliance capital, Ironforge.

We're also shown two never-before-seen zones: Zul'Drak and Sholazar Basin. Zul'Drak is a single, giant ziggurat, the broken civilisation of the ice trolls, who've gone mad after sacrificing their animal gods in an attempt to fight off the Scourge. There's another stunning dungeon here, Drak'Theron Keep, where improbable dinosaurs roam and Scourge necromancers overwhelm players with waves of resurrected Trolls. The Argent Dawn faction returns in Zul'Drak.

Finally, there's Sholazar Basin, a lush tropical oasis in the midst of Arctic wastes, reminiscent of the original game's Un'Goro Crater. Here you'll take part in a faction-reputation war between the Wolvar (sentient wolves) and Oracles ("the next evolution of the Murlocs" - a worrying thought). A much lighter take on reputation gaming is promised here, with players actively encouraged to defect to the other side at will.

Of the remaining three zones, all we really know are the names: Crystal Song Forest, The Storm Peaks, and Icecrown Glacier, where the final dungeon, Icecrown Citadel, will appear after launch. Northrend is rounded out by the flying wizard capital, Dalaran, and open-world player-versus-player zone, Lake Wintergrasp.

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Utgarde Pinnacle: the loot bit.

If Blizzard does still have something to prove, it's in PVP. As popular as the game's battlegrounds and arenas are, there isn't much about them that's massive - they mostly play host to fairly standard, if enjoyable, tactical/twitch gaming archetypes on a small to medium scale. Burning Crusade's efforts to revive open-world warfare were its only major failure. We can't say for sure whether Lich King will succeed here, as Lake Wintergrasp and the new battleground weren't shown, but we can shed a little more light on them.

Wintergrasp is home to a valuable mine, guarded by a keep, which Alliance and Horde are fighting over. One side defends and the other attacks according to a set, rolling schedule; the attackers attempt to bring down the destructible defences with siege engines, and both sides fight over outlying towers and siege workshops. Successful attackers will defend in the next event, while failed attackers will be granted more resources for another go, as a balancing device. The unnamed battleground, meanwhile, is an island located off the southern coast, and described as a "D-day invasion scenario".

Zul'Drak: the troll bit.

Wintergrasp is a kitchen-sink attempt to create a single, intense focus for world PVP, with more involved gameplay and set event times to galvanise players into fighting. Both it and the battleground will also show off the new vehicle technology, which introduces physics and handling characteristics - including inertia, turning circle, grip and suspension bounce - to land and airborne vehicles and special mounts. It also allows for up to eight passengers per vehicle, and brings up bespoke action bars and skills for vehicle and turret operators. It was intended to be used solely for PVP siege weapons - Dwarven steam tanks, Forsaken plague spreaders and Orc demolishers.

Quest designers, however, got carried away with other ideas, introducing crazy vehicle quests that are an exponential evolution of Burning Crusade's bombing runs - throwing flaming oil at Worgen from horseback, airlifting supplies in a gyrocoptor, and yes, mammoth wrangling. We also see tanks and parachutes, and there's even talk of allowing players to take a passenger on regular ground or flying mounts. All of which is conventional stuff in regular gaming, but a huge dose of wish-fulfilment in an MMO, and all the more impressive for being retro-fitted into an older game engine.

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