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World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Review

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★★★★

World Of Warcraft towers over the massively multiplayer online role-playing game genre, and its second expansion Wrath Of The Lich King is a perfectly exemplifies developer Blizzard’s strength: polishing a gaming experience until it dazzles. In almost every area, Wrath brings improvements (many of which, it should be noted, have already arrived with the pre-expansion patch). These range from the purely cosmetic (a barbershop allows you to change your character’s hairstyle for a small fee), to the convenient (no longer do you have to bundle your poor pets and mounts into your backpack); from the trivial-but-welcome (the Xbox 360-style “achievements”), to the sweeping changes to the existing classes via entirely rebooted talent trees. Players can also try their hand at the new inscription profession (which allows you to customise your spells), explore the chilly new continent of Northrend, and, most compellingly, play a new class — the necromantic Death Knight.

Death Knights start off in their own zone, at level 55, in the employ of big bad the Lich King. The following series of quests, which explain how you eventually break free of his will, are probably the most satisfying the game has yet produced. It’s been a long-time grievance that completing quests in Warcraft never really impacts on the game world: your character progresses, but the land and population around you remain stubbornly untouched. This is definitely not true of the Death Knight quests, where as you progress, the world changes to reflect the devastation you wreak. More’s the pity, then, that when your liberated Death Knight does finally reach Northrend, it’s back to the usual questing business, at least until later on. It’s hard to shake the feeling that an opportunity was missed here.

Warcraft’s heart, though, lies in teaming up with other players to tackle the various dungeons. The new five-player dungeons are quicker affairs than previous ones, typically taking not much more than half-an-hour to complete, but that makes them no less enjoyable.

Of course, Blizzard isn’t reinventing the game or the experience — there’s nothing to fix, because there’s nothing broken. If you didn’t like the game before, you won’t now. But for Wowheads — now 13 million strong — the new features and improved old content are undeniably worth logging on for.

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