Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft (WoW) is one of the most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) ever created. On November 23rd, 2004, I was part of a small group of lunatics out at Wal-Mart after midnight dying to get our hands on a copy of WoW after its release. Roughly 3 years later, World of Warcraft boasts over 9 million subscribers world-wide. As Tiny Elvis would say, "Whoa, that game is huuuuge..." Unlike any other MMORPG, WoW has pervaded mass pop-culture, the biggest example being an Emmy Award winning episode of South Park entitled, Make Love, Not Warcraft. Honestly, anyone who hasn't seen that episode should go and download it from iTunes... now.
Since its original release, World of Warcraft has received countless content additions, including its first full-blown expansion pack, World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade (BC). BC raised the the character level-cap from 60 to 70, added new profession options, 2 new races and an entirely new dominion to explore known as Outland. This game has come a long way, baby, but we're far from over.
In August, at the now annual BlizzCon, the game's second and most ambitious expansion was announced, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King (WOTLK). When released, WOTLK will add a host of new content and enhancements including, but not limited to a raised level-cap from 70 to 80, the game's first Hero Class; the dreaded Death Knight, an entirely new profession known as Inscription, new character appearance options and last but absolutely not least, WOTLK will introduce players to the icy land of Northrend, a sprawling new continent which is home to the vile Lich King himself.
It'll Be a Cold Day in NorthrendSince its announcement in August, Blizzard has been doling out bits of info on Wrath of the Lich King, just enough to keep us wanting more. I'll start by saying that we have absolutely no idea when it will ship, as Blizzard ships their games "when they're done." Now that we have that out of the way, let's get down to the gritty gritty.
We currently know the most about Northrend, a continent about the same size of The Burning Crusade's Outland, featuring quests and dungeons that will ultimately raise players to the height of level 80. Northrend is home to the fallen Paladin turned Lich King, Arthas Menethil. Arthas, of course, betrayed his allies after taking up Frostmourn, a greatsword possessed by the soul of previous Lich King, Kel-Thuzad. Only the most daring and skilled players will face the sadistic Lich King in an epic battle for the choicest loot.
Players will likely begin their Northrend adventuring in a zone known as the Howling Fjord. The Howling Fjord is located on the southeastern tip of Northrend, and will feature the towns of Valgarde and New Agamand inhabited by the Alliance and the Horde respectively. Questing should be geared toward players ranging from levels 68 to 72, many quests of which will center around battle against the mysterious vrykul. At one time, these vrykul ruled the Howling Fjord, constructing villages and temples, enduring the bitter cold. Then, one day, these mighty half-giants abandoned everything they worked so hard to build and for no apparent reason. Now they're back, however, and they're really not happy to see either the Horde or the Alliance. The Howling Fjord is planned to be home to a two-winged 5-man instance known as Utgarde Keep. Within Utgarde Keep, players will lock arms with the deadly vrykul, first at level 70 deep within the Utgarde Catacombs and again at level 80 in the lofty Utgarde Pinnacle. What secrets do these vrykul hold? Only time will tell...