Four years and well beyond 10 million subscriptions after the release of World of Warcraft, Blizzard’s phenomenally successful massively multiplayer online role-playing game is barely recognizable as the same game that sold almost a quarter of a million copies in its first 24 hours. The game has been in a near-constant state of evolution since 2004, and up until last month, the steady flow of new features and improvements had all been patched in for free, with only one exception: the Burning Crusade expansion pack that’s required to play Wrath of the Lich King. The recently released second expansion pack doesn’t boast as many back-of-the-box bullet points as its predecessor, and it doesn’t offer anything for new players, but if you’re still playing WOW or you’re looking for an excuse to get back into it, this thrilling new adventure is not to be missed.
All of the new content in Wrath of the Lich King comes with a character-level requirement. You can’t play the new death knight hero class until one of your existing characters reaches level 55, and you can’t attempt any quests in the new Northrend continent until you’re at level 68. The most significant exception to this rule would have been the new inscription-crafting profession, but that ended up being patched in shortly before the expansion’s release alongside new talents for every character class in the game, an Xbox Live-style achievements system, barbershops, an extremely useful in-game calendar, and numerous user-interface improvements. There’s new content for low-level players, but you don’t need the expansion pack to get it.
Regardless of where you choose to start your Wrath of the Lich King adventure, it’ll quickly become apparent that considerable effort has gone into making the new content compelling. There are still plenty of fetch quests, and there’s certainly no shortage of non-player characters looking for heroes to kill a certain number of whichever species or faction they have a beef with. Liberally sprinkled in among those genre requisites, though, are some quite different challenges that not only add some much-needed variety but, in some cases, also do a great job of immersing you in Warcraft’s rich lore. Previously, WOW relied on you reading the briefings that bookend quests for its storytelling, but in Wrath of the Lich King, it’s often the quests themselves that get the job done along with a handful of in-game cutscenes. You might go into the expansion not knowing your Arthas from your elbow, but after questing in Northrend for a while, you’ll inevitably gain some understanding of just why the world of Warcraft needs so many heroes.