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An In-Depth Look at the Death Knight - Page Two

Posted Fri, May 09, 2008 by Cody Bye

Another finishing move we saw actually increases the Death Knight’s defensive capabilities. Like the “Death Coil”, it consumes all the runic power but grants the Death Knight immunity to stun effects and significantly increases their armor for 12 seconds.

While all of these abilities sound terrific on paper, it’s quite another thing to see the Death Knight in action. In World of Warcraft, I typically play a spell-slinging character with high DPS and incredibly low hit points and armor. Whenever I’m in PvP, I try to unleash as much hell as possible while doing everything in my power to keep the meatier tanks and DPS classes away from my frail body.

Another depiction of the Death Knight.

With that background in mind, the Death Knight scares the crap out of me (and all of my cloth wearing characters). Essentially, the Death Knight is an anti-caster tank. “They’ll be fully capable of tanking creatures on the more common level, like the heroic dungeons and five person instances,” Chilton said. “But where they’ll really shine in the raid scenario is in tanking casters.”

The Death Knight has a pretty good selection of abilities that are going to screw with enemy casters, at the core of which is their “Anti-Magic Shell.” According to Chilton, the Death Knight uses a rune to surround the Death Knight in an anti-magic shell, which absorbs 75% of the damage from the next spell and transfers that into runic power. In addition to that, they have a handful of other anti-magic abilities including the “Mind Freeze” ability which interrupts casting and a runic power ability called “Strangulate” which flushes all of the Death Knight’s runic power, silences an enemy for a maximum of five seconds, and causing a bit of damage.

As the developers maneuvered the Death Knight around the screen, Chilton explained a variety of different abilities to the gathered press, including the iconic “Death and Decay” ability, which casts an area effect damage spell and his a chance to fear some of the targets within the area.

On top of the previous abilities that were described, the Death Knight has a vast number of abilities that will help him with take down more movement oriented enemies. One of his skills – the Grip of Death – was a crowd favorite, and it actually pulled an opponent directly to the Death Knight, bringing him face to face with the horrid fighter. The Death Knight can also root enemies in place using the “Chain of Ice” ability, which wraps his opponents in icy chains.

Chilton also explained that with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, players will be able to use knockback maneuvers – along with pull maneuvers like the Death Knight’s Death Grip - on enemy creatures and other players. “That Grip of Death ability is one of the Death Knight’s primary taunt mechanics,” Chilton said. “It will also be a lot of fun in arenas where you could pull a guy right into the middle of your gank squad.”

The Howling Fjord is one of the first areas your character will see in Northrend.

Death Knights also have the ability to raise their own ghoul guardians to fight alongside them. “The ghoul guardians are actually more class defining than it seems,” Chilton said. “At first glance, it looks just like an ordinary guardian; it comes out of a corpse and helps you out. However, one of the cool things about the ghoul is that you can use it on any sort of corpse target.” So if a friendly player you’re grouped with dies, you can actually cast “Create Dead” on their corpse and that player will have the option to play as the Death Knight’s ghoul. Players will then have the entire set of ghoul spells and abilities. Just like normal player characters, ghouls will have an energy bar and a pretty heft number of mechanics.

“Ghouls have the ability to leap to a target, rend them, stun targets, huddle up to avoid burst damage, and other abilities,” Chilton continued. “It’s really a nice sample that players will have available to them if they choose to play as that ghoul.”

Along with fighting alongside the character, the Death Knight can also use the Death Pact ability to slaughter his own guardian and gain a bit of health back. Chilton explained that since the ghouls only last for two minutes when you raise them, it only makes sense to slaughter the creature before he dies anyway.

As another summoning type ability, the Death Knight can also summon their own “Death Charger” – a horse that functions similarly to the Warlock and Paladin abilities to summon mounts.

According to Chilton, the Death Knight is more than capable of filling either tanking or DPS type roles in a party and has a handful of different mechanics that help him achieve those goals. With the Death Knight, players will have three different “Presences” to choose from while they’re fighting: the Blood Presence for maximum DPS, the Frost Presence is the tanking aura, and the Unholy Presence for the PvP style of gameplay. A Death Knight’s are similar to the Warrior’s “Stances” without changing the abilities the player has to choose from.

You will probably have many dealings with the Tuskar before your days are done in Northrend.

“They’re more like Death Knight-only auras,” Chilton explained. “While the Blood Presence is the max DPS aura, the Frost Presence is really made to mitigate the fact that the Death Knight doesn’t have a shield when he’s tanking. It increases the Death Knights armor by 45% and also increases the threat the character generates by 25%. It’s really the optimal mode for him to be in when he’s tanking. He will do noticeably less damage since he’s not in the Blood Presence, but at the same time he’s generating a lot more threat and is able to tank much more effectively. The Unholy Presence really focuses on PvP. The characters will receive an increase to movement and attack speed by 15%, and we’re also considering having it increase the rate of your global cooldowns.”

To match their three Presences, Death Knight’s will have three talent trees – Blood, Frost, and Unholy – and those talent trees are still very much in development. Unfortunately, the gathered press wasn’t allowed to see the “work in progress” talent trees at all, but Chilton promised to explain more about the talents in upcoming content releases.

And with that, Chilton finished off his presentation and gave the audience back to his fellow developers. That said, it took the audience a few minutes before all of the note-jotting had finished. The Death Knight is shaping up to be a class that provides an incredible amount of depth and intricacy to World of Warcraft, and the introduction of both knockback and pull abilities to player versus player combat should really provide for an exciting environment for those of us willing to jump into the competitive fray.

If you’re still interested in the Death Knight, make sure you tune back in to Ten Ton Hammer throughout the next few days as we continue to unveil more information about the Death Knight and the Wrath of the Lich King expansion!


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