World of Warcraft: Dungeons, Daily Quests, and Raiding in Wrath of the Lich King

For the World of Warcraft player base, one of the most anticipated areas of the upcoming Wrath of the Lich King expansion is the vast number of additional dungeons, daily quests, and raids that are going to be suddenly injected into the game. Players who have been churning their wheels at level 70 for months will now have an opportunity to level their characters once more and vie for that cherished top raiding guild prize. With that in mind, the developers at Blizzard set aside nearly thirty minutes of presentation time devoted solely to the dungeons and raids that players will be seeing in Wrath of the Lich King.

Acting as the point man for the dungeons and raiding presentation, co-lead designer Jeffrey Kaplan stood up in front of the gathered throng of game industry writers and began to divulge the secret information that everyone has been dying to find out.

The exterior of Utgarde Keep.

One of the first dungeons that Kaplan explored with us was the oft-mentioned Utgarde Keep that rests just beyond Daggercap Bay in the midst of the Howling Fjord. According to Kaplan, Utgarde is one of the very first instances players will be able to experience in Wrath of the Lich King and features a wing that is between levels 70 and 72. “It’s the equivalent of Hellfire Ramparts for those of you familiar with the Burning Crusade,” Kaplan said. “[Utgarde] is our day one dungeon that players can go into as soon as they get the expansion.”

While there is a low level encounter in Utgarde, the top of dungeon is far from an easy encounter. “The top of the keep features a level 80 dungeon called Utgarde Pinnacle,” Kaplan continued. “Again, we’re doing our winged dungeons.” From a player’s standpoint, Utgarde Keep is a fairly awe-inspiring spectacle – which is part for the course in the new continent of Northrend – and should be a pretty challenging encounter for even the veteran players of WoW.

In the midst of describing Utgarde Keep to the selected group, Kaplan broke a bombshell to the attending press. “All of the dungeons in Wrath of the Lich King will feature normal and heroic modes,” he said. “This option was very popular in Burning Crusade.” Just like Tom Chilton’s presentation with the Death Knight, it seemed like Kaplan’s description of the various dungeons and raids would have no lack of surprises.

In fact, Kaplan also announced another change to heroic dungeons shortly after his first. “In regards to the heroic dungeons, we’re itemizing those on their own tier this time,” Kaplan noted. “For those of you familiar with Burning Crusade, the heroic dungeons shared a lot of items with five person non-heroic dungeons, but this time – in Wrath of the Lich King – heroic gear will feel much better to players.”

Next on our tour of the dungeons of Wrath of the Lich King was the dungeon known as the Nexus. The Nexus makes its home in the zone of Coldarra, which also serves as the home of the Blue Dragonflight and the Aspect known as Malygos. Apparently, the epically powerful Malygos has gone crazy and decided to wage war on all magic users. He wants to take and keep magic for the Blue Dragonflight alone.

A look at Utgarde Pinnacle

Essentially, the Nexus is the Blue Dragon dungeon and will feature three wings: the raid where you fight Maylgos himself, a level 80 wing where players adventure on huge floating rings, and a level 70 wing which resides below the whole structure in any icy cavern. “One cool thing about the level 80 wing where you’re fighting on those rings,” Kaplan stated, “is that the first boss fight involves an interrogator where you fight him with a bunch of drakes in cages right behind him. After you kill the boss, you free the drakes – who are of different colors – and then you and your party get to fly on those drakes and fight through the rest of the dungeon. This portion will use some of our new vehicle technology that we’ve developed specifically for our PvP and siege stuff, but we also found ways to use it in our quests and dungeons.”

After his explanation of the level 80 portion of the dungeon, Kaplan moved on to show us a more in-depth explanation of the level 70 portion of the Nexus. “At BlizzCon I compared Utgarde Keep to Hellfire Ramparts,” Kaplan explained. “The Nexus would be the equivalent of Blood Furnace. We wanted to give you choices of going to either side of the dungeon – east or west. We also wanted to make sure that players who liked five-person dungeons had one that they could do on either side of the continent right away, yet also feel very different from each other.” And for all intents and purposes, Utgarde Keep and the Nexus looked very different from each other in the demonstration.

According to Kaplan, the story behind the Nexus is that the whole creation serves as a giant device to channel magical energies up into the domain of Malygos who sits at the very top of the Nexus. In the bottom regions of the dungeon, you’ll find the protectors, librarians, and members of the Blue Dragonflight.

“This dungeon looks very large,” Kaplan stated. “And it’s very sprawling, but we’re tuning it so that it takes about an hour or less. We want most of our five person level up instances to take an hour or less. We don’t want them to get into the super extended gameplay times. We want to save that for our raid game where we do want to do sprawling dungeons, but for a level up dungeon we feel that players want to get in, get some story and good loot, and get out.”

A hallway in the Nexus

As Kaplan continued to take us through the nether regions of the Nexus, he explained to the press the development team’s stance on how the dungeons are going to work with the environment outside of the instances. “We’re trying to integrate the storyline quests from the exterior zones more elegantly into the dungeons in Wrath of the Lich King,” Kaplan said. “Many of the quests you’ll do out in Borean Tundra will start telling the story and will ultimately culminate in the Nexus. We tend to refer to this as the Deadmines theme, where Westfall built up into the Deadmines and Edwin VanCleef was your ultimate boss.”

Even though our glimpse at the Nexus was very quick, it felt like each area of the dungeon really had its own miniature theme inside the larger motif of the dungeon. Kaplan hit upon this point as well stating that “within an instance we tried to make each area feel different. Not only does it help players navigate, but it also makes the dungeon feel less monotonous.” He paused for a moment and laughed to himself. “We call that the Molten Core lesson.”

As Kaplan pulled out of the Nexus and back into Borean Tundra proper, he took a moment to mention the existence of more daily quests within Northrend. “We’re planning on doing a lot more daily quests in Wrath of the Lich King,” he stated. “We want to have those in place when the game launches, which allows for daily quests to be a more integral part of your experience from the get go.”

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