Updated Thu, Dec 10, 2009 by Messiah
Author: Byron "Messiah" Mudry
The madness that is BlizzCon 2007 opened with the announcement of the 2nd expansion to the World of Warcraft. The expansion, titled Wrath of the Lich King, will be launched in typical Blizzard fashion "When it's ready". Several of the zones have already been created though and much of the preliminary work done for the new continent.
Immediately following the announcement, Dave and I attended the information discussion on the expansion. The discussion panel was made up of Jeff Kaplan (WoW Lead Designer), Tom Chilton (WoW Lead Designer) and various other members of the WoW team.
The panel discussed all the basics of the expansion, but really concentrated on two main things. The first being the new Deathknight hero class and the second being the new continent of Northrend. Dave will be discussing the new class, while I take this opportunity to pass on information about the new area.
New map of Azeroth
For anyone who doesn't know, Northrend is the continent located in the far north of Azeroth. It is a cold and inhospitable area, only made worse by also housing the Lich King. The lich king is the once hero Arthas has who first turned into the evil Deathknight and then became Lich King at the end of Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne.
Northrend itself will house more zones that the outlands did and due to its far northern location will heavily feature winter conditions. Blizzard was very clear though that just because it has a heavy winter theme does not mean that the whole continent will be snow, as that would be extremely boring. Instead the continent houses many various zones including a fjord zone, Boreal type forest zone and more, along with the required snow and ice zones.
A very interesting feature and one that Blizzard stated they learned to do the hard way after the launch of the Burning Crusade was the creation of two separate entry zones to the continent. By having two separate starting zones, Blizzard hopes to reduce the load in each individual zone and allow for more replayability as you level additional characters. We were then given information on and brief video tours of the first four zones.
One of the starting zones in the Wrath of the Lich king will be the zone called the Howling Fjord. Which, coincidentally is split up the middle by a huge fjord. The howling Fjord is located on the south east corner of the continent. The zones main feature is the fjord and the cliff edges all around. It will also house the Vykrul (a race of 13' tall vikings), Ice Trolls, and Dwarves.
Also in the zone will be the instance of Utgard Keep, which will be on of the first instances you can visit in Wrath of the Lich King.
The Borean Tundra is the other zone that you can enter Northrend through and is located on the south west corner of the continent. The Borean Tundra will be half snow covered and half barren tundra. It was explained that the main theme of the zone will be the conflict between the Tuskar and the Nagas. The Naga's have been slowly melting the ice from the zone, and no one knows why. The story arc in the zone will get you involved in finding out why and stopping them.
The nagas have made their home in the Riplash Ruins, which could be another instance although it was not confirmed.
The zone you are most likely to visit after either one of the starting zones is going to be the Grizzly Hills. The zone is setup to be a very dense forest area, dense enough that it will be noticeable compared to past forest areas. The zone will be home of the Furbolg and a large dwarf settlement.
In addition the zone will house Drak'Tharon Keep, where Arthas himself stayed while searching for his rune sword.
PvP Zone - Lake Wintergrasp
The last of the new zones that was on display was the zone of Dragonblight. Dragonblight was described as a great dragon graveyard for the blue dragonflight. It is where they travel to when getting ready to die. The zone will apparently be one of the largest zones in Wow and home to the Wyrmrest Temple instance.
In addition to regular zones, Northrend will have a PvP outdoor zone. Entering this zone will mark you as PvP and put you into fast paced, continent changing PvP action. We were told to think of zone buffs from Outlands, except ones earned in this zone will effect the entire continent.
Just as in the Outlands, there will be one major city in Northrend that everyone gathers at. The city will be Dalaran. Yes, the same one from the Hillsbrad Foothills. The Kirin Tor have transported the whole city to Northrend where it floats over the center of the continent. Blizzard stated that they learned from the Burning Crusade that it is best to have easy access to it from any zone, so placed it almost dead center of the map.
Blizzard also discussed the instances that will be found in Northrend, and while very few names and details were dropped, we where shown a chart that displayed a similar number as the Burning Crusade. We were told to expect an identical number of 5 man instances as launched with the Burning Crusade and roughly equal number raids as well.
As with any Blizzard product, more information will follow as they decide to release it. Overall though, the zones that we saw looked clean, polished and interesting. They have made a real effort to provide something different to us the players, and I can't wait to start exploring!
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