I had the opportunity to visit the 2008 Blizzard Worldwide Invitationals in Paris last week, where Blizzard showcased the latest build of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. Players had a hands-on chance to play the expansion at the Gaming area where dozens of computers were set up across the hall. The Wrath of the Lich King panels with Blizzard developers was very informative focusing on all the aspects of gameplay for each type of player.
The dungeons in Wrath of the Lich King continue the 25-players and 10-players formula, as well as the heroic dungeons formula. Dungeons, however ,have a new dynamic. You can choose to play the same dungeon either as a 10-players or 25-players raid by clicking your character icon to browse through the dungeon options. This can be quiet useful to smaller guilds who wish to give it a shot to high-end content without needing to fit in the 25-players slots. Naturally, difficulty and rewards may vary from dungeon to dungeon.
Why both 10 and 25 player option per dungeon? It opens up raid content to a larger audience, loot separation is very clear, results in more content for each raid size. There are eight dungeons available to players who are leveling up from 70 to 79, and four Max level 80 dungeons.
Itemization is being largely reviewed by the developers in Wrath of the Lich King to learn from flaws in the Burning Crusade. Northrend’s dungeons are designed to offer more itemization out of Boss Kills in 25 players raids, with more variety to satisfy the desires of all classes. That sounds like moving into the right direction.
Among the four Max Level dungeons is the Occulus in Coldarra (west coast of The Borean Tundra) which introduces the first flying combat dungeon. The Halls of Stone (level 77-79), located at the Storm Peaks, will require a flying mount to reach. Hall of Stones will be one of the most sought dungeons in terms of Titan lore … it is the fabled Ulduar. If you loved Uldaman and the unfolding of the Dwarves and Troggs’ origin, this dungeon will be of interest to you as well. Ulduar is one of the three Titan bases throughout Azeroth.
Caverns of Time: The Culling is a Max Level 80 dungeon fully scripted like Old Hillsbrad. The new dungeon recreates the experience of “The Culling” mission from Warcraft III, fighting alonside Prince Arthas Menethil against Mal’Ganis the Dreadlord and the Undead Scourge. However, the Infinite Dragonflight storyline makes its re-emergence once more in this dungeon, upping the stakes toward success. The layout design of Old Stratholme looks quiet simple. It is not a long dungeon. By its looks, it may be compared with The Magister’s Terrace in length.
Those who play PvP will really love what is coming in Wrath of the Lich King. You will have to buy the expansion in order to taste for yourself. Aerial combat is making its way into World of Warcraft. You can also mount siege vehicles and cast spells or shoot turrets while other player drives the siege weapon. You heard that right. Lake Wintergrasp is a non-instanced World PvP zone where you must defend or attack several outposts. You can destroy towers and bridges (This are not of Alliance or Horde architechture, but ancient temples). You can visually see if a structure is taking damage and how long before it is destroyed. Blizzard developers are designing broad buildings and structures in a way that allows you to see and recognize from afar what’s going on before you get there. We saw a map of each Battleground placed on top of each other to compare the size of Lake Wintergrasp against the other battlegrounds. It is immense, taking in consideration we will be moving quiet fast on these siege weapons or engaged in flying combat. Lake Wintergrasp won’t be a 24-hours constant warzone however. It was revealed that Lake Wintergrasp shares a similar gameplay mechanic as the World PvP in the Bone Wastes (Terokkar Forest) where you take the Spirit Towers. It was not revealed at 2008 WWI what the reward would be for either Alliance or Horde players. In Terokkar your faction gets a buff that allows you to loot Spirit Shards from bosses in Auchindoun, for example.
That dynamic wasn’t permanent as people tended to loot the amount of shards they needed, and be done after turning in their spirit shards to the NPC. Wintergrasp Lake World PvP will have a different mechanic making sure people would want to come back over and over to engage in combat. Sounds promising.
Among the Siege Vehicles shown at the PvP Panel there is a Goblin Shredder, a Flying Machine (Gyrocopter), a catapult, a normal Siege Vehicle, and an upgraded bulky type of Siege Vehicle that does loads of damage in comparison: The Demolisher.
The Demolisher is the baseline for all siege damage, it has a long range and it may carry four passengers: the driver and three players (who can cast spells or man turrets)
The Forsaken Catapul is faster one-passenger siege vehicle, but has a limited-range. It is the cheaper and less damaging siege weapon.
The Siege Engine is the hardest-hitting, long-range siege vehicle. It may carry a driver, a Gunner & Passengers. The Gunner can cast aim turret independently, and passengers are protected within the hull. The Siege Engine has a powerful ramming attack.
The Flying Machine is vulnerable to anti-air attack, but it is swift.
The Goblin Shredder seems to be as fun as the other siege vehicles. It has Anti-Air Rockets, Personal Armor suit, close-range melee attack. Its main use seems to be countering air-siege vehicles. Goblin Shredders are vulnerable to Siege Vehicle damage, however. Make good use of it.
The New Battlegrounds Panel was presented by Tom Chilton (Lead Game Designer) and Cory Stockton (Lead Level Designer). Those who would venture into the new Wrath of the Lich King Battlegrounds, you are up for a trait. The new arena mechanics in development excel. I was at the Battlegrounds Panel presentation, and I was shocked to what they showcased there. Three of the new Battlegrounds to be released in Wrath of the Lich King are Dalaran Sewer Arena, Orgrimmar Arena and the Northrend Battleground Blockout.
Dalaran Sewer Arena is where the pinkish glowing dome of Dalaran is. Sure, Dalaran is currently floating magically above Northrend, as the new Shattrath City of Wrath of the Lich King; but back home, the sewers of Dalaran remain underneath. Dangerous crooks and thugs who usually remain hidden in the sewers are now molested by intruders. No idea what we will expect here outside the Arena, but the Dalaran Sewer Arena takes place down these sewers. Each player faction starts at a sewer pipe. After 30 seconds, a stream of water will flush each team into the Sewer Arena to start combat. The layout shows a big square-room. On the northwest corner is Team 1’s start location inside a pipe. Team 2 is on the southeast corner of the room at another pipe. When both teams come out of the pipe, by the layout design I can guess you won’t be able to see your enemy or which class they are. Immediately after entering the room, at the center is a large squared elevated-platform accessible through two entry-points. These are circular ramp-stairs which—of course—might cause some Line of Sight issues depending on the angle each player is.
Right at the center of this elevated-platform is a small pool. On the northwest and southeast corners of this platform are two static blocks which cause Line of Sight. Now the interesting part is the small pool at the
center. At random intervals, from the ceiling pipe you will see a stream of
water falling down into the small pool. This stream of water will cause Line of Sight too. It will switch on and off. Imagine a caster shooting at you behind this area. You notice him, and plan to counter-attack. You start casting, and suddenly a column of water stream falls— interrupting your casting and safely protecting your enemy from attack. You would have to run around the water stream wall to gain Line of Sight. If you are a melee player, and you attempt to engage the caster through the water pool—you might be up for a unpleasant surprise. If the wall of water drops from the ceiling when you are stepping on the central point … you will get knocked back.
Orgrimmar Arena is located at the Valley of Heroes in Orgrimmar City. Mounting is possible in this battleground arena. The starting location for both teams is very different and unique. Both teams will be lifted into the arena by two elevators coming up from the ground. The elevators will set both teams facing each other at close range rather than on each opposite side of the room. There won’t be much time to see what classes the other team has—- this would call for an immediate action/‘reaction battle starting with crowd control abilities. The Orgrimmar Arena has some nice mechanics never before seen in World of Warcraft. Elevating pillars will shift position on and off randomly at intervals causing Line of Sight, and offering temporary hidding spots. Triggered objects such as spikes will damage players. This will be used a lot to your advantage, kiting players into these areas as a trap. Or be a disadvantage for you.
Northrend Battleground Blockout is located at a Titan island south of the Dragonblight. The strategy here is to defend and attack certain areas. You will drive siege vehicles here to destroy buildings and structures like in Lake Wintergrasp. Being a Titan isle, there might be certain unique game mechanics not revealed at WWI. The layout resembles Arathi Basin and Eye of the Storm Battlegrounds sizewise, but with a very different shape. Each team shows up at a ship on the beach. I asked the developer if these ships would allow players to shoot cannons, the answer was no. Those ships are merely there as transports serving as a starting location for the Battleground arena.