Anyhow, the preemption part of this post is that I haven't played WoW enough for some of your strict demands. My Human Female Warlock Character is resting on her laurels somewhere around Level 43, and I bought The Burning Crusade, but never installed it. It still sits on the shelf, mocking me, taunting me, and haunting my dreams.
Anyhow, that doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to Wrath of the Lich King, I am. It's just that it's less appealing to me than The Burning Crusade, because I can't re-roll a new character and start from Level 1 in that newly opened Northrend area. It's been so long since I logged into my old character that I just want to crack the seal on that box and just start over from scratch, y'know? However, I can't do that with Wrath of the Lich King, so I'll be forced to grind those characters into a sharp point.
As a bit of an aside, I'm wondering if this trend with expansions will continue, because in my opinion it limits the appeal of a newcomer seeing something in the expansion and wanting to pick it up and jump right in. Blizzard has gone to extreme lengths to make WoW a very immersive experience, and it stands to reason that they can't keep introducing new places for newbies to jump in without cheesing off the old players ... but is there a happy middleground they can find for both? Anyhow, I digress. Onwards to Northrend!
Most of our time was spent playing an Alliance character near Valgarde in Daggercap Bay, which was the site of a massive battle between Dragonflayer Invaders and their Worgs. We picked up a quest (yes, there were new quests in the demo) to try and find a Vice Admiral of some kind, who could be heard shouting orders to the defenders, but we never did find the guy. It didn't help that his quest marker wasn't showing up on the map, and we were getting attacked from every side. This screenshot shows what was a slightly slower moment during the invasion. The attack lasted the entire time we were in there ... about 40 minutes or so.
Thankfully, Blizzard had outfitted the demo with many different characters you could choose from, representing pretty much every race and character class, except of course the still-mysterious Death Knight. The problem was that once you logged in, you had to spend a good deal of time making sure you had the proper gear equipped and spending your talent points ... each and every time you logged in. That got to be a bit of a pain, and was probably not fondly looked upon by the players with the 20 minute time limits. "Wear this plate armor ... check, equip this mace ... got it. Check all my bags to see what they've given me ... okay. Check out my surroundings and talk to the Giant Murloc costume to find out where in Azeroth I am ... done. Spend my points on the talent tree ... click, click, cli -- TIME'S UP?!?"
I repeated this scenario several times, trying to lock into the what seemed like the best character for that area, but eventually just gave up and began swimming around the bay checking out the scenery. I got attacked by some pretty vicious sharks a few times, but there were a lot of cool things to see, like immense harpoon guns, ships on fire hanging in the sky, and plenty of shipwrecks underwater. Not a place for a pleasure cruise.
The other locale you could spawn in, the Howling Fjord, was fairly barren ... although we did encounter a few creatures and baddies that yielded up items like Frostweave Cloth when I dispatched them. That was about the only new item we saw in the demo however. Spells, abilities, mounts, etc. were all the normal stuff. Which isn't that normal for a guy who never played The Burning Crusade, but I was assured by our friends at Wow Insider that it was all pretty humdrum junque. For their view of things, check out their hands-on as well. They're tons more hardcore.
Overall, the demo wasn't that large, and we didn't really see anything new, so it leads me to wonder ... has Blizzard set an unrealistic goal of having one expansion come out every year? With the time needed to develop and program all of this new content, it doesn't feel like Wrath of the Lich King will have the same impact that The Burning Crusade did, especially since that expansion included two new races. With no word on a release date yet, and the demo feeling like they've got miles to go before they sleep ... when will we be seeing this, let alone the next one?