When Blizzard released their first expansion to World of Warcraft, they made some improvements while at the same time making plenty of new mistakes. With Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard has leapt beyond the original game's vision to introduce substantial new improvements to the title.
So many quests in the new expansion involve both epic lore and quest mechanics that it's easy to forgive the rehashing classic MMO gameplay. Be prepared to literally stand on the shoulders of giants while battling your foes in ways unseen in any MMO experience to date.
Zone design is part and parcel with enjoyable questing, which is why the Northrend quests are some of the most fun yet in the game. The pacing is much better this time around, and a lot of the new zones feel either fresh and new or evoke themes running through the entirety of the Warcraft saga. Dragonblight is in many was as much of a wasteland as Desolace or the Barrens – but Blizzard figured out how to make the whole area packed to the brim with interesting content and locales.
As the icing on the cake we now have Death Knights, a triumph of Blizzard's improvements to the game since their first set of MMO classes. Not only does this first hero class feel entirely heroic, the starting zone and quests associated with the class recapture for some the emotion and wonder of playing World of Warcraft for the first time. Once you'd stepped into those dark shoes, it was impossible to stop until the ride was over and you were back in Outland.
Wrath is a cut above the rest this year. It's a huge improvement over The Burning Crusade, and has done much to change player perceptions of what a WoW expansion could be. If you've been hoping for a WoW 2, the closest thing you'll find to that for a long time is Wrath of the Lich King. Runner-up: Mines of Moria for Lord of the Rings Online (writeup by Shawn Schuster)
Not only has it been an exciting year for expansions, but if all goes according to plan, the competition will remain fierce in the coming years. There's no denying the fact that World of Warcraft's Wrath of the Lich King expansion deserved the praise it has received since its launch in November, which is why it won our top spot in the Favorite Expansion of 2008 category. Yet, we can't forget about Turbine's own entry, released literally within a week of Lich King.
Lord of the Rings Online's Mines of Moria expansion is winning the hearts of MMO gamers everywhere. With two new classes, an enormous Legendary Weapon system and one of the largest seamless maps in any MMO, Moria is practically a full-featured game in itself, for the price of an expansion. As the bar continues to get raised, and competition grows fierce, players are finding themselves on the winning side no matter which expansion they buy. Game studios must provide quality content that continuously out-performs itself to remain competitive in this market. Mines of Moria is certainly a perfect example of a product that was released to keep Turbine competitive against what would inevitably be the more-popular choice in Lich King.
So why didn't Moria win top spot, if it's really that good? There are a variety of reasons, but the simple fact is that more people play World of Warcraft. This being LotRO's first shot in the Expansion Wars, I'd have to say they're not doing too bad, either. This is certainly one of those cases where second place is still quite a compliment.