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Wrath of the Lich King hands-on demo from BlizzCon


As you may already know if you've been following my Twitter updates from the BlizzCon floor, I've spent the last several hours standing in line to play the latest World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. And while I want nothing more than to tell you just how incredible this expansion is going to be, this demo was very limited and didn't show off any of the exciting new stuff that I'm eager to get my hands on. My impression is that the demo is a very early draft of the coming expansion, and the interesting stuff just isn't ready for us to play with yet. Curious to see what I thought of the new demo content? Keep reading!

So here's what the demo didn't have:

  • Any signs of the new Death Knight hero class. We didn't get to try them out and we still have no word on how you'll become a Death Knight.
  • Any evidence of a new profession. The new Inscription profession sounds very interesting, and I'm eager to see some specifics on how it works. But this wasn't in the demo content.
  • Any new talents. While the official Wrath of the Lich King page tells us that the journey to level 80 will include new abilities and talents, they're not in this demo.
  • A working map. Pressing the default map key, "m," would only take you to the world map without allowing you to zoom in and see how Northrend is subdivided.
  • Will this Northrend place have quests, perhaps? Outland was great in that as soon as you got there you were directed to a to an outpost that gave you tons of interesting quest content. But I didn't see a single yellow exclamation point in Northrend in the demo, or an indication of which way to go from the dock.
Overall, the demo environment seemed very poorly set-up. Each player was given 20 minutes of time with their choice of pre-made characters. However, these characters had no talents or hotkeys configured -- so a good chunk of the demo time was spent quickly picking talents and sorting through the spellbook to pull necessary spells onto the hotbar. Then you've got to take a boat to Northrend, which is additional time spent not playing. By the time you've got your talents set up, your hotbar usable, and have arrived in Northrend, there's just not a whole lot of those 20 minutes left. If anyone at Blizzard is reading this, I strongly recommend that the next time you want to demo new content, be sure your pre-mades are configured and ready for immediate play instead of making players waste limited game-time with boring setup. And instead of starting players waiting at a boat dock, why couldn't you have just put them in Northrend? (Yes, I admit, some of the scenery passed on the boat was neato, but I'd rather dive in to new content than sit idly on a boat watching the water pass by, no matter how lovely it might be.)

I felt like we had about five minutes of useful gameplay time. And in that five minutes, we got to wander around the Howling Fjord in Northrend, which was an interesting environment, though it doesn't have the same visual punch Outland has. (Outland has a very different look than Azeroth does, which makes the place really stand out -- Northrend just doesn't pop in the same way.) But I didn't see any new quests (not implemented in the demo yet?) and fighting generic wolves, cats, and humanoid creatures (Blizzard says these are Vykrul) didn't really get me excited about the game.

Overall? I'm disappointed that I waited for three hours in a line in order to spend five minutes playing an existing class, with existing talents, at existing levels in a new zone that didn't have much of a different feel from the old zones. Obviously this is an early, early, early demo -- none of the really interesting stuff is there for us to see yet. I have a great deal of faith in Blizzard to come through and release an outstanding product (as always!), but this demo was a real letdown that didn't feature any of things that interest me about the expansion.

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