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Sensory Overload

Matthew Rossi

Unlike a great many of my friends and acquaintances, I'm on record as liking the graphical design of Outland and The Burning Crusade. I never had any trouble distinguishing between the Naaru and their crystal, dimensional ships and spacecraft, I absolutely love the Draenei and the Exodar, I'm a big fan of Nagrand and the stark, barren and destroyed vistas of Netherstorm and Shadowmoon Valley. So I expected that, unlike what seems to be the majority of players, I would in fact be dissatisfied with the visual design of Wrath of the Lich King.

As you can see, however, they realized some of us would be hard sells, so they let me dual wield two hand weapons from the back of a flying carpet. Blizzard, how do you know me better than I do? I didn't even know I wanted to do that!

The sound and visuals of Northrend are even better than I remembered them being from the beta, frankly. Howling Fjord's music is haunting and elegiac, while the landscape is lush but often shrouded in mist or shadow before bursting into dazzling brightness. Borean Tundra looks as if it has been shattered by the ice, while the music varies from strident to rhythmic. And none of this touches upon the sounds used to bring the various new mobs to life, from the grunting war cries of the Vrykul to the angry bleat of a Shoveltusk stag bearing down on you.

There was a moment yesterday when I actually just stood and gaped as my wife tamed a wolf that turned into a Worgen while we were fighting it. The elaborate armor pieces on the worgen model, especially considering the old worgen mobs I'm used to, were just a little touch that helped make the whole thing tie together. Like the torches swinging from the dragon-head lamps, or the standing stones on the Borean hills, or the truly chilling sight of the Temple City of En'kilah with its throngs of undead. You get to see and hear the impact of the Scourge, right up to seeing a field of twitching, pulsating bales of hay seething with the very plague that most likely plagued our cities during the recent Zombie Invasion. If you even tyold me I was going to see undead hay in Northrend, I would not have believed you.

How about you? How are you finding Northrend so far, an improvement over Outland or a step back?

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