For many current WoW players the most important new addition to the game will be the new features with regards to gameplay, fortunately Burning Crusade does not disappoint in this department. To start with players will now be able to go beyond level 60 all the way up to level 70. This will be the case for everybody who has bought the expansion pack, with old characters and new.
Furthermore, those who achieve level 70 will now be able to fight in the arena, a gladiatorial style competition in which victories will be rewarded with honour points. Apart from the idea of the arena being cool in itself, Blizzard wanted to set up the Arena for a number of other reasons. The Arena will help decide who is truly the best PvP fighter, as you will even be able to fight members of your own faction. It will also allow for a seasonal style competition, although it wasn’t confirmed, we imagine this will be in the form of a league or something similar where you will be able to compete in an organised fashion. Perhaps someone will set up a bookmakers in-game and we can all indulge in a little gambling.
For those of you not at the heady heights of level 70 you’ll still be able to fight in the arena, though it will be called skirmishing and will really only be a way to practice. In other ‘non level 70’ news, Blizzard told us that the legacy areas would be getting a few new quests from a few new NPC’s. Blizzard were concerned that the two new races might not become involved enough in the legacy world and so have thrown in a whole load of mid-range quests for you to work your way through if you’re a Draeinei or Blood Elf.
The other area of WoW that has undergone some drastic changes is dungeon gameplay. The huge new dungeons looked awesome and have been modelled on what Blizzard calls a ‘winged design’. What this means is that the dungeon will be separated into different areas meaning that, rather than ploughing through fights you aren’t necessarily interested in, you can go straight to the area you want/need to be in. Hopefully, this will make the game more interesting, less annoying and make quests and dungeon sessions far more efficient all round.
Not satisfied with that level of tinkering Blizzard has also taken note of the community. Raiding parties will have their maximum size capped at 25 (it was 40) in the new dungeons. The reasons behind this are multiple; firstly Blizzard wants to enhance group gameplay which it believes was hindered by the massive raiding party sizes. It claims that many guilds simply couldn’t get the numbers to take part in the raids keeping them in a constant state of recruitment. However, don’t fear if you’re one of the few who does have 39 other level 60+ buddies, Blizzard has said that the old dungeons will remain at the same size.
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With this preview quickly descending into a ‘WoW Dungeon Newsletter’ I bring you the last piece of dungeon news. Blizzard will be introducing a new difficulty setting, as well as a save game setting for the dungeons. This will allow players to manually up the ante when roaming around dungeons, turning level 60 monsters into level 70 with the click of a mouse. 'Why would anyone do that?' I hear you cry. Well, Blizzard has announced that the loot from these monsters will be upgraded relatively. As I won’t be fighting any level 70 monsters the ability to save looks far more interesting, I look forward to being able to break up my dungeon hunting sessions as I very rarely have enough time to properly play through in one sitting.
Finally, for all the magpies out there, Blizzard has introduced jewelcrafting. This new profession will allow players to, erm... craft jewels. You will be able to fit jewels into neck and finger trinket slots as well as fitting them into ‘sockets’ on other items such as weapons. Once fitted, the jewels can only be replaced and not removed, they will add a variety of bonuses to your attacks and will no doubt become integral to the dynamic economic situation in WoW. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of the jewelcrafting in action but this certainly looks like it is shaping up to be a decent profession.
Previewing an expansion pack for an MMO is a difficult task, as the major criteria for deciding how great it will be rests on how good it is when placed in that massively multiplayer environment. We found it slightly underwhelming checking out these new lands with only three other snotty-nosed games journalists there to play with.
That being said the game still manages to maintain an aura of excellence. Despite the engine being a few years old now, certain scenes are breathtaking. Although I am worried about the integration of the new races, the only possible pitfall I can see for the game; I am encouraged by Blizzard's enthusiasm in providing lore to explain everything. As far as the changes to dungeon gameplay go, things look positive. Even the lowering of the raid party sizes should make raiding a more accessible element. Of course, there will be those up in arms about any changes to their beloved game, but thankfully - due to Blizzard's history of churning out top notch games - those doubters are few and far between. Keep your eyes peeled for Burning Crusade, due for release sometime in December.