World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King retrospective - How the popular expansion holds up in its classic remake
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King is where many fans found the MMO at its peak. While many expansions have come after, it has featured several memorable quests, battles, and moments.
It is now available in WoW Classic. Perhaps it is the right time to look back at the original launch of the game’s expansion and assess the WoW Classic iteration. The newer release has some changes, some of which are positive, and some frustrate me a great deal. Regardless, those were the choices that were made.
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King is my favorite expansion of the MMO
I have played World of Warcraft since Vanilla, but my first few years were quite frustrating. I played casually on Rexxar but was ultimately not happy. Most of my friends were elsewhere, and I didn’t have a spot I was proud of in my raiding group. Thanks to a new friend group, I moved to Darkspear and joined another guild right around Wrath of the Lich King.
It was a story I was familiar with as someone who loved Warcraft 3 a great deal. The addition of Death Knights was fascinating, and I spent most of my time as an Unholy DK. World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King was the height of my love for the game. Arthas trying to overrun the world made sense and it was a story I was familiar with.
Sure, there are more Daily Quests - my least favorite part of World of Warcraft - but they didn’t feel as oppressive and frustrating. I actively raided, hunted for achievements, and took part in PVP. From storytelling to world-building, I don’t think Blizzard has topped Wrath of the Lich King.
Our foe had complete command of Northrend and an endless army of undead at his back to ensure his icy grip did not waver. The heroes would slowly push towards the northern peaks and stab into the heart of Icecrown.
The expansion brought back a Vanilla raid - Naxxramas - one that most players never got to experience. In the original launch of World of Warcraft, it was said that 98% of players did not play through Naxxramas.
Less than 1,000 players killed Kel’thuzad. Only 23 guilds fully cleared Naxxramas 40-man. So it’s closer to 0.1% of players got to complete the dungeon. In addition, they built the world further with the challenging and flexible Ulduar raid. Each bit of content felt challenging and unique.
Now it’s available in a Classic format, with most of the original game intact for more hardcore players.
What changed in WoW Classic?
Change was inevitable for World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, for WoW Classic. Not all of these changes are necessarily bad, either. One of these changes is genuinely great. This is the change that came with Raid Loot.
In later phases of the MMORPG, loot tables will be adjusted to make earlier content worth doing. For example, when Ulduar launches, the 10-man raid content (Naxx, Eye of Eternity, Obsidian Sanctum) will receive the 25-man loot. The 10-man loot will shift down to Heroics.
This way, everything is still worth completing and will help players catch up if needed. Another fun change is that WoW Classic uses the final balance patch for expansion. On my Retribution Paladin, it’s so easy to smash through enemies. It’s much easier than it was in the original release.
Another positive was the Raid Lockout changes. Players won’t have to grind Normal and Heroic raid lockouts weekly to stay competitive. For example, if you run 10-man Naxxramas, you cannot go in and do 10-man Heroic to maximize loot. The same goes for 25-man content. This is a significant change, making the end a bit less grindy.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however. This might be a hot take with hardcore Classic players, but removing Dungeon Finder from World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King is a terrible idea. Why? That was a change that came to the game in this expansion.
The “new” Dungeon Search system is dreadful, and I have had virtually no luck using it. Even worse, you cannot list your information unless you have 2FA (2 Factor Authentication) with World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. I’m not against 2FA, but locking such a feature behind it seemed like a strange choice.
I detest that the best feature of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King is not usable in the expansion where it happened. I understand that this is how many Classic players want the game. I'm afraid I, however, have to disagree. I think it’s a flawed design and a terrible choice. Does it stop me from playing WoW Classic? No, but it aggravates me.
The art and music from Wrath of the Lich King are timeless
Fun fact: My all-time favorite trailer from World of Warcraft was for Naxxramas, despite only running the raid two or three times in Vanilla. I got fortunate and briefly joined the top two guilds on the server (Farm Status, Death Group 8).
The visuals for Northrend were simply stunning. Despite being on a frozen, arctic continent, each area felt different, from the forests of Grizzly Hills to the wide, open Borean Tundra. The music was excellent and foreboding, fitting the world they were crafting.
The cutscenes starring Arthas built him up to be the Big Bad he deserves. Few of the ultimate bosses of WoW expansions have the credibility that Arthas did as the Lich King. Then there was the devastation at the Wrathgate. It was possibly one of the most intense and tragic cutscenes in WoW history until that point.
Each raid, each dungeon, and each area felt unique like it belonged in this world. It was a haunted, dreaded place where humanity must tread carefully. The various species and races that filled Northrend felt special. They didn’t feel like previous models' ripoffs.
How has Wrath of the Lich King held up?
While personally, the last few expansions of World of Warcraft have frustrated me, Classic also has its downsides. It can feel incredibly tedious. Even though the leveling in Wrath of the Lich King is slow, I don’t feel weak or helpless. I smash through enemies with the greatest of ease.
I’m not playing with all of my best friends as I did initially, and I am not even in a guild as of this writing. Even with that, I still love the expansion, just like I did at the start. It’s satisfying to travel to this land again. Going through the quests and dungeons is a joy. I would enjoy it more with friends, but I’m doing fine solo.
Is it worth playing? Only if you want to experience the MMO as it was in this frozen time. Even going through Northrend content in retail is a different beast, considering all the changes that have come to the game. If you want to experience things the way they were, even as a newcomer to World of Warcraft, I’d say it’s worth a visit.
Disclaimer: This article reflects the opinions of the writer.