When World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade was released, we were taunted by Illidan that we were "not prepared" for the challenges of Outland, and in most cases this was true. Now with the release of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, gamers would expect it to follow suit. Lich King however is far from challenging, and not only are we prepared, we are probably over-prepared!
For those avid WoW fans, who have been sitting at 70 for months grinding epics from 25 man raids, I'm sorry to say, but your in for a disappointing ride. The questing experience of Northrend isn't anything new or exciting. Yes its a new continent, and yes new quests and new monsters abound, but after clearing 2 areas you'll be sick to death of the Blue Dragonflight and the Vrykul, a ancient race of warrior giants. All-quested out, you'll turn to instances, and yes some of the instances are stunning graphically, but don't expect any of them to be a challenge. Take a bit of each of the Outland instances, mix them up a little, and change the scenery, and you have a Northrend instance: its basically that disappointing. Only one instance vaguely tries something new, which is the Occulus, a level 80 dungeon based in the Coldarra area of Borean Tundra. The instance is set around the Blue Dragonflight, and involves your usual mobs and bosses. However the last boss in the Occulus is fought by riding on dragons from 3 of the other Dragonflights. This makes the instance challenging, as experience of your class, other bosses, and even your gear doesn't matter - its all down to how the dragons abilities are used.
Ok so say you've done some questing, tried a few instances, and are now looking at gear. The first thing you'll notice is that it all looks the same, no matter the stats. Warriors, Paladins and Death Knights are virtually indistinguishable from each other, and the same goes for the cloth wearers. Even instance drops vary very little in looks from the quest rewards and drops, but of course as always, there are those unique pieces that everyone yearns to get, but after you've been 80 for a few weeks, and are running heroic after heroic, you'll be pretty much all set up. Most high end and epic items from Outland will probably mean you don’t even have to think about changing your gear until level 78 minimum, even level 80, and arguably some of the level 80 epics are only slightly better then you current gear. Tier 7, is obviously a slight improvement, but unlike Outlands were it was only available in Karazhan, you can now buy pieces using your Emblems of Heroism/Valor, which makes them readily available. The Tier sets are nothing special stat wise or looks wise however, as its all just revamped Tier 3 apart from the Death Knight set, and the only difference between the 10 man and 25 man sets is colour, with slightly improved stats.
Perhaps the best developed part of Lich King is the Player-versus-Player aspect. Northrend has a whole zone dedicated to PvP, Wintergrasp, as well as the new battleground known as the Strand of Ancients. Both areas incorporate the new factors of siege weapons and destructible buildings. Wintergrasp itself is a huge area that is based around a fort built by the Titans. One side will control the fort, and have to defend it, and its ancient relic, while the other side will have to assault the fort and reach the relic. Once a faction wins, they will then control Wintergrasp for a few hours giving the faction benefits. The most notable one is an extra raid that drops Tier 7 items. The Strand of the Ancients is split into 2 phases and it is primarily a smaller version of Wintergrasp, one faction defends and the other attacks. It makes a different and more exciting change from the mundane repetition from the other battlegrounds with their "capture the flag" basis.
Overall, Lich King could be better, mainly from the fact it could be harder. Blizzard have admitted recently that the game is too easy, and players have noted it. Thankfully the expansion has had some redeeming features, such as the introduction of the first Hero Class: Death Knight, and the Achievements system. Questing and Instancing, remains pretty much unchallenging and repetitive and even raiding doesn't bring much to spice things up. Patch 3.1.0 is the next to be released which promises us a new raid, but whether it will be anything worth waiting for - only time will tell.