With the release of World of Warcraft's second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, less than a month away, it's understandable why there are nearly twelve million gamers excited for November 13th. Northrend is offering a lot more than just a new class and 10 levels of experience to it's massive fan base. This years Blizzcon answered a lot of questions of the PvPers of Azeroth, and Blizzard is adding a plethora of new content for the arena, battleground, and world PvP junkies alike.
Wrath of the Lick King will launch with two brand new arenas for the gladiatorial style combat introduced with WoW's first expansion. The Ring of Valor is the first, which sits inside of the Horde capitol of Orgrimmar. The match starts off with your team rising in a caged elevator, and is the first arena to start opposing teams off right beside each other. Once the elevators reach the arena floor, the cages drop and the match begins. The Ring of Valor features two fire hazards which run the length of the arena, which could be critical in splitting team members up, as the fire will place a damage over time effect on your character if you step into it. This arena also features rising platforms, which can offer ranged classes an escape from melee pursuit, or simply provide an effective line of sight blocker while it's raised. Both the fire hazard and the rising platforms are periodic events and not random, Blizzard stated, in order to remove the random aspect of the arena and have the more skilled and prepared team the winner.
The second new arena takes place in the new neutral capitol city of Dalaran, aptly named the Dalaran Sewers, a rather small arena with a simple layout. Each team starts in a pipe, and jumps out into the arena. If a ranged or healing class tries to stay up in the pipe and support their team, they are shot out with a magnificent burst of water. The middle of the arena also has a dynamic water feature. Every so often, a stream of water falls from the ceiling. This pillar of water makes an effective line of sight blocker, but will knock you back a few yards if you try to walk into it. Like the hazards in the Ring of Valor, this water stream is a timed event, so skilled teams will definitely be able to use it to their advantage. Other than the water feature, a central raised platform, and a few scattered boxes useful for line of sighting, the Dalaran sewers is a pretty straight forward arena.
The new battleground being implemented in WotLK is called the "Strand of the Ancients". This is an attack-defend type map, featuring 15vs15 action, and is shaping up to be the coolest battleground yet. The game starts off with one team on defense, within the walled fortress, and one team on offense, who are traveling towards the fortress on boats. The whole storm the beaches thing feels very World War Twoish, and is extremely cool. Once the attackers land, they have to fight their way up the beach, and destroy a series of gates to get into the sealed fortress. How would one break down said gates, you ask? Well...with siege weapons, of course! The attackers get various tanks and catapults to destroy the gates, but they aren't the only ones who get to have all the fun - the defenders get emplacement cannons to fire back at the invaders. To make sure players don't feel obligated to have to jump into a siege weapon in order to be useful, they also included mines which can be carried by individual players to the gates to blow them down (as long as they aren't disarmed by the opposing team, that is).
The siege combat and destructible buildings are a pretty slick addition - and very well balanced. A siege tank, for example, can easily be taken down by a handful of defenders, so a tank without an escort of protectors is quite vulnerable. After the attack run is either successful or turned away, the teams switch sides, and it starts again. Depending on how well (or poorly) the defenders preformed determines how long their attacking run will be. For example, if the attackers successfully broke into the fortress in 4 minutes, then the defenders only get 4 minutes for their attack run. Conversely, if the defenders hold out for, say, 10 minutes, then they get that long for their assault. This is a cool addition that will make players try their hardest on both sides of the spectrum, as you need to do well in one, in order to succeed at the other. Siege combat, destructible environments, and the overall coolness of the map all come together to make Strand of the Ancients one of the coolest battlegrounds yet.
Last but certainly not least is the addition that World PvP fans have been aching for since the introduction of the honor system: Lake Wintergrasp. Wintergrasp is an entire zone in Northrend dedicated entirely to PvP. Wintergrasp consists of a fortress that can be claimed by either the Horde of Alliance every two and a half hours. This battle will consist of siege vehicle combat and destructible buildings in battles with hundreds of players. The problem with world PvP objectives in the past have always been the lack of a proper incentive. The PvP towers in Silithus and Eastern Plaguelands back in original WoW were mostly ignored, and even Halaa and the Bone Wastes in the Burning Crusade never hosted the epic open world PvP that they were supposed to provide. Blizzard, it seems, have learned from their mistakes if Wintergrasp is any indication.
A few of the benefits of holding Wintergrasp include the ability to do specific daily quests, a portal from Dalaran to Wintergrasp, a "spirit shard" like drop from all bosses across Northrend, and perhaps most important, a unique raid instance. Only by having your faction control Wintergrasp can you enter the Vault of Archavon in an attempt to slay Archavon the Stone Watcher, who drops both PvE and PvP loot, which alone will make everyone want to control Wintergrasp. There will also be a rank system with regards to Wintergrasp, which will allow you to enter stronger siege vehicles and earn other bonuses, such as bonus honor. This was implemented to encourage people to actually participate and fight, and not just sit at the back of a group and go AFK. In order to get all of these perks that Wintergrasp offers, your faction must take control of the fortress. If you manage to do that, then when the next round begins, you have to defend the keep from the opposing faction. Each assault is set to be around 30-40 minutes long, and with all of the rewards for controlling it, Lake Wintergrasp is shaping up to be the thing that finally brings back world PvP.
Other additions to the PvP system Blizzard hinted at included the ability to queue up for battlegrounds from anywhere in the world, guild battlegrounds, and a certain buff called "tenacity" that will increase one teams damage output and lower their incoming damage if they are outnumbered, to even the scales. Lastly, Blizzard mentioned something they would like to implement is the ability for characters to gain experience in battlegrounds, which would be a nice alternative for leveling alts. All in all, come Wrath of the Lick King, it's going to be a good time to be a PvPer.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Lich King preview, PvE, later this week.