Blizzard has just announced the (rather unsurprising) next step for World of Warcraft: Classic. Later this year, it’s moving on to the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.
Originally launched in 2008, Wrath of the Lich King brought with it numerous additions that put WoW firmly on the road to being the MMORPG that it is today. They included the massive Northrend map; famous dungeons such as Violet Hold and the Culling of Stratholme, and numerous raids ranging from an updated Naxxramas to the frigid finale in Icecrown Citadel. It also added features such as an achievement system, the inscription profession, and the game’s first hero class: the Death Knight.
By and large, Wrath of the Lich King’s revival in WoW Classic will mirror the version fans remember, though there will be some changes. One of the biggest differences is the absence of a dungeon finder system, which was originally added to the game at the end of Wrath of the Lich King. According to WoW Classic lead Brian Birmingham, the decision not to add the dungeon finder at all was made to keep what the team perceives to be the spirit of the WoW Classic community.
“We know that the Classic audience is more interested in long-term social engagement, that feeling that comes from reaching out to people, talking to them about how you’re going to group, trying to coordinate, who’s going to do what role walking to the dungeon together, trying to figure out how you’re going to get to the dungeon, who’s going to summon, maybe run into a PVP fight on the way, “Birmingham says.” And then you finally get in there and you have friends that stick together with you. “
Birmingham assures fans that the team is looking at improvements to the grouping tools already introduced in Burning Crusade Classic, as well as adjustments to help guide players to appropriate chat channels where they can find others to group up with. They’re also looking at some adjustments to the raiding and lockout systems, so players don’t feel obligated to run four versions of the same raid per week to optimize their characters.
In terms of smaller but still highly meaningful changes, Blizzard will honor a number of adjustments made to in-game texts and character depictions to improve sensitivity and inclusivity. For example, a new human racial ability that was originally added in Lich King, called “Every Man For Himself,” will be called “Will to Survive” as it is in the current version of WoW. The barber shop – another element added in Wrath of the Lich King – will cost in-game money instead of real money, and will include the ability to change a character’s gender.
“One of the things I’ve appreciated about this whole process is it’s really been an exercise in listening to our team,” says production director Patrick Dawson of the changes. “And [we] just hear any feedback from all the developers that work on the game about things that they might raise an eyebrow to, versus things that they just think we’re okay, or part of the content. It’s really good that we’re able to take action on those things that feel like, we wouldn’t make that decision today. Let’s make sure we’re not shipping a game with something that we wouldn’t have done. “
World of Warcraft Classic Wrath of the Lich King Art and Screenshots
Another shift Classic players might want to take note of is how Blizzard is handling the transition from Burning Crusade to Lich King. When Burning Crusade was first announced, Blizzard allowed players to choose whether they wanted to stay in the original World of Warcraft Classic or move to Burning Crusade. While those who opted to stay in the original version can still remain there, this time there won’t be an option to keep characters in The Burning Crusade expansion. Everyone who’s already in Burning Crusade must move on to Wrath of the Lich King.
Fortunately, Dawson says that not many people currently in Burning Crusade want to stick around in that expansion anyway.
“People want to experience certain eras of WoW in the progression style that is meaningful, and Burning Crusade has done that,” he says. “I think there are opportunities in the future to look at different seasonal content we can provide to people who are looking [to] revisit BC or… revisit Classic again. It’s something we’re always keeping an eye on to see what we could do. “
Wrath of the Lich King will be added to World of Warcraft: Classic sometime in 2022. We also spoke to Dawson and Birmingham about the future of Classic and whether or not it would move on to Cataclysm eventually. And we chatted with the World of Warcraft retail leads about its upcoming new expansion, Dragonflight, and whether or not it will eventually get a console port.
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Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.