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"You can play for as long as you want, just don't take any screenshots," the Blizzard administrator told me as I sat down to play the Wrath of the Lich King build at Blizzard's Worldwide Invitational 2008. The thought of taking screenshots of the game didn't cross my mind at all until that point. Eventually, I would realize why.
My World of Warcraft career is a rather long one. I played in beta for awhile, I got the game on release and played then too. After about a month of it, I got upset at a quest in The Sepulcher and stopped playing for two months never getting my character past level 17. Three or four months later at the urging of a friend, I got back into it again. This time, I didn't stop.
I find myself a guild master of a raiding guild, raiding 4 nights a week, attempting to keep up some Arena teams and struggling with that. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday nights were offlimits for my social life as that was my quality time with my guild. However, about 4 months ago, I got tired. I burned out, I started to see why. It was just the same thing over and over again. I wasn't really playing the game to play the game, but I was playing it for the friends I had made, the personal experiences and laughs we shared. WoW was a tool: A way of making new friends and keeping them.
Just this week, I finally cancelled my account. I hadn't logged in for longer than 5 minutes in about 3 months. I just didn't have it in me to play anymore. It was not any fun. But now, I find myself in Paris at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational with Wrath of the Lich King breathing down my neck. I avoided it on Day 1. The crowds were insane, but this morning I finally sat down feeling the guilt of having just cancelled my account and being fortunate enough to sit down and play it when so many people who are currently enjoying the game aren't able to even look at it.
The press administrator sat me down at a computer, and asked if I wanted to play Horde or Alliance. Naturally, I said Horde. I was going to at least stay in my comfort zone. He logs into an account for me and I see 8 level 70 characters, all of which are free game for me to play with. My two primary characters were a priest and a warlock, and here I was flying solo and actually wanted to be able to live, so I chose the warlock and entered Northrend.
It was at this moment that I knew why I couldn't take any screenshots. It was beautiful. I was logged into the Howling Fjord and the first thing I noticed was the trees and the detail. The graphical progression WoW has made over the past three years is phenomenal and you can really see the improvements in the Wrath of the Lich King content.
I grabbed a few quests, set up some hotbars and began riding around. The quests were typical. Nothing out of the ordinary, yet. Kill, burn some corpses, let loose a beast at some camp. Now, I remembered why I was tiring out on WoW. No matter what, the fundamentals will always be the same - however, that is the case for almost every MMO and will probably never change. It's just something that you accept.
I stopped doing quests at this point and started to explore the area taking it all in. Everyone knows the new features of Wrath at this point, so it's not worth getting into all of it again.
I wandered through Howling Fjord, Grizzly Hills and Dragonsblight hoping to eventually make it to Storm Peaks. However, Blizzard cursed that with their dreaded "No Man's Land". As soon as I crossed the border, I was teleported back to Howling Fjord.
The thoughts going through my mind at this point was that I was enjoying myself, but for how long? Will I buy Wrath? Yes. Will I play? For awhile, but I'm not really planning on going back into The Burning Crusade anytime soon. There is enough there to reinvigorate the dying WoW spirit inside of me. So, Blizzard did it right again.
Wrath is a strong expansion. Blizzard is doing, as always, their finest work. The content is great, the environment is exquisite, the world is enthralling, and the newest additions such as Death Knights and the new dungeons. It'll get me back in game for awhile anyway, but for how long is to be determined.