World of WarCraft expansion officially unveiled

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ANAHEIM, Calif.--Following two very public leaks in Germany and the US, Blizzard Entertainment surprised virtually no one today when it announced the second expansion to its wildly popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game, World of Warcraft. Titled the Wrath of the Lich King, the expansion will add a passel of new content to the game, which now boasts a staggering 9 million players worldwide.

The announcement was made by Blizzard's Frank Pierce this morning at BlizzCon, the Vivendi Games-owned publisher's annual fan event. First, he briefly talked about some content updates that introduce guild banks and integrated voice chat via live content updates. Then he discussed Zuluman, a new 10-person instance in the Ghost Lands featuring Forest Trolls battling against Blood Elves.

Then, after coyly mentioning that Blizzard's "dev team has been working on bigger things," Pierce officially unveiled Wrath of the Lich King. The expansion will open up the continent of Northrend--first seen in Warcraft III--to WOW players for the first time.

The expansion's storyline will center on the lich king Arthas Menethil, who was prominently featured in the expansion Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Arthas has "merged with the spirit" of another lich king, Ner'zhul, the former orc shaman and Undead Scourge leader introduced in Warcraft II: The Tides of Darkness. Now, the joined ghostly monarchs have "set things in motion that could threaten all life in Azeroth," according to Pierce. Apparently, players will be introduced to the story as soon as they set foot into Northrend.

Wrath of the Lich King will raise the level cap in WOW to 80 and will add new abilities and talents to all classes. It will also introduce the Death Knight hero class and a new profession--inscription--that will let players permanently enhance spells and abilities. The expansion will also add new character-customization options, such as hairstyles and dances.

As for Northrend itself, the realm will feature several new zones to explore, with "hundreds of new quests, monsters, and items," according to Pierce. The expansion pack will also introduce numerous five-person dungeons, as well as 10- and 25-person raids.

Pierce also said Blizzard developers have big player-versus-player plans for Wrath of the Lich King. The add-on will sport new areas and battlegrounds, and will add siege weapons for the first time. It will also introduce buildings that can be destroyed by siege weapons, adding another level to combat.

Pierce's presentation concluded with the first trailer for World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. The cinematic began with a voice-over of Arthas telling two humans in a burning forest that "I was once like you." After some shots of a massive forge, two other humans--a male and female--are shown being battered by a gigantic Yeti. The male runs off into a snowy forest, where he is surrounded by undead. The next shot shows the male human in black Death Knight armor, standing before a seated Arthas on a throne. "In the final hour, all must serve the one true king," proclaimed Arthas before the convention center lights came up.

Blizzard did not announce a release date for Wrath of the Lich King. However, the first WOW expansion, The Burning Crusade, arrived approximately 15 months after being introduced at BlizzCon in October 2005.

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