There’s a reason why Wrath of the Lich King is such a well-loved expansion among WoW fans.
Wrath of the Lich King is the second expansion of World of Warcraft. When it was first released, there was no comparison other than The Burning Crusade. In that vein, it becomes nostalgic and something to look back on. Are players just wearing rose-colored glasses, or are they on to something? Take a break from farming WoTLK items and read up on why WotLK is a favorite of many players.
The Freedom of Choice
One of the most significant differences between the current state of Retail vs. when WotLK came out is the freedom of choice. Sure, you were never going to match Rogues in DPS when you’re a Paladin. But in this expansion, you could deal damage while buffing your allies.
This was the era of true (or as close to it) hybrid builds. Classes can fill two roles if they’re built that way. It encouraged experimentation and exploration of the class’ skills and abilities. DPS wasn’t the only meta. You’d do things differently, but there was nothing wrong with that.
Nothing epitomizes that more than the new class that came out for this expac. The Death Knight was meant to be both a DPS and a tank. It showed in its skill trees, where everything revolved around tanking and dealing damage. Not one tree is focused on either one. All trees had options for both.
WotLK also gave people the option to run raids with fewer people. With players doubling up in roles, it might seem redundant to have more than 10 or so people. Not every experimental build worked, but it was a sight to behold when they did.
It offered a token system where you could get new gear just by raiding. Those TBC items obtained through this currency are just as good as raid ones. There’s an automated group finder to bring a group for those who don’t have a guild.
There wasn’t only one way you could play a class or do a raid; the possibilities for experimentation were endless.
Other Player Considerations
For some, Wrath of the Lich King had the best storyline. It closed the story of Warcraft 3 and ended the story of Arthas Menethil, the hero turned villain. It was a focused experience where there was a clear threat. For others, they think the base game was too unfocused, and TBC couldn’t decide between two possible arc antagonists.
The Lich King has been set up nicely as a villain, so it was incredibly cathartic to fight and defeat him. Having him appear throughout the main quest doesn’t let the player forget what they are working toward.
There were also players that loved the art direction of the expansion. They felt that Kalimdor was too sparsely populated. TBC’s Outland was much of the same, combined with a depressive post-apocalyptic atmosphere. Northrend didn’t feel the same, with better coloring and higher quality. This adds a great atmosphere to the endgame areas.
Social butterflies thrived on the interactions between players. The dungeon finder was added late into the expansion. For most of the content, they have to go up to others to invite them to raid as a group. There were also no cross-realm zones, so every server was its own isolated world. This meant that inter-server conflict was never a problem. Communities were friendlier as well.
Finally, there’s the aspect of nostalgia. Many players started with this expansion, so it holds a special place in their hearts. They aren’t blind to its failings, but as the point of origin of their WoW journey, they can ignore its bad parts.
But It Isn’t All Roses
Of course, nothing is perfect. Wrath of the Lich King still has its flaws. Even with the increased versatility of classes, not all combinations worked, and players gravitated to those builds that did work. Case in point, the Dark Knight’s Unholy skill tree wasn’t too much of a hit for players. Crafting has always been a problem then, and it’s only slightly better now.
Player progression was also a problem. You could quickly go past recommended levels for the zone you’re in. Then there’s the reputation system. Players had to grind reputation for many factions. It can get repetitive and boring, contributing to the desire for new and fresh activities.
The token system isn’t the best either. It banks on the fact that you still need to raid, leaving more casual players in the lurch. That’s something that could’ve been done with slight tweaks.
The End of an Era
WotLK was the last expansion with this kind of class viability and accessibility. Cataclysm changed everything and turned the game on its head. Many of the improvements made in this expansion were rolled back into their former state.
That reinforced the class dependency and hierarchy but also streamlined balancing. This also meant that a particular group of hardcore raiders were the only ones to get top-tier gear. Raids became an elite thing to do.
Back then, you could choose (or are forced) to do meaningful activities. Now, there are so many tasks and activities to do, but with no real reason to do them. It just seems like something to inflate a player’s playtime.
All that can be chalked up to a difference in development philosophy. Wrath of the Lich King didn’t do perfectly, but it gave hope that the game was on the right path. Yet, it got sidetracked somewhere, and the good things that came with this expansion were left ignored.
Like it or hate it, many players still think Wrath of the Lich King is the best expansion of WoW. That explains the hype for WotLK Classic. We don’t know how far Blizzard is going to take Classic. However, we know that the closer an expansion is to the current one, the lower the chance it gets a Classic treatment.
Starting from Warlords of Draenor, the following expansions have a significantly lower chance, at least in the game’s current state. A few years later, it will increase as new expacs get added to the game. With enough time, even Shadowlands might get this treatment!
For now, all we can do is prepare for WotLK. Farm that TBC Classic gold, level your characters, and gear up to fight one of the most critical villains of Warcraft lore.