While Diablo III being announced is the big news of day one here at Blizzard's Worldwide Invitational, there's also this little expansion for World of Warcraft -- called Wrath of the Lich King -- which they're letting players dive into with either premade level 70s, or the Death Knight class at level 55.
Yep, for the first time anywhere outside of internal testing and the Alpha, the Death Knight is playable -- and by 8,000 people, no less.
Keep in mind the information I'm about to share is from the "latest build of Lich King," which is very much Alpha currently, so things can and more than likely will change -- possibly dramatically -- before the public sees the class and the expansion as a whole again.
Pretty much all of the information we shared with you in early May still rings true. There are subtle changes here and there, but the abilities talked about still work the same ways, the Death Knight still starts at level 55, and the class still uses a hybrid Runic Power / Runes system for using abilities; it's very much like a hybrid rogue/warrior/mage at this point, with certain talent specs massively enhancing spell-based damage, while others boost physical-based damage.
One change Blizzard made early in June is very evident though; each talent tree is definitely geared toward both being able to tank, and being able to deal damage. Each tree has its own flavor for doing both, but regardless of spec, you'll more than likely be a potent tank, as well as damage-dealer. Granted, there are some talents that synergize amazingly well with a bit of a mixed spec, but that's all the more reason to love this new class; the theorycrafting revolving around it will make other classes pale in comparison.
At any rate, enough of the random babbling; you really care about the juicy details, right? Something more than you've heard before? Good, because we have some cool stuff to share.
So you start at level 55, you're gung-ho and ready to own up some Plaguehounds and Carrion Grubs -- at least for now since Ebon Hold is currently still not available in Alpha; it's where Death Knights will eventually begin their life in Azeroth before moving on to Eastern Plaguelands and ultimately Outland/Northrend. But wait... what's this? Your talent trees are completely devoid of points spent, and you have no points to spend. Ouch... well that's easy enough, you simply partake in a quest to receive your talent points and you're good to go; you receive the number of points a level 55 should have, and can spend them however you like.
Your core abilities you begin the game with a pretty nifty; not only do you start off with Blood Presence, but you also get Death Grip, Plague Strike, Blood Strike, Icy Touch, Summon Deathcharger (which looks insanely cool), Death Gate (15 minute cooldown teleport to Ebon Hold), and Death Coil -- your first Runic Power ability.
Quick Info -- Starting Spells
- Blood Presence -- Increases your damage by 15% and heals you for 4% of the damage caused.
- Plague Strike -- Deals weapon damage and diseases the target, causing Shadow damage over time. Costs 1 Blood and 1 Unholy rune to activate.
- Blood Strike -- Deals 60% weapon damage and additional damage for each of your diseases affecting the target. Costs 1 Blood run to activate.
- Icy Touch -- Deals moderate Frost damage (somewhere around 213-235, modified by Attack Power -- yes this is a spell modified by Attack Power; Paladin love incoming, perhaps?), and slows the target's melee, casting, and ranged attack speeds by 15%. Costs 1 Frost rune to activate; 6 second cooldown.
- Death Grip -- Pulls the target toward you, forcing them to attack you for 3 seconds. Yes, this ability literally pulls the target to you if they're in range. Costs 1 Unholy rune to activate; 35 second cooldown; 30 yard range.
- Death Coil -- Unleashes Runic Power to deal Shadow damage to a non-Undead enemy or heals an Undead friendly target for that amount of damage. This looks to either be a direct damage spell, or a pet heal for your ghoul, depending on how you choose to use it.
There are a few talents I noticed right away that struck me as must-have talents while leveling up. First off in the Frost tree is Improved Icy Touch; it reduces the cooldown on Icy Touch by one second per point (one of the few Rune-based abilities with a cooldown) and unlocks a talent called Icy Talons that causes Icy Touch to also grant you a buff when used, increasing your attack speed by 15% for 20 seconds. Can I hear a "yes, please?" Then there's Killing Machine, a talent that gives your next Icy Touch, Mind Freeze, or Howling Blast a 100% chance to crit after you score a critical strike via melee damage. Again, huge synergy with talents in the other trees, such as the Blood talent that increases critical strike chance.
In the Blood tree you'll find a plethora of grinding-friendly talents and generally cool stuff, like Bladed Armor -- a talent that at the maximum of 5 points -- grants you 25 Attack Power for every 1,000 Armor you have. Then there's Vendetta, which heals you for 4% of your life every time you kill a target that rewards Experience or Honor; it also unlocks a talent called Mark of Blood, which heals your group for 4% of the heal's value any time the enemy target it's affecting is healed, and when the target affected dies, your group is healed for 10% of your health if they reward Experience or Honor.
Unholy seems heavily focused on your ghoul and other pets you create, like the Army of Dead and Gargoyle. Yep, if you spend points deep enough in the tree, you can learn to summon a Gargoyle to aid you; it costs Runic Power to keep up, but can dish out a nice amount of additional damage. There is also a talent called Necrosis, which allows your melee attacks to also deal additional Shadow damage. It doesn't seem very strong for the point costs currently, but again, this is Alpha so it will probably change before we see it live.
The class is fairly entertaining once you get your talent points -- it definitely starts off as a powerful class -- almost to the point of feeling overpowered initially. But that's a good thing; this is a hero class after all, and you're also starting out at 55 in a game where it's a race to 80, so getting into Outland a bit quicker is a good thing in my book. Sadly my time was up shortly after getting started on my quest to level 56; someone else was asking to use the PC and like the nice guy I am, I let him. Don't worry though -- I plan to go back again before the weekend is over and get more details on the Death Knight -- so be sure to come back soon!