In this overview of WoW's new "Icecrown Citadel" patch, we offer a succinct guide that sums up all the new features and changes, no matter how small.
As we reported during the wee hours of Tuesday morning, World of Warcraft's highly-anticipated patch 3.3 was finally confirmed to launch on live servers later that day, at 11 a.m. PST. When it comes to major "patch days," veteran players have learned to take Blizzard's maintenance schedules with a grain of salt, so it came as no surprise that the majority of public servers weren't back online and stable until later that evening. Despite its delay, most players met patch 3.3 with open arms, eager to get their first glimpses of Icecrown Citadel and The Frozen Halls, try out the new cross-server LFG system, experiment with new and revised class mechanics…or maybe just check out the new Kalu'ak Fishing Derby.
But if you're more of a casual player—or you've simply been out-of-the-loop during the past couple of months (off playing Aion or whatnot)—the sheer amount of changes and new content in patch 3.3 might seem a little overwhelming. Hell, some of the most studious WoW fans who followed weekly reports from the PTR are still discovering new details they either missed or forgot since the early patch notes surfaced. In the weeks and months that follow, ZAM will continue publishing in-depth news and information about patch 3.3's menagerie of new features, as well as detailing the community's gradual decent into the bowels of Icecrown Citadel—where players will eventually face down Arthas himself, bringing the Wrath of the Lich King era of WoW's living history to an end. But until then, our "Beginner's Guide to Patch 3.3" offers a concise summary of the patch's most important features, with a bit of commentary to help you make sense of it all.
ICECROWN RAID AND DUNGEONS
The new Icecrown Citadel raid and dungeons are, without a doubt, the most popular and fervently-awaited content in patch 3.3. Even before the Wrath of the Lich King expansion was a twinkle in every WoW player's eye, the story of Prince Arthas Menethil was firmly rooted in Warcraft lore, last explored in Warcraft III and its expansion, The Frozen Throne. This epic, fan-favorite Warcraft story arc, which began almost a decade ago, is almost over. Players are gearing up for battle on the precipice of Icecrown Glacier, finally ready to kick down Arthas' door and fight the biggest fight of them all, which elicits an emotional response among many fans.
Aside from Warcraft's history and lore, Blizzard's raid development has continued to impress; we've seen massive dungeons, jaw-dropping art design, complex and engaging boss fight strategies—so it's only natural that players expected Icecrown Citadel to be the most amazingly-epic raid dungeon yet.
There are two parts to Icecrown Citadel: the 10- and 25-player raid (the actual citadel) and The Frozen Halls, a 5-player dungeon complex. The 5-player content in The Frozen Halls features three separate dungeons; The Forge of Souls, Pit of Saron and The Halls of Reflection. In order to access these dungeons, players must begin a faction dependent quest chain with either Jaina Proudmoore or Sylvanas Windrunner, both of whom will be waiting for you at the entrance of The Forge of Souls. It's a quasi-attunement mechanic, since players will progress through the quest line while advancing through each dungeon in consecutive order, ending with The Halls of Reflection. For more information about the process, check out Wowhead's guide to The Frozen Halls and this section of the official website.
Unlike the 5-player content, the 10- and 25-player Icecrown Citadel raid is not currently available in its entirety. Patch 3.3 opened its first section, The Lower Spire, which players can access on normal mode without any attunements. This section features four bosses; Lord Marrowgar, Lady Deathwhisper, Icecrown Gunship Battle and Deathbringer Saurfang. Throughout the next two or three months, Blizzard will stagger the release of Icecrown's remaining content; The Plagueworks is next, followed by The Crimson Halls, Frostwing Halls and finally, The Frozen Throne, featuring the battle with Arthas. Again, for more details, check out Wowhead's Icecrown Citadel guide or the official preview site.
Finally, patch 3.3 unveils a new NPC faction related to the Icecrown siege; The Ashen Verdict. Founded by Tirion Fordring and Darion Mograine, the faction represents the union of the Argent Crusade and the Knights of the Ebon Blade; a seemingly-temporary alliance to rally their forces for the upcoming battle. Of course, a new faction means new reputation to earn, which can be used to access a bunch of new gear and tradeskill patterns/plans, all of item level 251 and above.
NEW LFG SYSTEM (DUNGEON FINDER), UI ENHANCEMENTS
We featured a news-editorial of the new LFG system a few weeks ago, considering its potential to widen the accessibility of dungeon-runs and endgame content for both casual and hardcore players. The old "looking-for-group" system is now replaced by the "Dungeon Finder," an enhanced group-forming tool that supports a slew of new features, including the ability to bring players from different servers together via cross-server instancing. This new system allows both single players and groups to "queue" for a specific or random dungeon, similar to the existing Battlegrounds system. Once the group is formed, players will be teleported directly to the instance. Blizzard recently posted a mini-FAQ about the new system in its forums.
Players can also use the new "Looking for Raid" system to find 10- and 25-player raid groups; however, this system is not as advanced as the Dungeon Finder (not yet, anyway). You can access the LFR system by opening the Raid Information screen or by typing the "/LFR" command. Players can view a listing of all other players in the queue, and sort through the results by ordering by name, level, class, tank role, healer role and damage role.
Several other UI elements received substantial upgrades as well; the quest tracking features extend to the world map, and the Quest Log is now interactive. Players can click a "Show Map" button in the Quest Log to view the location of specific quest objectives on the world map. Also, Blizzard integrated a bunch of new features into the world map itself, including enhanced quest tracking, difficulty and other indicators and more—removing the need for add-ons like Quest Helper, for some players.
Finally, Blizzard tweaked the interface options to allow better managing of buffs and debuffs, added a "Group Disenchanting Option" to the loot rolling system, beefed up the functionality of nameplate indicators and a deployed a handful other adjustments and fixes.
We don't have the page space to list all of the class changes in patch 3.3, and most players are only interested in reading about their own classes (unless they're hardcore PvP or Arena junkies, in which case they should be keeping tabs). You can start by reading the general class changes and race changes to find out about inherent mechanics changes, like the nerf to an Undead's Will of the Forsaken, which now shares a 45-second cooldown with PvP trinkets.
To find out if class-specific spells and abilities were buffed, nerfed or stayed relatively the same, check out the class changes section of the patch notes in our wiki page. You'll also want to review classes that received bug fixes, nestled in the main bug fixes section.
QUESTS, PROFESSIONS AND MISCELLANEA
A couple of months ago, Blizzard released new lore about Quel'Delar, the sister blade of Quel'Serrar, in a patch 3.3 preview. It has since been revealed that players can complete an epic quest line to obtain the weapon (or rather, one of four swords and three maces itemized for your class). You can take a look at the weapon models, stats and get more information about the quest line at Wowhead's Quel'Delar section, which also includes a quest chronology.
There's also Shadowmourne, the legendary two-handed axe given to players as a consolation prize after revealing that Frostmourne—Arthas' legendary runeblade—wasn't on the table anymore. Like any other legendary weapon, Shadowmourne will take a great deal of time and effort raiding Icecrown Citadel for even one single player to obtain. For more information on what will be required, check out this Wowhead section.
Professions didn't receive a whole lot of attention in patch 3.3; a couple of Enchanting formulas were tweaked, First Aid costs have been reduced and Miners can learn "Enchanted Thorium" from trainers at skill level 250. Slightly more entertaining is the launch of the "Kalu’ak Fishing Derby;" essentially an evening player's equivalent to the Stranglethorn Fishing Extravaganza, for those who can't (or won't) log in to WoW on a Sunday afternoon.
Lastly, a few more miscellaneous additions and tweaks; Blizzard says it added a feature to WoW's Direct3D graphics engine which will "improve texture management, particularly for Windows XP users." Reputation gains for Northrend factions have been increased by 30 percent, along with a few other rep-related tweaks. A handful of items were adjusted as per usual, and PvP fans will be happy to find out they can earn Arena points by completing daily Battleground quests.
All-in-all, patch 3.3 offers a welcome assortment of new tools and gameplay tweaks. Icecrown Citadel is the last major content patch of Wrath of the Lich King, offering the community some long-awaited features—not to mention that huge new raid/dungeon over in Icecrown—that should help to tide us over until the pre-Cataclysm mania begins.
[Many screenshots courtesy of Wowhead.com]