Many dangers await in the realm of the Lich King. The will of Arthas echoes through Northrend, ancient frozen kingdoms gripped in his armored fist. Titans keep close to their own secrets buried deep in hidden vaults, and the Blue Dragonflight threatens to tear the world asunder with wild magic. World of Warcraft: The Wrath of the Lich King is still in beta, but many challenging dungeons and dangers already beckon, so we heeded the call. Come along with us as we explore the instanced adventures of the icy north and see what the latest expansion has in store for you. But be warned: though the surface of this article contains only minor spoilers, the rollover images contain the visages of bosses and artifacts you may prefer to remain unknown. And if your thirst for arcana truly knows no bounds, perhaps this video tour of The Nexus will sate you. We will not blame you if you cannot help gazing upon them, but do not blame us, either.
And so, without further ado, we present the dungeons of the Lich King!
The Howling Fjord is a deep glacial gash hewn into a brutal wilderness where Alliance forces cling to their waterside outpost in the oppressive shadow of Utgarde Keep. Now home to a depraved band of brutal men known as the Vrykul, Utgarde Keep clearly marks the bygone golden age of a lost civilization with its sweeping stone architecture and sophisticated engravings. It has been leased to the Vrykul by Arthas in return for the beast men's continued campaign of chaos. If you are ready to travel to Northrend, then Utgarde Keep is ready for you.
Utgarde Keep is richly atmospheric within and without. From the vantage of Valgarde, the Alliance outpost, Utgarde stands like a giant tombstone on a massive grave. Dragon riders swoop down from stone spires spewing fire on the terrified mortals below, killing the lucky ones. Within, Utgarde contains the regal squalor of a Viking fraternity house; its splendor spoiled by wild and savage tenants. Dragon-head banners bedeck the halls, covering finely engraved eagles, symbols of the bygone builders. A huge war forge greets your entrance, and it is here that the Vrykul invaders look most at home. Clanging hammer against anvil, the beast men forge their war tools before a curtain of fire and an audience of skulls that spew their applause in flames.
Do not underestimate the Vrykul--or their dragons. Savage and disorganized though they may seem, these mad warriors are employed by the Lich King, who pays them in more than real estate. They wield his dark power, as well as their own savage implements. They've also tamed both vicious worgs and mighty drakes to cosign their evil deeds. Take extra care when fighting in the dragon pens because one unlucky knock could send you flying into the face of a nearby sleeping monster, doubling your troubles and halving your hopes in one fell swoop.
The agents of Arthas oversee the Vrykul's evil work, and they will stand against you when lesser foes have fallen. When you vanquish his sinister council, a wicked wizard will attack with a host of skeletal friends. Beware his tomb of ice; though you may be loath to attack the encased member of your party, you will find the alternative even worse--and kind of sticky. You will also happen upon a conversation between an exceptionally powerful Vrykul and his necromagical overseer. And finally, Ingvar the Plunderer, leader of the Vrykul, awaits you at the top of Utgarde Keep.
When the Titans created the world, they also created the dragonflights to keep watch over it. The domain of the blue dragonflight was magic, and Malygos was its guardian. Driven insane with grief over the almost utter annihilation of his race by the betrayal of the black dragon Deathwing, Malygos has only recently risen from his stupor to find the world in turmoil. Having decided that the current state of affairs is due to mortals meddling with magic, he now channels much of the world's magical energy to the Nexus, his stronghold in Northrend. You may want to gain a level or two before you challenge him.
If you like the color blue, you'll be right at home in The Nexus. The frost-and-magic design aesthetic from the outer environs continues inside through the citadel's base floor. Much of the instance is inscribed with glowing runes, as well as bristling with crystal and ice. One path to an elemental boss is lined with trees that glitter so brightly they're almost painful to look at--all crystal foliage and shining treants. One wing of the dungeon is almost entirely ripped apart by the overload of magical forces, with a vortex so strong that it's pulling nearby creatures to their deaths. Just from running around, you clearly get the picture that the Blue Dragonflight has gone thoroughly insane--if matters are this out of control at the lowest level of the tower, what's happening at the top?
Disparate beings populate The Nexus, from mana-hungry elves to blue dragonkin patrolling on behalf of their crazed leader. Magical plant life crowds the halls on one side, waving their limbs and leaves freely under the guard of hulking elementals. Around the unstable vortex, dragonkin fight a losing battle against uncontrolled beings of pure energy that seem to spawn endlessly. One frozen hall contains a whole squadron of Horde entombed in ice, and they'll be quick to turn their ire on you once released. It's best for you to be cautious with the number of enemies you'll fight at one time. Those in your party who can offensively and defensively dispel magical effects will also be kept quite busy.
Upon entering, the first thing you see is a red dragon locked in ice--if you've quested in Coldarra, you'll recognize her as the imprisoned Keristrasza, but you can't help her yet. You'll need to clean the rest of The Nexus first. A master mage awaits you, flinging your party around with arcane magic then splitting her form to embody both fire and frost. Deep in the crystal forest, a great stone giant awaits your arrival with ice that erupts from the ground. In the unstable hall of the rift, a creature of chaotic energy warps both space and magic in an attempt to rip you asunder.
When you at last free Keristrasza, her heart is corrupted beyond repair, and she forces you to sacrifice her by attacking you in a rage. In addition to her dragon's breath and magic, the very air itself acts against you; if you don't keep moving, you'll be overcome with frost.
Do the perils of one dungeon excite you more than the others? Or do you have a question about the mysteries of Northrend? Don't /yell, /tell us.