Blizzard Insider #25 is now available and includes information on Utgarde Keep – one of the first instances players will enter in Northrend, as well as other great content that the Insider team covers, such as the Zul’Aman patch, StarCraft II updates and more.
Best of all is the Utgarde Keep piece, though, as it reveals some new information about not only this dungeon, but Blizzard’s plans for Heroic instances across the board in Wrath of the Lich King. There are also some new screenshots, concept art, and a "from geometry editor to reality" image series.
How exactly do you dream up a dungeon? When we started working on Utgarde Keep, we knew from the start that we wanted some sort of “impenetrable fortress in the side of a mountain.” In considering the continent of Northrend’s history and geography, we pretty quickly found a source of inspiration for Utgarde Keep, and to an extent the entire region of Howling Fjord, in a combination of elements from Norse mythology.
Utgarde Keep’s design will be heavily themed toward Northrend – breaking away from the otherworldly designs of many of the dungeons found in Outland; returning to Azeroth, if you will. The major inhabitants of Utgarde Keep are the Vrykul – a viking-like race of giants that are fairly unfriendly to anyone who decides to encroach upon their territory. The quests in Valgarde – the Alliance starting keep in Howling Fjord – will tie heavily into the backstory of Utgarde Keep, and will inevitably lead you into the keep itself to do battle with the sinister Vrykul.
Blizzard learned quite a bit with The Burning Crusade – especially about designing "starter" dungeons for a chunk of content, such as a new expansion. With that in mind, the pacing of Utgarde Keep will be similar to that of places like Hellfire Ramparts – with Utgarde’s difficulty being similar to that of its Outland "starter" counterpart as well. Another thing Blizzard learned with Outland’s dungeons is that they need to be connected to the player on a level above and beyond simply going there to do the dungeon. Thus, from the moment the player begins adventuring in Northrend, they will be connected to and involved in an overarching storyline for Utgarde Keep, and this will continue through the entirety of the expansion.
So what lessons have Blizzard learned from and built upon with the transition into Northrend? For starters, there are two areas players can begin the expansion in – Howling Fjord or Borean Tundra – with easily accessible transportation between the locales. Heroic difficulty will of course be returning, with better tuning than when The Burning Crusade initially launched, as well as something new for Wrath of the Lich King Heroic dungeons. Heroic versions of some dungeons will contain new bosses and even unlock additional areas within the dungeon, beyond what a player has access to in the normal version.
To check out the entire preview, head over to the Utgarde Keep Preview page on the Wrath of the Lich King website.