Just days before the launch of 'Wrath of the Lich King', the new expansion to the World of Warcraft, I set out once again to return to the Eastern Plaguelands in the guise of my level 70 Alliance Mage, to do battle with the invading Scourge. I headed for Tyr's Hand - home to the Scarlet Crusade - and the new Scarlet Enclave of New Avalon. My aim was to explore an area just north of this location called Death's Breach and the floating city of Archerus: The Ebon Hold, home of the Death Knight.
While the Scarlet Crusade of Tyr's Hand were still available for slaughter and looting (a Mage is always in need of cash), the Scourge had yet to appear. There was an eerie silence as I rode alone through the darkened and unpopulated hamlet of Havenshire and onto Death's Breach, where high above the city of Archerus floated in brooding darkness, biding its time for the launch of the expansion and the creation of the first Death Knights.
But how do you create a Death Knight?
Blizzard has kept things simple, providing you have at least one existing level 55 character on a realm (server). This character can be any class, race or faction (Horde or Alliance) - but it must be at level 55. You then simply create a new Death Knight character on that realm. Don't worry, your existing character is unaffected.
Your Death Knight can be any race, faction or sex and you have the usual ability to modify skin and hair color in the process. Unlike other character creations, your Death Knight comes already leveled to 55 and fully kitted out with matching black armor and spooky helmet. Very cool, although the sight of Death Knight Gnomes did make me laugh at little!
Now creating your character is just the start. All Death Knights begin life bound to the service of the Lich King who you first meet in the floating city of Archerus, above Death's Breach. Your first task is to complete a quest chain which begins with the quest: 'In The Service Of The Lich King'.
The Death Knight is Blizzard's first 'Hero' class which forges the abilities of both Warrior and the Mage. A case of both might and magic combined. As a player of the Mage class I found this very cool, but Warrior classes will find the melee abilities of the Death Knight equally appealing. In fact, I have to liken the class more to a dark Paladin/Priest with their abilities to wield 'unholy' magic and runes.
Those players who have played Warrior classes will also love the new Runed Soulblade, a weapon created in the dark bowels of Ebon Hold and forged with necromatic runes in the Rune Forge. This is one of the early quests that equips you with a mighty sword that pulses with an icy, ethereal glow.
And then there's Runeforging.
This is closest to a profession, similar to enchanting. To complete the Soulblade, it must be emblazoned with Runes from your spellbook. Only one can be place on your weapon at a time. The villages of Havenshire quake at the site of this weapon and plead for their lives.
But probably the coolest thing that Blizzard has done is to provide your Death Knight with a mount. At first, I thought I would have to level up or pay some ludicrous amount of gold - but no! A quest is provided called 'Grand Theft Palomino' which allows you to steal a mount in Havenshire. A great bonus to this character.
o there you have it. Your Death Knight has been created, complete with black, forbidding armor, Runed Soulblade and a flaming mount. You are now set to reek havoc on the small hamlet of Havenshire and watch as the villages fall to their knees at the sight of your emblazoned sword and beg for their lives. But you know in your frozen heart, that while in the service of the Lich King, there can be no mercy!