Reflection – The Best Part of WotLK
Blog Azeroth – Shared Topic for the week of September 13th, 2010
Shared Topic Idea: Reflection – What was your favorite ____ in WotLK?
With talking about what is left to do in WotLK a few weeks ago, I figured we could take a look back and reflect upon what we liked most about WotLK. I left this wide open to interpretation. You can choose a quest, dungeon, raid, profession change, achievement, mount, PvP fight, arena, battleground, loot, particular boss, or anything else that I might have missed. Explain why this was the best _____ for you and if you haven’t done ______ well you’re really missing out.
This coming Winter’s Veil season mark two years in Azeroth for me. These two years have been jam-packed with many wonderful experiences and hundreds of hours of play. The prompt from Relevart is asking me to narrow all these experiences down to one, which is no small task. With no experiences from before Wrath to compare to, I have found it difficult to respond directly to this topic. So I’m going to skirt the issue a little and respond with an idea: show, don’t tell.
Despite being a Wrath-baby, I still got a little taste of the original WoW and the first expansion, Burning Crusade. These were sampled at about 60 miles per hour since I benefited from accelerated leveling and recruit-a-friend. Before I could blink, my brand new warlock was a brand new 80. Unfortunately, much of the lore and story was lost as I zoomed by. In my subsequent several play-throughs of the game and in my quest for Loremaster on Aliera, I have been able to slow down and enjoy the stories that Blizzard has been trying to tell me.
Every quest in the game has a tale to tell. Some are very small and only impact a few extant npcs which you will never interact with again. Others span the expansions and involve every conceivable group regardless of faction, faith, or family. In original WoW and continuing on through Burning Crusade stories were mostly told by the words spoken by quest-givers. Those npcs would interact with us and tell us to go places and slay foes, to bring back this or that, and so on. Upon completion, we would go back to them and receive our reward and a pat on the back. The story would progress, but only because they said so.
Wrath of the Lich King changed that in a fundamental way. Now, stories didn’t have to rely on just the words of the npcs. Now, the world could change in response to your actions as a player. Phasing in the world of Azeroth has allowed Blizzard to give the player a voice in the shaping of their own world. This tool has allowed Blizzard to show, not tell, the stories of Azeroth.
The best examples of this, and some of my favorites, include the long series of quests found in Storm Peaks leading up to Ulduar and the long chains in Icecrown leading to taking new footholds for the Argent Crusade and the Ebon Blade. (I would like to point out that the Wrathgate sequence of quests is also a masterpiece of storytelling in this game, but since it has received so much attention from far more eloquent writers, I leave it to stand for itself and instead choose some others that deserve their time.)
The quests you do in these lines don’t even need the quest text to be compelling. Your actions speak for themselves. Consider this: in the Storm Peaks line you make a bargain with a prisoner who irrevocably transforms you into a vrykul in order to fight for Thorim, one of the guardians of Azeroth left by the Titans, so that he will come out of his trance, fix relations with the Sons of Hodir, and eventually confront his brother, Loken, and lead the players into the Titan city of Ulduar in search of its secrets. After being transformed into a vrykul, players will forever stay that way in Brunnhildar Village, unable to return to being just themselves. The quests continue by changing the activities and mobs in the valleys east and west of Dun Niffelem. There is no turning back; your actions change the world for you forever.
Even more, the questlines in Icecrown for the Argent Crusade and the Ebon Blade show rather than telling. The Argent Crusade has you go out into the field and slay enemies and free imprisoned allies from the battle. After turning those quests in and returning to the field, you notice that the enemies have been pushed back, their corpses littering the region you just ran around in. A new little quest hub has been set up closer to the front line. The new npcs send you over the hill into enemy territory to scope it out, make a dent, and see what happens. They also send you to gather up some stone and wood supplies in preparation for taking back some of what the Scourge have infested. You fight your way through waves of undead and cleanse a ridge where a new outpost will be placed. After turning in that quest, you find that, indeed, a brand new building has been constructed out of thin air and the region is forever changed.
The Ebon Blade sends you to fight the ocular above the Shadow Vault. After destroying it, you beat back the Scourge that live there. Upon returning, you find that your allies have taken over the Shadow Vault and now send you to purge the Scourge across the rest of Icecrown.
All of these quests share a special quality that makes them a step up from their predecessors in Burning Crusade and before. Players have the chance to make a difference in a dynamic world instead of just making a small contribution that seems unnoticed in a static world. I don’t need to sit and read paragraph after paragraph to understand what I’m doing in, say, Icecrown with the Argent Crusade. I just do it. I go out and fight, my enemies die… for good. I gather supplies and cleanse a mountaintop to establish a new base and by golly there is a brand new shiny building complete with flight point. My death knight friends send me to take over a fortress of the Lich King and, after some bashing of heads, the fortress is well and truly ours. The effects of my actions are obvious because they are being shown to me in the way that I interact with my world.
And that is a big part of what makes this game great.