Fire in the Twilight: an Elemental Invasion Retrospective
The final phase has hit us, the invasion has begun. The thunder cracks over Stormwind, and the flames engulf Orgrimmar. But in the end, after all is said and done, how will we be looking back at this event? How will it be remembered by those of us who were there to witness it? Will you be grasping on to those precious pieces of gear you pried from the dead hands of the elemental lieutenants? Are you going to be telling all the new players that come in during the Cataclysm era about the valiant battles that were fought against the forces of Twilight’s Hammer? Well, I can only speak for myself, but the overall feeling was mixed for me. Allow me to explain.
The Build Up Was Fascinating
The first few phases honestly were very intriguing to me. The plot line surrounding the Twilight’s Hammer cult and their infiltration of the cities was probably the best part of the whole event honestly. There was a sense of intrigue and instability. I did the quests first on my horde alts, and I was honestly concerned that by the end of the whole thing, Garrosh was going to pull out martial law on the city. He didn’t. Why? ‘Cause Garrosh is my boy! But honestly, it was a fascinating trial that played out with much less intrigue on the Alliance side I’m sad to say. It was the same thing but with none of the risk. I mean, while there are people who don’t like Varian for one reason or another, but it’s nothing compared to the sheer animosity that people have for Garrosh (So much that I was shocked to find that I was not the only one who voted for him in the Warchief Election.) So how this whole thing shook down on the Horde side could very well color a good deal of the Horde’s feelings in Cataclysm. I mean, not everyone is going to forgive Garrosh. Probably not ever. Mostly because he is not real, and because, well, haters gonna hate.
The lead up quests did a magnificent job of setting the tone of both the fear and concern of the people of the Horde and Alliance. When facing dire times, there will be those who panic, those who become outraged and those who search for solutions… regardless of where they come from. The people who joined the doomsday cults were not bad people. They saw a way out and they took it. The Twilight’s Hammer is no longer a faceless, nameless enemy. They are us. Well, most of us. Try as I could, I didn’t find any gnomes wandering about in Doom & Gloom chic.
The quests also set a tone of inevitability. You tried to stop the devices, they still got in. You tried to stop the cultists at the gate, they still infiltrated the city walls. You tried to stop the rituals, and the invasion still came. Ultimately, try as you might, the Shattering is going to happen. The world is going to be changed forever. Deathwing IS coming. These quests were a perfect summary of that kind of mentality.
The Invasion Was Epic
I remember noticing a sudden change in the weather while walking the streets of Stormwind. Like a shadow cast across the cobblestone and yet there was an otherworldly brightness to this engulfing darkness. It was followed by a crack of thunder and a peel of lightning and as the rain started to fall, panic engulfed the city. The guards began to pile up sandbags and fortifications, the heroes of Azeroth gathered in the Trade District knowing that the very thing they had tried to stop had come to pass. The Elemental Invasion had begun. It was really exciting to see it all come together. There was a real chill down the spine moment as you saw people rushing to evacuate the city and seeing dozens of players rushing about the city to repel the invaders is a pretty awesome sight and it really reminded me of the demon attacks that lead up to the Burning Crusade expansion, minus the piles and piles of dead low level players at the feet of Highlord Kruul.
There was a real sense of suspense in the invasion, especially after the first day when no one was sure exactly how often the invasion would occur. A sense of unpredictability fell upon many players that didn’t know when the next attack would come. However, this unpredictability fell quickly to the side as the pattern was figured out. Which brings me to a big issue I had with the entire event.
Following The Script
I’ve long thought of the elements themselves as a strange duality of balance and chaos. They make up everything and anything, and at the same time they are foreign, unknown and unpredictable. And if there is one word to describe this entire event, it certainly was not unpredictable. Everything happened on a script. The elementals spawned in zones on a set routine, almost on the hour every hour. The invasion of the cities ran on its own clock and showed up every couple of hours reliably. The quests were naturally scripted as all quests were, there was no random spawns or surprises beyond the initial introduction of a new phase. The entire thing was the epitome of ‘see it once, don’t need to see it again.’
The reason for this is easy to guess. Seriously. Try it. No, it’s not “Blizzard is lazy.” Try again. That’s right. The Zombie Apocalypse. There was serious outrage at the whole thing. People couldn’t use the cities for days, Shattrath was covered in nothing but zombies on my realm, and for a short period the dead ruled everything – the majority of people HATED it. I know plenty of people who actually enjoyed it, but it seemed that at least at the time, the majority was against us in that regard. I think a lot more have come around to thinking of the whole thing fondly, but its hard to say how much of that is hindsight and how much of that is nostalgia. All I know is that the entire thing at the time was hated by a lot of people, and I loved it. Not the people hating it, the actual event. It was dynamic, it was unpredictable and it was player controlled. The players could battle it, give in to it, and choose to die alone and zombified or carry out the call of the grave and spread the plague. There were countermeasures, the Argent Healers for one, and the Necropolis attacks that followed were less dynamic and more farming, but for a glorious moment (to me) the players had full power of the course of the world.
That’s what I always wanted to see in the game. Player choices and player actions deciding what was to happen. It doesn’t happen enough in my opinion. Maybe that’s just because I don’t play on a RP realm where such things occur on a regular basis (maybe someone can suggest one. I’ve seen so much back and forth on the matter of which RP realm is good or bad I’ve, thus far, washed my hands of the matter. Though I do have an un-played character on Shadow Council) but it’s one of the reasons I’ve been looking forward to the use of phasing in Cataclysm. At least then our actions, albeit scripted and defined by quests, will have a noticeable impact on the world around us. It was one of the subtle and yet most enjoyable additions in Wrath and I look forward to see it’s expanded use in the expansion.
The Afterword Was a Big Let Down
So the invasion is over, and the elementals beaten back from the city gates. Now what? Well, now we go and a few packs of trash and a boss. Does the boss drop anything unique and interesting? Eh, some raid quality epic gear that uses models from the ICC 5-mans. And? And nothing. That’s it. It’s over. Here’s some loot pinatas with a dash of nostalgia, and we’re done. If you weren’t still raiding and needed an upgrade or two, the entire thing was pointless except for a couple of points and some gold. In my opinion, the entire post-invasion activity was a huge let down and I have a slight inkling that I’m not alone in thinking that this was the weakest part of the whole event. There were no special drops, nothing to collect or farm, and just nothing to do once it had been done. The Burning Crusade event had a tabard, the Wrath event had some meh gear but some really amazing flavor items (A Castlevania item, a tabard, an epic-in-more-than-just-color axe, and many other weird flavor bits) and this event had some good gear that will be useful for a few weeks.
After all is said in done, the event was fun and epic, the first time I went through it all. But the fact is that the second verse is the same as the first, and watching the same reruns over and over can only be done so many times before it becomes tedious. I got my feat of strength, I saw everything I needed to see, now I just want the world to blow up and the real fun to begin. Am I alone on this? I can’t imagine I am. Maybe the minority, but surely not alone. When a Warcraft-fan but not WoW-player friend asked me how the event was, the best I could offer was, “It was neat. Really neat.” I think that sums up my experience with the whole thing pretty well. Epic but repetitive, good build up but disappointing ending. Still I can happily say that with minimal play time I experienced everything, and had my fun, and go forward without regret. Maybe that is the point all along. But even without regret, I was still wanting more. Oh well. See you all after the world ends.