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Welcome the OddCraft Archive!

Basic Campfire Makes A Simple Statement

Long ago, in the distant past of 2008 – almost ten years now – I started blogging.  I did not however start with this blog.  The Land of Odd wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye back then.  When I first began, I had another blog titled “The World of OddCraft” or simply “OddCraft”.  It was a collection of thoughts and observations about the World of Warcraft which was pretty much the only MMO I played back then (I had a Mac, my options were quite limited.)   OddCraft slowly evolved into a series of “Oddities” that I had found in the World of Warcraft: References, strange details, weird doodads placed around the world, and unusual NPCs.  All of them organized by location, expasion, faction, etc.  Although page views rarely broke into the triple digits, I was quite proud of it and I had a small following of regular readers and commenters.

However, as time went on and more notable I grew disillusioned with the Cataclysm expansion, I withdrew from WoW and focused on other things.  Naturally, OddCraft didn’t update as much at that point.  I would still do posts here and there and it did eventually lead to the creation of the Original Version of the WoW Ironman Challenge (We didn’t include a ‘No Death’ clause.  Mostly because we were curious about what you could accomplish with the bare minimum, and the No Death thing seemed to encourage playing it safe over experimentation).  But yes, the original version with the original rules that were first laid out on Twitter by myself, Psynister and a few others were laid into stone on the OddCraft website.  It was also where we did the Warchief Election when it was announced that come Cataclysm the Horde’s leadership was gonna be shaken up.  Six different notable faces ran campaigns and debated on the blog and it ended with a big vote to decide who won to become the new Warchief of the Horde.

Ultimately, OddCraft was sadly more or less abandoned when I decided I wanted to write about far more than just Warcraft and the Land of Odd was created in its place.  But I never forgot about that old site that started things out.  That’s why I am proud to announce that we have officially imported all of the old OddCraft content right here on the Land of Odd in the ‘Warcraft’ section of the blog under ‘Oddities’.  All the old categorization still applied, and I’m working on fixing any images that were lost in the transition.  The old site isn’t gone, but this way my entire blogging history is now under one roof.

So fans of Warcraft, funny things or just people who take interest in some of the weird stuff that pops up in a big MMO, I welcome you to take a gander at the OddCraft Archive, now hosted locally on the Land of Odd!

World of Wacraft: Warlords of Draenor – Legendary Ring Story Summary

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So with Legion, Blizzard decided to remove the Legendary Ring storyline from the game.  Since this storyline does a lot to set up the explanation behind the Legion expansion, as well as go into many of the motivations for staying around on Draenor after the destruction of the Dark Portal, I felt that it was deserving of a story summary so that people can have some level of reference if you want to know what went down in Warlords of Draenor.

Chapter I: Call of the Archmage

Upon reaching max level, you will find a familiar glowing friend wandering around your garrison.  This arcane construct brings word to you from Archmage Khadgar who requests your aid with a mission he has and asks that you come meet with him at his tower in Zangarra.  There he, along with trusty Watcher bodyguard Cordana Felsong, explain that to accomplish this mission he will need your help and to do so you will need a special tool that will help you along the way. A powerful piece of equipment that will not only give you the strength for the challenges that lie ahead but tether you to Khadgar so that he can keep an eye on you and your actions in the dire days to come.  He suggests the item be a ring and asks you to seek out the Arrakoa of Skyreach to retrieve a ring made of pure Solium, a rare metal heated and infused with the raw power of Draenor’s sun, to act as a base material for your new ring.

After fetching the material, Khadgar begins work on infusing your ring with new power and bringing out its own latent strength.  While working he explains that while the Horde and Alliance continue their battle against the forces of the Iron Horde, Khadgar has a different and far more threatening target in mind: Gul’dan.  The Orc Warlock who forged a pact with the demons of the Burning Legion and has a noted history of manipulating events from the shadows to get what he wants.  Khadgar wants to flush the warlock out of the shadows and the best way to do that would be to start by gathering powerful reagents for a tracking spell.  Khadgar requests that you retrieve a Core of Flame from the Slag Mines belonging to the Bloodmaul Ogres in Frostfire Ridge, the Core of Iron that is used to power the Iron Horde’s Iron Star trains that depart from the Grimrail Depot in Gorgrond, and finally to adventure deep into the Everbloom to extract the Core of Life from the closest thing on Draenor to the progenitor of life – a Genesaur.  Khadgar has also heard word from Talador that Gul’dan’s Shadow Council has infiltrated the hallowed halls of the Auchindoun and suspects that Teron’gor, Gul’dan’s right hand, is behind it.  He wants you to retrieve a sample of Teron’gor’s foul fel-touched blood to be used a focus for the tracking ritual.

In exchange for your assistance, Khadgar offers to empower your ring even further but to do so he will require additional materials.  This time he wants to imbue the solium with the magic from the crystals of the Apexis, an ancient Arrakoa civilization that first learned how to harness the power of the sun.  To enhance your ring, he needs precisely 4,986 crystals.  Any less than that number would be inadequate and the wizard insists that any more would be simply ridiculous.  You can trust him. He’s a mage. He did the math.

Once you’ve retrieved all the reagents, Khadgar will attempt to perform a scrying ritual to find Gul’dan only to find that the warlock is actively countering the spell leading Khadgar to deduce that Teron’gor’s death must have spooked the old orc into running.  Unfortunately, this means that Khadgar will need even more power to contend with Gul’dan’s magic and complete the ritual to locate him.  However, he has an idea.  The Archmage knows of a certain dragon – Kairozdormu – that came to Draenor’s past attempting to help Garrosh Hellscream flee his war crimes trial.  Since this modified timeline permeates with Kairoz’s influence, Khadgar should be able to use the dragon – alive or dead – to connect to this age of Draenor and spread his magical power across it.  So you head to the eastern hills of Nagrand where you find time-lost illusion detailing what followed shortly after Garrosh & Kairoz’s arrival in the past version of Draenor.  It would appear that the dragon’s plans quickly soured after arriving back in time as Garrosh immediately betrayed and murdered Kairoz.  However after meeting his bloody end, Kairoz’s angry spirit still dwells in its final resting place of the Time Lost Glade where his spirit and timeline has seeped into the very land of Draenor.  To master this power, Khadgar beseeches you to finish Garrosh’s work and end the dragon’s existence.  As the battle goes on, it is finally revealed why Kairozdormu freed Garrosh and fled to Draenor.  Kairoz saw something in his experiments on the Timeless Isle.  Something that drove him to seek out a way to make not just an army, but an infinite number of armies to fight against it.  To become infinite himself.  His first goal was to use Garrosh to convince Grom Hellscream to unite the Orc clans into becoming the first of Kairoz’s infinite army, but Garrosh’s backstabbing quickly ended that.

You return to the tower in Zangarra victorious.  Khadgar has tapped into Kairoz’s remaining essence and expanded his power and uses the Apexis Crystals you gathered to upgrade your Solium ring into a more powerful incarnation: a Time Lost Solium ring!

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Chapter II: Gul’dan Strikes Back

Armed with the ability to tap into the very essence of Draenor, Archmage Khadgar now needs a means to penetrate the powerful fel magic that Gul’dan uses to shroud himself.  To do so means having to delve into what the Kirin Tor would consider ‘fringe arcane science’ at best.  The knowledge possessed by the ogres of the Gorian Empire would fall under such a category.  Khadgar says that the Sorcerer King of the Gorian Empire, High Imperator Mar’gok, has mastered the art of something called “Felbreaking.” A technique designed to surpress and nullify magic including the vile powers of fel magic.  This knowledge would prove invaluable.  The Archmage asks that you venture deep into the ogre capital of Highmaul and retrieve a Fel Breaker’s Tome as well as the magical sigil of the Sorcerer King himself to help in learning the practices contained in the tome.  Khadgar also recommends picking up Abrogator Stones as you penetrate the ogre city.  These ancient and powerful magical stones that have been passed down through the generations of ogre mages would be a useful fuel to empowering your ring even further – a fair exchange for overthrowing an empire.

Once you have brought an end to the Gorian Empire and retrieved the requested items for Khadgar, the wizard will attempt once more to scry Gul’dan’s location.  Utilizing the fel breaking techniques to tear through the warlock’s veil, Khadgar finally makes contact with the orc.  The victory is short lived however as it seems that Gul’dan has been inquiring about the human mage he witnessed in the escape from Tanaan Jungle.  Gul’dan mentions Khadgar by name and mentions that it would appear that they have quite the history with each other.  This means that the warlock is now aware of the transgressions of the original timeline of your native Azeroth, where Khadgar killing his master, Medivh the Last Guardian of Tirisfal, shattered the mental link that the Guardian shared with Gul’dan and plunged the warlock into a coma that cost him and his Shadow Council control of the Horde.  Khadgar happily announces that they’ve located Gul’dan to which the old orc replies in jest that likewise he has found the Archmage.

Just then a figure draws out from the shadows and before Cordana has a chance to act an orc assassin stabs Khadgar with a poisoned blade. The assassin flees into the marshy lower levels of Zangarra and Cordana orders you to track her down.  You climb down the rocks into the swamp like valley and begin to play a dangerous game of cat and mouse before finally chasing the assassin to a cave and battling it out until either you perish from the poison in your blood or the assassin is captured. You return to the tower with the assassin – Garona Halforcen – in tow where you find Khadgar being kept stable by Jaina Proudmoore, the current leader of Dalaran’s Council of Six. You use the poison to quickly form an anti-venom to help aid in Khadgar’s healing and as the Archmage wakes, Jaina helps him up.  However, if you are a member of the Horde, Jaina will chastise Khadgar for allying himself with you and the Council does not approve of this choice either.  Khadgar will simply shrug it off and say that he needs all the help he can get on Draenor and it won’t be the first time he disappointed the Council.  However before Jaina departs, Khadgar makes one request that she helps transfer the power of the Abrogator Stones you gathered into your ring since he has been weakened by the ordeal.  The process turns your ring into a Spellbound Solium Ring.  Jaina wishes Alliance members well with their newfound power and threatens that she will be keeping her eye on you if you are a member of the Horde.

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Chapter III: The Foundry Falls

Now that he has healed, Khadgar is willing to admit that it was perhaps foolish to go after Gul’dan with magic alone.  Fortunately, an opportunity has arisen with Garona, the assassin you captured.  If he can find some means to break the magical hold that the warlock has on Garona’s mind, she might be able to assist bring down her master.  Khadgar has a plan but to enact it he must ask you to venture into the very heart of the Iron Horde’s war machine: The Blackrock Foundry.  There he will need you to pry out the heart of a primal elemental fury that fuels the massive furnaces below the foundry, steal a Flamebender’s Tome that describes the secret techniques that the Blackrock Clan uses to channel and control the powerful elemental forces of Draenor, and lastly to reclaim a magical Thaumaturgical Orb that was stolen from the Draenei during the Iron Horde’s siege of Karabor.

Once you’ve collected the three components, Khadgar will begin to pour over the Flamebender’s Tome that speaks of a ritual to the elements that required a sacrifice from the chieftan of a clan.  This causes the wizard to ponder on what Blackhand must of sacrificed to gain such knowledge and deduces that it must be his eponymous hand.  Khadgar asks you to break into the core of the foundry and kill the Warlord of the Blackrock Clan, then bring back his arm to utilize as a focus for the ritual to free Garona.

Meanwhile, Khadgar also has a plan to further enhance your ring by utilizing the knowledge sealed in three distinct Elemental Tablets that pre-date written history itself that hold the methods of tapping into the primal power of the planet itself.  However, the tablets will likely have shattered throughout time and thus will require you to find all the pieces scattered throughout the foundry to reassemble them.  Once you do, he performs a ritual to infuse the ring with Draenor’s elemental power.  However in doing so – he accidentally kills you.  While you are dead, you witness a vision of Gul’dan speaking to Grommash Hellscream.  The warlock taunts the warlord by telling him that the Iron Horde is collapsing under the assaults of the outsiders (that would be you) and even the foundry has now fallen.  He tells Grom to drink from the demon’s blood and that it will be the only way to guarantee success for Hellscream’s Iron Horde.  Grommash angrily declines and yells at Gul’dan to leave his sight just before Khadgar resurrects you with a pair of goblin jumper cables much to Cordana’s surprise that they actually worked.

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Chapter IV: Darkness Incarnate

With everything gathered from the Blackrock Foundry, Khadgar attempts to break Gul’dan’s hold on Garona by torturing her until she gives up the information on where Gul’dan is hiding.  In the wakes of the orcs screams, Cordana stops Khadgar horrified by what depths the wizard is willing to sink to and that he is losing himself in pursuit of the mission.  The Archmage relents, agreeing with Cordana that what is the point if they are willing to become just as vile as the warlock himself to accomplish their goals.  He however does have another suggestion: an Orb of Domination.  A relic used by the Shadow Council to ensnare minds into serving and joining their cause.  The old mage suggests that he may be able to reverse engineer the Orb and use it free Garona.  He directs you to a cavern below a Draenei village where the Shadow Counil has been using a orb to brainwash people and to bring the orb back to him.  Cordana is against this idea vehemently since using the orb would be tapping into the dark powers that they sought to stop in the first place, but the orb does its job and rips out Garona’s inner demons for you to battle and ultimately break the warlock’s hold on her.  In thanks, the assassin pledges herself to you and Khadgar while Cordana takes the Orb of Domination away to see it destroyed.

Garona leads you to Bladefury’s Command in northern Talador where Gul’dan was headed to a meeting with the Warlords of the Iron Horde.  You sneak in past the guards to discover what the warlock is up to.  There you witness Gul’dan overthrow the Iron Horde by subduing Grommash and convincing the other warlords of his ineffective leadership by bringing up the countless loses including that of Hellscream’s own son – Garrosh.  Turned by the warlock’s arguments, Kilrog Deadeye steps forth to embrace his foreseen fate and drink of the demon blood, his body twisting and breaking to reform into the first of a new Fel Horde.  Shocked by this news, Khadgar is terrified that history may repeat itself and Azeroth is now more in danger of the Iron Horde than before.  He asks you to use your resources as a General of your faction’s forces to build a shipyard to assault Tanaan Jungle from the sea while your allies assault the gates at the Iron Front.  Garona also agrees herself to your growing army and becomes a legendary follower.

With a foothold established in Tanaan and you and your allies primed to storm the gates of Hellfire Citadel itself, Khadgar suggests a two pronged attack.  First he wishes for you to rip the Tomes of Chaos, the foul books bound with tortured souls that are used to train new warlocks, out of the hands of Gul’dan’s followers.  He also wants you to use your shipyard to chase down Gul’dan’s flagship – ‘The Master’s Call’ – that has been scouring the seas of Draenor and charting the arcane leylines of the world.  That chart must not reach Gul’dan’s hands and could prove useful to the Archmage in bringing your ring to its apex of power.

Once you’ve collected all the tomes full of their disgusting pictures, Khadgar asks you to take them back to Cordana for proper disposal.  However when you arrive back at the tower in Zangarra, you find Cordana intently staring into the Orb of Domination which she apparently did not destroy.  She quickly dodges any question you ask about why she has the orb. She takes the books from you and begins to place them around the room to prepare to destroy them, but instead the erupt into a ritual circle of fel flame.  As the green flame engulfs the room, Cordana demands that you hand over your ring and that she needs it.  You decline with a choice of saying “No.” or “OH HELL NO.” and she declares that she will take it by force.  You fight with Cordana who unleashes both her Watcher training combined with the cinders of fel magics.  She screams that the Orb has shown her the truth: Khadgar is a just child who dabbles in forbidden powers too great for him to control. Gul’dan however has true mastery of these dark arts.  As you weaken her she breaks off the battle and states that nothing will stop Gul’dan and the Burning Legion from burning this world, Azeroth and every other world to the ground.  She opens a portal and walks into it saying that your leaders will ultimately betray you and that the Legion will be victorious.  When you return to Khadgar, he bursts into a rage against Gul’dan and his trickery before quieting and staring off at the horizon to mourn the loss of his bodyguard and friend to the darkness.

Now that the books have been dealt with and you have retrieved the ley line chart, Khadgar can identify three primary points of leyline connections: His tower in Zangarra which he knew since that is why he built it there, the Throne of Elements in Nagrand, and the Temple of Karabor in Shadowmoon Valley.  He says with this knowledge he should be able to bring your ring to its maximum potential and create something truly legendary.  The wizard is a bit apprehensive however after killing you the last time he tried to do this (which he apologizes for again) he will need some assistance.  Luckily, you have made powerful allies in your time on Draenor, and you head off to one of the leyline sites to perform the final ritual.  Members of the Alliance will travel to meet with Yrel and the rest of the Council of the Exarchs and the Naaru K’ara where they work with Khadgar to infuse your ring with the blessing of The Light and awaken it to its true potential.  For the Horde, you will find that the Frostwolf Clan (including the spirit of Ga’nar) has come out in mass to the Throne of the Elements to watch their shaman Drek’thar call upon the Primordial Elemental Furies to beseech them to give your ring their blessings.  With its power fully awakened, your ring has become a power unequaled on Draenor.  Khadgar only hopes it will be enough to stop Gul’dan.

With your ring firmly fastened on your finger, you assault the Black Gate and stop Gul’dan by defeating Archimonde the Defiler and sending the demon general back to the Twisting Nether, but not before Gul’dan manages to escape by being hurled through the very Black Gate that Archimonde had emerged from. No one is sure of where the warlock had escaped to, but Khadgar picks up the old orc’s fel charred walking cane and utters that he knows that this is not over.  He invites you to enjoy your victory celebration with your allies, but he must depart back to Azeroth to prepare for whatever will come next.

He hopes that you will be present and ready for when the call goes out for heroes once more.

Leave No Witnesses: The Lost Isles SI:7 Mystery

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If you’ve ever rolled a Goblin in the World of Warcraft and played through their starting area where Deathwing descends to erupt Mount Kezan after getting hit with a football (Or at least that is my interpretation of events) you’ll get a cutscene after boarding the ship to get the heck off the island where the goblin ship stumbles upon a fierce naval battle between the Horde and the Alliance.  Strangely enough its the Alliance who turns cannons on you first and blows the goblin shipped pack with you in the prison hold below due to being tricked into being sold as a slave.  Now of course this is a good reason for the goblins to want to join the Horde right?  That the Alliance are a bunch of jerks and the Gobbies were just sooooo innocent.  Of course the goblins had no way of knowing that it was the Alliance that shot them from below deck and even more interesting to me is the comment that the Alliance commander makes before they fire on you – No witnesses.  They want no witnesses to what they’re doing.

Why?

It’s no strange concept to anyone on Azeroth that the Horde and the Alliance have been at each others throats since the Wrathgate broke whatever hope there was for the vulnerable peace that was forged in the wake of the Third War and the Legion’s attack on the World Tree Nordrassil. So what were the Alliance doing that was so suspicious that they didn’t want any witnesses to their actions?  Well, we do get a few clues as we continue our quest to find a new home on the Lost Isles.  One is that the ship that attacked us was carrying a very important prisoner: Goel the World Shaman, Former Warchief Thrall or Green Jesus depending on how you want to view him. Thrall was on his way to the Maelstrom to help the rest of the Earthen Circle protect the churning hole in the center of the ocean from imploding the planet after Deathwing, that Old God driven mad dragon aspect of being a nuisance, destroyed the World Pillar in the Plane of Earth that held things together.  And wow wee does this sound like Chris Metzen’s D&D campaign notes when I write it all out like that.  I should steal some of this for my own campaign.

Back on topic, we also learn that the ship is being crewed and overseen by the SI:7, the Alliance’s black ops secret forces. Which would make sense if you wanted someone to go on a secret mission to capture the former warchief of the Horde and the current holder of the title ‘World Shaman’ that was made up just for him.  The real question comes in the form of WHY the SI:7 and in turn the Alliance would want to capture Thrall.  The Alliance leadership KNOWS he has stepped down from his position with the Horde and left Garrosh Hellscream to lead to rabble.  They KNOW that Thrall is on a diplomatic mission to aid the Earthen Circle to help stop the world – that place that they too live – from shaking itself apart. So why try and stop him?

I think the answer strangely enough comes 80 levels or so later on the opposite faction.  When doing the quest chain for the Alliance to head into the Twilight Highlands, you find yourself investigate some strange activity around Stormwind with the young Prince Anduin who has begun to take a more active interest in his people’s welfare.  Throughout the questline you make something of a disturbing discovery that the current head of SI:7, the man standing to the right hand side of the King himself, is a member of the Twilight’s Hammer – a cult devoted to the Elementals and Old Gods that seeks to bring about the End of the World.  You ultimate stop him and prevent an assassination plot on King Wrynn but this plot element may in fact be the missing piece to solving the question of the Goblin starter zone all the way back at the start of the game.

Allow me to speculate.  The SI:7, a powerful organization with little oversight that carries out secret missions for the safety of the Alliance and headed by a man who is secretly in a cult that wants to bring about the apocalypse, attacks and kidnaps the former leader of the Orcs who just so happens to be on a mission of peace to help stop the apocalypse.  They attack the Horde ships hoping to sink them and chock the whole thing up to inter-faction conflict while they secure their prisoner and inadvertently aid Deathwing in bringing about the Hour of Twilight (ie said apocalypse.) However, a group of goblins accidentally happens on the scene and knowing if the word got out that this was more than just two groups that hated each other attacking each other got out – especially by the hands of goblins who are by nature greedy, not above blackmail, and have had dealings with both factions previously –  well, you’d probably want to make sure that your secret activities of abusing your authority to help further the goals of an insane dragon would remain hush hush and thus give a simple order: No witnesses.

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I submit for your approval that the leader of the SI:7 ordered those ships to destroy any witnesses because they actively sought out Thrall’s ship and Thrall himself to stop him from ever reaching the Maelstrom.  Does my idea seem far fetched?  Perhaps, but remember this is the same expansion that required you to play an Undead to level 20 to find out what happened to the rest of the Worgen starting zone story as well. Or the truth behind the Tragedy of Camp Taurajo that required playing both the Alliance and Horde side of the story AND had additional information in the Jaina novel about what happened. The Cataclysm expansion is full of weird intersects in the story.  So is it that hard to believe that they planned this?  I would argue that no, it’s not.  In fact all the pieces fit together a bit too well for this to just be a coincidence in story telling.

Because I will say this: I don’t have a ton of love for the content of the Catalcysm expansion, but damn did it have some great story moments in there.

Looking Back at Warlords of Draenor

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Well, with Legion just around the corner and the movie all abuzz across the internets (Good and bad), I figured it was time to take a look back at the latest expansion of the World of Warcraft and share my thoughts on what it did right and what it did wrong.

Garrisons:  Garrisons were one of those features I was dreading being utterly disappointed in. The whole idea had been trimmed, cut down, slashed and burned from the original pitch way back at Blizzcon.  From a customizable fortress that could be established in any zone and would have room for trophies and what not to… well, what we ended up getting. A static spot in your faction’s starting zone with the only customization being from a fairly limited number of building types into certain spots, the ability to change the race of the guards and a couple of the flags, and the trophies really just being spots for your pristine archaeology finds and “monuments” that are unlocked by doing super specific expansion long goals.  It was a shadow of the cool feature that we were told about.  And yet, I still love my garrison.  Granted, I love my Alliance garrison more than my snowpile in Frostfire.  But I do actually love my garrison.  I love being the commander of my own forces, ordering them out to complete tasks and then seeing them off as they march around.  I like seeing my followers and other characters I’ve met on my journey wandering around.  I enjoy setting my music and saluting my gnome guards.  I like building it up and fortifying my base.  I even liked defending it from attackers the few times I was able to get it to happen.  So much so that I actually kind of hope that my garrison hearthstone sticks around with me after the expansion is over so I can go back and visit my little corner of the world.

Past & Present Collide:  One of the more interesting things I liked in the expansion was to see where the things in Outland came from. I am still stumbling upon connections and putting together things when I’m out doing stuff.  It was only just recently that it hit me that the Podlings would eventually become the Sporelings of Zangarmarsh.  Or what was in this area before the world got ripped up.  The only real sad part to this was the fact that Farahlon was passed over and forgotten along with several other smaller islands that are clearly shown on the map but never added in game.

The Story:  Oh, the story.  What a mangled tale it did weave.  So much excitement, so many threats, and all of it – entirely – was for absolutely nothing.  Seriously, what were the lasting repercussions of this plotline? Garrosh is dead. Maraad is dead.  Gul’dan was thrown into the Nether so he can reach other universes.  Those are the three things that were actually accomplished in terms of the overall narrative of Warcraft.  Everything else? Those epic battles? Those heart warming reunions and soul crushing sacrifices?  All take place in an Alternate Universe that has zero effect on anything once we go home.  Talk about a dissapointment.  Heck, the Iron Horde never posed any risk after 30 minutes in Tanaan Jungle.  You blow up the Dark Portal in the intro mission. The Iron Horde now has zero threat to the real world from their weirdo elseworld. But now we’re stuck right? Nope. We can just open a mage portal across dimensions back home. lol.  WHY ARE WE BOTHERING TRYING TO SAVE ALTERNATE UNIVERSE DRAENOR? Nothing that happens can affect us beyond people from our universe dying (which they do).

How about this instead – it IS our Draenor.  The Timewalkers and the Bronze Dragons have temporarily locked it off in time so that we – the heroes – can go back, track down Garrosh and his accomplice and set things right before it has a chance to permanently destroy our universe.  Then there is an actual risk to us failing to stop the Iron Horde.  There’s a reason for us staying once you broke the Dark Portal and stopped the Invasion.  Heck, it doesn’t even have to end up being the same.  As long as the important plot pieces remain (Nerzhul becomes the Lich King, Gromm lives long enough to free the Orcs from the Blood Curse, Thrall ends up being raised by humans) you could pull a comic style reboot and brought the Movie plotline into canon with the games.  Maybe not flawlessly, but that would have at least been something. Instead we are left with a lackluster resolution with minimal lasting effects.  This whole expansion should have been a novel.

The Ending:  Speaking of lackluster…  WHY DOES GROMM GET OFF SCOTT FREE?  After using the Iron Horde to complete destroy Draenor, wage war on the Draenei and other citizens of the world, and murder and pillage as they see fit – he suddenly gets welcomed with open arms by those he and his chieftans have wronged just because Gul’dan is the bigger asshole?  I hate to go Godwin on this, but that’s kind of like the Allies welcoming Hitler into their ranks, saying let bygones be bygones, all because some space aliens attacked in the last few years of World War II. You don’t get a Get Out of Jail Free card just because there is someone worse than you.  And yet, here we are.  With that being the exact note the expansion ends on.  Gromm is the big damn hero that will help rebuild Draenor with the Draenei and there will be peace and butterflies.  I don’t even have words for how BAD that ending was.  Oh, but at least Gromm didn’t killsteal Archimonde. That makes it alright then, right?  God that ending pissed me off and the fact that more people weren’t pissed off also pisses me off.  You could have at least made it Durotan that extends the hand of peace!  He was willing to join forces to fight the Iron Horde.  All frickin’ Gromm did was get tied to a rock for not drinking EctoCooler.

The Legendary Ring:  Weirdly enough, the Ring quest actually did feel Legendary. Even though the whole thing didn’t even result in an item that you will ever be able to display to others.  The story behind the Ring was really what made it strong.  Joining Khadgar in his elaborate chess game with Gul’dan.  Khadgar who is old enough to actually be aware of the threat that Gul’dan poses (Having encounter him through Gul’dan’s dealing with Medivh in the First War and using the Skull of Gul’dan to close the Dark Portal in the Second War).  Khadgar dances back and forth on his morality quite a bit – stooping to torture, dealing in dark magic, and ultimately getting his bodyguard and confidante to be swayed over by Gul’Dan’s power.  It’s clear that this was the intended ‘real story’ behind the expansion given what we know about Gul’dan’s eventual take over of the Iron Horde and being thrown across realities to help instigate Legion.  A shame that once the expansion comes out, no one will ever be able to see it as they are burying the questline.

Getting Out in the World:  When Blizzard first spoke about the leveling experience of Draenor being less questing and more Timeless Isle, I was filled with dread.  That didn’t sound fun at all.  Racing with others to grab spawns and fighting for kills to grind.  Luckily, the traditional questing method did make it in but traces of the Timeless Isle are felt everyone. From the treasures to the rare mobs to the tedious rep grinding of 2 rep per mob, it was everywhere.  Luckily, there were improvements made.  The Rares spawned pretty quickly outside of the endgame areas, the chests were all account specific so you never had to fight for them, and it was kind of fun seeking things out.  However I did miss my dailies (Shut up, I like them) and was glad to see them return in Tanaan along with the option of grinding for the Saberstalkers.  However, I guess this just didn’t get that many people out in the world since all I’ve heard from the general player base was “We just sit in our garrisons”.

The Flying Achievement:  I liked it.  I liked the idea of once you have mastered the outdoor PvE elements of the expansion that you unlocked flying account wide.  So all of your alts will have it as soon as they enter Draenor.  I like that a lot better than paying 2000 gold per character at least.  Plus as an achievement fan, it gives me something big to work toward.

I guess what it boils down to was the fact that while the gameplay in Warlords of Draenor really succeeded for me, the story felt like it was a complete after thought and didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved.  The whole expansion kind of felt like just something to tide players over and test out some new ideas while Legion was being worked on. I came in without a ton of excitement, but I found some fun and a lot of angry ranting.  Which is… good?  I dunno. Certainly looking forward to Legion though.

 

Vry versus The World (Of Warcraft)

draenor

Believe it or not, enthusiasm comes fairly easy to me.  A well cut together trailer will do the trick without incident.  Some good news or an awesome character design can spur my wheels to pre-order.  Heck, one glance at the Crusader on the character creation screen and a mere hour playing with Loot 2.0 not only had me dropping cash to pre-order Reaper of Souls but also nab the digital deluxe edition while I was at it.  I am exceptionally easy to please, and like to think I maintain a level of optimism and excitement for things I enjoy.

That being said, let’s talk a moment about Warlords of Draenor, the upcoming expansion for World of Warcraft.

I have never felt this lack of excitement for a WoW expansion.  NEVER.  Even expansions that seemed dubiously “not up my alley” like Cataclysm was able to get my smile on with stuff like the remade old world.  But Warlords?  Man oh man and I struggling to find something to get happy about.  There’s Garrisons I suppose.  Player housing has always been a dream of mine, and then combining it with a potentially more elaborate (or just as likely identical I suppose) version of SWTOR’s crew skills (which I liked). That’s something right?  There’s also new models.  They are very cute.  Puff the Death Gnome will be adorable, I just know it.

But then I hear things like “plan is no flying at ship and see how it plays out” or the big proud emphasis on NO dailies whatsoever with everything being based around a Timeless Isle like system of dynamic events.  Man, you just took all that Garrison happy and beat it into the ground with a Gronn sized club. No amount of gnome cute can help that.  Maybe a kitten?

Even a free level 90 doesn’t seem that tempting to me, even with all my alts.  It’s clearly not an offer designed for me, and I recognize that.  But likewise it feels like this entire expansion is pretty much one giant bag of nope for Vry.  Flying? Gone, potentially for the whole expansion.  Dailies? Gone. There goes my favorite way of experiencing the world.  Timeless Isle random events are so short lived that there’s no time to join in if you aren’t constantly camping or getting lucky.  At least in Guild Wars 2, the events seemed to be spaced out with spawns and objectives or multistaged, and  had a teleportation transit system that gets me most places in a blink of an eye.  Warlords seems to be more so “Events will die quick, so always be ready, and if you aren’t within 1 minute of it via ground mount, just forget it.”  I hope that isn’t true, but I haven’t seen anything to support otherwise.

I honestly don’t care much about the whole Proving Grounds Silver to do the dungeon finder,  despite that the fact that it still reeks of pointless exclusionary tactics, because you would supposedly be able to gear up for LFR in normals, and I don’t do anything BUT LFR anymore in terms of raiding, because I got sick of watching guilds implode and explode because of raiding.

So what am I trying to say?  That my long drawn out love affair with WoW is over?  Well, maybe not that extreme.  I might pick up Warlords on a black friday sale or something and give it a whirl, then level up my main-ish-es. But really, yea.  This will likely be the first expansion launch I’m not going to be there for.  I’ve found other MMOs that I have fun with, and WoW seems to be going in a direction that quite honestly isn’t fun for me.  If others find it fun, more power to you.  But I’m gonna sit this one out it seems.  Maybe just maybe I’ll get lucky and the next expansion will have gnome lore. Till then, expect more focus on stuff like The Old Republic, Final Fantasy, and more Lets Plays. Sorry devoted WoW playing readers, but you know regardless if I’m playing or not I’ll still be weighing in on any big news that goes down.

(Okay, honestly. I think we can trace all of WoW’s problems to Basic Campfire NOT getting to be Warchief. Don’t you?)

Post Apocalypse, One Year Later ~ Looking Back

Oh geeze, what a crazy past two months.  I moved, I went to Disney World (those who follow me on Twitter got treated a series of photos of Vry & his girlfriend wearing various hats), and then the insane holiday whose name is so feared it begins with the dread letter “X” (except not really. But X-mas is almost X-men, so that makes it the better spelling. WOLVERINE SAYS SO.)  And of course the one year anniversary of the end of the world.  Kind of crazy to think that the world was completely destroyed by the planet Nibiru and a simultaneous massive solar flare only a year ago. How time flies in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, even when you don’t push the ‘T’ key. (That’s for you Fallout 3 fans)

As for gaming this year, I haven’t explored a ton of new ground I’m sad to say.  Mostly exploring my two major MMOs (SWTOR and WoW), and then dabbling in a few indie titles and oldies like Game Dev Tycoon and Rollercoaster Tycoon 3.  I suppose I did get my feet wet with some newer titles.  Finally starting to explore more in Skyrim by going around from town to town and completing them instead of doing the main storyline. I finally got to play Bioshock Infinite late this year and absolutely loved it.  That ending.  Oh geeze. I might have to do another post at some point just gushing my love for that ending.  Probably when Burial At Sea – Episode 2 comes out and I’ll just yak about the whole thing.

Of course the other big game that I tackled this year – and still working at it – would be Final Fantasy XIII.  The always controversial title that I went from downright loathing to absolutely being absorbed into the mythology of.  I really need to write more about it.  I keep scolding myself for not keeping up with that.  But I recently got a copy of Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns on pre-order now.  So I imagine you will be seeing more from that.

Finally in gaming news, my girlfriend and I have recently begun our own personal retrospective on the console games of the Zelda franchise.  Starting with the original NES title and currently progressing through Ocarina of Time, I haven’t decided if I’ll share my thoughts on going back through these wonderful games. But hey, if people ask I definitely will.

In some good news for the future of this blog, I received for the holidays a BlackMagicDesign Intensity Pro HD/SD capture card.  This little piece of shiny tech will let me capture video from any of my consoles instead of just stuff on my computer.  Combine this with a new copy of some editing software, and a 1 terabyte hard drive and hopefully I’ll be able to start producing Let’s Play videos that I keep talking about soon.  I actually have the stuff.  Now I just need to do it.

Overall, I must admit that I’ve been stearing towards single player games more lately than my MMOs.  Neither SWTOR or WoW seems to be keeping my attention for any long period of time at the moment.  I have no desire to start from scratch in another MMO, and my Steam Library is now boiling over 100 titles at the moment.  Perhaps it’s time to explore the rest of my library for a bit instead of sinking time into MMOs out of habit.  I want to finish leveling up some professions, but honestly I can do that later.  So you’ll probably being seeing less MMO posts and more “Adventures of Vry in Skyrim” or some other weirdness for a while.  If you come here looking only for weird anecdotes or rants about only specifically MMO content…  I’d say sorry but let’s be honest you’ve been disappointed for a loooong while.

And now for a quick run down of non-video gaming stuff I’ve done this year:

– D&D Next Playtest: Enjoyed it. Ran a Halloween adventure. Might post it. Still need to get used to the whole saves thing.
– Doctor Who 50th Anniversary: I’m a fairly recent convert to the show, but the special was nice. Only seemed to focus on the new show – bad. John Hurt got some awesome lines – good! Answered some questions and gave the show somewhere to go – Good! Pretty much undermined a ton of my favorite characterization bits – bad.
– Comic Books! Pretty much stopped reading them.  Pretty much entirely Scott Lobdell’s fault.
– Cartoons: CARTOON NETWORK. STOP CANCELING SHIT I LOVE. DAMNIT.
– Anime: I just watch stuff on Netflix.  But that’s been pretty fun! That’s about it.  Really.

So here’s to 2014.  One year away from Third Impact.  Let’s make a fun one!

Blizzcon 2013 Reactions

Yea, yea. I told you I’d have them posted and I ain’t no liar! Except all those other times.  But those weren’t lies.  They were just coming Soon(tm) and then we were shelved because we didn’t feel the reward of reading those posts was worth the time investment in developing them.

CAN YOU TELL I’VE BEEN OBSERVING BLIZZCON?

Okay, let’s get this right out of the gate:

Vry’s Favorite Blizzcon Moments:

Chromie & Mekkatorque crash the Costume Contest:  Oh they didn’t even get the honorable mention, but this pair won my heart.  The gear shield, the wrench mace, the pure unabashed gnome love.  There was nothing to not appreciate about these two.  Especially since, unless that was damn impressive make up, they looked to be a bit up their in the years.  Older WoW players cosplaying GNOMES?  SOLD!

Conan O’Brien Attacks Arenas: If you didn’t have a chance to watch the Arena matches, you probably missed this.  Thankfully my girlfriend caught and showed it to me because oh my titans it was hysterical.  Conan O’Brien commenting on Arena matches without a clue in completely serious deadpan voice.  Jay Mohr WISHES he could have touched this performance.  The best part? “Of course I know what the global cooldown is. I find it condescending that you would even think I wouldn’t know that.  Now tell me who won the match because I don’t have a clue.”  Oh I won’t be forget those guffahs anytime soon.

Chris Metzen’s Voice:  THAT VOICE.

Garrisons: I’ll talk more about this further down, but I have always wanted a chunk of a MMO world to call my own.  A place that I could customize to some extent and make it feel like it was mine.  Well, Garrisons are it.  And just when I thought it was “oh that’s cool, all the need is like a trophy wall where you can unlock and show off cool stuff” BAM. That’s in there too.

New Expansion: Warlords of Draenor

NOTE: This section of my reactions contains SPOILERS for the story elements of the next expansion.  If you wish to avoid that, skip to the next sections where I simply discuss the mechanical changes to the game.  If you don’t want that spoiled either, you probably should just stop reading now.

So from how they’ve been describing this one, I’m guessing it will be uh… Savage?  So for those who haven’t heard the big WoW news, the next expansion is the speculated Warlords of Draenor.  Essentially the set up is thus:  Before standing trial, Garrosh escapes and with the aid of an unknown time traveler (Some have guessed Wrathion, I suspect Kairoz) and traveled back to around 2 years before the orcish clans drank the blood of Mannoroth on Draenor.  From there he has begun to unite the clans into a single ‘Iron Horde’ and rebuilt the Dark Portal to serve as a time/space gateway to modern present day Azeroth to conquer it with a united Horde in its prime just like he was told in the bedtime stories.

I don’t really have that much of an issue with that plot.  It actually kind of seems like a cool next chapter in the tale.  Unlike a lot of people, I haven’t had the issues with Garrosh’s characterization.  He’s an orc that idolizes the Horde of yesteryear, who completely missed out on all the bad crap that happened because of it, and wants to recapture that old Horde bad asses-ness.  The time travel aspect does intrigue me though.  The Devs were quick to point out that Time Travel is more of a ‘How’ and not a ‘What’ of the expansion, and as such will not be the main focus.  Still I’d love to see some Bronze Dragonflight in-fighting, rips in space and time appearing as events, and things like that.  It will be nice to go back and see some older aspects of Warcraft lore fleshed out with a more modern problem we are trying to solve.

Some of the questing news intrigued me as well.  The idea of sparse questing, icons on the map where significant story quests are located versus the optional side chains, and more focus on leveling through random events (ala the Timeless Isle) or dungeons is calling a lot of flashbacks of Guild Wars 2.  That’s not bad, I suppose.  But I am curious how it will work.  Will leveling become a tedious mob grind because everyone is hunting events so fast that there is no chance to grab them unless you are camping them like on the Timeless Isle?  Will the hidden treasures be character specific like on the Timeless Isle?

On the note of quest, I suppose the announcement of ‘hardly any dailies’ isn’t much of a surprise.  Blizz seems like it always acts in giant swings of a pendulum.  People complain about nothing to do?  HERE’S A ZILLION DAILIES!  Oh, that’s too many dailies? NO DAILIES AT ALL! Which is sad for me, because as I’ve noted so many times I actually liked having the dailies to do.  It’s something I actually enjoyed.  Except the Golden Lotus which just felt unbalanced and long.

Level 90 Boost

OMIGAWD THE SKY IS FALLING! SELLING LEVEL 90’S!  PAY TO WIN! PAAAAAY TOOOO WIIIIIIIN! Okay, okay, joking aside I actually dig on this idea.  Skipping right to the current content is great for those who have fallen behind or those of us who were tired of dragging every alt they want to play with through a gazillion levels.  Maybe the lower level content is fun for the first few times, and I will happily say the story stuff is fun to experience pretty much always for me.  It DOES get tedious.  And it is a bit of a disuasion to those who look to come back and think “My buddies are all 90, my highest toon is like 64.  Why bother?  I’ll always be behind them now.”

Is there room for abuse in buying 90s?  I suppose.  That really depends on how you define abuse.  Is it going to ruin the game for me if other people can just drop wads of cash to boost their army of alts?  I honestly can’t say that it will.  I tend to worry about my gameplay and not what other people are doing.  So if they want their sparkle ponies (okay, I do have one of those.  It’s name is Twilight DOOMSPACKLE.  Capitalized just like that.), or level 90s, or anything like that – let them.  I personally don’t care.

Garrisons

All I can really say is FINALLY.  Player Housing comes to WoW at last.  And right on the heels of hearing a rumor that a dev mentioned that ship customization in SWTOR will likely never happen due to the fact it is used in so many cutscenes (*sneez*BS!*/sneeze* Oooh pardon).  Not only will you be able to access other professions, send your followers on missions – even offline – that might result in loot for you, and customize an entire town to suit each character needs and wants, then add things like trophies and other vanity things earned by acheivements and whatnot to make it look cool.  Add a dash of being able to bring your friends in to see it and you’ve got a killer feature that has my attention instantly.  THIS is what makes the expansion worth it for me.  This is everything I’ve been wanting for years!

UI Improvements

Adding a toybox for all the fun items, and an heirloom interface for truly account wide heirlooms?  Potential for built in tabard storage?!  AND TALK OF FUTURE POTENTIAL IN A DIABLO III LIKE TRANSMOG SYSTEM WHERE YOU DON’T HAVE TO KEEP THE ITEMS TO TRANSMOG THEM (Granted, won’t be there for the expansion launch, but they’re still talking about it at least) ?!?!?!  It’s like christmas for the backpack space starved Vry and his minions of ever collecting crap alts.  This will free up so much bag space reserved for my toys and hopefully tabards.  Plus allow me to use those heirlooms on the three different servers I play on!  Oh happiness!  Oh joy of joys!

Some of the other things they’re adding is just slightly more conveinent stuff like letting crafting mats stack up to 100 to save space and the ability to craft from the bank.  It’s nice and all, but I wish they’d just rip off the account bank from Guild Wars 2 that has specific slots for each type of crafting item separate from your normal bank, let you craft from that, and have the button in your bags to automatically deposit all your crafting goods to that crafting bank from anywhere in the world.  That’s convenient! But one step at a time I suppose.  I guess just mimicking their questing system is enough for now. Hee hee.

Itemization Changes

Wow.  Talk about an overhaul.  This is really where Blizz stands out in comparison to companies like EA/Bioware Austin stand out.  The massive sweeping changes to things like the core mechanics and gear in their game.  For instance: Hit, expertise, dodge, parry?  All gone.  Intellect plate? Gone.  Now your armor changes primary stats to fit your spec.  A pally’s armor will instantly go from strength to intellect if they swap specs from Retribution to Holy.  And if that’s not convienent, I don’t know what is.  Instead it seems that the focus is going to be creating diverse bonuses to gear.  Not everything has a gem slot.  Gem slots don’t give bonuses, aren’t part of the budget, and gems are gonna be way more powerful.  Not everything can be enchanted.  Enchants will be diverse and powerful and give more selection to the items that can be enchanted.  Items will have tertiary stats like life stealing, cleave (adds AOE damage and heals), movement speed, or sturdiness (no durability loss) and won’t be included in the item budget.

Honestly what it sounds like is that items will have a randomized ‘third spot’ for things like tertiary stats or a gem slot or an enchantment slot.  Kind of like in Diablo III (honestly, WoW seems to be borrowing a lot from Diablo III in this expansion.  Not bad at all either.)  Which makes me wonder if this will apply to raids too outside of tier armor.  Like one week you get Shatterstorm, Bad Ass Sword of Some Orc with a gem slot, the next week Shatterstorm, Bad Ass Sword of Some Orc with the Cleave stat drops instead.  None of these are part of the item budget, so you could have a set item with a randomized spot on it so there’s more variety in the items that drop.

Finally, the item squish is happening.  But they’re assuring everyone that they are gonna to take care to make sure that solo-ing old raids and whatnot continues to be a viable past time what with its recent rise in popularity with transmog and battle pets since the first time they talked about the item squish (when soloing old raids was something that they didn’t mind but weren’t gonna go out of their way to support with future changes).  Honestly, I am indifferent to the item squish.  Big numbers, little numbers, as long as the bosses die I’ll be fine with it.

Raiding Changes

The big changes here is the whole LFR/Normal/Heroic (Formerly LFR/Flex/Normal) is all flex, with the super heroic “Mythic” mode being 20 person only.  I don’t do heroic raids.  I just don’t.  Never have.  Unless it’s two expansions old and I’m farming titles, chievies, mounts, or transmog stuff.  My bigger question is that all non-Mythic modes will be ‘Flex’ and scale from 10-25 people.  That includes LFR.  Does that mean as long as we have 10 people in the LFR group that the stuff will scale to it?  I can see that being good and bad honestly.  As a primarily LFR raider (Yes it’s raiding. I’m a raider. I enter a raid where raid is a group that exceeds the group size of 5.) I can see having a flexible size being great for late nights when gathering 25 isn’t nearly as easy as it would be at peak hours, but it also means that as long as there’s 10 people in the group, there’s less safety from being kicked.  No more is there this “Oh if we kick them, we’ll have to wait for more people.”  Oh no.  Now it will scale.  Kick all you want, and we’ll keep plowing through.  It’s a double edged blade for sure.

New Character Models

If you want to see the thing that flat out sold me on the next expansion, here:

bconArtOfWoW052

Oh yes. New gnomes.  I’m there.

Final Thoughts

Warlords of Draenor seems to be a pretty cool expansion.  It’s not a “THIS WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING!” expansion like it kind of felt with Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria were.  Which is good.  Because those expansions didn’t change everything, so maybe a little less hype and a bit more ‘Ooh this will be neat’ this time around will do the game some good.  This expansion FEELS like an expansion, and not a revolution.  And that’s okay.  I’ll be interested to see where it goes and what happens as we move forward to it.  It definitely has some features I am looking forward to trying, and is whispering of some very big changes to questing that I am excited to see.

I know I didn’t really go into Starcraft or Diablo III: Reaper of Souls much here, because honestly I don’t follow them nearly as much as I do with WoW.  There’s a Diablo III expansion coming, it’s adding a bad ass transmog system that WoW needs to steal like yesterday.  Starcraft II has a third installment coming.  I don’t think they announced anything about it.  There ya go.

I Swear Blizzard is Reading My Post Drafts

Guess I spoke too soon?

Your Garrison will be woven deeply into the storyline of Warlords of Draenor, beginning when your faction leader commissions you to establish a beachhead on this alien world—but the ultimate fate of your personal fortress on Draenor is entirely up to you.

Garrisons Preview

I don’t have the slightest clue if this is going to tackle some of my issues with the story telling mechanics that I discussed in my previous post, but it definitely seems to be pointing in a good direction.  Hears hoping.  I’ll have my full thoughts on the Warlords of Draenor posted later, but I really wanted to point this one out!

The Hero of Your Own Story

With my recent return to Star Wars: The Old Republic, I keep finding myself mentally comparing things to World of Warcraft.  I have no ill feelings toward WoW in my heart, and it still stands as a fun game.  In fact, I will be one of the first to defend Mists of Pandaria in a conversation.  After all Mists has done wonders for the way that Blizzard has decided to portray story in their games.  However, there is something that has been gnawing at me since I’ve come back to SWTOR.  Where do I fit in the story?

Dating back all the way to the Ruins of Ahn’qiraj, WoW has had an ever shifting sense of perspective that seems to draw less on the player characters being heroes and more that they are the upper echelon of the nameless grunts.  More and more the stories, especially for raids, have focused on large organized armies assaulting the dungeons/bosses/whatever to accomplish the goal, with you simply being the tip of the spear (or in some examples the rest of the arrowhead with an NPC being the tip).  No longer are you the hero, but simply the ones more likely to survive out of a massive attack by a hundreds if not thousands.

For example, the Shattered Sun Offensive’s assault on the Sunwell, the Ashen Verdict’s battle in Icecrown, the Guardians of Hyjal in the Molten Front and assaulting the Firelands, backing Thrall and the Aspects during Deathwing’s Fall, The Sunreavers or Kirin Tor breaking through the Thunder King’s walls, and the entirety of the Alliance or the Darkspear Revolution during the Siege of Orgrimmar.

In each of every one of those examples, you are not the heroes or saviors.  You are simply one part of a much larger effort to defeat the enemy.  This has even extended into questing in Mists of Pandaria, where it no longer matters if you’ve killed C’thun or defeated Kel’Thuzad the master lich twice, you are just another nameless faceless piece on the board along with so many others.  Now this isn’t universal either.  There have been raids and dungeons throughout the expansions that have you and your group as a small team working your way into a dungeon to silence a dark big bad all on your own.  Historically, these usual are the first tiers of raids in each expansion.  Karazhan, the Molten Core, Blackwing Descent, Mogu’shan Vaults…  there’s no army with you for these.  It’s just you against the dark.  Imagine if all of Ironforge joined together for a massive assault against Ragnaros with an army that took over the Dark Iron cities with Magni leading the assault.  Magni who steps on Majordomo Executus’ tail and demands to be let into the Firelord’s chamber.  Magni who proclaims victory once the Hand of Ragnaros is firmly planted in the earth and the enemy vanquished.  Would that be better?

Compare this to Star Wars: The Old Republic where you are cast in the role of the hero for the entirety of the narrative.  YOU the Jedi Knight confronts and battles the Sith Emperor.  YOU the Bounty Hunter who wins the Great Hunt and goes after the Supreme Chancellor single handedly. YOU the brave imperial that freed the Dread Masters from their prison.  The game devotes itself to you and you alone being the central figure of your tale.  Compare Rise of the Hutt Cartel Imperial Side to the Horde side start of Mists of Pandaria.  In both, a small tactical squadron lands in the area to cut a swathe of it and get what is of interest to their respective faction.  The big difference is that in Mists, you are a lackey to General Nazgrim who is leading the team.  You report to him and he tells you what to do.  In the Rise of the Hutt Cartel, you are the leader of the small team.  Mostly guiding the narrative and giving the orders to your subordinates who provide support and information to you, their leader, to help carry out the mission.  Star Wars: The Old Republic goes to great lengths to make you feel like you are the star. Even in the Operations (Raids) and Flashpoints (Dungeons), you are treated by the NPCs like they HAD to get you because you are the best of the best and only you are capable of handling this problem, not because hey, you’ve got a better health pool than the grunts, so you make it to the end.

However, that’s not without it’s drawbacks either.  When you see five bounty hunters rocking the ‘Champion of the Great Hunt’ title, it breaks the illusion a bit since your brain stops for a second and goes, “Hey, wait a minute. Didn’t I win that?” And the answer is yes, yes you did. This isn’t the worst thing ever, but I will admit it’s a drawback to the immersion.  But ultimately it comes down to experiencing the story and the feel of leading the narrative along.  I say feel, because honestly there are no dead ends, and no real way to break off the rails that Bioware has laid down for you.  This may cause issues with role playing a character when everybody has followed the same path, but I’m not a real hardcore role player in game so I am not even gonna attempt to go down that road.

So which one is better?  Well that’s for each to decide for their own.  I personally enjoy feeling like the hero and leading the story forward, but I can see that there’s an allure to the whole thing.  And honestly, when you sit and look at all the NPCs that are aiding in raid boss kills or massive armies tackling the citadels of evil, that’s really our fault from the get go.  Since I can remember I’ve heard things like “It’s ridiculous that X boss can be killed by 10/25 nobodies.”  Well, okay then. We’ll have a somebody do the killing. You just help.  And it’s not for me. I won’t lie, it makes World of Warcraft – a game I LOVE the lore to enough to create an entire site like the old Oddcraft blog and do things like the Warchief Election – a little bit harder to get in to and enjoy.

So what about you?  Which form of storytelling do you prefer and why?  I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this, Internet.

Looking Back at Mists of Pandaria

mists-of-pandaria-overview-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-new-world-of-warcraft-expansion

It’s been just over a year since World of Warcraft died.  Or at least that’s what people on the forum tell me.  I can still log in it seems, and I see people running around.  Maybe that’s the WoW afterlife.  Doing the same thing you did before WoW died.  Kinda like Dawn of the Dead and that damn mall.  But with WoW.   And unlike the time WoW was ACTUALLY overrun with horrible zombies.  I miss that event.

Anyway, the big raid has come, we have a new “warchief” (I’m still unsure if he’s a warchief or just the leader of the Horde.  There’s a subtle distinction there that I might go into in another post) and we’ve learned what Wrathion was all on about this whole time.  Everything’s all tidied up now, eh.  So it’s time to look back and talk about what I really loved and hated about this expansion.

Let’s start on the positive with the things I actually really liked:

VRY’S BEST

Grummles: Is there anything these little guys don’t make better?  They brought a smile to my face every time I ran across a camp of them.  From their on-click statements that make to giggle to the demanding of a replacement yak at the “Yak temple” in Townlong, the grummles never got old, never got on my nerves, and still get me to smile and laugh every time these little trailblazers speak up.  Especially the munchies crunchies bit since they do always remind me of Gurgi from Disney’s version of the Black Cauldron.

The Story:  Everyone who reads this site or knows me online should know that oh man did I ever not like the story of Cataclysm.  The whole thing just felt like a giant let down.  Oh sure, the 1-60 revamp was top notch in terms of storytelling, but 80-85 was a completely divided up mess.  The events of Mount Hyjal had nothing to do with Deepholm or Uldum.  The conflict between the two factions that the entire 1-60 revamp spent building up has practically non-existent except for moments of Vashjir and the Twilight Highlands.  So would Mists be able to pull it all together and deliver a cohesive story?  The answer was Hell freaking yea!  The Shas, the killik swarms being early, the yuangol pushing outward into Kun-lai? All connected.  The battle in Krasarang and the story of the Divine bell? Wonderfully delivered.  And I will be one of those people who defends the Garrosh turning evil story and go on record as saying it was wonderfully told from Burning Crusade straight to the Siege of Orgrimmar.  The only story hiccup I didn’t like?  Well…  I’ll get to that in the Worst section.

Pet Collecting: I am a collector at heart.  I collect things in games, out of games… furbies (currently at like 30 of them), so when they added a metric crap ton of new pets to collect, I absolutely fell in love with running around and getting them all.  Oh sure, a lot of them were just look alikes or reskins of other pets, but that was fine.  It was something to collect! And it could be done on my time and didn’t require a group!  …Until Throne of Thunder.  That’s got to be the dark spot with the whole pet collecting craze is when they made them raid drops.  Why? WHY?  Even if you could do it in LFR, the drop is so low on some of these that you’ll be running them into the next expansion getting them to drop.  You know, the old raid pets were fine.  It gave you a reason to go back to old stuff that could quite honestly be solo’d most of the time. But Throne of Thunder?  COME ON!  /sigh.  Still it provided hours upon hours of entertainment just collecting these little things and unlocking achievements with it.

The Seat of Knowledge/The Farm:   Well after the last one on the list, I’m guessing you can probably figure out why this one is a two-fer.  Yes, they both involve collecting things. But more importantly they collect things in the actual world that you can see.  It’s not just an UI option with a list.  I can actually go to the farm and see the yak that was given to me, the cat wandering around, oh and there’s the dog I saved and fed, and the nice little house that was decorated for me by my friend.   That’s a nice feeling when you can tangibly see the reward in the world around you.  Even if no one else but you can.  It feels awesome to walk into the Seat of Knowledge and see the intact artifacts I found lining the walls in shining displays.  Now if only Blizzard would get it together and do player housing where I can customize it too.  Put trophies from defeated raid end bosses on the wall, and my old armors on mannequins for having a complete set.  I would just die for that.  But the Seat and the Farm is about as close as we can get so far and I love it.

The Pandaren:  Much like the grummles, I found the Pandaren a joy to just mingle with.  The NPCs are given so much enjoyable life throughout the Jade Forest and Valley of the Four Winds that they have permanently embedded themselves snug into my heart.  I still find myself saying “Slow down… life is to be savored!” to people in my best pandaren voice.  Of course, it would be unbecoming to talk about the pandaren and not mention the tragic ending to the tale of Aysa and Ji.  I won’t go into detail for those who wish to avoid spoilers for the Siege, but oh man.  The feels.  There are so many of them.  Large quantities to be sure.  Surplus sale for all these feels. That’s how many.  Who knew those two bit characters from all the way back at the Wandering Isle would show up again at the end of all things?  And who could of predicted such a sad way for it to end?  Still, overall the pandaren have that love of life that I can only wish for.

VRY’S WORST

Golden Lotus Dailies: You know, I actually liked most of the dailies in the expansion.  I didn’t have the driving hatred of them that so many did.  It was a fun thing to do everyday.  With one exception.  The Golden F-ing Lotus.  Maybe it was the fact that as soon as you thought you were done, another link in the chain was added?  Maybe it was because you could only do the hubs in order?  Or maybe it was because all the mobs seemed ridiculously tough for a fresh level 90 and are still some of the toughest non-dungeon/raid mobs around?  I did not lament seeing them go when the Vale blew up.  I usually avoided them using the farm and dungeon finder when I could on alts.  Sure it takes longer, but less of a pain.  These dailies just sucked, and the fact that were smack dab likely to be the first thing you tackled at level 90 I can see how many people grew to hate dailies in general.

The Throne of Thunder:  Behold! The one storyline that Vry actually hated in the expansion!  Yea, I didn’t like the story for the Throne of Thunder very much.  Mostly it came from the fact that the actual villain wasn’t very well established.  Oh sure, during the quests in Kun-Lai we HEAR about all the evil stuff he did way back when, but what does he do when he comes back?  Runs off to his island fortress and then… nothing.  We actually go up to his house and start poking the hornet’s nest with a sharp stick for not much reason either.  He hasn’t done anything since coming back to life to warrant this reaction!  I know, I know, better safe than sorry but it stills feels like an over-reaction.  So what does the terrible Thunder King do?  Well,  he came back from the dead.  He uh… sent his lackies?  And then he totally like broke that bridge and dropped us into a sewer level.  And sewer levels suck! He must die!

I had hoped that Lei-Shen would get a bit more fleshed out as to why he’s a threat during the dailies, kind of like how the Landfall dailies showed the story of the Divine Bell and what not.   Nope.  Just the Sunreavers and Kirin Tor fighting to take over the island or each other.  That’s all.  Lei Shen shows up once to send a lackey at you ala Rita Repulsa but that’s about it.  What a fricking let down for what seem to be a great build up for a new threat.

Battlefield Barrens: Oh geeze. The grindfest that was Battlefield Barrens.  It’s like a TV show that had a really great premiere followed by having the same rehashed formulaic episodes week after week until the season finale/next patch.  There was nothing exciting or interesting about Battlefield Barrens other than it wasn’t a daily.  It was a weekly!  I supposed it had those tap-to-anyone-who-damages-it boss mobs that would spawn.  That was a neat mechanic.  But all it did was give you more resources.  The same resources you got from everything else.  And you just grind them. Then turn them in.  That’s it.  That’s all it was.  It just seemed like small potatoes considering what it was building up to.  Heck, the new scenarios gave us more plot than the battlefield barrens quests did.  Mechanically cool, but extremely underwhelming.  The whole thing felt like a technology test for the Timeless Isle.

Pet Battling:  Oh I love pet collecting.  But I hated battling.  Especially the trainer battles.  Right around the end of Outland going into the Northrend, the strategy quickly changed from ‘level up your favorites and battle with them’ to ‘prepare three precise pets at ze proper level with ze proper abilities to ensure victory over ze veak minded fools!’  It make me miss pokemon where yea, if I didn’t have an optimized team I’d be at a disadvantage, but it didn’t mean a guarenteed butt whoopin! See even the final bosses in Pokemon Red/Blue only used like level 60 or something pokemon.  So if you were determined and had a lot of time on your hands like High School Vrykerion did, you could level any team up to 100 and have a good chance of winning.  But with the trainer battles here, by the time you’re hitting Outland they’ve started using level 25 pets.  That’s max level.  You can’t out level the battles from that point on. So it’s level the right pets or gtfo.  I decided to gtfo.  I still haven’t beaten that undead using punk in Crystalsong Forest.  Go level three rare quality turtles to 25 to win.  F. THAT.

Pride: The ever looming question in the expansion was the identity of the seventh Sha.  Oh there were plenty of guesses, mostly around the seven deadly sins but heck if I know why since ‘Doubt’ and ‘Fear’ are not deadly sins.  But it was eventually revealed that it was of course, Pride.  Now my problem isn’t with Pride being the seventh sha.  It’s the other stuff surrounding it.  Pride was the Sha that Shaohao could not defeat.  His pride took the form of the Mists that cut off Pandaria from the world.  So why did the Sha of Pride let the Horde and the Alliance in?  I mean, if the mists were his pride that would mean the Sha of Pride would be able to manipulate it yes?  That’s how all the other Shas seem to work.  Using your doubt, fear, hate, etc to take control of you.  So why let them in?  To unleash havoc? How would they know they’d unleash panic? To unleash the Sha?  Well, they do release ONE Sha.  But timeline indications seems to imply that the others may have been active long before the Horde and Alliance found Pandaria.  Especially Fear, who has been causing a good deal of trouble.

So what’s the deal with the whole pride thing?  It’s stated that Shao Hao possibly parted the mists because his people had grown stagnant and fallen to their own Sha.  Well, that means Shao Hao was in control of the mists?  Did that mean he conquered his pride?  In the Seven burdens of Shao Hao he says he creates the mists because he people needed time to prepare and learn the lessons he did.  So if they grew stagnant instead, why did he wait to part the mists until now?  Why did Yu-Lon say that they parted for a reason involving you (the player)?  GAAAAAH! IT JUST RAISES TOO MANY QUESTIONS!  Nothing else in this expansion has made me pull my hair out more than that.  The puzzle of pride.  Truly it is good until it is bad.

So that’s my best and worst of World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria.  Overall, it was a pretty good expansion.  Not my favorite, but far far FAR from the bottom of my list.  What were some of your best or worst moments this expansion?

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