Wrath of the Lich King

18 Nov

vgd_wrath

[Cross-posted on Destructoid]

It’s hard to overcome the skepticism that should surround any expansion for an MMO. Presumably any additional content should be more of the same, aiming to prolong the experience. But Wrath of the Lich King is different. Wrath of the Lich King has a theme and it follows it to a point, and that theme seems to have inspired Blizzard to create something amazing. 

The original WoW content was rather tame. You were finding your place in the world, and the world was stable. The Alliance and the Horde were not at war. The idea was just to provide some neat fantasy surroundings. With Burning Crusade came a bit more instability; the Dark Portal was open again and it was apparent that Outland and its inhabitants had been ravaged. The demon-controlled Orcs had left scars and infuriated Draeni, the Blood Elves were subverting the land’s magic for their own addictions, and the world was being openly assaulted by the forces of evil. 

But in Wrath of the Lich King the situation has escalated. All throughout the continent of Northrend is a feeling of threat and immediacy. You’re coming across people who have lost their homes and families, entire races that have been displaced and are deciding how to save themselves — whether they should run or fight. The dragons, ancient protectors of the land, are embroiled in a war of attrition — the blue dragonflight feels the only way to stop the abuse of magic and save the world is to destroy all magic-possessing life, while the red dragonflight fights to preserve all life on Azeroth. Arthas and his undead armies are seeping into the world and disturbing the natural order. 

This content — quests, dungeons, writing — is above and beyond any previous content available in WoW. Northrend is such a tragic and hopeful place that it makes the ordeals of Outland and the old world seem rather juvenile. 

The dense and detailed environments come together with the quests to paint a picture of a doomed land that has chosen to stand and fight, because it has no other choice. And as evidenced in the new Death Knight quests, even the ‘bad guys’ have an understandable agenda. In several books that you have the option to read, the Lich Kel’Thuzad explains that the Scourge is not so much evil as it is the acknowledgement of sinful nature. The Scourge — at least the…upper management…are fighting for a different way of life, a life of inevitable death and undeath, and strength in the immoral. They allow the living to believe they are pure evil because they are sure that they cannot win against their sinful nature. 

If you had asked me about three years ago if WoW had a story worth listening to I would have said no. But with the advent of Wrath of the Lich King the tattered and brave world that I had gotten to know as a kid playing Warcraft II has finally exposed itself, and this new direction is wonderful. Blizzard didn’t pay me to say this, but…cheques or cash are fine.

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