30 July 2012

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck

Unless you're oblivious, Blizzard made a small official announcement last week that the new expansion, Mists of Pandaria, will be released on September 25, 2012. With that announcement, Deathwing is officially a Lame Duck, joining other has-beens like Arthas - The Lich King and Illidan Stormrage. According to Wikipedia, a Lame Duck is:
... an elected official who is approaching the end of his or her tenure, and especially an official whose successor has already been elected.

Cyron on Flickr via everystockphoto
Well, almost a lame duck. Deathwing wasn't really elected; he sort of proclaimed himself as the new bad ass on the block and melted a few towers in Stormwind to prove his superiority. The comparison falters further when you consider that his successor is not really known, either. With MoP, we know that Deathwing will fade into past-expansion obscurity, but what we don't know is who (or what) will replace him as the end-game bad guy. The character development of that end-game bad guy will dramatically impact my enjoyment of the game during MoP.

Bosses are Goals

When I started my addiction playing WoW, it was just after the release of TBC. I leveled up in Vanilla zones when most of the veterans were already going after 60+ content. Sadly, by the time I dinged 60, nobody was running older instances. I had heard all about Ragnaros and C'Thun, but I never got to fight them. As a result, my experience in Vanilla zones has just been about leveling.

Instead, I jumped into the Outland kept on chugging. But, with all the lore that I saw in Outland, it all pointed to Illidan. The trailers told me I wasn't worthy. The majority of Shadowmoon Valley quests pointed me towards an ultimate encounter with him in the Black Temple. Sure, there were other raid bosses, but Illidan was the star. After I finally dinged 70, the goal became to get into a raid group to actually work towards the final progression of fighting Illidan. There was a clear end goal to reach with the expansion, and that goal was reinforced as the primary story line.

Fast forward to November of 2008 and Wrath is released. I loved how in Wrath, every single Northrend zone had an element of foreshadowing the ultimate encounter with Arthas. Not only was he the star in the trailer, but you saw him as a character element to quests everywhere in Northrend.  Arthas' fall from grace even had an instance dedicated to it (The Culling of Stratholme). Similar to the BC expansion, in Wrath you knew exactly who the end boss was. But unlike BC, you actually saw that end boss in your leveling experience before raiding was even a possibility.

Part of my ambivalence in Cata has been that it lacked, in my view, that in your face reinforcement of Deathwing's superiority and why he's the end dude. Cataclysm totally changed the environment of the old world, and you know that Deathwing is the end boss because he's on your login screen and the star of some cool trailers. Also, you can get crispified if you're lucky and get an achievement for your death at his 'hands', but other than that the only time I really saw Deathwing was by going back and leveling alts. The quests in the Badlands with Rhea and the hysterical variations of The Day that Deathwing Came are awesome. But I never saw Deathwing on my level 80 as he was going through the 'newer' level appropriate content except on a brief tour of Mount Hyjal when Ragnaros rose.
In cata, I did know that Deathwing was the boss, but I rarely saw him the way I did with Arthas in Wrath. It lessend his importance to me as an end boss.By the time LFR was introduced and the final encounter with Deathwing released, I just didn't care.

Hopes for MoP

So I'm looking forward to MoP and a new end game target. I'm really hoping to see Blizzard develop a worthy villain and that my questing experience introduces me to that villain's rise to power -- as well as provides justification on why he needs to be dealt with. I'm taking encouragement from the direction of zone-based questing -- I won't have to complete an single quest line story within the zone, but I'll complete multiple (smaller) quest line stories within the zones.

I'm really hoping that Mists expands the best elements of Wrath; questlines and lore that diverge but yet all lead up to a worthy villain. As far as possibilities at this point on who (or what) the end boss will be? From teasers and press, it looks like Garrosh Hellscream will fill at least a minor role, and I can't wait to see how that develops. I've never liked Garrosh. He's a bit over the top, even for an Orc.

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