Friday Top 5: In-Game Cinematics

For a return to the Top 5, I wanted to look at the in-game cinematics. To be clear, this list does not include any patch trailers or expansion cinematics. And for today’s list I’m looking at pre-Shadowlands content. Heck, Shadowlands could have a top 5 all their own with how many there are. Moving on to the list.

5. Immortal No More
This one is on the list not out of any enjoyment on my part. I found this to be part of the Mary Sue that we call Thrall after all these years and I’m honestly done with it. It’s why Garrosh’s death didn’t make the list. Players did all the work just to have that moment taken from us. Thrall at this point is no better, but it’s the impact of the scene. The dragons gave up their immortality (which, again, I find silly) for the people of Azeroth. That was huge, no matter how one feels about it.

4. There Must Always Be A Lich King
This video was the culmination of a fantastic story. Arthas succumbing to defeat was the closing chapter, and I don’t think any of us expected to see Bolvar show up and take the mantle. He made for an interesting, lesser version of the Lich King over the years. Being able to watch this cinematic by viewing the statue in Dalaran was a nice little touch as well. My only issue is how “human” Arthas was at the end…given if you read the books he deliberately kills Ner’zhul in his mind to be the one true Lich King.

3. The Hour of Blood Approaches
Going through the Zandalari quests was an enjoyable story. The betrayal of Rastakhan was well told. What came as a complete surprise was the full scope of Zul’s power play. My draw dropped watching this scene as a player you are literally looking at an “ohhhhh no” type of moment.

2. Rejecting The Gift
Say what you want about Illidan’s return and redemption, this was powerful. Part of me actually expected Illidan to have his demon side expunged. This showed not only how powerful Illidan is, but how controlling the Light can be. “I am my scars!”

1. Wrathgate
This one probably does not come as much of a surprise. It had so much going for it at the time. It was a fantastic reward for a lengthy questline. It was really the first of its kind, and held so much lore and storylines. The Forsaken “splinter group,” Saurfang the Younger, Bolvar’s death…I can’t think of any in-game cinematic that came close to what the Wrathgate was and meant.

There you have it, my top five in-game cinematics. For what it’s worth, there were a couple of other’s I strongly considered. “Thorn Removal” where Aysa and Ji went their separate ways was close. It was short but showed so much. Also up there was Maev’s capturing and release of the Demon Hunters. What about you? Which have been your favourites?

5 Ups And 5 Downs In Wrath

It’s funny. Until you go back in time (no, not Warlords), you don’t realize just how much of the game has changed. But when you stop to think about it, Wrath ended 10 (!) years ago. With all the changes that have taken place, here are 5 things I like from Wrath and 5 things I’m glad changed.

Plus: Harder
Going back I’ve come to realize how much more difficult the game was, particularly at lower level. Yes, it was still the era where start zone mobs were yellow, but once you tag them, they can be hard to deal with. Even more so if they bring friends to the fight. My Mage has died a lot and it’s not from doing dumb things. Hunter could say the same pre-pet.

Minus: Mob Tagging
This was one of the things Blizzard got right, likely taking the lead from Guild Wars 2. There’s little more frustrating when you are doing a kill ‘`em quest and someone tags one of your mobs right before you do. And heaven forbid it’s a quest objective mob, otherwise you may as well get comfy for a couple of minutes.

Plus: Talent Trees
I might be in the minority on this one, but it was one of the things I always liked. The modern formula of choosing one of three abilities here and there was never the “better choices for the players” that the developers lauded when they brought it forward. Instead it became even more cookie cutter. Sure, the old trees still have their optimum build, but there is room to play around. And if the character isn’t raiding, the tree is your playground.

Minus: Profession Specialization
It’s a bit trivial, but having to choose between Weapons or Armor, for example, feels like you’re forced into a specific direction that by this time in the franchise certainly wasn’t necessary. For someone who also likes to have all craft options, it makes it a bit more difficult. But let’s be honest, if this is one of my gripes then things can’t be too bad.

Plus: Less Flight Paths
The abundance of flight paths post Cataclysm makes getting around significantly faster than it had been to that point. However, between that and being able to fly your mount, Azeroth got significantly smaller. But in the modern game if you are starting out then you’ve got 120 levels to get through. With only 80 back then, it wasn’t so bad. You could get Outland flying at 70 and Northrend flying at 80, the latter of which then unlocked the Cold Weather Flying option for any of your other characters and they just had to be high enough level to be in Northrend in the first place. But there’s something nostalgic about running from Loch Modan to Menethil Harbor, or Stormwind to Westfall, that while a short distance still seems to emphasize the “World” part of WoW.

Minus: Corpse Run
I like the world to feel bigger, just not when I’m dead. Having to run across a zone to get back to your body can be painful sometimes. Ok, almost always. And if you’re the only member of a group or raid, you feel even worse while everyone is waiting on you to return. The changes that made getting back to your body a minute or less ordeal was definitely a step forward.

Plus: Leveling
As I said in flight paths, the leveling had to change for the modern game. But the pre-Wrath zones that were changed in Cataclysm took things too far. We got quest hubs that we often outgrew before even finishing the story or getting the xp for the area becase it was no longer worth it. Ten years ago, that wasn’t the case. You could do all the quests in a hub and sometimes it wouldn’t even be enough to level out of. You might head to another zone just to get topped up, and start a new trek. Combining that with the talent trees gave a feeling like every level after ten meant something.

Minus: Wailing Caverns 
I can honestly say I have almost no difficulty in any of the dungeons or raids from 3.3.5 and older. This one, though, is a whole mess of worms. Without the later introduced map tool for dungeons, getting lost is incredibly easy.  And then one wrong step or turn and you’re really running around in circles which isn’t the best in an already incredibly long dungeon.

Plus: Dungeons
No, I’m not contradicting myself. With this one, I’m removing WC from the discussion save for the fact it’s a good run if you want the Druid of the Fang armour. But that aside, I love the way things were. Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman aren’t 5-man’s. High Inquisitor Fairbanks is hiding behind the secret wall in Scarlet Monastery, Deadmines is back to the way it was meant to be (though Vanessa Van Cleef’s story was one of the better ones in Cataclysm).  The original dungeons had excellent stories, and you tended to farm them while leveling. Now the pre-80 stuff you might see two or three times if you’re lucky, again because leveling is so much faster.

Minus: Missing Race/Class Combos
Sure, this one is purely cosmetic (for the most part). But I miss a lot of the things we got in 4.0.3. For the most part they were changes that made sense. Human Hunters, Dwarf Warlocks, Tauren Paladins, Troll Druids, and so forth. There are a number of them I am quite fond of being able to create. That said, I do not miss the idea of a Gnome Hunter.

So there’s a handful of thoughts that have come about as a result of my time warp. I might be able to make the list a bit longer, and maybe even on both sides of the equation, but these are the ones that stand out the most. If you can think back that far, what changes are you happy for? Which ones do you wish had never changed?

Back To Wrath….Back To Reality?

After spending a lengthy amount of time on the private server “Monster,” I found myself in a relatively short honeymoon phase. Their Legion server was ok, but I made the switch to BfA and was excited at the opportunity for the content. Unfortunately reality set in and it was clear neither server was in good enough shape to call home for myself. I was just too excited early on to notice. As a result, I ended up in a mass hiatus once again. Recently, though, I found the strings to come back being pulled at my heart once more. It was heavily influenced, no doubt, by my acquiring the WoW Board Game in all it’s glory. Seriously, it’s vanilla to a tee. Or a vee, I suppose. But it gave me thought on what I wanted to do if I returned to Azeroth. I gave a lot of thought to vanilla because there’s so much stuff I missed out on, for better or worse. In the end, as the title would suggest, I went down a different path.

Indeed, back to the days of Northrend. Patch 3.3.5 to be specific. One of my happiest times in playing the game and the content was as rich as it would ever be. The server I ended up choosing seems to be a perfect fit. Everything works the way it’s supposed to (though I haven’t rolled a Death Knight yet, so that’s one of the few things I can’t speak to). No glitches, missing quests, npc’s, or anything to that end. In fact, there’s some bonus treats. They have a mall. As in, a developer created location that doesn’t look like anywhere else in the game. You have access to all the expected goodies such as Tier gear and legendaries if you’re lazy. But also you can transmog. By paying their vote/real money currency, you can get transmog tokens. One token lets you transmog one slot. Certain mounts can also be bought in this location. Ones that weren’t in the game yet. So again, it’s a purely cosmetic service. You’re also able to buy said currency with in-game gold, so even if you don’t give the server any money you are not missing out.

There are two things in particular the server does for starting out. For one, you’ve got Goblins and Worgen who spawn in existing start zones. The goblins join the orcs and trolls starting out, while the Worgen are in the Night Elf start zone. The other thing, which even modern WoW should do at this point, is the moment you hit level 10 you get the Riding skill and a version of your racial mount.  With most of the flight points players are accustomed to being nowhere in sight, having the riding mount at level 10 is a nice boon. It doesn’t make a huge difference, just that nice little assist as it were.

So, yes, there are some minor modifications to what we knew as Wrath of the Lich King. But that’s all they are. The game itself functions as one would expect it to. It’s 2009 all over again as far as I’m concerned. And that’s not a bad thing. Granted, it isn’t all sunshine and lollipops. There are some things that definitely changed for the better, but there are others I miss. And I will go into those at another time. For now, I’m playing the game on my time, my terms, and where I want to be in the WoW timeline.

Favourite Zone


With six expansions, and a seventh on the way, there is a lot of World in the World of Warcraft. From Draenor to Deadwind Pass, most areas feel incredibly unique and you get what they’re about. Sitting down today I thought for a while about which zones are my personal favourite and there are two that stand out. Before I get to them, let me just give an honorable mention to Deadwind Pass…because it terrified me the first time I went strolling out of Duskwood into that area. I had no idea what was going to be around the corner.

Now, the first zone, is from Wrath of the Lich King. Older readers will know just how enamored I can be with Grizzly Hills. The rivers, cabins, wildlife, and PvP. Everything about it I enjoy…and who doesn’t love a good port-o-potty quest? I’ve done most of the quests for each faction. Funny enough, though, I’ve never done the Furlbog stuff. I think my next character to go through Northrend will have to rectify this. The music, like most of Wrath, is spot on for the feeling of the zone and if I recall correctly I even listed Grizzly Hills as the place I would live if I had to take up residence in Azeroth.

The other zone, is much newer and I have to include a subzone with it. When Zarahi hit the Broken Shores I immediately headed to Stormheim and instantly fell in love with it. Where Grizzly Hills was all about location, location, location, Stormheim is more about the content. The Vrykul are always fun to interact with and the quest chain that explains the Val’kyr is a wonderful ride as Horde players follow Sylvanas throughout the zone. It ends in a pretty well known moment, and one of the best cinematics of the expansion.:

But what made the zone even better for me was losing, and being sent to Helheim. The Stormheim zone in itself was good, but the lead in and out of Helheim made it even better (to say nothing of how enjoyable Helheim was on its own).

What about you? Are you among those that love the beauty of classic Nagrand? Maybe something even more original like Winterspring or Stranglethorn Vale? And will one of the new zones be even better than the ones we’re talking about now?

Literary Azeroth Part Two

Yesterday I talked about the three Azeroth books I recently read through, and starting the review process with Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde.  It’s one of the more recent books to come out, unlike today’s choice which came out in 2010.

It’s funny how I talked yesterday about Vol’jin’s book not having a lot of the war element we would typically find in a World of Warcraft novel.  For the early portion of this book, it’s the same.  But unlike Shadows of the Horde, this one blends things in and then just keeps blending.  Arthas’ story is told in three stages and focuses on three different stages: Arthas Menethil, the Jaina era, and finally Sylvanas and the Lich King.

The story involves many significant moments that are major lore points in WoW.  How Sylvanas became the Banshee Queen is no secret, nor is the “Culling of Stratholme.”  These and many other familiar facts pour out of the pages along with some that aren’t as well known.  For instance, there’s a lot more to the Lich King and his mount that I had no idea about and can actually appreciate greatly.  As should anyone who has ever had a strong bond with an animal.

So the first act deals with Arthas growing up and the pressures of being a prince and all the good and bad that comes with it.  You see a few moments of the old “much to learn, boy” that comes with such a tale, as well as what would be a couple of innocent seeds if a person didn’t know Arthas’ final destination.  In the second act we have the Arthas and Jaina relationship, and Prince Menethil doing what he feels he must for his people.  There’s a great chapter that also involves visiting Thrall in his early days.  It’s not an exchange, but it does help tie characters together well.  In more than one way.  But this is nice Arthas.  Not off the handle Arthas, which we get later on in the middle section of the tale.  Finally it’s Sylvanas’ turn and her death followed by what he does (I had no idea he resurrected Kel’Thuzad…makes sense).  How he is pulled back to Northrend to save the Lich King makes for an interesting encounter with Anub’arak.  You really see how parts of Wrath came together as a story.

There’s so much more to the story which, despite knowing most of it going in, is just an amazing read.  You can see a few grains of sand fall, and Christie Golden does a great job of making the grains continue to fall through the hourglass until you know Arthas is off the deep end and can actually see how he got there.  You almost pity him for the journey until the very last moment, when he actually becomes the Lich King and that’s when you know he is beyond “bat-crazy.”  Still, I love how that was presented, in part because I didn’t see all of it coming.

With an iconic character like Arthas Menethil you have so much material to work with.  It would be easy to mail it in and just recite much of the moments in his life.  Golden slows some of those moments right down, barely touches on others, and adds a few new ones that create a bigger picture than what the average person would even know about the man who would become the Lich King.  To do that and have the reader not feel like the book is a history class, is excellent writing.  Hands down my favourite Warcraft book and not just because I’m fond of the content but because it’s simply that good.

30 Days (April) – The Burning Legion or The Scourge

Absolutely The Scourge.  I can connect with The Scourge.  Not as if I were the walking dead mind you (ok, some mornings).  I mean that I can realize them, their purpose, the threat they possess.  From years of playing Dungeons & Dragons (now Pathfinder, much better btw) I’m pretty familiar with the undead and how they tick.  When it comes to demons, you tend to have to level a fair bit higher to really encounter the good ones.  We didn’t do that very often.

World of Warcraft’s approach is not all that different.  Particularly old WoW wasn’t.  Undead in the Deadmines, Duskwood, and the Plaguelands to name a few places (and excluding the Forsaken from the discussion).  By the time you hit 60, you had more than your share of prominent walking dead.  Heck, you also had Naxx back then to stoke the fire.  Burning Legion?  What’s that?  Then came Outland and it still never felt like The Burning Legion so much as it just felt like Outland and there happened to be demons there.  When Wrath hit, though, it was full on Scourge Invasion and it felt like it.  Most of the expansion felt like you were crawling through the wretched Scourge to get to Arthas in the end.  As I say, I feel The Scourge.  Can’t say that about the Legion in the slightest.