Friday, November 19, 2010

A Farewell to WotLK

I critizise Blizzard a lot on this blog. Actually I critizise anything a lot on this blog. I do not believe in listing things I like a lot unless they are really worth mentioning.
When I read a review before buying a game I usually skip reading any that are too positive. That's not only suspicious, but actually useless. I'd rather buy a game somebody critizised as "too much focus on immersion and not enough on gameplay" than a game somebody praises as "very immersive". You can see the difference, can you not?

Having said that, I think WoW-WotLK deserves a Farewell, a nice Farewell :)
So, let me try to list what I really liked about the Wrath of the Lich King and forget about the things I did not like for a while.

- I loved the trailer.
This is in stark contrast to the Catacylsm cinematic. The WotLK one was actually intelligent, creative. This easily beats the classic trailer and certainly the abysmal "You are not prepared" of TBC.

- I liked the Wrathgate cinematic. Very well done.

- I loved the Banshee Queen, Sylvanas Windrunner, in WotLK. Especially her song during the battle for Undercity. Great music, albeit bought by Blizzard, not made by Blizzard. Every fanatasy story needs a strong female character. Especially one of the evil and mysterious sort. I'd fall in love. If she weren't undead .. ;)

- I loved the Undead in general during Wrathgate. Hell, they really hate all living? I was beginning to doubt their sincerity.

- I'm not very convinced about the new quest design. But I acknowledge that it is technically much more advanced than in prior expansions. In my opinion things like flying on a dragon should be used rarely to have more impact. But in the end the technical capabilities of WotLK need to be mentioned as positive, even if their actual implementation is not.

- The graphics were nice and sometimes even great. I liked the winter/snow/cold setting. Perhaps because I lived in Finland for some years :). The artists generally made a good job. It's not really surprising, since you can buy good graphics with money, but it's part of this Farewell.

- I enjoyed building up my characters from green equipped to epic. After I eventually accepted that all a damage dealers should do is deal damage, I liked rocking recount - for a while. I'm not a fan of the insane character power progression in WotLK looking at its side effects, but I have to acknowledge that I enjoyed it for a time.

- I enjoyed running the dungeons, even if they were much too linear and not really a dungeon you can get lost in. I completely stopped enjoying them with the dungeon finder, even though I ran them a lot with the DF! I have to acknowledge that the dungeons have been fun the first few times.

- I like the looks of my wrathful gladiator armor on my feral druid. In contrast to most armor in WotLK, it is not too shiney or too absurd. It's brown leather; looking great.

- I liked the fact that Icecrown was filled with undead - some relatively powerful ones even. Even though there was hardly any reason to interact with them or even look at them. Let alone fear them.

- I liked all the things you could explore in Dalaran. There is actually a lot of them. This is true even though I hated the idea of Dalaran itself and can't await normal faction cities on the ground.

- I liked raiding Naxx and Ulduar with appropiate equipment.

- I liked the idea of a buff, like in ICC, even though I disliked ICC. I wrote about a similar suggestion before.

- I liked the vehicles in general even though they have been used badly from a gameplay point of view. The first time I was sitting in a siege engine I was looking in awe at the great steam animations.

- I liked the concept of Wintergrasp even if it had its balance problems. After all, this is world PvP that could be great if people actually used PvP armor. Keeping the problems of PvE/PvP gear segregation and sabotaged server identity in mind, Wintergrasp was relatively enjoyable; considering what was possible.

- I actually liked the Death Knight voices and what some NPC DKs would say when clicked at.

- Some of the phasing was enjoyable - even though I dislike it for fundamental reasons.

- I liked the animation and surprise of falling through the ground in the colloseum. ... until I understood how completely silly it was from a (logical) story point of view.

- I agree with the relatively focused theme in WotLK even if I do not consider the actual implementation to be done well. Story telling (in contrast to story!) is still a very weak point at Blizzard.

- I liked the fact that the place seen in the trailer can be visted in the game.

- I loved the fact that raiding yielded stuff that could be sold on the AH and the way Blizzard removed the money from the game (via luxuary items). Real world politics can actually learn something here.

- I like the fact that Blizzard finally stopped running for e-sports. I liked that arena played only a minor role. (This is coming from somebody who mostly does PvP).

- Even though I never managed to complete the DK starting area I acknowledge its theoretical quality. Some of the moral hazard quests were nice. Almost mature.

Mmh ..I think that's it. I strictly tried to mention what I liked. That was hard and maybe not achieved fully ;)
WotLK won't be missed, but it had its strong points and hopefully Blizzard learnt some things.


  1. The cinematic was indeed beautiful. I think it comes second for me after the WCIII opening where Arthas returns to slay his father.
    These are the real Blizzard trailers; shame they have cut back on them so much.

    A nice goodbye post Nils :)

  2. My hope is that we will see some cinematics in Cataclysm.

    In general, I suspect a lot of content combined with quite some bugs in Cataclysm. One reason that WotLK was neglected during the last year is that Blizzard realized what huge task they had started with this expansion. You can re-read that in the last developer interview.

  3. >I agree with the relatively focused theme in WotLK even if I do not consider the actual implementation to be done well. Story telling (in contrast to story!) is still a very weak point at Blizzard.

    I disagree with the relatively focused theme - I greatly enjoyed the story of Vanilla, where there were tons of factions in different corners of the world (Cenarion in the southwest, AD in the northeast) because it felt more like real life. I would feel that 'brotherhood' with fellow Zombie-killers, and we would make jokes at the treehuggers' expense; in WLK, they - to use a term I hate - shove it down our throat, the FORCE us to care and fight for their cause, which is way too "theme park" for me. Then again, I LOVED it when I had an xpac dedicated entirely to draenei/orcs, my two FAVORITE lore lines of all times, despite the fact that everyone was complaining that they don't like or care about draenei one bit. I guess I am a hypocrite.

    However, I do agree that the execution of the story was flawed. Any story via quests I think is really stupid, since quests deliberately disrupt the story by having simplistic, immersion-breaking design (lacking character animations, no voices/unique gestures/facial expressions, always 'kill x, use y' - even the 'get the npc drunk' quest just has you bring an item, instead of sitting down and drinking alcohol while choosing various dialogue options).

    But over all I think quest based MMOs will always suffer a lack of quality storytelling, even if the story is the best. They would need to completely redesign the implementation of storytelling elements and find a different excuse to have quests.

    Have my fingers crossed that Secret Project MMO learns lots from WoW!

  4. Have my fingers crossed that Secret Project MMO learns lots from WoW!

    Honestly, I'd pray for that if I were religious ;)