Laydeez and gentlemen! Allow me to introduce you to Sithica, level sixty-something Deathknight and the latest addition to my attempt to get my very own 10 man raid on one account. Sithica, say hello to the nice readers.
Well that’s nice. What’s also nice is the whole Deathknight starting experience. You’ve probably heard about how awesome the whole thing is from various other sources but if it’s worth saying once it’s worth saying a thousand times: If you’ve not taken the opportunity yet and you have an existing level 70 character, go start a Deathknight now. Even if you don’t plan on levelling it all the way to 80, go start a Deathknight today. The couple of hours it takes to get your DK from 56 to 58 and finally let him or her loose in the world outside are some of the best, intelligently scripted and well-designed hours you’re ever going to play in WoW. And Tirion Fordring’s in there, and he’s the most awesome npc in the history of everything. Fact. He’s the only paladin who can even wear pink and still look badass.
I’m So Pretty!
Going slightly off-topic here, but Tirion Fordring’s questline in vanilla WoW was right up there with the Onyxia questline for me. Sure, there were no 40 man raids waiting for you at the end of it all, but it was epic in scale and had far more emotional impact. By a happy coincidence, the ending, which I should remind you was written and scripted 4 years ago, sets him up very nicely indeed for becoming the badass scourge asskicker he is in Rash of the Itch King. If you never did his quests, you missed out. I’m not even sure you still can, given that he’s kind of in Northrend now, kicking Arthas/Nerzhul’s big scaley butt.
Your Head Would Look Good on a Stick
Ok, back on topic. Deathknight starting quests. Make no mistake about this, Deathknights are not nice people. Within the first half hour you’ll be executing childhood friends who are now prisoners of the Scourge, slaughtering screaming civilians and collecting human skulls to make pie. Or soup. Or something nasty anyway. What I found most impressive, beyond the tight scripting and plotting, was the use of Blizzard’s new technology, something they call “phasing”.
Hi, Remember Me?
Before we go any further, how many times have you completed some long and impressive quest line, killed the bad guy, saved the town and got the girl (or boy, or goat, whatever floats your boat, I’m not judging anyone) only to pass by two weeks later and have everything look and react as if you were never there? Pretty much all the time. That’s the nature of life in an MMO where everyone and anyone can do the same quests you do. Well, until now. Phasing changes the world around you the further into a questline you go, but the clever part is, it only changes it for you. Everyone else sees the same normal everyday stuff unless they take the quest too. In the Deathknight starter zone, the further your pillaging and killing goes, the more of the world changes to show your destruction, but for other new Deathknights who’ve just started the quests, well they still see pleasant fields and farmhouses, not the burned out wreckage you see. More importantly, they don’t see the new quest npcs you see!
Perhaps the best example of this in the world at large is the Wrathgate questline. I’m not going to spoil it here for anyone who hasn’t done it yet, but the Wrathgate in Dragonblight is forever changed by YOUR actions in the world, and the consequences of that questline are highly visible (and audible) to you every time you pass within range of it. Anyone else who hasn’t done the quest yet just sees the same old Wrathgate as everyone else. Blizzard have been extremely clever with this technology, they’ve used it to make the world change around you according to your actions, while as far as anyone else’s perceptions are concerned, it’s still the same old same old.
More examples. Once you being questing in Icecrown you get a quest to push further into the Lich King’s territory and capture a position from where the Argent Crusade can mount further attacks. When you get there, the place is under scourge control and and you fight a battle to take over. You return to Tirion Fordring to report your success, and he sends you back to the new outpost to plan further attacks. When you get there, it’s now an Argent Crusade position, with new quest npcs and a flightmaster. Anyone who’s not done the quest only sees the old scourge-controlled position, no flightmaster, no friendly npcs.
The Ebon Blade quartermaster and stronghold doesn’t even exist until you do a similar series of quests in Icecrown. The Sons of Hodir stronghold in Dun Niffelem has no war trophies until you capture and deliver them, and unlike Onyxia or Magtheridon’s heads on display outside Stormwind or Honour Hold, they stay visible every time you visit. Remember the Onyxia questline where Marshal Windsor dies in Stormwind Keep, yet he’s still sitting in the cells in Blackrock Depths on each and every subsequent visit to that dungeon? That sort of immersion-destroying experience need never happen again with phasing. If you change something, it now stays changed. Permanently.
We Have The Technology
There’s some seriously clever technology going on here, or it seems that way to a Luddite like me. I’m not really interested in how it’s done, though. I’m just happy to know that if I complete some long and epic questline that by rights should change the world that we all know and love, it stays changed as far as I’m concerned, and the npcs involved don’t look at me like I’m some noob fresh off the boat from Stormwind two minutes after I hand in the quest.