It’s funny how things work out. Just as I was getting seriously misty-eyed about old quest lines and muttering “They don’t make content like they used to!” at innocent bystanders, Blog Azeroth sprung nostalgia trips on us all as this weeks’ shared topic. So now I get to unleash a geriatric, semi-coherent rant at unsuspecting vistors and I can pretend it’s all in the name of some wider community blogging service.
First, allow me to address the point, often made these days, that modern content, such as that in Outland or in particular, Northrend, is so much better than the content we crusty old-timers enjoyed back in the days of vanilla WoW. The charge is often laid, that the majority of vanilla content was boring, tedious, repetitive, poorly-designed and often involved backtracking over the same stretches of featureless real estate over and over to hand in quests at hard to locate quest givers. The challengers claim that this sort of Stalinist questing would never happen under New Labour the New World Order. It’s an excellent argument, and one that deserves an equally incisive and pertinent reply, and here it is:
What utter bollocks!
First, anyone who thinks pointless tracking backwards and forwards over a zone simply to speak to one npc after another is a relic of vanilla gaming has clearly never done the Crusader Bridenbrad questline in Icecrown. At least those quests in the Barrens that had us trudging from one end of the zone to the other over and over had the decency to confine our tribulations to a single zone, and a stunningly gorgeous one at that. Bridenbrad not only makes you trek back and forth across the featureless wastes of Icecrown until you want to bury your keyboard in your face, but he throws in trips to Moonglade, Dragonblight and Shattrath bloody City to get your passport stamped too! He is, in short, a git. Noble, self-sacrificing and dead, but a git.
Much is made of the epic nature of the questlines in Northrend, and I have to admit, this is a fair point. It may even be one I’ve gushed over in the past. Now I am an unashamed Tirion Fordring fanboy, I admit it. His credibility may have taken a knock with the utter farce that is the Argent Tournament and Collisseum, but..
No. It’s no use. I have to get this out of my system. It is not often that I use proper grown up swearing on this blog but what in the name of FUCK is going on with that Tournament? Bear with me, dear reader, while I put the Argent Tournament/Colisseum into some sort of context for you all.
The news from the frontlines is pretty grim. After the slaughter of crusaders in the disastrous Wrathgate and Light’s Breach assualts, the future of the entire campaign was in serious doubt. The Argent Crusade clawed back some ground with a successful attack on Crusader’s Pinnacle that finally gained them the breathing space and beachead into Icecrown that this campaign badly needed, but things have stalled into a deadly war of attrition that can only favour the Scourge.
Thanks, Bob. Now here’s Tirion Fordring with the sports news.
Seriously, just fuck right off, right now. Tirion Fordring does NOT work for ESPN. I wouldn’t care so much if he hadn’t been the focus of my second favourite and most emotionally involving questline ever, and no, it wasn’t an Outland or Northrend quest. To see him reduced to a pimp for a sports stadium makes my inner fanboy want to drown puppies.
Way back in the bad old days when most of this were nowt but pixels, Tirion Fordring was living in hiding as a hermit in exile in the Eastern Plaguelands. He was reduced to this sad state of affairs after sparing the life of and hiding an Orc unjustly sentenced to death. His enemies in the noble houses of Stormwind seized on this opportunity to have him kicked out of the Order of the Silver Hand and stripped of his titles. In order to save his family, he chose exile. His son, Taelan was shaping up to become a noble paladin just like his old man, but without Tirion around to guide him he was seduced by the power of the Dark Side of the Fo.. er.. Scarlet Crusade, eventually becoming Highlord and turning the Fordring family home, Hearthglen, into a bastion of the Crusade.
That’s where you come in. At first, Tirion’s just some crazy old hermit, living out on the edges of the Dune Sea.. er, Eastern Plaguelands (sorry, fanboy fever taking over again) who gives you three incredibly tedious quests of the “collect 10 bear’s asses” variety. Yes, they’re pointless and stupid and everyone hates them, but there IS a point this time dammit! Tirion wants to redeem his son but can’t move alone and isn’t willing to entrust his family legacy to just any old moron zipping through the levels as fast as possible on the way to 80. So he tests you. If you’re the type to stop and spend time and energy helping a crazy old man for no better reason than because he needed your help, you’re the type of noble soul he wants to recruit. And so the quest begins, taking you on a truly epic oddysey that results in Tirion getting seriously medieval on some Scarlet Crusade ass before screaming his rage over the body of his slain son and swearing to renounce his exile and resurrect the Order of the Silver Hand.
All of which leads directly to the Wrath of the Lich King, the Battle of Light’s Hope Chapel, the formation of the Knights of the Ebon Blade and the assualt on Icecrown. And it was written into the game before Molten Core was open for business. You want epic questlines? We got your epic questlines.
Sure, Tirion’s crusade in Northrend is epic, stirring stuff, and I loved every minute of it. But it doesn’t engage you on any kind of personal level other than the “ooh, I’m taking part in some epic lore moments” way. And another thing, a lot of the time in Northrend you’re not taking part in any epic lore moments. You’re watching NPCs act out some epic lore moments, which is cool too but it’s not the same. Infiltrating the Cathedral of Darkness with the Argent Crusade and watching Tirion smack seven different shades of shit out of the Lich King’s frozen heart is cool. The Wrathgate is cool. But you’re a bystander, not a participant. Worst of all, if you’ve never done the original vanilla questline (and I’m not even sure you can anymore) then Tirion Fordring’s just some mega boss npc because Blizzard says he is. You may even care who he is but only because Blizzard have told you you should. You don’t actually know who he is or how he came to be the force in Northrend that he is because no-one quests in Eastern Plaguelands anymore. Of course if all you care about is getting to 80 as soon as you can so you can start the loot accumulation treadmill then you probably don’t care and don’t even know where the Eastern Plaguelands are, but you’re missing out.
You know what else is epic? Molten Core, that’s what. Yes, I know the boss fights are scoffed at these days and yes, there was far too much really annoying trash, and yes, herding 40 cats through the place three times a week broke raid leaders on a daily basis but that’s not really what I’m talking about. Just getting into the place was epic.
If you’d done all the Burning Steppes and Searing Gorge quests (and let’s face it, back in vanilla WoW, you had done them) then you’d heard ominous rumours of trouble from the Dark Iron Dwarves in the depths beneath Blackrock Mountain. Hang on, I need my Sir Ian McKellan voice for this…
They’d delved too deep in their thirst for power over the surface world and awoken… something evil.
Information was sketchy, only a whispered name had been mentioned fearfully… Ragnaros.
<another chord, more ominous than before>
Getting to the bottom of it all, technically, required nothing more than a simple quest: Attunement to the Core, given out by a high elf npc at the entrance to Blackrock Depths. What Lothos the Summoner failed to mention, of course, was that to get anywhere near the Core fragment he wanted you to retrieve for attunement, you were going to need the Shadowforge Key that granted access to the lower levels of Blackrock Depths. And to get the Key, you needed to find a questgiver who only appeared while you were dead.
Yes, you read that right. Dead.
On your many, many corpse runs back into the Depths you’d see a ghostly dwarf npc in Forgewright’s Tomb who, if anyone bothered to stop and actually interact with him, gave a quest that began with finding a particular Dark Iron Dwarf npc further in the depths and killing him, then retrieving an item from his body and using it in a statue further in the depths to create the Shadowforge Key. Great, now you can finally get into the Core and get attuned right?
The next cockblock you came across was the Grim Guzzler, a Dark Iron Dwarf bar in which you REALLY didn’t want to start a fight, with a back door guarded by the grandaddy of all bouncers who absolutely would not let you pass. There were a number of ways of getting this door open, one of which involved a quest to go to the hot springs in Un’goro Crater, which is about as far from Blackrock Mountain as Pluto is from Mars.
When you finally get past the Grim Guzzler there were numerous bosses that had to be faced down and hordes of trash to be killed before you finally got to the entrance to Molten Core, which incidentally, was guarded by some seriously nasty Fire Elementals and could loot your Core fragment and return to Lothos to complete your attunement quest.
Oh, and just in case it wasn’t clear, this wasn’t just a simple case of “check Wowhead, go here, kill that, loot this, hand in quest” series of events. Blackrock Depths is HUGE. People get lost in there and not in a “Oh-My-God-Why-Does-Every-Room-In-Maraudon-Look-The-Same?” way. It’s big like Jupiter is big. People whine today about how Naxx is too big, Ulduar is too big… Christ up a tree! Take a walk around Blackrock Mountain one day and then enjoy your nice warm cup of shut the fuck up!
Let’s just go through the tickboxes here. Blackrock Mountain contained Blackrock Depths, which was not only bigger than Naxxrammas and Ulduar combined but itself contained the entrance to Molten Core. It also contained Lower Blackrock Spire, and Upper Blackrock Spire, which itself contained the entrance to the greatest raid instance ever created – Blackwing Lair. That’s roughly a hundred bazillion raid and dungeon bosses, several trillion items of loot and about seven and half years of entertainment, all in a patch of real estate on the map no larger than Ulduar.
People complain about how the boss fights were too easy. Funnily enough, I don’t remember people at the time saying “This shit is too simple, let’s play Solitaire instead” when they were busy being cockblocked on Baron Geddon and Shazzrah for the second month in a row. I don’t deny that a lot of the boss fights relied on the same cliched mechanics, but seriously, come on! Baron Geddon’s bomb ability? If you’ve never been blown to bits by some utter bastard of a warlock who’d dismissed his demon after Geddon turned it into the Bomb, only to resummon it in the middle of the Ironforge Auction House with the timer still ticking after the raid, then you haven’t lived. It’s what being a warlock used to be for!
And as for Ragnaros himself. Oh. My. God.
I’m still working on Hydraxian Waterlord rep on Calli, so I still do semi-regular Molten Core runs with her. They’re a laugh, and you can still get your ass killed in there if you don’t know what you’re doing (Core Hound Packs and people who don’t know what NO single target dps means, I’m looking at you). We run in there with anyone level 60 or higher, the place really isn’t much of a challenge these days, as you’d expect, and as well as the rep I also get to rebuild my Tier 1 Arcanist set. Everyone who’s there for the first time, and I mean everyone, without exception, even the level 80s who came to the game after the Burning Crusade release and are decked out in their level 80 epics, everyone shits their pants when Ragnaros emerges. He really is that awesome. If you’ve never seen him, you owe it to yourself to get into Molten Core one day and put him down. Tell everyone you’re doing it for the achievement if you’re too embarrassed to admit you’re a gushing Old World fanboy, I don’t care, just do it.
And while we’re on the subject of epic Old World bosses. Onyxia, you had me at “How fortuitous…”
Anyone still awake at this point may recall how a few thousand words ago I said that Tirion Fordring’s questline was my second favourite? Onyxia is the number one, all-time, all-star best questline there has ever been in this or any other game. Don’t argue, you’re wrong, it just is.
People started the Onyxia questline by accident. I won’t spoil it for you with the full details, but try doing Dragonkin Menace in the Burning Steppes one day and then see where it leads you (answer: Blackrock Depths, Upper Blackrock Spire and Winterspring). If you don’t agree that your single most awesome experience in WoW is marching through the streets of Stormwind City with Marshal Windsor, and all the city guards kneeling before you in respect, on the way to confront and expose Lady Katrana Prestor as Onyxia, the brood mother of the Black Dragonflight, then you’re probably dead from the neck down. Either that or you’re playing after patch 3.0.2 when Blizzard removed the questline from the game in its’ entirety and robbed, yes robbed you of experiencing one of the finest and most immersive experiences in any game, ever. Or you’re Horde and could never do it anyway.