With a new year its a good time to reflect on the past and things that might of been overlooked.
We're actually in the place we were before with the introduction of the ICC 5 mans and the End Time both serving the same goals. How did Blizzard handle it differently? How did the community?
A few thoughts:
Its become expected to look at videos and groups abuse those who don't before venturing into the new content. Did Blizzard tune the encounters expecting that? Should they?
Last rollout the dungeons were introduced with an air similar to the Troll dungeons 'this will be hard but worth it'. This rollout was far more 'go and have fun' did that change how people approached the design and going into the fights?
Confession: I didn't read the prompt very well before I started writing my post. I look at this more as comparing the 5-man, three dungeon sets against each other. These dungeon sets both serve to setup the final boss battle, while at the same time trying to give non-raiders a part in the final storyline. I'm treating this more as a review of all six, what worked and what didn't. Warning: This is a long post.
Forge of Souls
Bronjahm: I completely forgot this guy existed. But once I engaged him I remember the fight. You have to stand in center to avoid his whirlwind on the outside. I remember this was annoying in WotLK because you would almost always die if you got feared into the outside and the healer wasn’t on their toes. It was the constant battle of “don’t stand in stupid” vs “but you don’t understand, I got feared into stupid!” …meanwhile the afk lock was standing in the stupid.
Devourer of Souls: Well don’t you look friendly, and you shoot hyperbeam, joy. I remember that, for some reason, no one in LFD could avoid the beam, or the ghosts. I forgot about mirrored souls, the spell that reflects dmg back to you, and almost killed myself while soloing the boss.
I don’t really feel any attachment to the bosses. They both only show up in this dungeon. They’re just part of the big bad death machine the Lich King has going. Nothing special.
You zone in and ask Jaina, “What would you have of me my lady?”
Jaina: “Thank the Light for seeing you here safely! We have much work to do if we are to defeat the Lich King and put an end to the Scourge. Our allies within the Argent Crusade and the Knights of the Ebon Blade have broken through the front gate of Icecrown and are attempting to establish a foothold within the citadel. Their success hinges upon what we discover within these cursed halls. Although our mission is fraught with peril, we must persevere! With the attention of the Lich King drawn towards the front gate, we will be working our way through the side in search of information that will enable us to defeat the Scourge once and for all. King Varian’s SI:7 agents have gathered information about a private sanctum of the Lich King’s deep within a place called the Halls of Reflection. We will carve a path through this wretched place and find a way to end the Halls. I sense powerful magic hidden away within those halls Magic that could be the key to destroying the Scourge! Make haste, champions! I will prepare the troops to fall in behind you."
So we’re after something that can help us take down the Lich King. With Jaina leading. What could possibly go wrong?
Bonus: Oh hey look… a floating skull, what’s that – OH GOD IT JUST ONE SHOT THE HEALER!
Pit of Saron
Forgemaster Garfrost: You couldn’t help but feel bad for the guy when you killed him. I mean, he would take dying over losing? He’s got a harsh master. Of course…your sympathy might be a little checked by the fact that no one can stand behind the boulder long enough to drop their debuff stacks and live.
Ick & Krick: Ahh poison nova + pursuit. Guaranteed to kill a pug every time. I do wonder if Jaina would have killed the gnome Tryannus hadn’t beaten her to it. I doubt it. Sadly.
Scourgelord Tryannus: There’s a Scourgelord? Why haven’t we seen him before? Oh well, now that we’ve made it through your tunnel (the priest only died twice), time to die! Except, no, no! Bad rogue! Stop hitting the boss you moron, you’re healing him!
Hey look Coliseum champions running bravely to face Tryannus. You go guys – oh, oh, man, that sucks for them. Bye champions. Guess Jaina is going to be waiting for those reinforcements longer than she thought. And then she kills the corrupted champions, just like that. So she still thinks Arthas can be saved, but she kills a dozen champions without a second thought? I call shenanigans. Or at least weak character development.
The purpose of the pit is just to make it through to the Halls of Reflection. We free some Alliance slaves and make our own reinforcements, stopping by the Forgemaster for some weapons (pried from his cold, dead hands).
Tryanus is the last obstacle between us and the Halls. The freed Alliance slaves start giving a heartfelt and moving speech after his defeat. The first time I heard it I knew immediately they were screwed. No one gets to monologue that long without being killed. It’s a rule of literature, I mean think of Shakespeare. Ten minute speech means you’re getting killed off in the next scene.
Hope you’re happy Jaina. After Rimefang kills them all she goes, “I… I could not save them. Damn you, Arthas! DAMN YOU!” Excellent. Now she is riled up and hates the guy. We might get out of this alive.
Bonus: When you actually do kill Sindy (if you ever did. Took my guild forever, we weren’t really raiders back then) it’s a nice bit of revenge. You keep casting magic buffet and wiping the raid? Fine. I’ll just keep murdering Rimefang. Take that! And that!
Halls of Reflection
Falwic and Marywn: 10 waves. You know, I’m not sure I can solo this. [10 minutes later], OK, I can. Barely. Thank You Heroism. Oh gauntlet. You were not a happy fight back in the day. I don’t think I’ve ever run a dungeon that has as many drop/adds as this fight does. You would always spawn in on wave like 4/10. With three people dead. Kind of like LFR today…
Frostsworn General: A mini-boss really. I just remember that if you kited him back to the first room you could defeat him before your evil doppelgangers made it to the group.
Wrath of the Lich King: Wait, really? This fight is named after the expansion? Cool. Ok – we’ll just sneak by you Jania. Try to keep him frozen would OH GOD HE’S COMING AFTER US. RUN. RUN FASTER!!
Seriously, that slow walk still creeps me out. I’m pretty sure I had a mini-heart attack the first time I did this dungeon. I thought was going to die. The Lich King was going to catch me. And I was going to die. Brilliant plan Jania, you just had to see if he had some humanity left in him. I guess it’s some consolation Slyvanas did the right thing and went straight to trying to end him, and she still had to run. So at least Horde players get to experience the heart attack as well.
Oh hey, there was a cut scene here? I never knew that, the group always skipped it. You tell her Uther. Tell her that there is nothing good left in the Lich King. And then the silly girl doesn’t listen. The fact that I feel it OK to type silly girl says it all. Jaina is still lovestruck, over a murder. Great.
Then Uther tells us there must always be a Lich King. It’s cool Uther – we’re from the future, we know Bolivar steps up and delivers. Wait – why are you saying the last bit of ARthas is holding back the scourge. No, you’ve just humanized him. Can you see the gleam in Jaina’s eyes? Damn it Uther.
I know it’s good to have redemption stories, but I think this got a bit overdone on the Alliance side. Arthas is gone. Even if he’s in there somewhere, his existence or lack thereof has nothing to do with the fact that the LK has killed hundreds, and will kill hundreds more. Jaina held on too long, and it made me not like her. Which is a shame, because at this point the coolest female in the Alliance is now pirate lady. Well at least until Moria came along. It’s clear at this point, that Arthas is a Big Bad. Heck, he chose this path, he knew, at least on some level what he was getting into. So no – no more of this, maybe there’s something to save. I wish Morgain had handed us a secret quest. One that said, follow Jania in, and if you see the opportunity, kill the Lich King as best you can. Even better, if Jaina had tried to do it herself on seeing there is nothing good left in Arthas. That would have redeemed her slightly.
Bonus: FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, AOE EVERYTHING FASTER AND GET ON THE BOAT.
End TimeSetting: You zone in and are immediately aware of Deathwing’s impaled form, drooping over Wrymrest. Nozdormu is waiting for you expectantly on the ledge, his historian helper waiting nervously behind him. Below him are the seething remains of Azeroth’s last great battle, the battle we lost.
Bosses: The maddened remains of some of the faction leaders are awesome. Downside is that they’re random. I always get Baine. I never get Tryande.
Baine: Simple fight, except that people never remember to throw the totem back at him. I like the melee buff from the lava though, so I can’t complian.
Slyvanas: KILL THE GHOUL! NO NOT THAT GHOUL THE OTHER ONE! Nevermind, we died. Let’s try this again shall we?
Jaina: This encounter has now become, how stealthy can the feral druid, the rogue, or the nimble ghost wolf shammy be? A.k.a. collect all the shards without killing a single add. Except for the ones where Jaina spawns, guess we have to kill those.
Tryande: Marco! Polo! Marco! Pol-GIANT PACK OF TIGERS!
Murozond: Killing Murzond (aka Bad Normy) is neat, especially because it’s the only fight I’ve ever been able to spam heroism for. Not so good when someone is running the hourglass who had no idea what to do.
Storyline: The main quest is that you’ve got to stop whoever is blocking Nozdormu from accessing the Well of Eternity Timeline. Hint: it’s himself. Which he knows. But he doesn’t let you in on that little secret. I wonder how shocking that is. “Yay we beat the boss! Nozdorum – why you no celebrate?” Nozdormu: “yay, I get to witness my demise over and over and over and over and did that hunter just roll on a spirit dagger?! ARGH!”
The side-quest is helping to chronicle the madness of those that are ‘alive.’ You do this by absorbing some spirit gunk from whichever of the two bosses you defeat. I guess it’s good to have this stuff to study, but how dangerous is it to hold onto corrupted time gunk?
Bonus: Gave Tyrande a new character model. Finally.
Well of EternitySetting: Why is everything so green? Green demons. Green plants. I mean props for giving everything a jewel tone, really sets the whole imperial elves thing up, but I’m too used to all red, all the time Firelands. What is this other color?
Bosses: I don’t like the fights in Well of Eternity, but I think that’s a result of tanking them a lot on my rusty and under-geared tank.
Peroth'arn: This demon is easy – though people kept complaining I should let myself get caught by the eyes. I’m sorry, if you can’t run away from green glowy balls you go ahead and die.
Queen Azshara: Azshara’s adds are annoying to control. Both caster. Plus worrying about directing DPS to the hand as soon as it goes up. If you have an overgeared DPS, it goes fine as the adds die quickly. If not, chaos ensues.
Mannoroth: This fight is just long, and I could never figure out how many of the adds people actually expected me to tank. Illidian’s buff is nice though. Once you get that it’s just thunderclap your way to victory. For DPS the whole last fight is pretty boring.
Storyline: We're sneaking (not very sneakily) into the Well in order to steal the Dragonsoul, since there's no whole version of the weapon in current time. Somehow this translates into very openly taking down some bad guys.
There were a lot of lore figures in this one. OMG THERE IS ILLIDIAN! Except…I didn’t play during BC, so my reaction was more “oh look, the dude with glaives. One of two jerky brothers. Yay.” I don’t like Malfurion or Illidian. Mostly because I hate how Tyrande goes all wimpy second-fiddle the minute they show up.
Azshara was what I was expecting for might queen ruler of everything. Condescendingly polite ways of saying “go kill yourself.” It’s too bad we didn’t see her as more insane. Quietly whispering sweet nothings to Saregras perhaps. Or randomly murdering an aide. Something.
Bonus: Riding the dragons down through the well. Sure everyone skips it now, but it was a pretty awesome cut scene. Also: for putting something that happened in the books into the game.
Hour of Twilight
Arcurion: Random elemental. Ooo so scary. Though, as a shaman, should I be worried that a lot of elementals don’t like Thrall? Or mortals?
Asira Dawnslayer: I was super excited to see Ms. Assassin. I mean this is the lady Therazane warned us about. Something I exclaimed happily to my PUG upon first seeing her, and was met with uncaring silence: “OMG it’s ASARIA. REVENGE IS MINE”. Fine. I’ll be excited for all of you. This fight requires you to both move the boss from bad stuff, while standing in good stuff. Much like patting your head while rubbing your tummy…results may vary.
Archbishop Benedictus (a.k.a. the Twilight Prophet): Almost solo-able as long as you don’t stand in the path of the slow moving wave. His betrayal seems a little sudden, and it’d be more fun if Varian were there to punch him in the face or something. Now there’s just going to be the rumor that Thrall killed Stormwind’s Archbishop. That can’t go over well.
Storyline: Come Thrall! I will protect you! …if you could just move a tad bit faster? Maybe? And who decided the dragons should meet us in a pit. A pit filled with assassins. Why do we insist on going farther into the pit? Shouldn’t they meet us up – aw man. Look what you did Thrall. You got the dragon killed. I bet Alexstrazza hates you now. And now we’re flying, annnnd now we’re crashing. Fight our way to the temple and Wait? I thought we had decided he wasn’t going to be evil. And now he is. I’m confused. Blizzard, why you confuse me?
I traveled to the Cathedral of Light to see if they noticed his absence. A good Bishop Farthing informs me that Benedictus has been called on a mission to help at Wrymrest. Upon informing Farthing that his leader has lost his marbles, he laughs me off and tells me to return again when I stop spreading lies. He also tells me that the prospect of Benedictus becoming the Twilight Prophet is as crazy as Bolvar Foredragon becoming the Lich King.
Haha. Imagine that.
Bonus: Satisfaction of knowing you’re a better shaman than Thrall because your ghost wolf is insta-cast.
Looking at Everything TogetherOverall I think the DS dungeon set brought back more familiar characters, and did a better job with visuals. The ICC Dungeons make the Citadel feel HUGE on the inside. But it’s not reflected on the outside. Whereas DS dungeons scale appropriately with places we can get to outside of them. Northrend is the same size in the dungeons and outside. ICC is not.
I think End Tie and Well of Eternity are definitely better than Forge and Pit of Saron. Blizzard clearly learned something between the last expansion and this. Hour of Twilight is good too…but I think I like Halls slightly better because of the physical response I had to the Lich King fight. I was legitimately freaked out by him.
Still, it’s the DS dungeons integrated you more into the story. And they brought back familiar characters. It’s more satisfying to kill Asira Dawnslayer (she won’t get away this time!) then some random boss you’ve never met before.
I hope Blizzard continues and embellishes this trend in Mists of Pandaria. I get way more enjoyment out of going up against a bad guy I’ve been interacting with for an entire zone. WotLK did a great job of making the players interact with the Lich King, but at the expense of a lot of other bosses. (Except for Drakuru, that guy’s questlines were awesome.) Cataclysm did better in that you saw plenty of Deathwing, but you also saw a lot of the smaller bads. You were more emotionally invested in the outcomes of the dungeons.
The ICC dungeons felt more like you were following Jaina on a hopeless sidequest. The Dragonsoul dungeons made you feel like you were directly helping the raiders, even if you couldn’t raid yourself.