14 March 2012

WoW: Wrath of the Lich King

Initially, I was very excited about this expansion, as it would conclude the story of Arthas and I was looking forward to seeing how that would end. While journeying through Northrend, I encountered my favourite species, the Kalu’ak. I simply love those walrus people! The scene at the Wrathgate and the subsequent quest to reclaim the Undercity were among the most memorable leveling experiences for me.

Unfortunately, the beginning of the end was already apparent. The “big boss nerf” must have also affected all other dungeons because the common theme from day one in Wrath of the Lich King seemed to be to AoE-nuke everything down. Imagine my surprise when that actually worked! During classic World of Warcraft and The Burning Crusade this was unthinkable. Even low-level dungeons required careful planning and pulling. But not anymore! Pull the entire corridor, nuke and move on. This was true for every dungeon, normal or heroic right from the start. (What a shame!) It was even true for the expansion’s entry raid instance, the rehashed and soulless Naxxramas (please read Kungen’s blog series “Ensidia starts raiding ...” if you want to know more about this and have a look here if you want to get a brief glimpse as to why he quit the game).

Upon hitting level 80, raiding was once again business as usual for my guild and we conquered the content pretty quickly. I think Ulduar was the absolute pinnacle of raid design and I consider the interior area the best raid in the entire game, challenged only by the wonder that was Karazhan. Ulduar had a great story, a beautiful scenery, a plethora of achievements and, most importantly, hard modes that were triggered by in-game events (i.e. player actions during an encounter) rather than by changing the setting via the UI. It also featured two of my all-time favourite boss encounters: Mimiron and General Vezax.

I was still playing with my wife from time to time, although less regularly due to real life commitments and my busy raiding schedule. To be totally honest, the game actually ended for me after I defeated The Lich King. I had finished the story that I wanted to follow and many (game-breaking) changes were already implemented or on their way, most importantly that 5-player dungeons were no longer regarded as a meaningful endgame activity – a view that was facilitated by the great tool that would destroy any sense of server community and accountability: the marvellous Dungeon Finder. That was sarcasm, by the way. The issue of content vs. community is also addressed here and (unsurprisingly) it is Shintar, once again, who hits the nail on the head:

I hope they stick with the focus on community too. I actually haven't met that many completely awful people in LFD either, but even with a decent group the experience is just completely soulless, as everyone just goes through the motions to get to the end as quickly as possible. All the access in the world doesn't do me any good if the content doesn't feel like it's actually worth doing. I'd rather have fewer runs but have them be worthy of remembering.

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