Posts Tagged ‘ Warcraft ’

Growing Up Gaming: World of Warcraft

I took a break from MMORPGs after Final Fantasy XI, but it wasn’t too long until I heard about a new game: World of Warcraft. Some notable EverQuest alumni were involved and I found myself checking out details on the website. The description sounded interesting enough and I really liked the way the site described the survival specialization for the hunter class. Setting traps, then drawing enemies into them with a mix of both melee and ranged attacks with a pet companion. Of course, the melee turned out to be minimal in practice, but I didn’t know that just yet.

I bit the bullet and bought the game in January, activating my free month on 1/29/2005. This proved to be good, akin to my EverQuest experience, as starting near the beginning of an MMO’s release puts players on equal footing in awe and wonder and a good dose of uncertainty. I had settled on playing that survival hunter and chose to play a night elf rather than a dwarf. I named the character Faroth from my Tolkien Elvish Dictionary instead (yep, I’m a nerd).

Starting WoW was quite an experience after the past two MMORPGs I had played. The clear ! indication over NPCs for quests was a nice guide and I read every word of text as I began my adventures in Teldrassil. I quickly learned that WoW was not designed as vicious as EverQuest when I had my first scare by seeing an Ancient Protector on my way out of the starting area and on to the first small town. I freaked out, expecting it to be a high level enemy about to crush me. Though it was max level, it was friendly and not there to crush me. I quickly learned that there were no randomly high level enemies roaming zones to slaughter players.

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I thought this was going to crush me the first time I saw it.

I moved on to Darnassus, the night elf capital, and beyond. Now, I could have stayed in the next zone on the continent of Kalimdor, but I wanted to learn to use one-handed swords. So, as many players did, I stocked up on food for my Nightsaber (a large cat) pet, Aratiel, and headed for the Eastern Kingdoms. Per my EverQuest and Final Fantasy XI training, this would surely be an arduous journey.

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The entrance to the center of Darnassus, night elf capital.

I arrived in the Wetlands of the continent in the east, the Eastern Kingdoms and started down the road for the dwarf city of Ironforge. This was the most EQ-like experience as I ran from mobs many levels higher than me, often only rescued by sending my pet after them first and racing past them until the pet despawned due to distance or was killed by the high level enemy. Either of these options, or even dismissing the pet, resulted in me having to either resummon or revive her and then having to feed her. Originally, hunter pets had a happiness status. At full happiness, they did extra damage, but if they were unhappy for too long, they would abandon you!

Eventually I made it through the Wetlands, Loch Modan, Dun Morogh, Ironforge, and to Stormwind to learn to use swords and returned home to continue questing. As I leveled, I upgraded to new cat models for Aratiel, but always favored the dark striped ones similar to her original model and kept the name as I changed them. She became a lifelong companion for my hunter and I still have her today with the model of an elite named cat from Stranglethorn Vale.

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Faithful companion for over a decade

The world seemed vast as I explored every zone, doing every quest, the conveniences of the hearthstone and flight paths helping, but not eliminating travel while the thought of a base speed mount was far away due to the high cost. I was probably five or more levels above the requirement when I could finally afford my first racial mount.

For me, endgame content consisted of running dungeons for my dungeon set, particularly Stratholme Baron runs, which refused to drop the Beaststalker Pants for months on end. I never got into really raiding in Classic WoW, but one day my guild asked if I had the leaf from Molten Core. I was attuned to enter the raid, but had never set foot inside. They pulled me in and let me loot it rather than let it rot. As I thanked them again and again, not fully knowing the quest it led to, I was told I was staying for the Ragnaros fight. With only my dungeon set. And no fire resist gear. Oh boy.

I died, but saw the raid’s victory and returned once in a while as a substitute for missing members, acquiring pieces of the hideous Giantstalker armor set. Primarily, I turned my attention to completing the quest from the Ancient Leaf my guild had gifted me. It required the player to really master different aspects of the hunter class and ultimately granted me the weapon Rhok’delar, a bow, and Lhok’delar, a staff.

Rhokdelar

Rhok’delar!

I never really did much more 40 man raiding other than Onyxia, but I joined a 15 man my guild formed and ran Zul’Gurub with them weekly. We never saw the tiger or panther mounts drop, though. We were still farming it when the next 40 and 15 man raids came with Anh’Qiraj. The opening of these raids was definitely interesting as the story began with a war effort in preparation for the gates to open. Entire servers were farming materials to donate to the war effort, gathering leather, making bandages, and such. I wasn’t in the raid group itself, but I was able to participate in the final step’s fight in Moonglade on the Feathermoon server that acquired the final component to open the gates.

Once the gates opened, lag consumed all. However, I still managed to fight enemies in other zones away from the raid opening itself. As classic WoW drew to a close with the final raid, Naxxramas, I had started my first alt by recreating my EverQuest paladin, Feneril. I managed to get him to 50 with a bit of gear just a week or two before the first expansion: The Burning Crusade.

As fond as my memories of roleplaying in EverQuest are, I’d say WoW is more where I really stretched my legs. I was on a RP server in a RP guild with players who really developed their characters and focused on their views on the world, the game’s current stories of raids and events, and their place in the guild rather than focusing on personal character relationship drama. Much like EverQuest, I have fond memories of my friends and guildmates and our adventures together. Hanstall, Tziva, Lapheer, Alhena, Zaria, Rautrix and Lochlaen, Cynvia, and many more.

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Guild gathered in a tavern

Faroth was fleshed out into his own character, as was Azeroth’s version of Feneril. Over time, I went on to create six more alts, all with their own character concepts, personalities, and focus when playing them. One was a sort of homage to an EverQuest guild member in my dwarf warrior.

WoW’s first expansion was a lot of fun and introduced flying, though it was a pretty big achievement, much like epic speed riding. Although Faroth remained my main, I got Feneril up more quickly and wound up with both getting into raiding and their roles slowly reversing in the process. I always thought the expansion had a good pacing of gearing up from faction reps, dungeon drops, and then heroic dungeons before raiding. I actually have some really fun memories due to survival hunter’s design at the time.

The first was in Hellfire Ramparts where a pull went wrong. I activated my pet’s growl (a taunt to get enemy attention) to hold one target while I kept mend pet up to heal  the pet and kept a second enemy frozen in a trap while I held a third myself. It was enough to impress the guildmate I was with, a rogue, after so many bad experiences with bad hunters.

The next dungeon memory I love is from heroic Shadow Labyrinth. I think it was the first pull to start clearing the first boss’ room. I was able to double trap two enemies, pet tank a third, wyvern sting a fourth, and kite/temporarily tank a fourth while the group burned the fifth target. They would then move to the wyvern sting target just as it was about to wake up or right after it had. I would continue to kite while keeping my pet healed and re-trap the first ice trap just as it was about to wear off. Usually the second trap would break as they killed the second enemy. Once that was down, they’d pick up the pet’s target, then my kited, and finally we’d take down the remaining enemy in an ice trap. It was a lot of fun juggling all of that and it let skilled survival hunters show off a bit.

My first raid experience in TBC was fairly random. Someone was shouting in a zone about needing one more and I joined them. That became a static group that I continued to run Karazhan with on my hunter, where I made new friends in Errdo and Hayleybrianna. Being geared from that led me to Gruul’s Lair and Magtheridon with members of my guild who had raided together since Classic along with other members gathered through the Molten Core Alliance. The raid was called MCA: Shrieky and I made two new friends here: Dulcea and Aryaltel, both of whom I’ve met in person and see a couple times a year.

MCA: Shrieky needed a tank later, so I ran Karazhan with members of that raid and found my paladin raid ready in all of two weeks. Over the course of Tier 5 and Tier 6 raiding, my paladin became my main raid character. We didn’t get through Sunwell, but we did take down Illidan not long before the next expansion.

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Feneril in his Tier 6 armor

Moving into the second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, WoW was at its peak in popularity. I was excited for the story, wrapping up one of the biggest stories in Warcraft’s history with Arthas, the Lich King. The questin/leveling experience was mostly the same, but with some new tools allowing for more immserive experiences as the story went on, such as phasing and the addition of cut scenes in game. Even the outdoor PvP zone proved pretty fun for players who didn’t often PvP.

This expansion really drew me in and had me writing fan fiction for myself to better piece together how I saw my characters fitting in with the big stories. I never liked the idea of my character defeating all the raids and threats or even playing a part in all of them, so I divided them up a bit with Faroth primarily involved in the dragon war against Malygos and Feneril involved in the Alliance’s efforts against the Scourge.

At end game, I raided with a 25 man in the start, but it dissolved in the second raid, Ulduar. I formed my own 10 man raid with Trial of the Crusader, largely with real life friends and their own guild mates. Once again raiding on my paladin, we cleared Trial of the Crusader and Icecrown Citadel to complete the expansion. We didn’t, however, really bother with the added Ruby Sanctum.

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Our first time defeating the Lich King

I admit with Cataclysm, I started to lose steam. I didn’t find the added 5 levels as interesting and the story was very disjointed as the 1-50 leveling experience tied into the overall story of the new war between Horde and Alliance as well as some information about the story dealing with Deathwing. I felt that the expansion offered the least new additions and features, likely due to how much effort went into redesigning the world for flying and reworking the leveling experience. Transmogrification, allowing players to customize their armor appearance, was the best feature after a long and hard fought debate. The feature had been requested for years and I was quite active on the forums in support of it. Due to a lack of things to do, though, this was the expansion that I got all eight of my alts to max level.

Next came my final full expansion: Mists of Pandaria. I had no issue with the pandaren race nor the Asian aesthetic of the expansion. The content was fun and I liked the story overall. Cut scenes were taken to a new level and voice acting was improved. I didn’t even mind the daily quests as I felt they gave players what they’d asked for in removing the gating of them and removing the daily limit. I think they probably should have kept the limit, but not had previous expansion daily quests count towards it.

I did feel the Alliance players got shafted in Cataclysm’s story and that continued heavily in Mists of Pandaria. Everything Alliance players experienced resulted in loss, failure, and being told even their victories were colossal failures as well. The major “fist pump” moment that Blizzard promised was immediately reprimanded by King Varian as the absolute worst thing we could have done. How being told you’ve ruined a major victory is a “fist pump” moment has never made sense to me. I could probably write a couple posts on where I felt Blizzard went wrong in these two expansions and what I think would have been a better balanced approach.

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Also, this is what happens when everyone is funneled into one zone on launch night.

I raided the expansion via Looking for Raid, or LFR, tool, which was not the most enjoyable experience due to the ridiculous ease of content along with player attitude. WoW had gotten a reputation for having a fairly toxic community by this point and LFR brought out the worst in those toxic players. Once I ran the final raid, Siege of Orgrimmar, once, I had no inclination to farm it for gear and the Timeless Isle addition felt like an EverQuest inspired grind fairly quickly. After nine continuous, uninterrupted, years of World of Warcraft, I cancelled my subscription.

Warlords of Draenor didn’t seem like a great idea story wise and the added $10 cost of the game didn’t draw me back, so I waited to pick up the Collector’s Edition on sale during Black Friday and Christmas sales. I didn’t resubscribe, however, until the following spring. I played for a month to see the zone stories, which I enjoyed, but was really irritated by the conclusion where Thrall takes all the glory for what the players have been working towards. After Cataclysm revolved around him and he had been the forefront of so many stories, I was tired of Thrall. For him to show up at the end of this expansion and take the victory was just disappointing. I never ran a single dungeon and never resubscribed to see the rest of the story, just following with information online.

When Blizzard announced Legion, it looked much better than Warlords of Draenor, but I was still uncertain. I waited until release and found the collector’s edition was sold out and appeared to be legitimate limited stock, but I fortunately managed to get one. I planned the same routine as Warlords – subscribe for a month to see the zone stories. What I found was, in my opinion, the best expansion since Wrath of the Lich King. The added features such as world quests replacing daily quests and the gear flow were welcome additions. Mythic dungeons brought back a sense of Heroics from Burning Crusade. I even found myself really liking the class order hall with Faroth where I expected to not like it at all. The story has been well done and Suramar is one of the best cities Blizzard had designed in the entire game (hopefully it becomes a player friendly city post-expansion). However, I don’t like the retcon they pulled in order to bring Illidan back as a hero. A redemption story I could deal with, but “everyone is stupid and Illidan is smart” didn’t hit the mark for me.

This post is definitely one of the longer in this series, but it spans over 10 years of gaming and has been a large part of my gaming life, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise. I’m still playing World of Warcraft occasionally for a month here and there, though another MMO has the majority of my attention in that realm now. For a couple of expansions now, I’ve said it was likely my last and Legion looks like it might be wrapping up a lot of major plotlines. Will it be my final expansion? Or will I give the next one a shot for a month here and there? The latter is probably likely, but I suppose one can never be sure.

One thing is certain, though: It’s hard to walk away from characters you’ve come to know and love over a decade, because you’ve crafted them and come to know them. It’s like a good book series, except you’ve been a part of thee characters’ lives in a way no other media can offer. They’re a part of you.

Since this post took us all the way from 2005 to 2017, we’ll go back to where we were in the next post, which will be the final in this series as I go over my memories and experiences with the Playstation 3.

 

Illidan Stormrage Should Really Stay Dead – Part 2: Illidan’s Fall

Last time I detailed the history of Illidan’s story through the events of War of the Ancients, told in the Warcraft III manual and the War of the Ancients trilogy of novels, and Warcraft III.  Now we’ll take a look at Illidan’s final chapters to his story as they played out in World of Warcraft’s first expansion: The Burning Crusade.

Some players "were not prepared" for Illidan's fate in the expansion.

Some players “were not prepared” for Illidan’s fate in the expansion.

After the fight with Arthas in Northrend, Kael’thas and Lady Vashj brought Illidan back to Outland where he gathered followers and declared himself Lord of Outland, again feeding his lust for power and ego.  Having already imprisoned Magtheridon, Illidan begins building an army in Outland to defend against what he believes is an inevitable attack from the Burning Legion for his failure to destroy the Lich King.  With Magtheridon defeated, Illidan claims the Black Temple as his fortress and sways demons to his side against the Burning Legion by using the Shrine of Lost Souls.  He also begins using Magtheridon’s blood to create the fel orcs.  Essentially, the demon infused Illidan begins building an army of fel tainted warriors to protect him from Kil’jaeden.

For reasons not entirely explained, Illidan authorizes an attack on Shattrath City.  It’s possible since the draenei and eredar are in fact the same race, Illidan perceived the draenei as a threat.  It’s also possible Illidan believed that wiping out the draenei would lower the chances of the Burning Legion coming to Outland and finding him as a result (though Kil’jaeden found him there last time).  As stated, it’s not entirely clear why Illidan chose to wage war against Shattrath. Perhaps Kael’thas had already defected and sided with Kil’jaeden and was instrumental in convincing Illidan it was a good idea, the result putting more forces against the Betrayer and weakening his defenses without the Legion lifting a finger themselves.

After defeating Illidan’s Crimson Sigil guard, Illidan claims not even Arthas could defeat him.  This supports what Blizzard revealed in Classic WoW where after defeating the Dragons of Nightmare, players could access a scene where Malfurion speaks to Remulos regarding his brother and states “Illidan sits atop his throne in Outland – brooding.  I’m afraid that the loss to Arthas proved to be his breaking point.  Madness has embraced him, Remulos.  He replays the events in his mind a thousand times per day, but in his mind, he is the victor and Arthas is utterly defeated.  He is too far gone, old friend.”

Players often say “he went crazy” is Blizzard’s lazy way of writing a villain, but I feel players tend to overlook a lot of details regarding character development through the game (and many have strong lore opinions while openly, proudly, declaring they never read quest text or pay attention to the lore outside game).

Remember Illidan has always been power hungry and has pursued any means necessary to strengthen his power.  He was touched by Sargeras, granted a “blessing” in his magical eyesight and the tattoos covering his body, which glow green from fel energy.  It’s well established that exposure to fel magic slowly drives mortals insane in the Warcraft world.  Next, he’s imprisoned for 10,000 years in solitary confinement, though he does have the Wardens around, Maiev likely conversed with him (probably not very nicely), and Malfurion visited him, but still in solitary confinement.  Next is Illidan’s consumption of power from the Skull of Gul’dan, making him more demonic and further tied to the fel energies associated with demons.  Next, he surrounds himself with demons.  His pride has always been his greatest weakness, his ego more fragile than many care to admit and twice he fails to defeat Arthas.  And then on top of everything else, you factor in the possibility that during the War of Ancients, he may have had Old God influences affecting his mind and you’ve got a character who is well steeped in a slow, but steady descent into madness.

Now players do say that the story surrounding Illidan and his motives weren’t well explained in The Burning Crusade, but I think there’s enough to connect the dots. It’s just not slammed in your face like Blizzard started doing after the expansion.

Illidan is somewhat insane. He’s not outright raving lunatic, but he’s definitely not all there.  He knows the Burning Legion is likely going to come for him for his failures and he’s building an army to fight against them, but the one thing Illidan needs most to defend himself is more power.  Everything in Burning Crusade is centered on Illidan’s building defense against the Burning Legion.  In this alone, he’s not exactly a villain and why would the player really want to do anything to stop him?  He’s more likely a friend as the enemy of our enemy.

But Illidan’s also blind to everything but his obsessive goal.  He’s dangerous. He’s essentially training a pack of thousands of rabid wolves to defend him with no leash or perimeter to stop them from killing anything they come across.  You’ve got the fel orcs, who are openly waging war against the Alliance forces from the Second War and the draenei and are happy to fight the Horde as well.  You have demons who aren’t exactly trustworthy allies to begin with. And you have Illidan outright waging war against the naaru and Shattrath City to destroy the remaining draenei on Outland.  He may not be outright evil, but he’s definitely a loose cannon that needs to be stopped.  But there’s one other thing I always interpreted that he was doing.

He’s preparing to create yet another Well of Eternity.

Think about it.  Lady Vashj and the naga in Zangarmarsh have built all these pumps and their draining all the marsh in the area, siphoning it all into one lake, one very large body of water in the center of the area.  And what does Lady Vash (and Kael’thas) drop for the questchain leading towards Black Temple?  They each have one of the remaining four vials of the Well of Eternity.  Why else would Illidan have Vashj create a large body of water and entrust vials from the Well to her and Kael’thas other than to create a new Well of Eternity, the thing he’s been most obsessed with for over 10,000 years, the thing that first gave him his magic, the thing he knows can enhance his magical strengths more than anything else? What better way to fight off the Legion than to increase his power through a new Well.

So we’ve got dungeons fighting the fel orcs where we learn Illidan was creating them to build an army of his own.  We have dungeons fighting the naga who are potentially building a Well of Eternity.  We have Magtheridon in Tier 4 which stops Illidan’s source of creating fel orcs. We stop Lady Vashj in Tier 5, which cuts off his plan to create said Well of Eternity.  We fight Kael’thas who we learned had allied himself with the Burning Legion in betrayal of Illidan.  Then we head into Tier 6, which is to stop the leader that’s been setting everything into motion and causing chaos and strife in Outland, freeing Akama and his broken ones in the process, who I’d say is a bit questionable that his soul is trapped. Seems like they were slaves to Illidan more than allies.

Eventually players reach the top of the Black Temple and find Illidan himself.

Kind of creepy he STILL holds onto the Skull of Gul'dan

Kind of creepy he STILL holds onto the Skull of Gul’dan

And upon defeating Illidan, the following plays out:

Illidan falls to one knee, holding himself up on his fists, with the Warglaives of Azzinoth still clenched in them.
Maiev Shadowsong yells: It is finished. You are beaten.
Illidan Stormrage yells: You have won… Maiev. But the huntress… is nothing without the hunt. You… are nothing… without me.
Illidan collapses and dies.

There you have it, right there in the game.  Illidan collapses AND DIES.  There is no “he didn’t actually die” or “he managed to survive.”  Illidan died in Outland atop the Black Temple. He’s definitely dead.  Yet players clamor for his return to World of Warcraft, so much so that Chris Metzen has teased the idea at two Blizzcons and other appearances, suggesting that he would love to do a redemption story for Illidan.  But there’s just one problem….by this point he shouldn’t be redeemable.  You’re asking Blizzard to write a story to redeem over 10,000 years of selfishness.

I get it. Illidan’s so cool, he’s a bad ass.  Yeah, he’s the Wolverine of World of Warcraft and players think he’s so very important that he just has to be brought back, but there’s so many problems with this idea.

First, it belittles his story.  Illidan is a pretty good example of Blizzard doing a good character.  Illidan isn’t evil, I’ve never said he’s evil, he’s just very selfish in his thirst for power, but he does have some good intentions. He has taken action to protect his people, to save Tyrande, and to prove himself to his brother.  He’s a very flawed character with a pretty good story that presents “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  I don’t think he’s the anti-hero people claim him to be because he’s honestly not very heroic.  Batman is an anti-hero and while he’s driven by personal motivation, the death of his parents and an obsession to end crime, he takes action to help people, to protect his city.  Illidan’s primary motivation is usually acquiring power and if along the way he finds an opportunity to help someone he cares about, he’ll do that as well.  So I don’t think he’s an anti-hero, but I think he’s one of Blizzard’s best flawed characters who isn’t straight up good nor evil. He’s simply pursued his path, sought what he wanted, and made the decisions when they presented themselves.  To bring him back now would be akin to writing an extra chapter to Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet where the protagonists get up and were faking it the whole time.  It eliminates the tragic ending to the tragedy.

Second, how would it make sense?  Illidan didn’t dissipate into a flock of bats or smoke. His body fell to the ground and stayed there when he died. He’s transformed and demonic, but he’s not a pure demon, he was still a kal’dorei.  What, after five years of decomposition his body just comes back together?  Someone snuck past Akama’s forces and dragged the body off to Auchidoun to preserve it so they could resurrect him years later and he’d suddenly be a good guy?  It’s very difficult to properly bring Illidan back into the storyline at this point.

Third, do we really want another “I didn’t really die!” storyline?  Players were making fun of Kael’thas not really being dead as soon as it started with Magister’s Terrace (because apparently they ignored the cut scene in Shattrath after you turn in the quest for defeating Kael’thas).  Cho’gall has died and come back for use again (twice even).  Kel’thuzad is defeated twice (though that one made sense by typical lore standards).  Sure, World of Warcraft is essentially a comic book story in video game format, but do we really want to get to the point where we think “oh, they killed X, wonder how long before he comes back to life” like we do with comic books?

And fourth, and finally, do we really want to keep rehashing old characters?  Do we need Illidan back?  Isn’t his story complete and couldn’t new characters rise up instead?  We already have a demon hunter in Felwood in Cataclysm, we had two demon hunters named in Burning Crusade, and we had more training outside Black Temple.  Couldn’t a new character come into the storyline, one of Illidan’s first disciples who have trained under him to be a demon hunter longer than the others?  Someone who embraced Illidan’s belief in fighting the Legion with the Legion’s own fire and believed that, while ugly, the demon hunters are necessary?  A character not afraid to walk openly into Darnassus, boldly into the Temple of Elune, and tell Tyrande and Malfurion to their face that they’re wrong for shunning his order and that Illidan could have been the kal’dorei’s hero if he hadn’t been so quickly condemned, and despite their reaction, is able to safely make his way out of Darnassus as well.

Personally, I’d much prefer to see a new character like this, one who represents the aspects that made Illidan interesting, but doesn’t deny his mentor’s flaws either.  We, as players, complain that Blizzard has run out of ideas, but we then shackle them to reusing the same characters they’ve already used and completed the story for rather than urging them to create new characters with the themes we like best.  World of Warcraft has comic book themes, but it shouldn’t get caught up in the comic book tropes like this.  Old characters can still shine, some are long overdue for their moment in the spotlight, but characters who have had their story start, climax, and resolved should stay buried and whether you agree with how their story ended, it’s still best that it stays ended so that new stories and new characters can rise in their place.

There’s simply too much to lose and very little to gain with a needless resurrection.  Illidan Stormrage should really just stay dead.

Illidan Stormrage Should Really Stay Dead – Part 1: Illidan’s History

Blizzard has their fifth expansion for World of Warcraft, Warlords of Draenor, in development right now.  The game is currently in alpha but is nearing closed beta, which attendees of PAX East were gifted invites to.  And though the expansion is still in fairly early stages of development, players are already speculating on what will happen and what characters may be seen in our adventures on Draenor prior to its demonic-go-boom fate.

Blizzard has their work cut out for them with this expansion mainly in making the story seem cohesive. Players are already confused and split on the concept of the expansion, which wasn’t terribly well explained at Blizzcon when it was announced.  Personally, I think they should have gotten Chris Claremont of X-Men fame to come help them explain it. He’s pretty familiar with these zany plots that would fit quite well into a comic book.

Here’s the simple explanation as I understand it.  Garrosh escapes imprisonment on Pandaria and, with the help of Kairoz the bronze dragon (or perhaps infinite dragonflight?), manages to escape through time and space to Draenor before the orcs were corrupted by the Burning Legion.  He stops all that demon blood drinking nonsense from happening and unifies the orc tribes (mostly) with his knowledge of better technology to forge an army dubbed the Iron Horde.  He then manages to activate the Dark Portal from 30 years-in-the-past Draenor as a time AND space gateway to modern day Azeroth.  So basically the orcish Horde of Draenor 28-30 years ago is not corrupted but invading modern day Azeroth.  And that’s where we begin.

Now, Blizzard tried to explain it’s not a time travel story and it’s not…really.  It’s like an X-Men story, only a bit in reverse.  Bishop and Cable stories were usually centered around either character going into the past to alter history and prevent their own future from occurring.  Garrosh has done the same thing, only instead of altering history, he just brought history straight into the present as an army.  So basically at this point, if anything, you’ve created split timelines and alternate timelines.  Players are questioning what this means, of course.  In the alternate timeline, Azeroth is never invaded, so what does that mean for all the characters of the Alliance we know and love?  No invasion, no Legion fueled orcs, no failure to win means no Lich King.  So Arthas may have no reason to go nuts.  It’s a great set up for some What If… stories.

But Blizzard isn’t focusing on that.  They’re focusing on a force from the past attacking the present.  Thrall meeting his father doesn’t mean something could make Thrall not exist. Honestly, there’s a little bit of “just go with it” on this one.  We’ll have to see how they work everything out, but I don’t expect a neat little package because it IS time travel as the catalyst and time travel into the past always mucks things up.  At least with Bishop and Cable they were genuinely looking for a way to erase their timeline from existence (though in comics you just create yet more timelines rather than erase any of them).

One character I’ve seen players speculate on is Illidan Stormrage.  With no Legion on Azeroth in the Third War, he won’t consume the skull of Gul’dan, so maybe that’s how Blizzard brings him back. Maybe they resurrect him. Maybe with time travel, they alter the past and he’s never killed.  Any way imaginable, whatever it takes, somehow they feel Blizzard MUST bring back Illidan Stormrage.

I say they shouldn’t.  Ever.

Illidan Stormrage is dead and needs to stay that way.  To do anything else with the character is going to ruin him and his story.  Sure, he can appear in flash back stuff, but modern times, he really needs to stay dead.  Fans claim he didn’t get the story he deserved, but I think his story was actually one of the better ones in Warcraft and has a beginning, climax, and denouement for a conclusion.

I'll grant you that he always looks cool

I’ll grant you that he always looks cool

Illidan’s story begins over 10,000 years ago now as a young night elf with great talent in the arcane arts.  When the Highborne were preparing to usher in the destruction of the world bringing Sargeras to Azeroth and Malfurion, Tyrande, Cenarius, and the Dragonflights planned to enact a plot to destroy the Well of Eternity, Illidan abandons them and sets out to warn the Highborn simply because he doesn’t want to lose his magic when the Well is destroyed.  Illidan had no remorse in betraying his brother due to his addiction to the arcane energy and his jealousy of Tyrande’s feelings for Malfurion.  Illidan swears above all else to protect the Well of Eternity from destruction by any means necessary.  During the battle, Illidan fills vials with the water from the well, planning to keep their energies for himself after the demons crush the night elf civilization.  The battle causes the portal to go unstable and…..’splosion.  The Sundering results in splitting the land, but some survivors find themselves on Kalimdor.

Now, these details are more fleshed out and explored, as well as altered, in the War of the Ancients Trilogy where three characters from current times get thrown into the past during the events of the War of the Ancients.  Illidan still abandons his allies in order to preserve the Well of Eternity, desiring to keep the source of his magic in tact.  He was also allured by the powers the Burning Legion wielded, which allowed his own thoughts to be swayed by the satyr Xavius and while Illidan believed he was acting to defeat the Legion, he wound up helping them by strengthening the portal with the Demon Soul.  This was the main alteration to the original story; Illidan had good intentions but was swayed by darker thoughts planted by Xavius.  His decision to kill his brother to win Tyrande, his plans to obtain the Demon Soul to stop the Legion when he was really being used to acquire it for them, etc. all make Illidan seem to be the victim.  But the key point is that he would never have thrown in with the Legion if he hadn’t decided to protect the Well of Eternity for his own selfish desire for power in the first place.  In this, the original Warcraft III manual and War of the Ancients still agree.

After the Sundering, Illidan climbs Mount Hyjal and pours some of the vials of the Well of Eternity into the lake there to create a new Well of Eternity. Again, this is purely so he could have access to power for himself and he shows no remorse for re-creating the very thing that brought the Burning Legion to Azeroth to begin with.  Illidan is imprisoned when it is determined he can’t be swayed, too enthralled by the grip of the arcane.

So to recap key points so far:

1. Illidan selfishly tried to prevent the Well of Eternity’s destruction so he could keep his power.
2. Illidan selfishly filled vials with the Well of Eternity to keep for himself.
3. Illidan selfishly re-creates a new Well of Eternity so he can keep his power.

Moving ahead 10,000 years, the Burning Legion return to Azeroth and Tyrande opts to free Illidan from his prison to fight them.  Illidan leads his own force of night elves into the Felwood to hunt the demons, intending to prove the Legion no longer had sway over him.  He encounters Arthas who tells him the Skull of Gul’dan is the cause of the corruption and that Illidan can have that power.  Illidan doesn’t trust Arthas, but still takes the bait and does exactly as he’s told.  He obtains the skull, breaks its seal, and, again desiring more power, consumes it for himself.  Illidan is affected, transformed into a demonic form himself, perhaps arguably transformed into a demon himself, and upon sensing the demonic power within, Tyrande and Malfurion turn away from him.  Illidan leaves the night elf forests feeling his efforts and sacrifice are unappreciated.

So at this point, we have a selfish night elf who has sought power in every chance he’s had, but arguably makes a sacrifice in order to save his people. By consuming the powers of the Skull of Gul’dan, he was able to defeat the Legion’s leader in the woods and stop the invasion.  He’s shunned for it, but that’s the burden he bears.  He’s a tragic hero in a sense at this point and it’s easy to see why the player is meant to feel pity and remorse for his fate.

………then he goes and ALLIES WITH THE BURNING LEGION.

Kil’jaeden offers him a deal, to scratch off that pesky Lich King in exchange for more magic and power than Illidan has dreamed of.  So Illidan summons the naga (former highborne who summoned all these demons 10,000 years ago to begin with) and brings in some satyr, because having demons work with you when you’re serving a demon is definitely how to go about proving you’re not demon corrupted anymore.  He corrupts some furbolgs along the way and heads off to obtain the Eye of Sargeras and heads off to use it to destroy the Frozen Throne and the Lich King.  Some argue that this is a sign that he’s still a hero, but remember he’s still doing this at the behest of the Burning Legion and for an offer of greater magic and power (because the enhanced power from the Skull of Gul’dan still isn’t enough apparently).

Since he failed to do the job, he flees to Outland to escape Kil’jaeden.  He begins wiping out demons in Outland, hoping that by eliminating the demonic presence, he’d escape Kil’jaeden.  Again, Illidan does none of this out of a sense of good, or because it’s the right thing to do, but purely out of self preservation.  He defeats Magtheridon and imprisons him beneath Hellfire Citadel.  However, all of Illidan’s success proves to be too little and Kil’jaeden finds him.  Illidan saves his neck by claiming he was gathering forces to fulfill his mission from Kil’jaeden and he’s given one last chance.

Kil'jaeden and Illidan

“You done goofed”

Illidan again fails to destroy the Lich King, defeated by Arthas but rescued by Kael’thas and Lady Vashj and taken back to Outland.  So throughout the War of the Ancients story and Warcraft III, Illidan is not a hero and he’s not really even an anti-hero.  He’s mainly a selfish character who only seeks out power for himself, repeatedly allying himself with the Burning Legion for promises of said power.  There is no redeeming story for Illidan through all of this, he has been consistently traveling down the path of a villain.  Granted, he sometimes did things for Tyrande, having always had feelings for her and he does initially want to drive back the Legion and prove himself to Tyrande and Malfurion both and it could even be argued that he does take great risks in order to defeat the Legion no matter the cost by consuming the powers of the Skull of Gul’dan.  One might even say it was an act of desperation to prove himself. After all, Illidan didn’t know it would make him a demon, but on some level, he has always sought power for himself.

In part 2, I’ll explore the Illidan story in The Burning Crusade and finalize my thoughts on why Illidan should simply stay dead.