Thursday, 6 January 2011

I met Deathwing today

(Warning: This post contains a few spoilers regarding quests in the Badlands.)

Well, not technically today… but I met him. As I wrote in my first post, I am leveling a worgen mage. My journey took me to the Badlands, where most of the questing revolves around helping the red dragons against the black dragonflight. The result is a “purified” black dragon egg. The big bad guy does not seem to notice you at all during the questing.

Until the very end…

In a short in-game cutscene, he surprises your red dragon friend, reminds her that he doesn’t like people getting in the way of his evil plans, and proceeds to toast her, not noticing you because of your incredible hiding skills (you are hiding behind some knee-high grass).

This event got me thinking about a few things, besides the fact that Deathwing needs glasses if he wants to be a danger to anything smaller than a mountain.

Blizzard seems to have changed attitude towards their big villain’s appearances in each expansion. Illidan was basically not here. You heard about him, he told you that you were not prepared, he was scary and all, but if you did not raid Black Temple, you never really met him in game. This was a problem, and Blizzard tried to fix it with Wrath of the Lich King. Arthas was everywhere. By the time you got to ICC, he was your best buddy. While it is nice to actually feel the presence of the main enemy throughout the game, this had an annoying side effect: he became much less scary. In most encounters (apart from the Halls of Reflection, where he actually meant to kill you), he would just threaten players, tell them to stop questing around, and then say something like “I should kill you right now, and I could, but I’m late for a BBQ with Putricide right now, see you in a few quests”.

Of course, I’m exaggerating, but you get the point: I want to be scared (well, as much as pixels can scare) by the all-powerful enemy I’m here to stop. In Cataclysm, so far (I haven’t played through the 80-85 zones, shame on me), Deathwing’s presence seems more subtle. He is felt everywhere, because he broke pretty much everything we see in Azeroth, but he rarely appears before the player. And when he does, he actually kills people, and the only reason my worgen is still alive is that he did not notice me in the first place.

This time, I have the impression that Blizzard found the right formula: Deathwing will remain as scary as he should be, and the whole player base will be able to interact with him in some way.

What do you think? I have not played through all the Cataclysm zones, so I’d be interested to know how the Aspect of Death is handled later in the leveling process. Do you prefer an “invisible” villain? Did you prefer the way Wrath presented Arthas?

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