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Friday, October 1, 2010

The War of the Ancients Trilogy and its Connection to the Coming Cataclysm

Warning: this review may contain spoilers for Cataclysm or to anyone who hasn’t already read the War of the Ancients trilogy and who is not familiar with that area of lore. Read at your own risk.
A few weeks back I took up the fun task of telling all of you about my first experience reading a Warcraft-themed novel, and how it had as a result made Azeroth feel much more alive and personal. That was upon my finishing of The Well of Eternity. Now, I’ve completed the remaining two books of the War of the Ancients trilogy by Richard Knaak — The Demon Soul and The Sundering — and am happy to say that they have not only continued to strengthen my understanding of WoW lore, but also of the Cataclysm that is soon to come.
Knaak’s writing style isn’t always my favorite, but I get sucked into the story firmly enough that it doesn’t bother me — especially when it means that I’m getting an intimate view of some of the characters who will be playing major roles in WoW: Cataclysm.
I’ll point to three characters who share two things in common — they all play key roles within the War of the Ancients and are heavily explored within the trilogy, and also all three will play a role in the coming expansion.
  1. Neltharion the Earth Warder / Deathwing the Destroyer
  2. The last two books of the trilogy provide a nice glimpse into this character much beyond the surface traits with which many of us are familiar. Several sections are told completely from his point of view, and we see first-hand-accounts of his completely self-obsessed, power-driven, maniacal thoughts as he has been slowly driven insane, at least partially from the voices of the Old Gods who plan to use him as a tool in their efforts to reclaim the world. We see and feel his impatience as he counts down the hours and seconds until his ultimate treachery against the world, and we witness how he relishes the thought of every living creature bowing to him — be they from the Burning Legion, the masses of night elves fighting against them, or even his own kind. We mourn the deaths of the blue flight when Deathwing turns his power against them, and are pained by the futility of the other aspects who can do nothing to stop him. We even hear his tortured cries as he affixes to his own body plated armor that is driven through his scales and into his flesh. And when two thieves take advantage of this time of his distraction to steal his ultimate death-device, the dragon/demon soul, we understand his mad pursuit of sweet revenge. Perhaps the single-most telling aspect to his story within this trilogy, in my opinion, was the extent to which Deathwing was willing to endure through anything to win back the demon soul, just before the sundering of the well of eternity. Check this excerpt from near the end of The Sundering, and tell me you’d like to face THIS madness in battle:

    The Sundering, Chapter 18

    Deathwing struck the matrix head-on. The sky around him exploded with raw energy that should have seared the insane Aspect to death, but, although his flesh and scales clearly burned, Deathwing nevertheless pushed forward. He roared defiantly at the mighty forces set in array against him. His mouth twisted into an insane, reptilian grin that grew with each inch closer to his goal. …Scales tore from the black’s already savaged body. The crackling bolts now focused fully on the giant, scorching him again and again. Yet, although he would now and then flinch under their intensity, Deathwing did not slow. …He [Malfurion Stormrage] found himself looking upon a dragon tortured beyond comprehension but yet who was so obsessed with what he sought that no pain could daunt him. Some of the plates sealed to the back were nearly slag and several portions of his body had been stripped clear of scale. Revealed underneath was raw flesh burnt or ripped away. The leviathan’s wings were town in several places and it amazed Malfurion that the mad Earth Warder could still fly. Deathwing’s claws were gnarled and ruined, as if he had been scratching at some impervious object…
  3. Queen Azshara
  4. Back to a character that won’t play nearly as significant of a role in Cataclysm — perhaps not a role so much as a cameo — but who will be present nonetheless. I believe for the first time physically in WoW, we’ll finally see Queen Azshara. Throughout the trilogy, we become quite familiar with the former night elf queen’s vanity, self-worship and use of her beauty to overwhelm anyone who she deems unworthy. Despite the fact that all this occurs after the queen’s corruption by the Burning Legion, it is more than hinted at that the queen is not quite what the people see her as. And, although she seems to rely on that beauty throughout the trilogy, we also see insights both from onlookers and from the direct source that the queen is much more powerful than she lets on, even countering and completely preventing an attack from an impatient Mannoroth. But that power couldn’t save her form in the end. In this excerpt, we are eye-witnesses to Queen Azshara’s transformation from the beautiful and powerful queen of the night elves into a naga, right as the Well of Eternity overwhelms her palace in Zin-Azshari.

    The Sundering, Chapter 20

    The rumbling grew louder. A darkness in which even night elves could not see suddenly enveloped the palace. The only illumination came from the untamed forces of the Well. Black water began pouring into the palace, washing away two of her [Azshara's] servants. Their screams were quickly drowned out. …Then, voices whispered from the gloom, voices calling to her, promising her an escape. There is a way… there is a way… you will become more than you ever were… more than you ever were… we can help… …Her body was wracked with pain. She felt her limbs twisting, curling. Her spine felt fluid, as if much of it had instantly melted away. …The Well filled her lungs. But, she did not drown.
  5. Malfurion Stormrage
  6. I’m certain that the novel Stormrage is a more complete and up-to-date version of the archdruid, but this trilogy gives a great jumping-off point and backstory of Malfurion Stormrage as he is just learning and mastering his abilities. I’ll admit to largely being drawn into the love triangle between Malfurion, Illidan and Tyrande, but what I didn’t expect (especially as a primarily horde player) was to emerge with a new favorite pair  of characters from within the Warcraft universe. Within these books, we grow with Malfurion from his first trip into the Emerald Dream, to learning about its many layers, to calling upon Ysera herself from within, to his first discovery of antler nubs growing upon his head, to even surviving against Deathwing while inside the dream. In the end, the druid ends up playing a major role both in preventing the coming of Sargeras and in  thwarting the Old Gods’ efforts to retake Azeroth. Plus, if you’re keeping score — he gets the girl. From what I can gather, it looks like Malfurion is finally getting more than a passing role in WoW as the leader of Cenarius’ army at Mount Hyjal while battling Ragnaros. Plus, he’ll have more permanent spot alongside Tyrande Whisperwind in Darnassus, and will apparently appear in Darkshore, battling against Queen Azshara. While no single, defining passage calls out to me, there is no doubt in my mind that Malfurion is one of the defining characters in the trilogy, and may turn into your favorite, as well.
As I reiterated in the last post on the subject, War of the Ancients is a great way to get started with a more in-depth look at the lore behind the extended universe. I’m looking forward to seeing these, and other characters in Cataclysm.

Faces Of Cataclysm

Cataclysm will be a major step forward in the ongoing story of the Warcraft universe. The return of Deathwing has changed the world forever, and the major movers and shakers are forced to make decisions that will profoundly affect the future of their peoples. Below is a list of some of the most important non-player characters in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.

Warchief Thrall

Thrall, the Horde's warchief, is a living symbol of nobility, strength, and unwavering courage. He led the orcs from the internment camps of Lordaeron into a new era of freedom and prosperity, and under his leadership the Horde has established itself as a major force on Azeroth. As a shaman, Thrall has a deep connection with the elements, and their wisdom has proven to be a great boon to the warchief. But although the Horde's faith in its warchief remains strong, some orcs who relish the tales of orcish ferocity and martial prowess are frustrated with Thrall's decisions. It remains to be seen whether his recent differences with Garrosh Hellscream are a one-time event or a hint at the shape of things to come.

Garrosh Hellscream

Growing up, Garrosh only knew his father, Grom Hellscream, by the stories that cast him as the one who had doomed his people. But after learning of Grom's redemption and heroic sacrifice to free the orcs from demonic corruption once and for all, Garrosh embraced his father's legacy as a fearless warrior and natural leader. At times, Garrosh's renewed zeal has put him at odds with the Horde's warchief. Frustrated by Thrall's decision to scout Northrend instead of mobilizing the Horde right away, Garrosh challenged the warchief to a duel in the Ring of Valor, but an assault by the Lich King's minions cut their bout short. Garrosh and the warchief still have some unfinished business... and Garrosh's hot-headed recklessness is fast becoming a concern to those who know the inherent danger in a Hellscream's fury.

King Varian Wrynn

The king of Stormwind, recently returned to claim his rightful place, has little love for the Horde. His reasons are many: when Varian was a young boy, he saw his father murdered by the half-orc Garona; the orcs' warchief, Orgrim Doomhammer, slew the valorous Anduin Lothar, who had delivered Varian safely to Lordaeron after the fall of Stormwind; Varian was later enslaved by the orcish gladiator trainer Rehgar Earthfury; and at the Wrath Gate, many brave Alliance soldiers died at the hands of the Forsaken's Royal Apothecary Society. Varian, who had always been wary of the orcs, discovered that the Royal Apothecary Society had been developing the new plague for years. The events that transpired during the battle for the Undercity convinced the human king that the Horde has been left unchecked for too long: the time has come to make things right.

King Genn Greymane

The people of the Alliance remember the king of Gilneas as a proud, strong-willed, cunning, and arrogant man. He and his armies stood by the Alliance during the Second War, but in the aftermath it became clear to Genn Greymane that the Alliance needed Gilneas more than Gilneas needed the Alliance. He ordered that the Greymane Wall be closed to all outsiders, effectively sealing off his kingdom from the outside world and its conflicts. But fate, it seems, was intent on teaching the king a lesson in humility: although the wall succeeded in isolating Gilneas from the rest of the world, it also served to damn the kingdom's people forever. As the worgen curse swept the nation and early attempts at containment failed, Greymane found himself fighting a battle for his people's very humanity.

Queen Azshara

Strong-willed, manipulative, and incomparably beautiful, Azshara possessed far more magical talent than almost any other night elf in her time. Ten thousand years ago, she and the other Highborne brought Azeroth dangerously close to complete destruction when their meddling with arcane magic caught the attention of the Great Enemy, Sargeras. Corrupted by the influence of the fallen titan, Azshara set in motion a plan to bring the Burning Legion to Azeroth, a plan that caused the War of the Ancients and the Great Sundering of Azeroth. Beautiful, cruel Azshara was swallowed by the seas, never to be seen again… or so it was believed. The naga revere Azshara as a demigod, one who is still very much alive. How she could have survived the Sundering, and at what cost, remain mysteries that not many would dare to probe.

Deathwing

Few have fallen as far from grace as ancient Neltharion has. As one of the five Dragon Aspects chosen by the titans, he was given dominion over the earth and the deep places of the world. He embodied the strength of Azeroth and served as the greatest supporter of the Dragonqueen, Alexstrasza. But mighty, kind-hearted, and wise as he was, even Neltharion was not beyond the reach of dark forces sleeping beneath the surface of Azeroth. Over time, sinister whispers sank their claws into the dragon's thoughts, seeding Neltharion's mind with madness. He betrayed the other Aspects, and when he turned against his brethren and let corruption take complete control, he ceased being Neltharion the Earth-Warder and became Deathwing the Destroyer. Eventually, he was defeated by the combined might of the other Aspects—defeated, but not destroyed. Hidden from the world, he has been licking his wounds and nourishing his burning hatred. His return will change the face of Azeroth… forever.

Cho'gall

Cho'gall's sordid history is a testament to his unflinching desire to sow chaos wherever his dark influence extends. The first of the ogre magi, Cho'gall rose to prominence in the old Horde as chieftain of the orcish Twilight's Hammer clan. His dubious loyalties became apparent when he abandoned the Horde during a pivotal moment in the Second War. In retaliation, forces dispatched by Orgrim Doomhammer slaughtered most of Cho'gall's traitorous clan, forcing him and his surviving cohorts into hiding. Over the following years, the ogre mage molded the Twilight's Hammer into a fanatical cult devoted to worshipping the Old Gods -- ancient harbingers of the apocalypse. Cho'gall's obsession with these malefic deities led him to the ruined city of Ahn'Qiraj, where he began efforts to awaken an Old God by harnessing the immense powers of Med'an, the new Guardian of Tirisfal. Ultimately, Med'an thwarted Cho'gall's plans, and the scheming ogre mage was thought slain. The Twilight's Hammer, however, has remained organized, leading to fears that Cho'gall is still alive... and merely biding his time, waiting for the right moment to make his presence known once again.

Possible 4.0.1 Patch Relaese Date

Update - Someone just pointed out that the EU site has been updated and now shows October 13th, it either means that the patch is postponed, or that it will be deployed one week later in Europe.



We're very close to the release of Patch 4.0.1, at this point the only question is "How close?"

As far as I can tell, you can probably expect the patch on October 5th or October 12th. Ghostcrawler already suggested that the patch would be deployed right before the end of the arena season and added that "they shouldn't have a lasting impact on ratings, titles, and the like".
Originally Posted by Ghostcrawler (Source)
Since the current PvP season will end when these changes go live, they shouldn't have a lasting impact on ratings, titles and the like. We are prepared to just drop a temporary player damage nerf on all BGs and Arenas if necessary just so things don't feel too silly until everyone can level up to 85.
Additionally, the World of Warcraft Trial Website has been updated and now announces that the new streaming client will be available on October 5th, which is exactly what we've been testing on 4.0.1 PTRs.

As usual, nothing is official, but it's probably close enough.