I’ve struggled to get back into World of Warcraft for the past year. Most of my attempts have been failures and I just wasn’t having fun. The game has changed (mostly for the better). I just don’t seem to fit in anymore.
On this attempt to re-enter the World of Warcraft I wanted to start afresh. And try out the new Worgen starting area.
So I’d like you to meet my Worgen, Zivanci.
Note: This is Zivanci the Warlock #2. I did previously roll a Human Warlock over on Argent Dawn to participate in the blogger’s guild Single Abstract Noun and got her to about level 25. I loved Zivanci. My action bars hated her, but I loved her. In fact all my plans to reuse hot keys from character to character were thrown out the window.
I had always been intrigued by the Gilneans since reading Day of the Dragon (set before The Burning Legion destroyed the human kingdom of Lordaeron – I think Deathwing was messing with the human kingdoms then too) and the moody locations and artwork shown in Cataclysm trailer just got me even more interested.
How can a society that has walled itself away from the rest of the world evolve? Survive? I just don’t see how it can.
I had always assumed that the Gilneans had walled themselves in to protect themselves from the plague that ruined Stratholme (leaving aside the whole Arthas incident) and created the Plaguelands. And that they had already been a community with the odd werewolf hiding in their midst.
Then, having walled themselves in, the werewolf Worgens eventually attacked and infected more Gilneans until the whole population had turned. And then there wouldn’t be a reason to keep it all a secret right? So Worgen-ism must be the norm.
Apparently I had that all wrong.
When you begin as a Gilnean Worgen you are in fact utterly human. I was scouring my interface and spellbook for my shift forms button – it must be there somewhere, right? I was also scouring my menus looking for my pet bar*.
That’s cool. Obviously part of the beginning experience was going to be that magical moment – the moment when you get attacked and infected!
Unfortunately that moment kind of passes you by – there’s no cut scene or long escalating fight with a baddy. I think I walked into a cellar to hand in a quest and an NPC yelled at me from the corner, I killed him with a spell or two and suddenly I had a debuff.
Did I mention that Worgen (presumably from the farms and outskirts of the city) are overrunning the city?
The debuff was a great idea and makes you feel the dread – that you’re running out of time and possibly dying. Several quests later you get abruptly thrown to a cut screen and you are told that you must prove yourself to be more than just an animal. More than a monster. Apparently you’ve turned into a Worgen.
Oh and you’re dependent on a drug to keep your human side in control and the Forsaken are interfering with your supply chain. They seem to drop this quest motivation by the time you reconnect with Lord Crowley (who heads up a gang of Worgens) and by the time you get your ability to switch between human and Worgen form at will. But I felt this story thread wasn’t clearly explained or resolved.
When you wake up as a newly turned Worgen, having lost the city of Gilneas to the Worgen and are now being attacked by the Forsaken (although I’m not clear as to why they’re involved at all), you are somewhere else entirely trying to regroup evacuatees. I think I spent the better part of the next few levels trying to reorient myself on the isle: most of my map was blank but, I think, it should have been revealed in full. Where was the Gilnean wall? Where was the city? Where was I?
This is where I felt the game really reverted back to a formula and you could have dropped in the quests from Northshire Abbey into the small town of Duskhaven. Kill some Forsaken, talk to Granny Smith, gather some wild horses, pick up this forgotten book… the errands seemed so silly and nobody seemed to care that I was both homeless and no longer even human. I was extremely disappointed.
And I think, at some point while I was doing these Duskhaven quests, The Shattering occurred and Deathwing wrecked the world. I’m not entirely sure but I remember thinking that the rain looked like little missiles of fire and there were a lot of earthquakes. However none of the quest givers really ever said
WTF is this? The world is ending! Quick hide in the cellar!
Which, I think, would be my reaction – even though I’d just escaped a Gilnean vs Worgen war zone. To this day I still feel a little ambivalent about my experience of The Shattering. Most of my characters just went to sleep one night and woke up a day later in a thoroughly different world. How do you sleep through half your home city getting burned down and entire sections of the coast breaking off into the sea? I’m pretty sure I couldn’t sleep through that.
Fortunately, for maximum level characters they’re at least somewhat prepared for something big. The elemental invasion and The World Is Ending propaganda quest chains were a nice lead up to a major change.
Zivanci, however, lived through The Shattering. I was online, playing her, when the The Shattering occurred (at approximately level 5 in the Worgen starting zone). And nobody really panicked. It was a huge let down. A missed opportunity.
I think this sums up my feelings about the Worgen starting zone the most. The biggest, most life altering – personal – moments in my young characters life: being attacked, infected and presumably sure that you’re going to die soon or turn into a monster, changing into a Worgen, experiencing The Shattering of the world first hand… they’re all there but not treated and timed well to let you as a player really come to grips with them.
Why is there no quest or even a chat option when I can ask one of my quest givers in Gilneas City about my you’re-running-out-of-time bitten debuff? Surely there was a moment when I could have said
I know you want me to report in with the Greymanes but that last guy you asked me to kill bit me or something. I think I might be dying. Is there a medic on the way to the Greymanes? I think you should send me to a medic?
These things are all kind of mentioned in quests, I think there is one or two quests that mention the devastation of The Shattering but it’s passed over so quickly.
When the Brisbane River flooded last year everyone in the city stopped work and holed up with friends for a week. And I know people who took the day off work to hear which country would be hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Life changing, world altering stuff makes you think about how things were and how things will be different forever after. Zivanci seemed strangely passive throughout the whole experience.
If World of Warcraft had been movie, a telling of Zivanci’s life, the opening act might have started with a war on the city but you can bet they would show you the moment when she gets bitten by a werewolf in full graphic horror. And then there would be quiet, pensive scene when Zivanci would be patched up and reflect on if she was dying, what that meant, or if she was turning into a Worgen, and what that meant.
Maybe she’d get all heroic (I was going to say “manly” there because I cannot conceive of any character except the most close-mouthed Rambo type saying this) and proclaim that it doesn’t matter if she dies, all that matters is saving the city from invasion.
And then, yes, in the thick of the war she might black out and wake up in an unfamiliar place. But the cut scene in the game that handles this moment seams to be more designed to make you hate Lord Godfrey with his reflective glasses and top hat more than anything else. I spent most of the cut scene grabbing for my headphones and trying to figure out why I wasn’t in the Cathedral anymore.
This should have been the most important cut scene in the entire starting zone. And I think it’s wasted.
And when The Shattering occurs? Why don’t we get a cinematic of the waves rising up and swallowing the land? There should be mass panic in the streets. And then people would curl up in front of a fire and talk about what it meant and how everything was going to be different in the future.
Interaction and Quiet Moments
I guess that’s the fundamental problem with the game play in World of Warcraft. You only interact with other NPCs when they’re telling you to do something. There’s never real conversation, and if there were, a lot of players would hate it if it was compulsory and skip it if it were optional.
The format of one paragraph of quest text from an NPC telling me to do something isn’t a very good way to talk about how you feel. It isn’t a good way to debate the meaning of life or anything more important than who, what, where and how.
We can interact only on a very superficial level with the story and big names in Azeroth, yet we can interact on a very real level with other players. There’s nothing in between.
Retaking the City
While you’re regrouping just south of the city you make peace with your Worgen side (we were in conflict?) with the help of the Night Elves, some wells of tranquility, and meet a whole group of thinking, fighting Worgen led by the now, also turned Worgen, Lord Darius Crowley.
Eventually you come around to retake the city with a horde of NPC militia under the command of Lord Greymane Senior. The quest is delivered in the style of Battle for the Undercity but, unfortunately isn’t quite as fun without AOE.
The whole experience made me want to go and watch disaster movies to see it done right. Have you started a Worgen? What did you think? Am I getting too philsophical? Is doing the quests more important than anything else? Am I the only one who felt the lack of conversations and moments of reflection?
* It appeared magically around level 8 and then a few levels later I gained the ability Control Pet. I’m still confused. But I think anything that makes Warlocking easier to manage, and by “easier” I mean “less overwhelming” should be encouraged and applauded