Two weeks until Mists of Pandaria goes live. Can you believe that shit? I think I am going to take a break from the useful information posts and get back to babbling a little bit.
I’m sitting here talking to Kia about it, and she made the comment that it seems like we’ve been waiting for it for 6 months. The more I think about it, the more I realize that she’s not too far off. See, as far as Stands In Bad is concerned, Cataclysm as an expansion has basically been over since February, when we first killed Deathwing. Or perhaps you could say it ended in April, when our lone rogue got her Fangs of the Father legendaries. I think what hit our guild the hardest was the May 15th release of Diablo III, and the vacancy (read: gaping vacuum) it left in our guild ranks for a while. Our guild-wide server move back in June did help bring some prodigal children back, and of course patch 5.0.4 definitely saw a lot of people crawling out of the woodwork, but I digress.
No doubt, the end-of-expansion burnout is a real thing. I felt it, my guildies have felt it, it’s nothing new. I do, however, want to take a minute to look at what was different this time around versus the last couple of go-rounds.
- Dragon Soul, the last raid of Cataclysm was patched into the game on November 29 of last year. Mists of Pandaria goes live September 25. That is a 10 month gap with absolutely no new content (save the pre-expansion patch).
- Ruby Sanctum, the last raid of Wrath of the Lich King was patched into the game on June 22, 2010. Cataclysm launched December 7, 2010. That is only a 5 1/2 month gap of no new content. Even if RS was/is considered a stop-gap, or a holdover raid, it was still new content before the expansion.
- Sunwell Plateau, the last raid of Burning Crusade was patched in, March 25, 2008. Wrath of the Lich King launched November 13, 2008. That leaves a (nearly) 8 month gap of no new content.
So, the first thing you notice is that Cataclysm will have gone the longest with absolutely no new content patched in. (Vanilla is a whole different, discombobulating story… and I didn’t play then anyway ;D) So it seems natural, of course, that this particular waiting game seems more miserable than those before it… right? Well… maybe. Let’s take a look at what ELSE came in with these patches.
- Dragon Soul’s patch brought with it 3 new instances (End Time, Hour of Twilight, Well of Eternity), the introduction of the controversial (yet undeniably popular) “Looking for Raid” tool, and the obscenely popular Transmogrification/Void Storage abilities.
- Ruby Sanctum’s patch the epically questionable Real ID feature to life. No other new content.
- SWP’s patch brought with it the Isle of Quel’Danas daily hub (which had to be “taken back” in stages… a very cool idea that Blizzard tried to revisit in the Molten Front, but didn’t seem to pull off quite as neatly), and Magister’s Terrace along with it.
So, I think Cataclysm’s “final” patch brought arguably the most content to the game. (I *still* love the Isle of Quel’Danas though… I don’t even care) Theoretically, this should make that 10 month black hole easier to cope with, shouldn’t it? So what is it that makes this time around feel so much worse than the previous ones?
I think the biggest part, for me, is that Dragon Soul told the ending of a story I wasn’t very engrossed in in the first place. I didn’t want Garrosh to take over the Horde. I didn’t want to see Thrall get all green-skinned freaky with Aggra. I didn’t want to see the Dragon aspects lose their power and say “Welp, its your show now squishies… have fun with it!” And most of all, I didn’t really care what the hell happened to Deathwing. Cataclysm’s biggest failing, to me, was Wrath’s biggest success… Tying the entire story together, and making the player *care* about wtf is going on. Y’know what Deathwing is to me? He’s a Godzilla. He’s an angry, flying lizard who flew around Azeroth for a year torching cities and giving people stupid achievements that they could get by rolling into LFR and dying on Spine or Madness anyway (which is an almost certainty with most pugs nowadays).
Putting together the actual dragon soul, and helping the aspects empower it to use against Deathwing inside the raid was kind of cool. The dialogue was well done (Blizz has never been at a shortage for top quality voice acting), and there seemed to be legitimate urgency with the task we were given, but y’know what? I honestly didn’t care much about Deathwing. He didn’t have any motivations other than to destroy the world. And yeah, I get it… A dead old god drove him insane by whispering in his brain for many years and blah blah blah… but does insanity mean a character has to be stripped of all his interesting qualities? Just look at Arthas. He had been driven mad by Frostmourne’s voice for all those years, sitting on the frozen throne, dwelling on what happened to his home, and everything he had become. There’s no question, in my mind, that Arthas was insane by the time you broke Frostmourne at the end of the Lich King encounter, but he was still an *amazing* character.
Recently, I went and finished up Loremaster on my druid. Northrend was my last continent to clear out as I went along the way, and I have to say that the storyline in each zone was magnificent… and yet each zone was tied in to the next (sometimes, with great subtlety, I admit), and all of them were overarching and pointing in one direction… Icecrown. From discovering the corruption of the Vrykul in Howling Fjord and helping Thassarian rescue his sister in Borean Tundra, to helping the Avatar of Freya combat the scourge coming down the mountains in Sholazar Basin and re-discovering Arthas’ long-lost (and presumed dead) friend Muradin in the Storm Peaks. Everything ties in together, and drives you forward to wanting to make that sonofabitch pay for what he’s done. And the Icecrown Citadel raid was the perfect cap to such a long journey.
Dragon Soul had none of that. None of the Cataclysm zones had the feel of pushing you towards your final confrontation with Deathwing. Hell, some of them i’m *still* not entirely sure what they had to do with the overarching story (Uldum had about 2 quests with some vague indication of “Here, there be dragons”, and that’s about it). There was just no compelling reason to kill Deathwing other than “Oh, he flew around and gave me an achievement for inconveniencing me for 5 minutes”. It was disjointed, disconnected, and dammit I just didn’t care enough. I seriously hope that the Blizzard storytelling team takes a look back at what worked in Wrath, and applies it forward into Mists of Pandaria, because honestly… I haven’t felt much compelled as a character to do anything since our guild cleared Bastion of Twilight.