Gallery of Bads
Between Grimm in DS and my own undergeared butt in Heroics, we’ve finally – as of last night – gotten to see all the threads in the endgame story for this expansion ((Minus Deathwing, which Grimm is working diligently on.)). It’s gratifying to see that the endgame has a more solid narrative than ever before. Only twice does it succumb to what I call the "Gallery of bads" syndrome.
If you remember the pilot movie for Babylon 5, you no doubt remember the Gratuitous Alien Gallery, a venue that Sinclair and Alexander cut through on the way to somewhere more useful. The Alien District, as it was called, resembled more of a toxic petting zoo than a place where aliens lived and carried out business – glass booths with aliens standing in them, cubicles with aliens standing them, empty spaces with aliens standing in them – you get the picture.
A lot, it might be noted, like Icecrown Citadel, and many other raids. Just dudes. Standing around. Doing standing around dude things.
- Karazhan – you have to beat up the stable boy, the castellan, and a travelling group of troubadours to even get close to the guy that’s making the place go bad ((Oh, and before a "fix" in 3.0.2, you didn’t even have to do any of the lower castle stuff – you could go straight to Curator if you didn’t want loot.)). And even then, there are rooms off to the side with a couple of dragons, a bereaved father, and a studious demon that you can go beat up just for funsies.
- Icecrown Citadel – With an airship at your disposal, you can just fly to the spire and take care of business. But instead we go the long hard way through a gallery of bads, none which even matter, and some which were plain made up – had no previous connection to lore – for this instance.
- Naxx – For this gallery of bads to even make SENSE, they had to force you to clear each wing as part of unlocking a portal to the one guard dragon that stands between you and the big bad.
- The Eye – Aside from Alar (and who doesn’t want a shot at a flaming mount?), you can walk right in to Kael’s throne room and start beating on him. And speaking of dudes just standing around. Don’t belfs own chairs?
- Ulduar – After taking down XT and Kologarn, not much stopping you from just jumping down into the pit and getting jiggy with Yogg. Well, aside from the invisible barrier that forces you to go the long way, but it is not mentioned as part of the lore.
The common thread here is that you have a bunch people standing around scratching their butts, doing nothing but looking decorative until a bunch of mercenaries comes along to rob them. You don’t have to kill off Moroes ((Within the story line – I’m not counting locked doors suddenly popping open, which isn’t the case here anyway.)) – he doesn’t drop a key. You don’t have to kill off Putricide ((Ditto.)) to get to the Lich King. Notwithstanding game mechanics, why exactly is Ignis standing around? What is the purpose of Aran, other than fleshing out some lore that didn’t, really, exist?
While this is coming off as a rant against how artificial and contrived the circumstances of most raid bosses are constructed, it is intended as praise for Dragon Soul.
The five-mans leading up to it, while somewhat contrived and confusing at times, do actually link up to the raid elegantly. The escort quest at the end exists for a reason (as any raider knows, the front door is blocked). And, granted, the "echoes" do fall into the "contrived bad dude just standing around thinking bad dude thoughts" trope, but the next instance in the chain more than makes up for it in integrating the bosses into the story. ((Plus, bare-chested Nelf Illidan has to count for something in somebody’s scorebook. Flora like.))
The only raid-related boss issue in this case are Zonza and Ballchucker. They exist only to be beaten and looted. They serve no part of the story other than to stand around and look lootish. Had they been integrated better (("To get to the temple, you must take this tunnel, heroes! And beware the Faceless Ones!" I dunno, that was too easy. Should Fargo send me a check?)) I’d have no complaint, but they weren’t. They block nothing, unlock nothing, drop nothing related to the story ((While I love it so, loot doesn’t count for this discussion.)). They are Miscellaneous Bad Dudes. In holes.
But, overall, the endgame for this expansion has proven to be far superior to what we’ve seen before. I don’t know how much of an actual story that MoP will have. If it does, I hope they improve on the linear story-based raid instance over the collection-of-loot-piñatas rogues gallery approach. It was a lot more fun and a lot more interesting.