Blackwing Descent and The Worgen – What’s the Story?

If you wanted to name two of the biggest successes of WoW: Cataclysm, the Worgen starting zones and the Blackwing Descent raid would be well and truly on the list. Both of them succeeded on many levels – the Worgen zone contains one of the best pieces of WoW Machinima I’ve ever seen, as well as a genuinely compelling story, whilst BWD ranks as one of the best raids from WoW, and certainly the best of this expansion.

But that doesn’t mean they’re flawless. And in two interesting posts from the weekend, two seperate bloggers independently explored what could have made them even better.

First up, The Renaissance Man is unabashed in his love of BWD – in all aspects but story. And so, he delves into the story of the instance – what could Blizzard have made clearer, and just why the hell was Nefarian back, anyway ?

“How are Nefarian and Onyxia back? This is really the crux of the issue. If you establish that Nefarian is back, then there’s pretty much a de facto reason to go kill him again. After all, not very many good guys are named Nefarian, or Nefarius, or whatever play on nefarious the favored son of Deathwing decides to go with this time. Kael’thas’ return was justified by the fact that you didn’t actually make sure he was dead in Tempest Keep, a fact that you rectify when you meet him in Magister’s Terrace by decapitating him. But you definitely took the heads of both Onyxia and Nefarian. You hung them from the gates of Stormwind for all to see. So how’d they get them back?

One of the key focal points of the expansion was Deathwing’s visit to Stormwind. People see it every time they log in, and it was the climax of the introductory cinematic. The towers are still molten, and the stature of poor Danath Trollbane is still being hauled back up from the lake. Those same towers that we hung the heads of Deathwing’s favorite children from, and soon thereafter, said children return to prominence, if a little worse for wear. That explains the how they came back. “

Not only had I not really thought of the lack of external story – which became obvious as soon as TRM started talking about it – but I also had no idea what it was. This post’s fascinating both as an analysis of story in game design, and just to find out exactly why Nefarian had his “only a setback” moment.

Meanwhile, Cassandri of Hots and Dots has been playing through the Worgen questline. It has a reputation for strong story, and that’s justified – but in a few areas it falls down. Cassandri explores what could have been if only the story had paid more attention to how momentous its events actually were

“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?”

As I said above, I’m extremely impressed with some aspects of Gilneas – and I’d say the cinematics in the questline are some of Blizzard’s Machinima team’s finest. But Cassandri does have a strong point – the events of the storyline are earthshattering for your character, and it would have turned a very good storyline into an amazing one to focus on them a little more.

I’d say that’s particularly the case with the Shattering, actually. The Worgen questline is the only place in WoW, to my knowledge, that you get to live through the Shattering, and whilst that’s praise-worthy on its own, with a bit more focus on the human side of that event it could have been truly amazing. The fodder’s there to make your character intro rise above normal gaming and into actual, affecting story.

What do you think? Could BWD or the Worgen have benefitted from Moar Story?