So I imagine this is the post many of you have been waiting for.
I’ve been playingCataclysm for awhile now and I definitely have something to say.
I also have a confession to make.
There’s a reason why I haven’t been posting much recently, and the answer is ashamedly that I’ve been a bit of a wuss.
I’ll just cut to it: I did not like Hyjal.
I don’t know what it was. I don’t if it’s because I didn’t know how those of you would react to me talking down about WoW, or if it’s more just me not looking forward to sitting down and criticizing something I’m such a big fan of.
But enough… that’s hardly how I do things, and I’m sorry it took me so long to buck up and just spit it out.
Now I know it sounds completely idiotic for me to be so… upset, but the fact of the matter is “Hyjal” is supposed to be the big huge loregasm zone. I’m a lore guy. I’m supposed to like Hyjal.
So why didn’t I? WTF is wrong with Hyjal?
SImple. It plays like fan-fiction.
To explain this I need to jump into movie making/screenwriter land.
Let’s take a movie I hope most of you have seen: “Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers”. I’ll make this spoiler free as far as I won’t reveal anything you don’t see in the trailer.
We start off at the beginning of “The Two Towers” thinking Gandalf is dead. A third of the way through the movie we have our big moment. The heros think they are being followed. They turn to attack. A blinding white light. Their eyes adjust. And there stands Gandalf, alive and more powerful than ever.
It’s a great moment, hell it’s an awesome moment. Hell, it’s worth sitting through the whole damn movie just to watch this moment.
Moments like this are what make stories great, and they’re to be treated like the rarest, most precious of treasures.
You write a story like a roller coaster, it has ups and downs, with the best moments set up as perfect crescendos.
Newbie fan fiction writers usually don’t get this. All they do is take a big heap of moments and just stack them up on top of each other. It’s as if they think the story will just keep building. But the opposite happens. Because the moments are just thrown around willy-nilly, they stop feeling special. It’s cool at first, and then it just becomes… dull.
Hyal does this.
It’s as if there were two separate groups of people who created that zone.
One group were the lore dorks.
The other were the programmers.
It’s as if the programmers were given a giant list of cool lore and decided to cram it all into one zone without any concept of which moments were major and which were minor.
It begs the question, “Has there been a change of the guard at Blizzard?” Has a new group taken over that lacks a firm grasp of “What happened before they got there”?
And that’s the problem.
Hyjal doesn’t play like it was written by the people who created the lore. It plays like it was written by fans of the lore who really just don’t get it.
Hyjal starts off as an awesome zone, but by the time you’re half way through it the moments just don’t feel special anymore… and it’s upsetting because these are the moments you’ve been waiting years for.
How about this:
The return of Malfurion Stormrage.
Remember him? Azeroth’s most wanted. The guy many of us went looking for in 2004 and were shocked *SHOCKED* to find he wasn’t in the game. Yeah so here he is… and what is he doing?
He’s standing there with an exclamation mark over his head.
Are. You. Kidding. Me?!?
Good god Blizzard… at least TRY.
This could have been a *huge* moment, one of those “this was one of my favorite moments in WoW” moments.
But nope. Blizzard squandered it, and that’s what Blizzard does throughout Hyjal. They squander the living hell out of all the cool lore we’ve been waiting for.
Malfurion Stormrage’s return could have had as great an effect on the Night Elves & Alliance as Garrosh has had on the Orcs & Horde.
But nope… he’s a simple quest giver.
So… is Jarod Shadowsong in Hyjal? Yep. Is it awesome? Nope. He’s an NPC you rescue, so he can lead all of the other NPC’s you’ve rescued. *Yawn*
So what would have been better?
For the Horde players out there… remember the quest at the beginning of WotLK in Borean Tundra where you get to fight with Saurfang? He pulls off his mask, the bad guys soil their pants, and pure awesomeness ensues. That is the type of thing I would have liked to have seen with Malfurion. Give the guy a damned entrance!
For Jarod? Hell, I think his return should have been saved and used as the catalyst that forces King Wynn’s war to end. Jarod’s return is worthy of an entire patch. Don’t believe me? Imagine this:
It’s the end of the Cataclysm expansion. We’ve killed Deathwing. But as always, there’s just *one more* boss we weren’t expecting. In this case it’s Azshara, and she’s heralding the return of Sargeras by attempting to open the Burning Legion portal from the first War of the Ancients (or as we know it, the heart of the Maelstrom).
Who was the leader of the forces that defeated Azshara and the Burning Legion? Jarod. So which character comes out of hiding to reunite the Horde and Alliance to defeat her again? Jarod. That works. That makes for good storytelling.
Note that I’m not saying Blizzard should have done exactly what I’m describing; I’m only giving these examples to show the *degree* of storytelling they should have aspired to for these characters instead of just treating them like generic NPC’s.
On a related note… I’ll just say it, I honestly don’t know what the hell is happening over at Blizzard these days, but whoever’s in charge of protecting the continuity is either failing or not being allowed to do their job.
<Spoilers from the novel “Stormrage” up ahead.>
Remember how Blizzard skipped the Emerald Dream expansion by making it into a novel?
Well… to add insult to injury, the frigging book doesn’t match up with the game. It’s as if the left hand over at Blizzard doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. In the novel, the Nightmare is defeated, its remnant is sequestered into the Rift of Aln that connects the Emerald Dream to the Twisting Nether.
In Cataclysm, the Nightmare is still going strong.
In the Novel, Malfurion cures the World Tree. The book even has a sentence or two describing how the tree is pretty much now how it would have been had Malfurion created it himself.
In Cataclysm, the tree is still corrupt; the brand new Night Elf opening dialogue even says so.
It’s lazy. It’s half-assed. And it’s just not Blizzard.
Or to put it more bluntly:
So… is that it?
Does Cataclysm suck?
No. Thank god. It’s awesome.
The new Level 1 through 60 experience is insane. If you have any friends who you have been desperate to get into WoW…. Cataclysm is going to break them. The 1 through 60 experience is filled with lore, and unlike Hyjal, it’s done well.
The brand new zones are fine, but one of the absolute best zones in Cataclysm is (and get ready for this) Stonetalon Mountains. That’s right. That’s how much classic Azeroth has changed.
Anyone rolling a Goblin or Worgen is going to have a blast leveling up.
Azeroth is FUN.
The quests flow.
The stories are interesting.
You’ll love it.
So what happened with Hyjal? Who knows. Maybe at some point we’ll find out.