WotLK Beta Review: The Death Knight Tutorial
Before you read this entry, you should know it contains spoilers regarding the death knight starting area. The storyline here is so rich with lore I don’t want to ruin it for those who wish to avoid advanced information. However, as a commentator, I feel compelled to write and relate my experiences. Also, if you do not mind being spoiled, the videos and my account of the experience might be of interest to you. If they are, please continue reading after the cut. If not, stop reading now.
Also, it should be noted that Vimeo no longer supports gaming videos, so these will be deleted by September 1st. I expect this entry will be outdated by then, so I am going to go ahead and use Vimeo anyway for the streaming videos. Enjoy, until then!
There are several concepts I feel Blizzard has not explored enough in WoW. I believe Blizzard should create progressing stories that shape the world itself to better highlight the consequences of events as they unfold. I believe Blizzard should highlight people’s characters as major protagonists, instead of mere instruments vaguely associated with major drama. I believe Blizzard should introduce high profile characters earlier in the questlines that present major narratives and unfolding events. And I believe Blizzard should heighten their focus on creating plotlets with each a clear introduction, climax and conclusion.
Blizzard has struggled in these areas. Until now.
Several important figures appear during the course of the tutorial, including Darion Mograine: son of Alexsandros Mograine and the new wielder of the corrupted Ashbringer, Baron Rivendare: that ever present figure from Stratholme, and Arthas: the Lich King himself. Of all people, Arthas is the first recognizable figure you encounter.
The presentation of the questlines is nothing short of exhilirating. You are the Lich King’s vassal, the bringer of the apocalypse. You are the primary bringer of death and destruction to the Scarlet Crusade. You work to gather information and destroy their very hearts, minds and bodies. And with each phase, the landscape and figures change to reflect the strides you’ve made. And all of this is presented in a story that has a clear beginning, middle and end.
L2DK, or: Learning How to Play a Death Knight
This is perhaps the only portion of the tutorial Blizzard could improve. While the story and mechanics used to present the tutorial are extremely compelling, there are not very many quests that actually teach you how to use your abilities.
While hunters have quests that introduce them to the concept of taming pets, druids have a quest that highlights the utility of aquatic form, and priests have a quest that tells them to go out and heal someone, new death knights are thrown head first into many of the abilities and concepts supporting the class.
Of interesting note, you start without any talent points and earn them as you complete quests. This is, perhaps, a good way to slowly introduce people to death knight talents. However, there is no guidance provided for choosing the one that best suits a person’s playstyle. Perhaps this is because it’s not very clear as to what each tree is for. Where every other class has distinctive trees for different roles, the death knight class seems to be mostly a DPS class with tanking talents scarcely scattered between each tree in disproportionate fashion. So it’s likely that people will end up respeccing multiple times before they’re content.
Before the Major Phases
Before the major phases in the storyline, you are introduced to the situation. Ebon Hold has been constructed under Arthas’ orders to bring unholy retribution to those who fought against the Scourge during Naxxramas’ original incursion over the Eastern Plaguelands. It is his death knights who will primarily reside here and launch devastating attacks on his enemies.
As a former hero, you are already acquainted with the ways of war and combat. All you need to do is forge your runeblade and embrace your powers. But first the Lich King orders you to gather information on one of the Scarlet Crusade’s primary settlements: Havenshire. This information will set the stage for Ebon Hold to declare war against the Scarlet Crusade.
Phase 1: The Declaration of War Against the Scarlet Crusade
Ebon Hold does not hesitate in launching its attack against the Scarlet Crusade. With information already gathered, you move to slaughter Havenshire’s soldiers and citizens, turn the workers of its mine into ghouls, and commandeer the very weapons they covet to destroy swaths of the Crusade’s army.
This phase is pretty straightforward and basically a refined version of TBC-style questing. The final step, however, raises the bar. In this step, you use the cannons of the Scarlet Crusade’s own ships to destroy their reinforcements. And instead of simply clicking the cannons when the gear turns yellow, as you would in many pre-WotLK quests, you actually aim the cannon and fire it using abilities distinct to the cannon itself. It’s a great introduction to what the new “vehicle” system can truly bring to the game.
Phase 2: An Incursion into New Avalon
New Avalon is the next Scarlet Crusade settlement to be the target of your ire. You slaughter more innocents and gather more information. This time the information is about the Scarlet Crusade’s planned departure to Northrend and the coming of Crusader armies from Hearthglen and Tirisfal. You also get a glimpse of what might possibly help you break free from the Lich King’s grasp.
The presentation of this part of the story is enough to keep this phase interesting, regardless of the absence of new game mechanics.
Because Vimeo’s quality is lower than I expected, and because some of you might not be able to view a video in WMV format, here’s the excerpt of the interrogation:
Erech: I can keep this up for a very long time, Scarlet dog! Tell me about the *Crimson Dawn!*
Crusader: I’ll tell you everything! STOP! PLEASE!
We have only been told that the *Crimson Dawn* is an awakening. You… You see, the Light speaks to the High General. It is the Light… The Light that guides us. This movement was set in motion before you came… We… We do as we are told. It is what must be done.
I know very little else… The High General chooses who may go and who must stay behind. There’s nothing else… You must believe me!
Erech: LIES! The pain you are about to endure will be talked about for years to come!
Crusader: NO! PLEASE! There is one more thing that I forgot to mention… A courier comes soon… from Hearthglen. It…
The Crusader dies.
When she talks about who may go and who must stay behind, she is referring to who may and may not go to Northrend with the High General. This is implied knowledge later referenced by I believe Arthas when he says the Scarlet Crusade will only meet their demise in Northrend.
Other dialog of importance comes when you are commanded to execute Ellen Stanbridge, a human member of the Argent Dawn captured by the Scourge. When you approach to kill her, she confronts you.
Ellen: Come to finish the job, have you? I’d like to stand for…
Erech? Erech. I’d recognize that face anywhere… What… What have they done to you, Erech?
You don’t remember me, do you? Blasted Scourge… They’ve tried to drain you of everything that made you a righteous force of reckoning. Every last ounce of good… Everything that made you a human! Think, Erech. Think back. Try and remember the hills and valleys of Elwynn, where you were born. Remember the splendor of life, brother. You were a champion of the Alliance, once! This isn’t you.
Listen to me, Erech. You must fight against the Lich King’s control. He is a monster that wants to see this world – our world – in ruin. Don’t let him use you to accomplish his goals. You were once a hero and you can be again. Fight, damn you! Fight his control!
Scourge Commander (yelling from afar): What’s going on in there? What’s taking so long, Erech?
Ellen: There’s… There’s no more time for me. I’m done for. Finish me off, Erech. Do it or they’ll kill us both. Erech… Remember Elwynn. This world is worth saving.
Ellen: Do it, Erech! Put me out of my misery!
Erech kills Ellen.
Phase 3: The Scarlet Apocalypse
Having deceived the High General by playing yourself off as a courier of the Scarlet Crusade, the armies marching from Hearthglen and Tirisfal are unaware of the trap they’re approaching. When they arrive, you are the harbinger of their death, riding a giant frost wyrm.
This phase requires you to do nothing but ride the back of a frost wyrm and destroy the Scarlet Crusade’s armies. While the task is simple, performing it was immensely enjoyable.
The Final Phase: The Battle Against Light’s Hope Chapel
With the Scarlet Crusade easily brushed aside, Arthas wills the Knights of the Ebon Blade to attack the Argent Dawn at Light’s Hope.
For the first time in my WoW career, I felt as though I had participated in an actual battle. This is no mere skirmish. I picked my targets with no discrimination, because it was nearly impossible to find anyone of note amongst the chaos. And I delighted in chancing upon recognizable opponents, even though they were impossible to kill.
Only the video can really do this phase’s plot twist justice. And, unfortunately, you can’t really read it unless you download it. So I advise using the torrent of the movie I posted at WCM.
If you don’t feel like downloading the video, here is the dialog:
Tirion (yelling): Bring them before the chapel!
Highlord Darion Mograin kneels in defeat before Tirion Fording.
Darion: Stand down, death knights. We have lost… The Light… This place… No hope…
Tirion: Have you learned nothing, boy? You have become all that your father fought against! Like that coward, Arthas, you allowed yourself to be consumed by the darkness… the hate… Feeding upon the misery of those you tortured and killed!
Your master knows what lies beneath the chapel. It is why he dares not show his face! He’s sent you and your death knights to meet their doom, Darion.
What you are feeling now is the anguish of a thousand lost souls! Souls that you and your master brought here! The Light will tear you apart, Darion!
Darion: Save your breath, old man. It might be the last you ever draw.
A portal of light appear behind Darion. Through it appears the spirit of Highlord Alexandros Mograine.
Alexandros: My son! My dear, beautiful boy!
Darion: Father! Argh… what… is…
Darion’s younger spirit seems to separate from his body.
Darion’s spirit: Father, you have returned!
Darion’s spirit hugs his Alexandros.
Darion’s spirit: You have been gone a long time, father. I thought…
Alexandros: Nothing could have kept me away from here, Darion. Not from my home and family.
Darion’s spirit: Father, I wish to join you in the war against the undead. I want to fight! I can sit idle no longer!
Alexandros: Darion Mograine, you are barely of age to hold a sword, let alone battle the undead hordes of Lordaeron! I couldn’t bear losing you. Even the thought…
Darion’s spirit: If I die, father, I would rather it be on my feet, standing in defiance against the undead legions! If I die, father, I die with you!
Alexandros: My son, there will come a day when you will command the Ashbringer and, with it, mete justice across this land. I have no doubt that when that day finally comes, you will bring pride to our people and that Lordaeron will be a better place because of you. But, my son, that day is not today.
Darion’s spirit disappears.
Alexandros: Do not forget…
Arthas, The Lich King, appears behind the portal.
Arthas casts a spell that destroys the portal of light and the spirit of Alexandros.
Darion: You have forsaken me, bastard! Face the might of Mograine!
Darion attacks Arthas, but is easily repelled.
Arthas: Pathetic… He’s mine now…
Tirion: You’re a damned monster, Arthas!
Arthas: You were right, Fordring. I did send them to die. Their lives are meaningless, but yours… How simply it was to draw the great Tirion Fordring out of hiding. You’ve left yourself exposed, paladin. Nothing will save you…
Arthas casts a spell beginning to drain the life from Tirion. Lord Maxwell Tyrosus of the Argent Dawns yells for his soldiers to attack Arthas, but he easily repels the entire army with a few spells while maintaining his focus on Tirion.
Arthas (yelling): APOCALYPSE!
Darion: That day is not today… Tirion!
Darion throws Tirion the Ashbringer and breaks Arthas’ spell.
Arthas: What is this?
Tirion: Your end.
Tirion charges and attacks Arthas. But Arthas is only minorly phased.
This… isn’t… over…
When next we meet, it won’t be on holy ground, paladin.
Tirion: We have all been witness to a terrible tragedy. The blood of good men have been shed upon this soil! Honorable knights, slain defending their lives – our lives! And while such things can never be forgotten, we must remain vigilant in our cause! The Lich King must answer for what he has done and must not be allowed to cause further destruction to our world.
I make a promise to you now, brothers and sisters: The Lich King will be defeated! On this day, I call for a union. The Argent Dawn and the Order of the Silver Hand will come together as one! We will succeed where so many before us have failed! We will take the fight to Arthas and we will tear down the walls of Icecrown! The Argent Crusade comes for you, Arthas!
Darion: So too do the Knights of the Ebon Blade… While our kind has no place in your world, we will fight to bring an end to the Lich King. This I vow!
It only took me about four or five hours to complete the tutorial, making the entire experience more than worthwhile. With new concepts encompassing the presentation of the starting area and an exciting plot arc to support it, it is one of the best four of five hours I have ever spent in WoW. And witnessing Tirion battle Arthas at Light’s Hope brought me a thrill only matched by my first kill of M’uru.
Regardless of whether or not you plan to make a death knight your main or alt, I believe it is worth every second of your time to play through the tutorial once.
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