I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Icecrown Citadel and how Dragon Soul compares.
It’s the end of the expansion, and my raid team has suffered accordingly. It’s hard to get together enough people to do a raid, and when we do enthusiasm ranges from “blegh, let’s just get through this” to “I would rather walk across the burning sands of Uldum barefoot than run this raid again.” In fact, the most fun raid night we’ve had recently was probably when we blew through Ulduar in search of transmog gear. Ulduar has long been my favorite raid, and I never liked ICC quite as much. Yet now I find myself wishing for the days of slugging through those frozen halls.
I’m trying to figure out if this is just a rose-colored glasses situation, or if there’s actually a good reason for me to be hating on Dragon Soul so much. I know some people like the raid, so I guess I’m missing something about it. Or maybe the raid is missing something for me, even beyond the obvious things like difficulty and lore. Why is it that I’ve been thinking of convincing my team to go back and run t11 for achievements (when I seem to remember loathing t11 too) rather than go and run the current stuff again? Maybe it’s just that whatever the current tier of raiding is, I hate it.
But that’s not it. I loved Ulduar, remember? Then again, I was only really a sub during Ulduar, so many I enjoyed it so much because I wasn’t often in there, and when I was it felt really special. However, I also enjoyed Naxx, a raid I ran many times, and didn’t feel as much frustration for it as I do DS. Naxx was my first raid though (I started playing shortly before Wrath launched) so perhaps that’s why I have fond memories for it.
That’s why I keep coming back to ICC. By the end of Wrath, I was sick to death of that raid and never wanted to see the inside of it again. But I was also raiding on two raid teams back then, and due to staffing issues, I very rarely was able to bring in an alt while others were. So I was a tad resentful. But still, we kept raiding up until Cata launched. I’m seriously questioning if that’s going to happen in the months waiting for Mists. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be breaking down the two raids to figure out what is about them that make them feel so different to me.
So what’s the difference, really?
The scale of epic
ICC felt epic right from the start. You walked into the creepy citadel…which had been there looming for the entire expansion…and it felt like you were about to do something epic. There was Tirion and Garosh waiting for you, and in the distance you could see undead prancing about, ready to chew your face off. Once everyone was ready to go, we started battling our way through trash mobs that actually provided a bit of a challenge and interest. And then you got to Marrowgar, a crazy looking monster pieced together from the bones of a thousand vanquished adventurers by the Lich King himself.
Dragon Soul started out well enough. Running up to break the siege at Wyrmrest Temple seemed like a pretty epic thing. But after battling through the relatively easy trash, you get to Morchok. After walking all over him, Wyrmrest Temple is apparently safe and you run in there and then ride on a series of drakes to different holes in the ground, then you just kind of get moved around to fight a few bosses and eventually Deathwing.
It’s a personal preference, I realize, but I like raids and dungeons that feel like I’m fighting through something to get to my goal. Being carted around by dragons and portals doesn’t feel epic to me. Trash that adds very little personality to the place doesn’t feel epic to me. And man, eight bosses for 7 months does not feel epic to me at all. I really do understand what they were trying to do with the raid. I understand that it’s supposed to be a siege and that we’re chasing down Deathwing. But for me, it just doesn’t work.
I would have much rather the temple already been partially lost so we had to fight through some sort of modified Wyrmrest temple to get to the top, dealing with trash and bosses along the way. And then once we got to the top, we could have fought Ultraxion then gone immediately to Deathwing. No need for a Lootship or random Tauren guy that has absolutely no previous lore. No need to go to nondescript holes in the ground. No need to go to the Eye of Eternity. Just a battle to get to the top, and the actual feeling of a siege. Sieges should be about attrition. Not by killing one elemental dude and then saying “Huzzah! We have secured the fortress! Now let’s go to some holes in the ground!”
One of the things that ICC did very well was wrap up some existing story lines from Wrath. Bringing down Saurfang nicely brought the Wrathgate story to a close. Playing through the Blood Wing gave us another chance to fight the Blood Princes, and if you did the Quel’Delar questline, gave you a shot at the Blood Queen and saw the end of the san’layn story. Bringing down Sindragosa was a huge moment in lore. And then there was the Lich King himself, a figure who presented himself to you over and over throughout the expansion and made you realize just how bad he was and have the urge to kill him. Even if you didn’t play Warcraft 3 (which I didn’t). Throughout ICC there was a good mix of villains we had seen before, and ones who were entirely new to us. It made ICC feel like a place where we were already invested in the story and given more along the way to remind how bad LK really was.
Then there’s DS. We have random elemental guy, random old god tentacle guy twins, random shaman, random dragon creation, random tauren, then Deathwing. Of these, it’s my opinion that Ultraxion is probably the most successful at telling a story. We know that Deathwing has been experimenting with new dragons, and so seeing him there actually does give you a sense of his “greatest creation.” Why his greatest creation is followed up by random tauren guy is beyond me…
But man, there are some wasted opportunities here. To me, Hagara is the biggest one. Why introduce an evil shaman that has little to no lore and therefore offers little satisfaction to kill, other than the chance at finally upgrading your damn shoulders from the freaking justice point ones that you’ve been using since Cata launched? The dungeon journal says this about her:
Hagara, one of the first students of arcane magic under the Forsaken, showed surprising potential for one who had started learning so late in life. But in her undisciplined attempts to bind elementals into servitude, she was ensnared and twisted by the Windlord, Al’Akir. Now fiercely loyal to the Twilight’s Hammer, Hagara binds others for her elemental masters to torment.
That’s great, and it sounds like an interesting story, but it’s not represented anywhere else in the game. I love the dungeon journal, and I think it’s a great addition to the game, but if Blizzard is going to just use it to shoehorn in bosses without giving them any depth in game, I just can’t get behind it.
I think the reason this kills me so much is because there’s already another female shaman in the game who is completely evil and had a HUGE impact on Cataclysm already. Not to mention the fact that she’s been around since Vanilla as well….
I’m talking about Magatha Grimtotem here. I will fully admit that Blizz could have plans for her that we don’t know about yet. But seriously, it has always felt like we should have been fighting her here instead of random orc lady. She killed a beloved faction leader. She has been obviously evil forever. She leads a group of tauren that enjoys fighting the Horde and had some dealings with the Alliance in Stonetalon. Yeah, she was captured by the Twilight Cult in Thousand Needles, but that just adds for more story. Was the capture a fake? Was she corrupted by them? Had she always been in league with them? Did she figure out that aligning with them was most beneficial to her? Fighting her would have been a chance to finally tie those story lines up.
It would have given a huge sense of accomplishment, something that DS just seems to be lacking in most ways. The final raid of the expansion should finish telling the story of the expansion. Dragon Soul feels so sloppy in that regard that it just makes me sad. They spent all this time redoing 1-60 to tell the story of Cata, and they did a great job with it. Even if the 80-85 questing didn’t feel as good to me, there should have been stories and lore in this raid other than Thrall the Supershaman. And honestly, if more time had been taken to make sure that was being accomplished, I probably would have cared more.
That’s it for this time. Next week I’ll talk about some of the other glaring differences I see between ICC and DS, including difficulty and art assets. I’m trying to keep from getting too ranty, but I might lose it there.