Nostalgia

26 November 2009 § Leave a comment

As you probably noticed, WoW turned 5 last Sunday. We all got an Onyxian Whelpling (which is cute, but it’s kinda hard to use it given everyone has it), and a wave of nostalgic interviews and posts about the game that absorbs us all. Couple of themes seem prevalent, when people think back about the past 5 years. One is the amazement we all felt at the beginning of our journeys into Azeroth. From the introductory cinematic (which is pretty engaging), to the arrival to the majestic Gates of Ironforge or the entrance of Stormwind, I think we can all agree that “immersion” and “epic scale” are two things that Blizzard did right. (You will notice that I mentioned the Alliance capitals – I think the Horde original capitals are nice, but not epic at all, or not in the same scale).

The other is storytelling. Blizzard has been a master to actually use the game to tell stories, and to push forward the lore. In fact, I think one of the biggest changes – and one of the best, in my opinion – from vanilla to Wrath is the movement from simple quests (“kill x wolves”) to storyline quests, which somehow either fit the theme of the expansion, or develop a secondary plot. Vanilla didn’t really have a single, unifying story – while BC had the progress of the fight against Illidan (and then Kil’Jaeden, which was summoned in our world by a disgruntled Kael’Thas) and Wrath chronicles the fight against Arthas. In my view, this storytelling device increases the involvement of players into the world – thus building on the charms of the world.

From my part, I have some fantastic memories: first run of Scarlet Monastery (when I understood what it meant to be a healer for an instance), first run of Molten Core (the panic about keeping tabs on the health of 40 people), first kill of C’thun (with all the priests smiting because we were out of time), first kill of Kil’Jaeden (after a crazy, 2-month run of Sunwell to get it done before Wrath). The best memory I have, though, is the day I obtained my Benediction. This is probably something anyone who has not played a priest in vanilla cannot understand – but let me give you a quick rundown.

Creating Benediction required three elements: the Eye of Shadow, the Eye of Divinity, and the Splinter of Nordrassil. The Eye of Shadow dropped from Kazzak, a world boss spawning about twice a week in the Blasted Lands. Because he was in the world, there was some serious competition to get him while he was up, as well as some serious griefing between Alliance and Horde. The Eye of Divinity was a drop off Major Domo’s chest, in Molten Core. Once you had the Eye of Divinity, equipping it allowed you to see the ghost of Eris Havenfire, a Human Priestess, who had failed to save the city of Stratholme from the Scourge and from Arthas subsequent razing. Eris asked you to do what she couldn’t – to save the plagued citizens of Stratholme. The reward? Nothing less than a splinter of the World Tree (and it’s not clear how that’s got into Eris’ hands, but we’ll gloss over that). As soon as you accept a quest, a wave of Stratholme peasants spawns nearby. Some of them are diseased, and you need to cure them or they will die quite quickly. Skeletal archers will also shoot them, so it’s important that you keep the peasants’ health up. Finally, skeletal warriors will swarm you and prevent you from doing your job.

Now, to make things slightly more complicated, you cannot have any outside help – no buffs, no auras, no heals from party members. Also, this is when the 50g respeccing fee was a MAJOR deal – so much so that, for all the importance of this quest, I decided to do it as shadow, which was my current spec at the time. All the web walkthroughs were mentioning that Holy Nova was essential to do this – but Holy Nova, at that time, was the 31 pts talent in the Holy Tree (no comment about the talent trees of the release version). So, after getting both Eyes from my raid, I spent about a week collecting all possible consumables: Mana potions, of course, but also Flasks of Distilled Wisdom, Oils of Immolation, Whipper Root Tubers and the other Felwood herbs, Cerebral Cortex Compound and the other Blasted Lands buffs, all possible food (because all the different food stacked), the Dire Maul drinks… Then I got a mage, warlock, druid and shaman friends to come with me: they were supposed to give me their buffs, and then stand on the hill Eris was on, and not move at all – because if they did move, they would be counting as intruding, and this would spawn the demon who would insta-kill all of us. So after all this preparation, I got to the questgiver, started the event – and failed. Badly.

After you failed, Eris would despawn for 2 hours – so of course you would have to restart all your preparation and come back possibly another day. I tried three times: twice I failed because I just couldn’t triage the peasants, once because an overeager friend moved to “try to see what was happening” (which of course he couldn’t, because he would not see all the ghosts I was fighting) and spawned the demon. The fourth time, I decided to forego all the player buffs. I had all my potions and foods and juices, but I just couldn’t face asking my friends to travel to Eastern Plaguelands, just to watch me fail. So I just went, one morning before work, not feeling confident at all – and I got it. I don’t know how many peasants I lost, but I had found my rhythm, and was abolishing, renewing, shielding and shackling all I could, drinking all the potions on cooldown, killing the skeletons on cue. And Eris gave me the Shard of Nordrassil.

At that particular moment, I felt on top of the world. I had conquered the most difficult challenge for a priest – I was worthy of the most awesome weapon that was available. I had also saved a city – a city that was damned by the Kel’Thuzad’s plague, and that Arthas had to destroy in his attempt to save the whole Kingdom of Lordaeron. I may not have had the full Prophecy Eris was wearing (in fact, I think I was hardly in full Devout) – but I had done it. In other words, the challenge of the mechanics in-game (triaging waves of friendly units, which were actually hard to target, while enemy units beat on you) combined with a very powerful story to make me, Tsark, the Mediocre Priest, a true Hero.

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