View From the Road

A View From the Road: Screw Warcraft IV

John Funk | 12 Oct 2009 21:00
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This is particularly relevant as WoW builds to Patch 3.3's Icecrown Citadel, where the central storyline in Warcraft III - the fall of Prince Arthas Menethil and the rise of the Lich King - will finally be concluded. Blizzard isn't using the backstory already present in WC3 or the novels to force the climactic encounter into the game - go get ten more levels, now suddenly fight the Lich King! - but has incorporated the villain into the quests and storylines since players first stepped off the boat in Northrend.

In the Dragonblight, we learned that the Lich King had his gauntleted fingers in the fanatic Scarlet Onslaught, and both factions prepared for open war against his undead forces, culminating in the battle at the Wrathgate. I pretended to be an agent of one of his lieutenants in Zul'Drak before betraying my false masters and foiling their schemes. All of that led up to Icecrown itself, where I relived the Lich King's memories as he attempted to rid himself of his past humanity once and for all, and fought alongside the paladins of the Argent Crusade as they established footholds in the treacherous landscape in order to wage war against the fortified Citadel in a final assault.

That sounds like a proper in-game story to me, don't you think?

If all the storylines in WoW had been told in a hypothetical WC4, the same folks who rag on the game for having no story would have probably been all over them - hell, if it makes them feel better, just think of the player characters in WoW marching on Icecrown accompanying the major lore heroes as the little grunts and footmen you'd produce in an RTS to fight alongside your hero units. Just because the lore won't ever name <Me So Hordey> as the specific champions of Azeroth that brought the Lich King to his knees doesn't mean it didn't happen.

WoW may be the most prominent game at the moment stuck in this particular position of continuing a popular series, but the sooner people get over their hangups and accept it as the next proper installment in the lore, the better for the industry. BioWare is going to face a similar outcry (if it hasn't already) over its choice to make The Old Republic instead of KotOR 3, and that isn't even a direct continuation of the storyline.

There is one argument that still manages to resonate with me, and that's because it's more a matter of personal preference than anything else: "What if I don't like MMOGs?" That's a perfectly valid point, and I can see how the change in genre might be a point of contention. If you love Real-Time Strategy games, but would rather not touch a Massively Multiplayer Online game with a twenty-foot pole, then some feelings of bitterness would be rather understandable.

But that does come down to a simple matter of opinion, and just because someone doesn't like MMOGs doesn't mean that they're not capable of continuing and finishing storyline threads from previous games, or even starting their own plotlines that might well be finished in another game down the road. You can tell a story in an FPS, in an RPG, in an RTS, in a fighting game - it's completely asinine to claim that you can't tell a story in a game like WoW, and Blizzard has chosen to do exactly that.

Of course, when the time comes to move back to the RTS genre for Warcraft IV, everybody who never played WoW might need some help catching up with the story thus far - a "Previously, on Warcraft" recap. Hell, they could make it its own DVD, because otherwise that'd be one hell of a game manual. Until then, though, there's always WoWWiki instead: If you're still not convinced, go read twenty lore articles, and get back to me in the morning. All right?

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