The World of Warcraft is an expansive universe. You're playing the game, you're fighting the bosses, you know the how, but do you know the why? Each week, Matthew Rossi and Anne Stickney make sure you Know Your Lore by covering the history of the story behind World of Warcraft.
Hi, guys! Last week, we talked about big lore reveals in Wrath of the Lich King, and I listed two of my favorite "lore chains" (for lack of a better phrase) in the expansion. This week, we'll be talking about more of the same. As was the case last week, these are fairly subjective. I'm listing lore moments that grabbed my attention and interest, not just compiling a list of all the lore that we were hit with over the course of the expansion. This of course leaves you all free to throw around those moments I didn't get to or list yours in the comments, which is, in my opinion, win/win for us all.
I'm going to open with a fairly Horde-specific bit of lore that was entirely self contained within Wrath: the Conquest Hold situation in the Grizzly Hills. For me, this series of quests does more to explore and explain the typical Horde power structure and chain of command than all the big moments with figures like Saurfang, Garrosh and Thrall possibly could. I'll start detailing it behind the jump, so be warned: If you haven't done these quests yet, there will be spoilers.
You get to see a commander in the Horde military and how she turns her assignment into a private fiefdom, and as you progress through the zone and its quests, you eventually end up in full-fledged combat with the aforementioned Commander Krenna in a pit fight. (The fact that Krenna actually sanctions pit fights to entertain and settle disputes is inherently interesting as well.)
What you discover through all this about Horde power structures, the inherent self-corrective nature of power abuse in their ranks (Krenna ultimately dies by her own sister's hands, with a good deal of help from Horde players -- like possibly you), and how Garrosh has changed the face of the Horde in Northrend is really a well done bit of lore, all told. It's all fairly new and unique to Wrath. No Titans, no Old Gods, no big figures from previous iterations of the world, just some orcs being orcs in the Grizzly Hills.
Meanwhile, if you're looking for a big chunk of lore involving a named figure, how about the Lich King himself? The Matthias Lehner quests are some of my favorite Lich King quests in this expansion. A lot of criticism (and some of it pretty accurate) has been leveled towards Arthas/The Lich King's exposure to players in this expansion. At times, it almost seemed like you were leveling up with Arthas, as he makes appearances in Howling Fjord (for Alliance, anyway), Borean Tundra (as an image), Dragonblight (as part of the redemption of stranded ghosts from Arthas' first trip to Northrend and again in Frostmourne Cavern), Drak'Tharon Keep (again, as an image), and even in Zul'Drak (you actually run into him in the flesh here). This particular series of quests involving a creepy little ghost kid who turns out to be a lot more than he seems is simply very elegant and well done, in my opinion.
It starts with a fall down a giant pit underneath ICC itself and involves the very place where Arthas and Anub'arak escaped from Azjol'Nerub on their way to the Frozen Throne in Warcraft III. It ends up taking you on a series of visions that show you exactly what Arthas became after the runeblade Frostmourne claimed his soul, what he did to his own men, why a frontal attack on the Lich King with massed soldiers would only end with the Scourge ranks growing, and gives you a ringside seat for the battle between Arthas and Illidan at the foot of the spire leading to the Frozen Throne itself. I'll admit that I was also geeking out quite a bit to get to see Illidan again. Of all the "dead" bosses we've left in our wake, he's probably the one I felt the worst about killing. Well, okay, him and Vael.
The reason I love these quests isn't just the bird's-eye view of Arthas' going from bad to worse, though. It's also in getting to walk side by side with Tirion into the Cathedral of Darkness and see Arthas and Tirion square off, followed by a daring rescue by the Order of the Ebon Blade (frankly, this scene is what got me to finally roll a DK, as Darion Mograine really shines here). That goes a long way towards setting the stage for both the Trial of the Crusader and Icecrown raids. I admit having felt like Arthas made a few too many appearances in Wrath (I think we could have done without him actually showing up in Zul'Drak, for instance), but I think these quests do a great job of showing you the monster Arthas has become and how he got there.
Another Icecrown Glacier lore moment of note is Crusader Bridenbrad. I'm not going to go into too much detail, but this quest line does a really good job of showing not only how big a deal the Scourge really is (you get to see some serious heavy hitters try and fail to cure it) but also that the Light isn't idle in the face of so terrible an evil. Plus, as a squidhead, it made me happy to see the Naaru do something in Northrend.
The Quel'Delar questline is another Icecrown-specific moment that I really enjoyed when I finally got to do it on my tauren. (Note, tauren above unfortunately deformed by time-traveling gnome dragon.) It ranged from hobnobbing with major lore figures (Alexstrasza, Kalecgos) to doing a gnome's laundry, from stealing saronite ore and battling the reforged sword itself to actually visiting the current Sunwell now that Kil'jaeden's been punted out of it and it doesn't think it's a human anymore. (I have no idea if the Sunwell is still dating Kalecgos or not.) Seriously, all told, it was a lot of fun, a lot of lore bombs (getting to see Thalorien Dawnseeker in action actually made me want to roll a blood elf warrior; I didn't even think that was possible) and a very nice example of expanding on established lore. I'm even more impressed that the quest actually knows if you're a blood elf or not and plays out accordingly.
No list of such lore moments can ignore the Wrathgate, of course, or the actual Fall of the Lich King, but for some reason these moments feel too omnipresent to really highlight. I mean, it's like saying you like chocolate, really. It's more notable when someone doesn't like it. So too for these moments. Huge, sweeping, with great personal touches (Varian's shock, horror and disgust at seeing the cages of human victims in Undercity, Thrall's resignation and near defeat and Saurfang's effort to reassure him after their confrontation, marching into Undercity with major Horde or Alliance leaders as an equal) -- but in the end, giving them too much detail is like gilding a gold brick.
I'm going to close out this column with a bullet list of several other quest chains and events that had a lot of lore goodness to them.
- The Brothers Bronzebeard Alliance only, but it's still pretty awesome to get to see all three of the Bronzebeards together again.
- The Valhalas Vrykul There's a lot going on with the vrykul who worship the Lich King in Icecrown, several group quests and a lot of answered questions that just raise further questions.
- Leviroth/The Kvaldir Speaking of raising further questions ... I still have no idea what's going on with the various sea vrykul/Kvaldir. Some seem to work for/worship krakens and other elemental forces like Leviroth. I am dying with curiosity to see the hostility between the Kvaldir and naga play out in Cataclysm. I'm curious to find out if the quest to return stolen Kvaldir artifacts had any real consequences. "Look to the seas, as your doom comes with the swell of tides."
- The Wolfcult I'm pretty much a complete mark for worgen lore, and this thread with Argual's resurrection (of sorts) and the infiltration of the men and women of the Grizzly Hills with the worgen curse just hit all my buttons. It even managed to tease about the Scythe of Elune! With Cataclysm on the horizon (albeit pretty far off on said horizon) I'm pretty sure this story line will be getting picked up again.