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The Art of War(craft): Twin Peaks

Zach Yonzon

I was writing about something else completely, but now that the NDA has been lifted and closed beta has begun for Cataclysm, I think it's just proper that we turn our attention to the Twin Peaks, the new capture-the-flag type battleground debuting in the next expansion. The floodgates have been (officially) opened, so us battleground freaks can join in on the fun ... You can soak in all the screenshot goodness over at MMO Champion. The coolest thing about Twin Peaks is that it's a fresh take on a familiar concept. Any player who has ventured into battleground PvP understands Warsong Gulch, as it's the first and most basic battleground, virtually eliminating any learning curve of the game's mechanics. The new, asymmetrical map rejuvenates the CTF concept and necessitates a new approach to the game.

Because of the geographical asymmetry, the Horde will have different strategies from the Alliance. The deep river adds a new dimension to the map in a way that hasn't been fully utilized in any other battleground except for Arathi Basin -- and even then only to a minor degree. That the river essentially cuts the map in half makes it a critical element in gameplay. Because there's a sewage-pipe-style opening on the Western side of the Horde base leading into the water, it isn't merely decorative; it's strategic, too. On the Northern end of the map, the Alliance stronghold utilizes multiple levels, making abilities that minimize or eliminate falling damage a nice bonus. Three ways in and out for each of the nearly identically laid out bases, two graveyards per faction, and a bothersome intersecting river make for an exciting new twist on an old premise.

New friends, old enemies

The Wildhammer dwarves and the Dragonmaw orcs clash in Twin Peaks, located somewhere deep within the new Twilight Highlands. The feral and insular Wildhammer clan have long been allies of the Alliance and now make their stand from the Wildhammer Longhouse, situated North of the map. The Dragonmaw clan have also been steadfast allies of the Horde -- the old Horde, that is -- until their subjugation to Illidan in the Burning Crusade. The very orcs that tried to lop your head off in Shadowmoon Valley have rejoined the new Horde (or the new old Horde, depending on how you view new Warchief Garrosh's approach to things), their expertise in all manner of dragonslaying likely coming in handy in the fight against Deathwing and friends. They fight from the Dragonmaw Clan Compound, on the Southern end.

Why would these two factions fight? There's no logging here. No tree-huggers. No resources to mine or siphon off. There's no great Titan orb to capture or defend. For all intents and purposes, this plateau known as Twin Peaks situated above some mountainous terrain is just plain, old, uninteresting land. Maybe they're fighting for the view. That said, it shouldn't be a surprise that these two factions won't get along -- the nature-loving Wildhammer clan have a deep respect for most creatures, even forming a special bond with gryphons. On the flip side, the Dragonmaw orcs have been working to enslave or slay red dragons for most of their clan's existence (quite possibly instructed to focus on the black dragonflight this time around). Heck, their windmill is made from dragon wings! They're just a nasty bunch who probably prefer to chug demon blood instead of beer. You just know that's got to tick off the dwarves.

Killer terrain

Twin Peaks is huge. For a 10-man battleground, the map sprawls a significant area with enough space for large bases with three entrances, four smaller buildings and four graveyards. There are a lot of areas that look ripe for old-fashioned skirmishes, and a ton of artifacts and architectural features that can be used to abuse line of sight. The main ramps leading up to the bases, in particular the Dragonmaw base, are wonderful areas for players to use knockback effects such as Thunderstorm or Typhoon. Several points in the map have varying elevation, so knockback abilities as well as ranged attacks are excellent, and players getting on higher ground -- from ledges to bridges to balconies -- can get an advantage in combat.

The river that intersects the map is crossable but deep, slowing down movement. Classes that can quickly negate the effects of water on travel speed such as death knights or shaman have an edge in mobility, as do druids who can shift into Aquatic Form for an alternate route. As opposed to Warsong Gulch, where the flag carrier's route is often a straightforward run across the field with variations on entrance and exit, Twin Peaks is complicated by the river breaking up the map. The bridge looks guaranteed to be a hot spot for combat and the team that can dominate the bridge will have a significant advantage similar to controlling midfield in Warsong Gulch.

While the Dragonmaw Compound looks difficult to penetrate because of the water, it's equally difficult to defend and return to, as the terrain tends to make it challenging for teams to stick together. The river will force groups to break apart either when crossing the bridge or traversing the water. Falling damage from the high-perched Wildhammer Longhouse is a far better alternative to slowed movement from the water, so it's all about picking your poison. Rogues and druids, priests and mages can all exit the Alliance base quickly without damaging themselves. Quick thinking is key, and the map calls for the use of minor abilities often relegated to facilitate easier questing or some other mundane task.

This is part of what's so appealing about Twin Peaks. Blizzard seems to have paid careful attention to the various classes' mobility spells and baked in various geographical and architectural features to force their use. It deepens the complexity of combat somewhat and stretches the creativity of players in PvP to a degree that won't be evidenced in the more constrained environs of arenas. Despite the expanse of the map, skirmishes are guaranteed and it will be exciting to see what paths become popular among players as they gain experience in Twin Peaks.

A base with three entrances and exits will prove difficult to defend, and teams will have even more options. While Warsong Gulch bases technically have three points of entry, two of those are situated beside each other on the same level. On the other hand, the Dragonmaw and Wildhammer strongholds can be accessed through three distinct points on different levels, making chasing carriers a challenging task. It will be interesting to see where flag carriers hide while their teammates rush to retrieve their flag; there are favored spots in Warsong Gulch, and the first few days and weeks of Twin Peaks will reveal the best nooks and crannies for the carrier to jam themselves with their pocket healer before capturing the flag.

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