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WoW Archivist: Memories of Dire Maul, part 2

Alex Ziebart


There was another book amongst those class books that stood out: Foror's Compendium of Dragon Slaying. Foror's Compendium of Dragon Slaying was an epic quality book restricted to two classes: warrior and paladin. It was something that nearly every warrior and paladin in the game wanted. It was a status symbol on the level of a legendary. In fact, it stands above many of them. Quel'Serrar is (was?) certainly more recognizable than Val'Anyr or Thori'dal and carries more mystique than Shadowmourne. It was the iconic tank weapon, second only to Thunderfury. To acquire the blade:
  • Step One: Get your hands on Foror's Compendium of Dragon Slaying. The drop chance for it was absolutely tiny, so you needed tremendous luck to get it that way. More likely you would get it off of the auction house at ludicrously inflated prices (for the time). Getting the book would drive you bankrupt.
  • Step Two: Take the book to the Dire Maul library and turn it in to the librarian. You'll be told the story of blades tempered with dragon blood, and be given an Unfired Ancient Blade.
  • Step Three: Go fight Onyxia. Place the blade in the ground beside your main tank, so that Onyxia will breathe fire on it. Loot the blade again. It is now a Heated Ancient Blade.
  • Step Four: Kill Onyxia. Stab her with the heated blade, coating and tempering it with her blood and turning it into a Treated Ancient Blade.
  • Step Five: Return to the library, turn in the treated blade. Congraulations, you are the proud owner of Quel'Serrar.

In an age where epics drop from the sky like raindrops this may sound a little silly, but the day my paladin (who tanked in vanilla WoW, I'm proud to say) received her Quel'Serrar, it was one of the happiest days of gaming I've ever had. It is absolutely my fondest memory. I've earned legendaries since, and while those were still cool days, none of them compare to the day I finished Quel. It is the best weapon I've had and ever will have in the World of Warcraft. No amount of content rereleases can lessen that feeling.

Oh -- Foror's Compendium has been removed from the game, too.

Ponies of darkness and light

Dire Maul was also home to stages in the quests for the paladin and warlock unique class mounts, the Charger and the Dreadsteed. Paladins had to swing by and simply kill a tree to release the spirit of a pony, then it was off to Scholomance with them. The warlock class quest came to its conclusion in Dire Maul: East.

After killing the demon dog Immol'Thar, you use his demon circle for a ritual. You place three (very expensive) reagents in the circle to form a triangle, and demons begin to flood in. The three reagents float in the air providing a buff for you and your group. The items would semi-randomly lose power and fall out of place, and you had to re-click it to keep the ritual going at full strength. The fight was completely tailored to warlock class abilities, and a good warlock that knew how to enslave demons properly did a lot to make the fight easier. If my description isn't useful to you, here's a video from 2007:

As of Wrath of the Lich King, you no longer need to do this quest. I suspect most warlocks playing the game nowadays have never done it.

The Ashbringer...

I won't spend much time on this one, because the Ashbringer gets its own Archivist one of these days. Back in early World of Warcraft, Ashbringer was only a rumor. Players knew it had a model in the game files and that it was supposed to be one of the most powerful weapons on Azeroth. The game world was littered with rumors as to its origin and current location. Many players believed that it was in the game right from the start and we just had to figure out how to find it. Dire Maul was the source of one of those rumors.

In the Dire Maul library, the Shen'dralar Zealot NPCs were a chatty bunch. They implied that their leader, Prince Tortheldrin, knew of the location of the Ashbringer with this line of dialogue:

"Has the Prince recanted the tale of the Ashbringer? It is our most favorite of his stories. His favorite is the follow up to the Ashbringer. Of course, nobody has ever been able to get that story out of him."

Curious! This guy locked away in the ruins of an ancient elven city knows about the Ashbringer? It must be a really big deal! Oh ho, what's that? You have more to say, Ms. Zealot?

"The Master holds great interest in the Lair of Nefarian. If only someone would defeat the dragon and his minions and retell the tale to the Prince. I bet that would loosen the Prince's lips. The Ashbringer could be found!"

Blackwing Lair had not yet been implemented in the game when Dire Maul was. Blackwing Lair was implemented in patch 1.6, three content patches and four months later. When the raid zone was finally added to the game, players were absolutely thrilled that they might receive a new hint as to where to find the Ashbringer. If you include the final phases of the beta when the rumors began, they had been tearing apart the game for nearly a year when Blackwing Lair rolled around. As soon as players started to kill Nefarian, they ran straight to Prince Tortheldrin to tell him about Nefarian, Blackwing Lair, and what they had accomplished.

Prince Tortheldrin had nothing to say. It would be the first major disappointment in the story of the Ashbringer.

In conclusion

Blackrock Depths soured players to the idea of entire cities as dungeons with its labyrinthine halls and confusing layout, so Blizzard stopped producing that sort of content. Players didn't want large, living places like that. They wanted simple, easy to understand floorplans of instances. They wanted to get from point A to point B without it being a multi-hour slog wherein you got lost every other trash pull -- not an unreasonable request. Dire Maul solved that problem. It was a seamless city broken up logically into three distinct sections. It was large and rich and full of things to discover and explore.

Dire Maul showed us that largescale cities that acted as dungeons had a place in the game, but it never happened again. It was a triumph completely overshadowed by the failures of Blackrock Depths -- and even amidst the failures of Blackrock Depths were many brilliant ideas and beautiful victories in MMO design that were never attempted again. Dire Maul also achieved what most instances nowadays do not: longevity. The things you could discover in Dire Maul, the class quests, crafting materials, the hints of Ashbringer and the pursuit of Quel'Serrar kept players coming back to this instance throughout vanilla WoW. It achieved what no amount of currency grinding ever will.

The dungeon finder and the current environment of World of Warcraft makes it incredibly difficult for Blizzard to revisit nonlinear dungeons and dungeons that encourage exploration and discovery, but I would love for them to look back on vanilla WoW and look at what worked. The vast majority of vanilla WoW has been cast aside, and in most cases that is perfectly acceptable. The MMO market (and the game market) of 2011 is not the same as the market of 2004. However, there were a lot of things they did wonderfully back then, and that's what pulled millions of players to this game to begin with.

Blizzard should look back at vanilla WoW and celebrate what they did right, not just lament what they did wrong. They've thrown out the baby with the bathwater, but it's not too late to bring her back home.
The WoW Archivist examines the WoW of old. Follow along while we discuss the lost legendary, the opening of Ahn'Qiraj, and hidden locations such as the crypts of Karazhan.

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