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.
So, Act I of our Cataclysm for Dummies guide went over the basics of Cataclysm -- how it came to be, just who that Deathwing guy is, anyway, and why he's so annoyed with the world in general. We also found out why we're going to all those new level 80 to 85 zones and, more importantly, why we're wandering around in three different raids in three completely different locations around the world. If you made it through the basics, congratulations! You're caught up through patch 4.0.
But we're in patch 4.3, aren't we? And you've probably still got questions. Questions like: What's up with the troll dungeons -- didn't we kill those guys already? And why did we have to go fight Ragnaros again? Why is Thrall friendly as all get-out with the Dragon Aspects? Why do we have to do all this silly time travel? The good news is, by the time you're done reading this guide, you'll totally understand what Cataclysm is all about.
Please note: There are spoilers here for the novel Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects. If you're still planning on reading it, you may want to do so before you hit this recap.
Thrall and his amazing dragon friends
The Dragon Aspects needed to unite to defeat Deathwing, but there was a small problem -- Malygos, leader of the Blue Dragonflight, was dead. We killed him back in Wrath because he'd gone crazy, and the blue flight still didn't have a leader. On top of that, Nozdormu, Aspect of the Bronze Dragonflight, was still missing somewhere in time. In order to address these problems one at a time, Ysera and Alexstraza met up with the members of the Blue Dragonflight to try and pick a new leader. But the blues weren't happy about this, seeing as how it was Alexstrasza who had ordered Malygos' death in the first place.
They met at Wyrmrest Temple, but the meeting was interrupted by an attack from the Twilight Dragonflight, and the Temple was nearly destroyed as a result. Not only that, but all of the eggs from the Red Dragonflight that were kept under the Temple were destroyed, too -- and Alexstraza's consort, Korialstrasz. Alexstrasza was so grief-stricken that she took off on her own, and Ysera was left to figure out how to handle this matter of the Hour of Twilight she'd seen in a vision. In order to move on, she needed the Aspects, and in order to do that, she needed to find Nozdormu -- and in order to do that, her visions told her to go find Thrall.
Meanwhile, Thrall was doing an amazing job of being terrible at being a shaman, much to the dismay of the Earthen Ring. When Ysera showed up and asked him for his help, he was almost unwilling to help her, but a few harsh words from Aggra, who he had been happily falling in love with, sent him on his way. After a complicated bout of time traveling, Thrall found Nozdormu and brought him back to the present, helped the Blue Dragonflight pick a new leader, and helped Alexstrasza come to terms with her overwhelming grief.
But he helped in another way, too -- one the Aspects hadn't expected. Thrall was a powerful shaman; he just didn't quite have a handle on things yet. And when he finally did get a handle on them, he united with the Aspects to fight off a horrific Twilight creation made by a mysterious man known as the Twilight Father. Thrall took the place of Deathwing as the warder of the earth, briefly. After that was finished, Nozdormu 'fessed up to where he had been -- when he was given power over time, he was shown the moment of his death. One timeway had him rise as the leader of the Infinite Dragonflight, and he wanted to find out why.
In finding this out, he discovered that the issues plaguing the various dragonflights were all part of a conspiracy by the Old Gods. But at that point, there was little to be done, and Thrall returned to the Maelstrom, a better shaman for his journeys.
The trolls be trolling
Meanwhile, in other parts of Azeroth, Vol'jin was summoned to a meeting by the leaders of the Zandalar tribe. The Zandalar were slightly upset about something. See, the troll race used to be the most powerful, dominant race on Azeroth, but over the course of time and millions of traveling adventurers looking for Troll Sweat, the tribes had dwindled down to nothing. The Zandalar had a plan that was delivered by the mysterious prophet only known as Zul -- to unite the remaining troll tribes into one mighty troll empire and retake their position as best species in the whole wide world. As for the other races of the world ... well, they weren't really worthy of sticking around.
Vol'jin, friend to Thrall and a whole host of other species and leader of the Darkspear, a tribe that had been summarily booted out of Stranglethorn Vale by the other troll tribes of the area, wasn't really keen on this whole tribal unification thing. Nor was he particularly happy about the idea of murdering his former allies, nor did he really want to suddenly be friends with all those trolls who had kicked his tribe to the curb way back when. So Vol'jin did the best thing he could think of to do -- he told the leader of the Zandalar where he could shove it, and then he quietly sent out ambassadors to recruit adventurers from both Horde and Alliance to help him tell the Zandalar where they could go.
He did this quietly, because he still wasn't on awesome terms with Garrosh Hellscream, and the Alliance weren't on awesome terms with any of the Horde. Whether or not Garrosh found out about Vol'jin's asking the Alliance for assistance is currently unknown ... but you can bet if Garrosh found out, there would be hell to pay.
Back at the Maelstrom, Thrall was doing his best to try and soothe the ravaged elements of the world, when he had a wonderful vision from a fiery overlord in response to his pleas. Raganaros was more than happy to show Thrall exactly what the world would look like when he got done with it -- a flame-filled world, of course. See, while we were messing around with cleaning up the Bastion of Twilight, Blackwing Descent, and the Throne of the Four Winds, Ragnaros was equally busy charging his lasers and getting ready to burn the world, starting with Hyjal and those pesky druids.
Speaking of pesky druids, Ragnaros managed to get the allegiance of Fandral Staghelm, former Arch Druid. Fandral pretty much went completely nuts back when his son died during the War of the Shifting Sands, and this escalated to the point that he deliberately tried to kill Malfurion Stormrage in his sleep. Malfurion got better, Fandral got locked away, and he was freed by random heroes in Hyjal, given over to a green dragon, and then promptly taken to Ragnaros by the green dragon, who wasn't terribly nice.
Ragnaros promoted Staghelm to his Majordomo and gave him the powers of flame -- and Staghelm immediately began recruiting druids to his cause, creating the Druids of the Flame. As for that not-very-nice green dragon, she got a fiery upgrade, too, along with a name change from Alysra to Alysrazor. In order to defeat the Majordomo, Alysrazor, Ragnaros and all of his minons, players have to travel to the domain of Ragnaros -- the elemental plane of fire, otherwise known as the Firelands.
In the threads of time itself
But the problem of Deathwing and his plan to bring about the Hour of Twilight still needed to be addressed. The Aspects and their flights would not be enough to stop Deathwing. And Ysera had another thought, this one a little more far-fetched -- in order to defeat Deathwing, they needed an object of immense power. And the most powerful object out there was the Dragon Soul. Unfortunately, the Dragon Soul had already been destroyed ... but Nozdormu could certainly send players back to retrieve it.
There was one problem with that, however, and it was called the Infinite Dragonflight. The infinites have been working on wrecking the paths of time ever since The Burning Crusade, and by this point in time, it was impossible for the bronze flight to travel anywhere but the end of time, where the Infinite Dragonflight began. It was also the home of Murozond, the twisted version of Nozdormu from the one timeway that spawned the Infinite Dragonflight. In order to send anyone to the past for the Dragon Soul, the Infinite Dragonflight had to be taken care of first ... by traveling the timeway to Murozond's home, a dark place where the Hour of Twilight had taken place, and putting an end to Murozond.
Once this was completed, it was possible to travel back in time, to the time when the Dragon Soul was first created and the War of the Ancients swept over night elf civilization. And once the Dragon Soul was retrieved from back in time, it had to be taken to a place of power and the place where Deathwing had been working on bringing the Hour of Twilight to pass -- Wyrmrest Temple, or what remained of it.
There was one more little problem about using the Dragon Soul against Deathwing. Because the Dragon Soul had been given part of the powers from each dragonflight, none of the dragons could actually wield the thing. So they turned to the person who had helped them not too long ago, Thrall. As a shaman of the Earthen Ring, his powers weren't anywhere near the scale of an Aspect of Earth. But as an orc, he could use the Dragon Soul and its powers without worry of harm.
And that brings us to the Dragon Soul raid, in which we fight the various lieutenants and creatures that serve Deathwing and the Old Gods, put an end to Deathwing's greatest creation, Ultraxion, bringer of the Hour of Twilight, and then hop an airship to put an end to Deathwing so that he didn't have a chance to bring about the end of the world again. Deathwing is completely insane, and he is utterly a servant of the Old Gods by now. There is no redeeming him or bringing back his sanity -- his mind belongs to the Old Gods. The only choice we have in the matter is killing him for good.
Why you've been doing what you're doing
And that wraps up Cataclysm. But just in case you need a little more clarification, here's why we're going through the various instances and raids in later patches.
4.1 The trolls of the Zandalar tribe are starting an uprising, and Vol'jin thinks this is a terrible idea. As heroes of Azeroth, it's your job to travel to Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub to stop the new leaders of the Amani and Gurubashi tribes from completing their nefarious schemes.
4.2 It looks like all that work in Hyjal at level 80 wasn't quite enough to stop Ragnaros and his minions. The end of the main Hyjal quest line has players kill Ragnaros -- except you aren't really killing him, you're just banishing him back to the elemental plane of fire. In order to really kill Ragnaros, the heroes of Azeroth have to travel into the Firelands itself, facing each of Ragnaros' minions in turn, before putting an end to the Firelord once and for all.
4.3: End Time Once Ragnaros is toast, it's time to stop the Hour of Twilight from coming to pass. The Aspects think that the Dragon Soul, combined with their powers, will be able to stop Deathwing in his tracks -- but they're going to have to send heroes back in time to get it. Before anyone can do any time travel, they need to put an end to Murozond and thus the Infinite Dragonflight, which will open up the timeways to travel back in time.
4.3: War of the Ancients Once Murozond is defeated, the heroes of Azeroth can head back to the days of the War of the Ancients and grab the Dragon Soul, bringing it to the future so it can be used against Deathwing.
4.3: Hour of Twilight The Dragon Soul must be taken to Wyrmrest Temple to be charged and used against Deathwing and his forces. But Thrall has to arrive safely, too -- because he's the only one that can wield the thing.
4.3: Dragon Soul Part 1 Once Thrall has arrived, the fight against the forces of the Twilight Cult, the Old Gods, and Deathwing begins in earnest. First the lieutenants at the base of the Temple have to be neutralized. Then Thrall realizes the full power of the Dragon Soul is too unstable for him to handle -- however, Kalecgos can stabilize it with the Focusing Iris in the Eye of Eternity -- a place that is being guarded by Hagara the Stormbinder and other members of the Twilight's Hammer.
4.3: Dragon Soul part 2 Once Hagara is defeated, the Aspects begin to charge the Dragon Soul, but they are confronted by Ultraxion, Deathwing's ultimate creation and the bringer of the Hour of Twilight. The Aspects and Thrall finish charging the Dragon Soul just as Ultraxion dies, and Thrall uses it to fire a shot at Deathwing -- one that doesn't manage to kill him. However, Deathwing isn't the most stable of creatures. He's literally molten lava on the inside, and only his elementium plates are holding his body together at this point. So the heroes of Azeroth are sent via airship to intercept Deathwing and tear enough plates from his scaly hide to offer Thrall a clear shot at Deathwing with the Dragon Soul. And it's a shot that sends Deathwing spiraling into the Maelstrom, supposedly dead for good ... except that the Old Gods are not about to let their prize minion perish that easily. They imbue Deathwing with a full shot of their power, turning him into a hideous mockery of the dragon he once was so long ago -- and the Aspects, Thrall, and the heroes of Azeroth must use all of their power and resources to destroy Deathwing once and for all.
Cataclysm was a pretty complicated expansion from a story standpoint -- far more complicated than any other before it. This was partially because the storyline was a little convoluted and largely because there were so many other elements of storyline being introduced all over the place. These storylines, which you can view if you play through the level 1 through 60 zones, don't directly tie into the main storyline of Cataclysm. But what they do is set up characters, stories and scenarios that will be expanded upon in future content, something that WoW really needed in order to keep moving forward.
Hopefully, this quick and dirty guide helps those of you who don't have a huge grasp of the lore understand what exactly is going on with Cataclysm. But if you've still got a few burning questions you're dying to have answered, sit tight. Next week, we'll be turning an eye to Cataclysm's epilogue, its effect on the world, and what we've got to look forward to in the future.
While you don't need to have played the previous Warcraft games to enjoy World of Warcraft, a little history goes a long way toward making the game a lot more fun. Dig into even more of the lore and history behind the World of Warcraft in WoW Insider's Guide to Warcraft Lore.