Video Games

What’s My Motivation? Part One

With another expansion for World of Warcraft around the corner, I got to thinking about expansions past. Not in a nostalgia way, but rather in a contemplative way. This expansion, aptly named Legion, is all about the return of the Burning Legion. Alternate Past Gul’dan has been thrown into the current timestream and has been directed to lead the Burning Legion back to Azeroth. In the process of attempting to push back against this onslaught, several important NPCs are killed, presumably to free up their dope-ass artifacts for us to pillage. The leaders of both factions are killed, paving the way for new leaders to take charge. This is more than a little disappointing on the Horde side, as you spent a lot of time investing in Vol’jin just one expansion ago, and he’s already killed off to make room for Sylvanas to take over. Why Sylvanas, the most blatantly evil one? Uh, because voodoo spirits said so? I have nothing against Sylvanas, but the story team and devs have always been super in love with her. I think the hope is to capitalize on the success of the female characters in Overwatch. Anyway, I got to thinking about the stories of expansions past, and jokingly started discussing the motives of the individual raid villains. Some have pretty good plans, and some have laughably bad plans. Today I’ll cover the core game and The Burning Crusade. Here are the motivations of the previous raid villains, dating back to the base game.

Original Game

The original game had four major raid tiers, two smaller raids, and a handful of world bosses.  Here are their major motivations:

  • Ragnaros: I sorta feel bad for the big guy. He was summoned here by some asshole dwarves, and then got stuck. So, he was amassing power to eventually take over the world and return home to slap around the people attempting to steal his throne. Would it have worked? Well, “too soon, Executus” says it all. His plan is a simple one, but historically speaking, it worked out before. Overall, B-.
  • Onyxia: She had a few goals – take over Stormwind, support Nefarian, and raise the Black Dragonflight. All things considered, she has actually completed most of her goals when the game begins. She kidnapped the king of Stormwind, got placed as an adviser to the young king to prevent aid from going to where it should, the Blackrock orcs were suborned, and the Wyrmbog is full of black dragonlings. Eventually things go south, Varian gets free – though his soul is split in two and two are walking around because uh reasons, she is outed as Onyxia and loses her position of influence, but still manages to kidnap Anduin, the king’s son. Turns out Varian is just too cool to be beaten, and he has a magic elven sword now, so he kills Onyxia. Nevermind you actually, you know, do the raid and kill her, but whatever. Anyway, the plan was enacted and strong until writers wanted to show off a favorite NPC. Overall, A.
  • Hakkar the Souflayer: He’s the Blood God of the Gurubashi trolls. The high priests of the Gurubashi are there to resurrect him in the ancient city of Zul’Gurub, which is the only place he can return. His goal is to build the Gurubashi empire back up, and conquer the world, and presumably flay souls and drink blood. Again, simplistic, but straight forward. He wants to rule through fear, oppression, and violence. We’ll see this motivation a lot. It’s not the worst motivation, but it’s hardly identifiable. Overall, C.
  • Nefarian: On the directive of Deathwing, he’s ordered to secure Blackrock Mountain and the orcs therein. He’s something of a mad scientist, so his goal is to try and create a chromatic dragonflight. With the powers of all the flights, they will be super soldiers and whatnot. He spends some energy waging a war against Ragnaros, who rules the bottom of the mountain, but mostly he wants to kill the other dragonflights. He’s not really super invested in interacting with the outside world, or the players. When the players interrupt, he’s captured a member of the red flight, managed to create a bunch of experiments, and has done quite a bit with raising undead. All things considered, he’s not actually a huge threat. I mean, he’s a dick, sure, and should be dealt with eventually, but he’s just doing his thing. Overall, A.
  • Ossirian the Unscarred: He’s an anubisath, which means construct. He’s probably a titan construct, but that hasn’t been fully retconned yet. It will probably happen. After all, the obsidian guardians became Tol’Vir. Anyway, he’s kind of a hero to the other constructs, because he’s responsible for the death of the bronze dragon Grakkarond. He was given more power by Emperor Vek’nilash when he reconstructed Ossirian, tying his power to weird crystals. His goal is to serve the emperors and guide General Rajaxx. He does this pretty well, all things considered. His goal isn’t conquering the world, just serving the emperors. This is a totally manageable, and understandable goal. He’s limited by those crystals, though. He can’t move far, so it’s oversight, at best. Still, he does what he can. Overall, B.
  • C’Thun: He’s an old god that wants to enslave and rule the world. A long time ago the dragons put up a magic wall, and he went to sleep. However, the kingdom began to reawaken, thanks nightmare dragons, and C’thun prepares protections to enslave the dragons. So, they have to send in mortal stooges. His only plan is “wake up, and then I guess enslave the world.” This is dangerous enough to involve the entire world in fighting against him. It’s not really much of a plan, but it’s not the worst we’ll discuss. Overall, C.
  • Kel’Thuzad: Evil necromancer turned lich, his main goal is to enact the will of the Lich King and spread the Scourge. He entices the Barov family to turn Scholomance into a death cult, the Plaguelands are nasty, and he manages to get Renault Mograine to corrupt Ashbringer. It eventually gets purified as part of the DK storyline, but not too bad, all things considered. Kel’Thuzad is defeated in the Eastern Plaguelands, but has minions within the Argent Dawn that squirrel away his phylactery, so he doesn’t permanently die. Anyway, his plan is ultimately “spread the shit out of the scourge, and trust the Lich King.” He manages to this pretty effectively. He does get defeated, but until then, it’s going ok. Overall, B.
  • Azuregos: Not actually a bad guy. He’s just guarding magical artifacts at the command of Malygos, leader of the Blue Flight. He doesn’t really have a plan beyond that. Players kill him solely to take his treasures, like a bunch of assholes.
  • Lord Kazzak: He just hangs out in Blasted Lands. His only goal was to re-open the Dark Portal and go back to Outlands. He accomplishes this. Overall, A+.

Summary: It’s no surprise the original motivations are pretty strong. The most time was spent on this body of work, so there was plenty of time to work out who was doing what, and why. This is communicated pretty well in available content, though there is a big disconnect with the AQ quest opening line, as that content discusses the Old Gods in the Emerald Dream, and talks about the upcoming Burning Crusade expansion. If you didn’t do it, you have no idea what’s going on.

The Burning Crusade

The first expansion sees four tiers of raiding, though they are all split tiers, and a handful of world bosses. We also see the start of mucking about in time, which is not ever really handled well.

  • Magtheridon: Magtheridon is being held prisoner by minions of Illidan beneath the shattered remains of Hellfire Citadel so that the orcs can drink his blood. You roll in and kill his captors, and then kill him so the orcs can’t do that any more. It’s pretty much a dick move, but I guess it’s the only option because he probably won’t leave willingly? It’s not discussed. Anyway, this dude has 0 plan, because he’s already imprisoned, and you just kill him. Overall, F.
  • Gruul the Dragonkiller: He’s the gronn overlord, and ruler of the ogres. He hates the black dragonflight, and murders the shit out of them. His plan prior to the game is kill the black dragonflight, and rule the gronn and ogres. It’s never clear what his plan is, or what he’s doing to assist Illidan. The old Serpentshrine Cavern attunement quest has him dropping the Earthen Signet, so maybe his deal is he was hired on in a guardian capacity? It’s really not ever clear why you go to kill him, and he has no stated motives, other than to keep ruling. His prior game goals being achieved ups his overall score, but not by much. Overall, D.
  • Prince Malchezaar/Nightbane: These guys share duty as the bosses of Karazhan. Malchezaar is the ruler, but Nightbane was the summonable quest boss that was harder to defeat (without a bunch of dwarf priests). Nightbane was the blue dragon Arcanagos, but Medivh turned him into an undead demon dragon. Sure. Good ol’ Medivh. He has no motivations or goals. He has one of the Serpentshrine Cavern attunement items, so maybe he was given the item by Malchezaar? Never discussed. Speaking of Malchezaar, what’s his plan? He rules Karazhan, but it’s never discussed why. He has no stated plan. Probably to rule the library and artifacts left behind, and keep them from the Violet Eye? Uh, maybe? Seriously, there is no motivation or goals here at all in Karazahan. It’s a pile of shit. Overall, F.
  • Lady Vashj: One of the cursed highborne, Lady Vashj originally aligned with Sargeras and was invested in demon summoning. She is loyal to Illidan, and is friends with Kael’thas Sunstrider. The three of them overthrow Magtheridon, claim the Black Temple, but ultimately fail at betraying Kil’jaeden. They fail to defeat Arthas, and hoof it back to Outland. Her plan there is to control all the water in Outland. She wants to drain the swamp, and make people dependent on her. This is a miserable plan. There are literally sky waterfalls over in Nagrand. In a place where giant torrents of water come from space or whatever, controlling the water seems a bit unfeasible. She would control a LOT of the water, though. I mean, it’s a stupid plan, but compared to the rest of this expansion, at least it is a plan. Overall, D+.
  • Kael’thas Sunstrider: His people were part of the Alliance for a while, until he struck up a deal with Illidan, in order to feed his people’s addiction. He conquered Netherstorm, sent M’uru to Silvermoon for his people to drain for their addiction, and took over Tempest Keep. However, he went too far and murdered a bunch of Kirin Tor. This tipped his hand, and people realized he made a deal with Illidan. Depriving Kael’thas of the Cipher of Damnation, a spell to sever all spirits from the land, was how you keyed for Tempest Keep, long ago. Kael’thas realized Illidan was now crazy, and pledged himself to Kil’jaeden, thinking he was saving the Blood Elf people en masse. This, shockingly, was a trick. His original plan was use the Sunwell to fix his people, but it got twisted to using it to summon Kil’jaeden. However, this did eventually result in saving his people, as the Sunwell did get purified and became a source of Arcane and Holy energy. Kil’jaeden did also manage to get partially summoned. So, you know, pretty successful. This is probably the most successful plan in the expansion. He did die, get resurrected as an insane servant, and betray his people and ideals. I’m not going to call it a great plan, or anything. Overall, B-.
  • Illidan Stormrage: This guy can never win. He’s always on the short end of things. He’s super emo, doesn’t understand why someone he is obsessed with doesn’t like him, and lost to Arthas once already. As villains go, it’s hard to actually consider him a threat. He’s like Loki from the MCU, and shares many of the same issues I have with him. His plan is really just gather strength in the Black Temple, and then go kill the Burning Legion and the demon world of Argus. This is something of a good guy plan, actually. However, we side with a sad squid-face and defeat him, instead. All things considered, his plan is crazy, but sorta makes sense. He blames Kil’jaeden and the Burning Legion for leading him astray, and ruining his life. He’s not wrong. So, he wants to go get revenge. However, everyone is worried about his increased power and his insanity, and Maiev just wants to re-arrest him, so we go fight him. Sure, he’s still sorta evil, but letting him go fight the Burning Legion might have been alright. His plan never gets off the ground, but it’s not all that bad. Overall, C.
  • Archimonde the Defiler: Time shenanigans! You play through the same content that you already played through in Warcraft 3. Only this time, unless you make the outcome exactly the same, it could be changed through time hijinks. There is no plan here beyond that of Warcraft 3. This all eventually ties into the awful time plot resolved in Cataclysm, but that doesn’t help matters. This doesn’t get a plan grade.
  • Doomwalker: A strong fel reaver sent by Kil’jaeden to assault the Black Temple upon Illidan’s betrayal. Well, he’s doing it when you come across him. There’s also a crack in the wall, so, I guess that’s not too bad. Simple plan, but he’s executing the shit out of it. Overall, B.
  • Doom Lord Kazzak: He’s back, this time as the commander of the Burning Legion forces. However, all he does is sit in the Throne of Kil’jaeden and wait to be killed. His plan is to go kill Illidan once he has amassed enough strength, and Black Temple has been breached. This is a fine plan, but the execution is just so piss poor. He never does anything, and there isn’t really any plan to speak of besides this basic outline. Overall, D-.

Summary: This expansion is a clusterfuck of bad writing and poor execution. It’s also just a bad expansion. The design is largely bad, but there is a spark of good design and ingenuity. The difficult was a false difficulty hidden behind gating and group comp. People tend to remember this expansion fondly, because that’s when people mostly started. However, as someone who raided at a high level, this expansion is damn close to being the overall worst expansion, in my opinion. As you can hopefully see from the work above, it just doesn’t make any sense. I am glad it got people into the game, but this isn’t an expansion to idolize. I have no problem if this is your favorite. If it is, awesome. I’m glad you love it. I do not.



  1. Hoo boy. You just lit a fuse under the most belligerent powderkeg of MMOdom by criticizing beloved Burning Crusade. 😀

    (For what it’s worth, I agree. Way too much nostalgia-tripping. I also have Things To Say once you get to Cataclysm/Pandaria.)

  2. It has some great individual moments and fights. Lady Vashj was amazing at-level, and I loved Gorefiend. I will never miss resist gear and mass consumable farming. Attunements are also awful, on a guild level. Always have been. EQ at least had partial grandfathering.

  3. Yeah, our raid team lost a lot of steam by the resistance gear farming for Hydross, mashing our faces against Black Temple forever and a day, and then trying to gear up and attune a consistent weekly team as attrition took its toll. I have fond memories of that expac, but it had nothing to do with the content — rather, the people I played with at the time.

  4. My main nostalgia for Burning Crusade had more to do with actual hybridization (i.e., that expansion was the last–arguably only for druids–time it was possible) than the raid content. The raid content wasn’t that great, especially from the perspective of “do these people have actual motivations?”

    1. You had non-capstone specs into WotLK. I actually like the niche carving they have done. The talent system did allow for some edge cases, but it was 99% cookie cutter. Now, you have less choice, but you will actually make different choices quite a bit, over the course of the content.

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