I had originally intended this to be a single post, but when I reached 2k words and hadn’t remotely finished, I knew it was time to break them up. As it turns out, having a lot of bosses means there is a lot to talk about. Who knew? Anyway, we soldier ever on, and move to look at Wrath of the Lich King (WotLK). Full disclosure, Wrath of the Lich King is by far my favorite expansion, but I will hopefully divorce that from the story points I will cover. If you missed the first post you can find it here. Remember, this series is not about the game play, but is instead about the plans of the villains, and whether or not they make any goddamn sense.
Wrath of the Lich King
Wrath of the Lich King had four major raid tiers, with an additional boss added each tier that was accessible only through controlling a world PvP objective that was able to change hands every four hours. The first and third raid tiers were split-tiers, while the second and fourth were single raid experiences. The expansion also ended with the introduction of a standalone boss that was roughly a half-tier above standard content, though not necessarily hardmodes. Speaking of, WotLK was the first expansion to introduce hardmodes: optional difficulties that resulted in better, or different, loot. This was experimented with in many ways over the course of the expansion, leading to a really interesting experience, and a great set of data points to shutdown people complaining in trade chat. Here are the motivations of the bosses:
- Kel’Thuzad: Following his defeat in Eastern Plaguelands, his phylactery goes missing when you are ordered to give it to Father Inigo Montoy, and thus the lich returns. You can’t keep a good lich down. The first raid of WotLK is the floating ziggurat of Naxxramas. Most people never saw Naxxramas when it was released in 1.11, and didn’t ever go back and do it. So, the WoW team decided to revamp the raid a bit, and re-release it as the first raid, complete with re-colors of the armors. WotLK finds him besieging Wintergarde Keep, and spreading the plague in the area now know as the Dragonblight. Much like in the base game, his plan is “scourge that shit up, and follow the Will of the Lich King.” Judging by the state of Dragonblight, and the ruins of Wintegarde, he does this fairly well. He hasn’t conquered the area entirely, because of pesky adventurers and dragons, but he’s doing a pretty good job. His grade slips here a little just because his scope has decreased and he’s repeating a scheme that has already failed. Overall, C+.
- Sartharion: The second segment of this first tier is Sartharion, the Onyx Guardian. Sartharion is a black dragon located in the Chamber of Aspects underneath Wyrmrest Temple. Here we see the beginning of the twilight dragonflight. Sartharion is guarding the eggs of the twilight dragonflight in the Obsidian Sanctum, the space beneath the temple dedicated to the black dragonflight. As we discussed previously, the twilight dragonflight is a scheme of Deathwing’s, and most of the black dragonflight is on board, following their broodleader. Sartharion is joined by three twilight drakes, and you get to kill all, some, or none of them, providing additional difficulty to the fight, and resulting in additional loot and achievements. His plan is really just watch over the eggs, and raise the twilight dragonflight at the orders of Deathwing and Sinestra. However, he chooses to do so in an area directly under the rest of the dragon aspects. Sure, nothing would appear wrong if he went and watched over black eggs, but everyone knows about Deathwing at this point, and understands he is evil. As such, it’s not a small leap to get to the aspects telling us to check it out. We do, and realize he’s a nogoodnik. It’s a straight forward plan, but it really needs an extra step to make it viable. You can argue he’s covering for Sinestra to some degree, but that’s ascribing motive to past content by the time you meet Sinestra. In the moment, it’s not great. Overall, D+.
- Malygos: Malygos is the aspect of magic, and the final portion of the first tier. He holds within him a portion of the Titan Norgannon’s power, and is one of the oldest creatures on the planet. He’s the leader of the blue dragonflight, is charged with watching over magic and artifacts on Azeroth. He feels great remorse for the deaths of most of the blue dragonflight during the War of the Ancients, and for convincing so many other dragon aspects to create the Dragon Soul, which was a trick by Deathwing. He eventually moves past this, thanks to the help of the other dragons, but he begins to lose his mind when he devours nether dragons, black dragons exposed to arcane energy in Outland, that follow Deathwing. Malygos believed that mortal magic-users were to blame for Azeroth’s woes. He’s not exactly wrong. I mean, Medivh. Fuck that guy, amirite? Malygos started the Nexus War, attempting to kill off all magic-users he deemed rogue, like the Kirin Tor. This didn’t sit well with Alexstrazha, the Life-binder, head of the red dragonflight. She gathers other dragons under her, and opposes Malygos. Thus, you see the conflict between red and blue flights at Wyrmrest temple. His plan is to redirect the ley lines of Azeroth to the Nexus, and use the power to fight his foes. He has succeeded in doing this to some degree, as many areas are now torn asunder, and the Twisting Nether is suffering, as a result. His plan is very successful, so much so that all dragonflights come together and form the Wyrmrest Accord and have to partner with the Kirin Tor in order to fight him. It’s a pretty interesting plan, as far as WoW storylines go. Overall, A.
- Yogg-Saron: One of the original four Old Gods that came to Azeroth, Yogg-Saron is the defacto boss of Ulduar, the second raid tier in WotLK. Technically, there is a further boss, who I will also cover. Yogg-Saron was first defeated by Pantheon, one of the Titans, and placed into a prison to be watched over by the titan-forged keepers, the ones all reminiscent of the Norse gods. He is the one who turned Helya against the others, and led to Odyn’s imprisonment. Yogg-Saron is responsible for the Curse of Flesh, which turned the forged creations of the Titans into living, mortal creatures. He is also responsible for infecting the World Tree Andrassil, forcing it to be cut down, but not before he managed to open a portal to the Ethereal Plane, called the Emerald Dream. There, he managed to create the Emerald Nightmare, a transient area of energy within the Emerald Dream that eats the energy of whatever it touches, weakening druid magic on Azeroth. Though pushed back, it remained in the Rift of Aln (Tartarus). It’s also heavily implied through the visions in the encounter that Yogg-Saron is responsible for Neltharion becoming Deathwing, Garona killing King Llane, and the eventual defeat of Arthas. Yogg-Saron interacts with the world through saronite, an ore that was powerful, but would drive people to insanity if exposed for a long time. Though you defeat Yogg-Saron, he seemingly regenerates and is alive and well by the time of Legion, as his influence again begins to grow. His overall plan is hard to discern, as we don’t know it in full. In WotLK, his plan was to corrupt his keepers and drive them apart, spread his corruption across the land, and work for the defeat of Arthas, wanting Bolvar on the throne, presumably so the scourge would no longer threaten him. Well, mission accomplished. He does all of these things, and even his death doesn’t stop him, as he even proclaims himself the god of death. The Rift of Aln still bears his mark, and the Emerald Nightmare progresses. His presence and success even triggers the arrival of Algalon, which would result in the destruction of the world. This isn’t a bad back up plan. It loses some points due to its inscrutable nature, but that’s a small thing. Overall, A-.
- Algalon the Observer: Algalon was the first experiment with an optional boss to a dungeon only accessible through hardmode completions. You had to defeat all four keepers on their hardmodes in order to create a key to unlock the planetarium. Once you unlocked the planetarium, you had one hour to get the boss down, or he despawned and you lost. Algalon is a constellar, one of the cosmic observers created by the Titan leader Aman’Thul. Constellars were to watch worlds, and when instabilities or corruption ran rampant, they would initiate a procedure to wipe the world clean and start over. Previous constellars have been killed by Sargeras, as part of the Burning Legion invasion. On Azeroth, Algalon appears because the Prime Designate, the title usurped by Loken from Odyn, thanks to Helya, is slain by the players. His only goal is to kick-off the purging process and re-originate the world, getting it clean of Old Gods and demons. After he is defeated, he catches feelings, for some reason. This is pretty dumb, as is the melodrama of the encounter when you turn in the reply code to stop the re-origination. It’s a bad ending to a plan with very little story around it to start. It’s just “purge the world to save it.” Okay, I guess. Overall, C-.
- Anub’arak: The last king of the nerubians (what’s a nerubian?), he fought against the scourge in the War of the Spider until his empire was demolished. He was then raised by Ner’zhul. When Ner’zhul started to weaken, he helped lead Arthas to the Frozen Throne, and get him firmly established as the Lich King. Everything tries to make his story about betrayal, with his people calling him the traitor king and betrayer and so on, but uh, he was a champion of his people before they all died and he was raised as an undead under the Will of the Lich King. Sorta unfair to him, I think. It’s not like it was a choice. Anub’arak guards the passages and kingdom he once ruled at the behest of the Lich King. He is marshaling the undead nerubians against the living, and attempting to place them all under the control of the Lich King. He has established the Outer Kingdom as his, and controls part of the Inner Kingdom and Upper Kingdom, which is infected by the influence of Yogg-Saron. After his defeat in the low level dungeon, he returns as the boss of the Trial of the Crusader raid. He’s sent by the Lich King to plague the tournament and destroy the champions therein. It’s simplistic, to say the least. He doesn’t get much to do, honestly. Still, it’s not really a stupid plan or anything, it’s just not inventive or interesting. Overall, C-.
- Onyxia: As part of WoW’s birthday, they revamped Onyxia and placed her as part of the tier alongside the Trial of the Crusader. She was just a fun upgrade by the team, and her story didn’t change. I’m not re-rating it, just noting it.
- Arthas, The Lich King: Oh, Arthas. Finally, we come to ye. Right off, let me acknowledge that the WoW team attempted to tell a stronger story in this expansion, and did so by attempting to engage you with the iconic character at intervals throughout the game. Unfortunately, there was no model size consistency for him, and he appears way to frequently. It seriously feels like the Lich King is stalking you. You see him 4-5 times per zone, and often in dungeons. You also spend much of your time walking around thwarting his various plans: clearing Utgarde Keep of his influence, defeating his valkyr, stopping Drakuru, beating Kel’Thuzad, and so on. He seems to have a lot of little plans going on all the time, and you see sort of the first act of his plan come to a head at Angrathar the Wrathgate. There, the Lich King defeats both the Alliance and Horde forces, claiming Bolvar and Saurfang, Jr. as his own. His plan seems to be of the simplest kind: dominate the world and spread his undead across it, leaving him to be supreme ruler. However, when you face him in Icecrown Citadel, his immediate plan is outlined for you in stark terms. All of the things he has been doing in Northrend have been something like Azerothian Ninja Warrior. He doesn’t care if his minions get defeated, after all, he can just raise them again or make more with the scourge. Instead, he is happy to see his minions defeated, because it puts him in a position to face probably the strongest people in the world. You see, his plan is to face this force, and then use Frostmourne to slay and resurrect them. This plan actually succeeds. During the fight against him, your entire raid dies, and the Lich King begins to resurrect you with Frostmourne. It’s only Tirion Fordring and Ashbringer getting granted magical Light powers that ceases this from happening. Then, you defeat Arthas and claim victory. Of course, the Lich King is actually contained in the Helm of Domination/Command, and it is placed on the head of Bolvar Fordragon. In theory, Bolvar Fordragon can contain the Lich King and the Frozen Throne, thanks in part to his body being altered by the life-giving flames of Alexstrazha when Bolvar was overcome with the plague. It seems he is still in control as of Legion, where he is the artifact giver for Death Knights, and has aligned with the Knights of the Ebon Blade. Who knows how that will eventually shake out. Anyway, the plan of Arthas is really a “you fools, that was my plan all along!” plan, which is trite, but until the Deus Ex Machina, it works like gangbusters. He would have also have been fine with any of his other plans succeeding, and some do in part or in whole, but getting the absolute best servants is part of the overall best case. Overall, A.
Summary: As you can see, this is just one expansion. There was a lot to discuss, here. I will discuss Halion as part of Cata, as it was really an intro to that story, and was a stop-gap for the content dearth that occurred. I have also left out the Vault bosses, as they are just Titan constructs that drop loot.In my opinion, this is a much stronger expansion than Burning Crusade, in both theme and narrative. There were some missteps in storytelling along the way, and some lack of clear communication of story (the Yogg-Saron/Arthas story, for example), but it’s a definite step up from the previous expansion, and is more story-driven than the core game, mainly because it is established to tell a standalone tale. I am not pretending it’s perfect, or that the stories are all innovative and amazing, but they mostly make sense. Having a clear story you can follow is important, and having it not be completely laughable is equally as important.