Review: Cataclysm Trailer

(Part 1 of 4 of a series of lore-related posts inspired by the Cataclysm trailer)

As everyone probably knows, the official Cataclysm cinematic trailer was released on Sunday. The initial, general consensus seemed to be overwhelmingly OMG. Well, after a few days to consider and reflect on it, here's my personal thoughts & feelings on it, with blue for positive, yellow for neutral, and red for negative.

Breathtaking fully-rendered game zones.

Blizzard's animators did a fantastic job of taking recognizable game areas and turning them into fully fleshed out, animated scenes. It was a rush to see Auberdine's docks, the rocky peaks of Thousand Needles, the defiant goblin statue off the coast of Booty Bay, all in actual animated splendor, even if they were being obliterated. It really makes you wonder what their cinematic team could accomplish were they to try their hand at mediums other than trailers. WoW's ingame cinematics are pretty good for what they are, but imagine those fully rendered and polished! It would be amazing. *dies at the thought of fully rendered Wrathgate cinematic*

It explains why the world is actually being broken.
Something I was always a little confused about was exactly WHY all these areas were being destroyed and altered. I knew Deathwing was coming back, and I knew he was mad...but was he going to physically rip the Barrens in half? Control the earth itself and order it to rip asunder? Maybe harness the power of mighty elemental forces to wreak havoc upon the land? Turns out that nope, he's just underground thrashing around. Not quite as elaborate as I had imagined, but I suppose just as impressive, in its own way.

Deathwing looks invincible as hell.
For most of the trailer, you had to be content with how pissed and intense Deathwing sounded, and how mean he is to have giant metal plates punched into his hide. But it wasn't until the final moments, when he smashes down onto Stormwind and starts wading through the buildings, toppling statues, that you realize just how freaking big and scary he is. If that scale is correct and he's actually that big...I...I have no idea how we are supposed to fight him. (BUT IT BETTER NOT BE IN GORRAM VEHICLES.)

The destroyed areas were all low-level zones.
I found it interesting that all the areas we see Deathwing destroy were low-level locations. Darkshore, the Barrens, Thousand Needles, Loch Modan, Stranglethorn Vale, and of course Stormwind. Probably just coincidence, but it could also be a clever move on Blizzard's part to show areas that newer players would be familiar with, to capture their interest. After all, the only races who wouldn't recognize at least one of these areas from their early leveling days would be the Forsaken and Blood Elves, if they stuck to the Northern zones in the Eastern Kingdoms. This isn't good or bad...just interesting.

Unremarkable but appropriate voice acting and music.
I've read a few complaints that Deathwing's voice is yet another deep gravelly voice, and this is true. However, while Arthas' Lich King/Batman voice was kind of lame (especially considering how good his WC3 voice was), Deathwing is the embodiment of the earth and rock...if ANYONE deserves a deep gritty voice, it's him. I have no complaints here.

Musically, I was unimpressed while Deathwing was underground. Fairly droning, generic stuff. However, when he took to the air and started wrecking places, it felt suitably climactic and final, almost like saying OH DAMN, THIS IS IT. THE WORLD IS ENDING AND WE ARE ALL EFFED. The crescendo when the Loch Modan dam crumbles & Deathwing approaches Stormwind gives me goosebumps. That being said, I'll always remember the Wrath trailer music. Cataclysm's armageddon-ish music, while exciting and fitting, isn't really unique or distinctive. It's not TERRIBLE, but neither is it groundbreaking.

Nothing about the faction/political upheaval.
[Faction leader-related spoiler alert]
I was a little disappointed there was nothing about the increasingly hostile tensions between the Horde & Alliance, breaking the somewhat stable sense of peace that has existed since...well, since release. In my opinion, the faction strife is almost as big a story as Deathwing. Leadership on both sides is in chaos, with Varian trying to learn how to be a leader, Magni out of commission and his daughter Moira stepping in with dubious intent, Malfurion suddenly back, Thrall out/Garrosh in, Cairne dead, Vol'Jin at odds with Garrosh, Sylvanas being distrusted by everyone...these are dangerous, tumultuous times.

With the direction they took in the trailer, obviously Blizzard couldn't show the political stuff - and to be honest, that would be pretty boring. Perhaps if one of the areas destroyed had some Horde and Alliance combatants busily fighting, but then both sides stop and look up in dread at an approaching, unstoppable tidal wave or the like, that could have been a subtle way to demonstrate the state of open war it sounds like Cataclysm will bring.

A lack of player connection hampers the emotional impact.
With TBC's trailer, we saw Blood Elves, Draenei, Undead, etc. all kicking ass, which was awesome because hey - that's us! That's a mage, that must be a warlock, etc. And Illidan himself, a former Night Elf with huge canonical significance in both Warcraft III and the novels, was familiar and well-known. It appealed to our role as players AND our history with the WoW universe.

Wrath's trailer, however, went in a completely opposite direction. Instead of showing us "cool things" like TBC's trailer, it's completely absent of any player representatives, DRIPPING with lore, and amazingly symbolic considering the speaker and the terrible irony of his words. Countless players who knew Arthas' story played Wrath solely for the personal goal of putting an end to him; this trailer took that ambition, magnified it, and made it real. It was finally happening.

The Cataclysm trailer is a completely different beast. Like Wrath's, there are no player races shown. However, since one of the main highlights of the expansion is the introduction of two new races, this feels a little strange. Sure, Wrath didn't show Death Knights in the trailer, but Arthas' story is pretty much > all else, plus DK's are so connected with him anyway.

Instead, Cataclysm's trailer focuses entirely on Deathwing and the destruction he inflicts unto Azeroth. The problem is, we don't really know who Deathwing IS. Unlike Illidan and Arthas, or even Zul'Jin and Kael'Thas, who we came to understand, know, and empathize with through book and game lore, Deathwing is just...a monster. An evil monster out to destroy everything, who really has no redeeming qualities, no friends who will lament his decline into evil, and no tragic backstory to make us feel sorry for him. Pretty much all of Warcraft's major villains are fallen heroes or former allies - it's a bit of a cliche formula, but it WORKS. Deathwing is so...bland compared to previous antagonists. To make matters worse, his actual history is actually pretty complicated and difficult to fully understand, spanning thousands of years and involving the Dragon Aspects, the Old Gods, Sargeras, etc.

With no player inclusion and no real emotional attachment to Deathwing, that leaves Azeroth's destruction as the focal point of the trailer. That's not insignificant, but come on - earthquakes and tidal waves do not an epic trailer make! Granted, it is pretty awesome to see Deathwing land on and crush Stormwind, all fire and brimstone. But he doesn't seem like a complex villain, an evil mastermind, or a tragic figure whose misfortune has led him down a dark path. He's just a big mad dragon.

10 Responses Subscribe to comments

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    Deathwing was one of the 5 aspects, driven mad by the whispering of the old gods, He betrayed the trust of the other aspects killing many of them. For Lore to back him up you can read Day of the Dragon, and the Well of Eternity series. Honestly the video scares the bejeeves out of me, the Dragon killed most og Mally's flight in the blink of an eye (With the demon sould), and has caused more havoc then any one being (besides maybe the old gods), It was said in prior novels that only the 4 aspects can take deathwing down and even then it is not an easy fight, and since we killed ol mally I think we might be in trouble, either that or every priest shaman and druid need to get over to the nexus asap to perform the biggest rez ever.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:23 PM

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    Thanks for reading, Earthseers. I think my major issue with Deathwing as a villain is that his backstory, with the Aspects, Old Gods,'s on a higher level than the human emotion felt and displayed by Kael'Thas, Arthas, Illidan, etc. We can understand and relate to their emotions and motivations, but Deathwing's turn to evil is on an entirely different scale, that of gods and deities.

    I guess what I'm saying is I can understand 100% why Arthas culled Stratholme, why he marooned his soldiers in Northrend, why he drew Frostmourne. He's human. I can't relate to Deathwing at all, and thus his character is less interesting to me because of that simple fact.

    PS: How silly is it that I have to enter Word Verification on my own blog. :P

    October 19, 2010 at 2:37 PM

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    See, I have to say that despite not CONNECTING with Deathwing, I have a huge stake in bringing him down - obviously this will work better with people who RP or write or imbue their characters with personality and history, but Lisan is from Stormwind. She will lose people she cares about, when the Cataclysm happens. She's going to BE THERE, and she'll SEE him wreak havoc on her home.

    I don't need to sympathise with him because I have my own, very emotional motivation of revenge. So, y'know, though you make an excellent point, it doesn't matter as much to me in the long run. :)

    October 19, 2010 at 3:11 PM

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    Well, I've kind of made my own opinion on the trailer known. Outside of The Barrens, Grom'gol, and Freewind Post, there isn't much there for a Hordie to get excited about. And if you leveled as a Draenei, there's nothing there at all unless you went the Loremaster route. (Yeah, there's Booty Bay, but if you're on PvP you might actively avoid Ganklethorn Vale, like Ashenvale or Hillsbrad.)

    This isn't to say that I didn't think it was well done from a technical standpoint; it was. But Blizz was obviously going for a specific impact, and showing the destruction of the Loch Modan dam, Auberdine, and Stormwind was that.

    The emphasis on the Alliance sites kind of points out a big difference between the two factions: the Horde doesn't have the grand architectural achievements that the Alliance has, particularly not on the coast. What has the Horde got on the coast? Revantusk in Hinterlands, Shadowprey in Desolace, Zoram'gar in Ashenvale, and Grom'gol in Stranglethorn. With the possible exception of Grom'gol, none of them qualify as a major destination point. The big Horde architectural achievements are either in BC (Silvermoon and Quel'Danas) or centrally located away from the coast (Org and Thunder Bluff).

    The Undercity doesn't count; it's already in ruins, so if Deathwing drops by, how can you tell? What's a little more rubble in that place?

    Now, a wide angle shot of Deathwing buzzing Thunder Bluff....

    October 19, 2010 at 3:56 PM

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    As somebody who came pretty recently to WoW, didn't play Warcraft III, didn't read the books and learned lore just by playing the game... I have no real investment in Arthas. Deathwing is the same. Big bad Lich King. Big bad dragon. Same difference to me.

    October 20, 2010 at 12:06 PM

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    Red - Thunder Bluff would be the PERFECT spot for Deathwing to hit. It's high up and far away from reinforcements, he'd be able to just swoop in and wreck the place, and from a player perspective, it would generate so much hatred! Everyone loves the Tauren...destroying their home would get everyone up in arms!

    October 20, 2010 at 2:00 PM

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    Rades, I have the oppisate problem, I see death as to human, his hunger for power was his down fall. It caused him to betray his own family, drive his best friend and brother insane (Which later made us kill him), and enslave his sister. It is classic case of the man on tops sprial to doom for power. Deathwing will do anything for power,

    Kil'Jaden sold his people for power, as did Kel'thuzad and Kael'thas Sunstrider, and even Illidan to a certain point (....I just noticed a pattern there). Arthas Sold his soul which is why I think we connect more with him, Arthas wanted to do anything to save his people, including sacrifice himself.

    I hope we see a deeper explination of the roots of Deathwing in cata, the dragons have a very rick lore and we have every reason to fear and respect them. I feel bad for the flights and for deathwing in general.

    Great blog by the way!

    October 21, 2010 at 8:25 AM

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    I hope we see more history and lore about the Dragons / Dragon Aspects in Cataclysm as well! So much of their history exists only in the Warcraft novels - I'm sure most players have absolutely no idea who they are and just what Deathwing actually did to them back in the day. I imagine Alexstrasza has quite a grudge to repay to old Deathwing, as well, so hopefully we see her get a little pissed off and vengeful.

    October 21, 2010 at 10:20 AM

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    I am still rather new to the game so the older lore I am still learning and in a way I am enjoying this because it is having people bring up topics I had heard nothing about. Perhaps it is a difference of perspective from a newer player.

    As for the trailer I could not shake the idea of Godzilla while watching it. It just seemed like a "giant monster" coming to destroy everything in their path for no other reason then they like destruction.

    I hope there is more then just a raging beast to him otherwise he is just a cross between Godzilla and one of the "weapons" from FF7.

    October 21, 2010 at 10:21 AM

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    So I listened closely to the music in the trailer after reading. I noticed that it integrates the theme from Stormwind once Deathwing starts flying around.

    November 25, 2010 at 12:53 AM