With the release of Diablo III all but closing the book on Cataclysm, I thought I'd jot down a few things that have bothered me about this expansion. Not really complaints, per se, but rather a few things/storylines that I had hoped we would see, but unfortunately, did not.
(Oh, and these are lore issues, not mechanical or gameplay-related ones. I don't think Dragon Soul was the best raid, but that's outside the scope of this post.)
No Abyssal Maw raid
Let's start with the most obvious. Blizzard's cancellation of the Abyssal Maw raid was met with resounding disapproval and disappointment (something that actually quite surprises me, since it seemed like everyone and their mother loathed Vashj'ir).
Now granted, some of the complaints were more to do with how Blizzard phrased the news, and for good reason - their announcement that the Throne of the Tides dungeon did "a pretty good job of finishing the Neptulon story" was absurd and laughable at best. I mean, that's basically like watching a movie that ends with "To be continued!" and then there is no sequel. Definitely not one of their smoother moments.
That aside, there's so much great story that could await us in the Maw! The Neptulon/Naga conflict is gripping and interesting, and when you consider the potential hooks of Neptulon's true allegiance (which I have speculated on before; see posts: What's really going on with Neptulon? and The Power of Pure Water), the possible return of the Hydraxian Waterlords, the unexplored question of the now-absent Elemental Thrones, and of course, FREAKING AZSHARA...yeah, there's some hooks there.
Sidenote: Personally, I was quite disappointed in the news, because the music in Vashj'ir is far and away my favorite music in all of WoW. There's a few other notable contenders - Karazhan and Magister's Terrace come to mind - but Vashj'ir is the only zone in the game where I actively make a point of turning on the music when I quest there. It's haunting, beautiful, lonely, and it just feels like you're deep undersea. I was really looking forward to more of that in the raid, but I guess it was not to be.
...at least, not YET, anyway. Let's be serious. We're going to see the Abyssal Maw sometime. Blizzard might be a lot of things, but they're not stupid. The Azshara story is their biggest trump card that they're keeping in reserve, other than Sargeras / the Titans (but those storylines would pretty much have to be WoW's finale). For them NOT to use this amazing winning lottery ticket would be beyond stupid.
What do I mean by this? It's not just that Azshara is a hugely important and (in)famous character, or that she's incredibly powerful and would totally have world-affecting aspirations. She is totally these things, but no, what I mean is that Azshara is one of their few remaining "old" storylines (from Warcraft III, or the novels) that have yet to be resolved. Pretty much everything else has been taken care of - Deathwing, Illidan, Arthas, Medivh, one by one these "whatever happened to X?" hanging plot threads and loose ends have been implemented and wrapped up.
One of WoW's biggest advantages was being able to build its empire on the shoulders of its preceding game lore, but I am beginning to wonder what they'll do when they run out of old storylines to revisit. This is one of the main reasons I'm excited about Mists - unlike every previous expansion, which revolved around a famous face from the past, Mists is new content. This isn't unfinished business, or finally putting an end to a looming threat that's been lingering for years. It's a brand-new world and we have no idea what to expect. Kinda scary, but definitely exciting.
Conclusion: Disappointed, but not too much, since I fully expect we'll see this content eventually.
Deathwing's human formOkay, hands up. How many of us are very, very familiar with this ugly mug?
Chances are, you've seen him around. Almost all of us have. It's Deathwing's humanoid form, in the same vein as Alexstrasza's half-naked elf form, Nozdormu's nipple-baring shirtless form, etc. We saw it in all sorts of promotional material, the datamined model was floating around for ages, hell, he's even on an official WoW wallpaper, seen here fighting Alexstrasza.
And yet, human-Deathwing doesn't make a single canonical (see below) appearance in Cataclysm. Not in Tier 11, not in Tier 12, and not a single time in Dragon Soul do we actually see Deathwing shift into his human form. In fact, we don't even know he HAS a human form anymore.
Oh, we do see the model used once. ONCE. Where? In a level 30-40 questline in the Badlands, "The Day Deathwing Came." Now, to be fair, this questline is hilarious and amazing. It's one of the funniest moments in the entire expansion. I'm not disputing this. However, while the quest is extremely fun, it's definitely not deserving of being the only time we see human-Deathwing in the entire game.
Also, it's not like the events of that questline are very factual, being "tall tales" told by a bunch of drunkards (which is the entire point of the quests), so really, human-Deathwing essentially doesn't exist. Or rather, I guess he does...as long as the flying motorcycle and 100-foot-tall gnome do.
Why is this a big deal? It's not like we were promised an awesome scene of human-DW fighting Garrosh and Varian and didn't get it. And I suppose it would have been kinda hard for human-DW to be flying around fighting other dragons during Dragon Soul, or for us to ride on human-DW's back ripping off armor plates. (Though this latter scene would be HILARIOUS.)
But it's such a waste not to use that model! I mean, it's there, it's done, it's unique and quite a cool interpretation of his dragon form...why not use it?? Think of how often we see the other Aspects in their humanoid forms - it's basically their normal form around us. They only really go back to their dragon forms when there's some serious fighting to be done. Otherwise, they're chilling down on the ground walking around on two feet like the rest of us mortals.
How awesome would it have been for Deathwing to crash some meeting of the Aspects (such as, oh, just before the whole Thrall/Aggra event?), just casually strolling up in his human form, unafraid, bold, and swaggering? Or if we saw human-DW meeting with Cho'gall, clearly intimidating and dominating the ogre, despite Cho'gall physically towering over his smaller form?
One of the biggest problems with Deathwing as an antagonist is that we never really got any sort of character development about him. And it's a shame, because Blizzard had such an easy method of fleshing out his character right in front of them the whole time. Don't get me wrong - dragons are pretty scary! And Deathwing's dragon model was very distinctive. But it lacked the human touch - little things like hand gestures, human mannerisms, even the simple act of seeing how he walked around and moved.
For the other Aspects, their humanoid forms are an integral part of their characters. Alexstrasza is regal, Kalecgos is humble, Ysera closely identifies with the Night Elves and Nozdormu is nippletastic, I MEAN, eccentric. Deathwing's never-used human form would have been perfect to show that hey, he's not just a big huge dragon, he's also a Dragon Aspect. But since we never see it, he kinda loses that identity, and we lose that association. It's quite a disconnect, in my opinion.
And really, what do we know about him personality-wise after seeing him in action as a dragon? He moves and flies like...well, every single other dragon in the game. There's nothing there, nothing to build on. He's got no pupils, no brows to furrow in consternation, no real mouth to smirk, snarl or otherwise express emotions, no hands to point or wave in a fist...nothing.
Now look at his peer, Alexstrasza. She doesn't even have a unique animation palette, using the female blood elf motions, but we still know so much more about her personality from her various scenes. We see her angry and gesturing, we see her channeling magic into the Demon Soul atop Wyrmrest Temple, and we have seen her vulnerable, lying on the ground, exhausted.
Alexstrasza can look tragic, she can look confident, she can look badass by simply standing and pointing imperiously. What can Deathwing do? Stand there and be a dragon, that's what. Oh, and open his mouth wide, I suppose. He can do that quite well. Maybe flap his wings a little.
But human-Deathwing? He could've added so much to a character who desperately needed some assistance.
I said when the Cataclysm trailer came out that I didn't really get a "Deathwing, Aspect of Death, formerly Neltharion the Earth-Warder" vibe, and all of the rich backstory and history that entailed. I just got the impression of a big monster dragon out to wreck stuff.
Seeing him walking around running the show in his humanoid form would have changed this opinion. Instead, we just got a big mean dragon for three tiers, roaring and blustering.
Deathwing was just a stupid brute
Speaking of Deathwing, how about that smooth-talking, clever, sneaky, manipulative villain we all knew and loved from the old games and the novels, huh? I sure did enjoy the way Deathwing used his infamous guile and silver tongue in Cataclysm to twist alliances, turn friend against friend, and trick his enemies into doing his dirty work. And it was a great touch seeing his old fake identity, Lord Daval Prestor, make an appearance.
Oh, wait, that's right. None of that happened, at all. He just burned things.
This is a CRIME, Blizzard! Deathwing's personality in the novels was so good! A trickster, a spy, a master orator, and a puppet master, novel-Deathwing was always in control, had his claws in every pot and was playing ALL the sides. Call me crazy, but I LIKE an intelligent villain who's got plots and schemes! And he had style, too. He might end up betraying you and roasting you with dragonfire, but dammit he's going to deliver a witty line and dryly have a chuckle at your expense first.
But the Deathwing we saw in Cataclysm was a sad, sad shadow of his former self. We didn't get ANY of his charm or flair, instead we just got...well, an angry dragon. I was (and am) incredibly disappointed that his character was so drastically gutted.
At first, I was optimistic, hoping that maybe it was an act, that he just wanted us to THINK he was simply a bestial oaf, so we wouldn't realize what he was really up to (see post: We're all being played by Deathwing!). Maybe we'd see him walking around in human form, having shed his BIG ANGRY DRAGON facade, monologuing and/or congratulating himself on having fooled everyone. Maybe we wouldn't find out until later, when it was too late, when we finally overcome some monumental task (such as dispatching the Elemental Lord of Air) only to have Deathwing swoop in, chortling, and thanking us for doing his dirty work for him.
I am a suspicious person by nature, and after watching the Cataclysm trailer, I said "He's got some tricks up his metal-plated, magmatic sleeves, mark my words."
Sadly, I was wrong. He didn't have any tricks. No grand schemes, no intricate, brilliant stratagems. He just wanted to destroy everything.
And maybe it's just me, but "DEATHWING SMASH" just doesn't capture my interest that much.
No Calia Menethil
Yeah, it always comes back to Calia. If you've read this blog during Cataclysm, you've probably caught my obsession with Calia, where she's been, who her loyalties belong to now, and what her reappearance would mean. (See post: Where is Princess Calia Menethil?) I kept waiting all expansion for Deathwing to shock us all by suddenly revealing the lone surviving heiress of Lordaeron, but...it was not to be.
No Calia. I am very sad.
Unlike Azshara, who we could definitely revisit later on, I feel the window of opportunity for Calia's story has now slammed shut. Calia has a number of plot hooks, but her two most emotional ones were being Arthas' sister, and being betrothed to Daval Prestor, aka Deathwing.
Calia would have been a great story in Wrath, either making one last attempt to rescue/redeem her brother, or perhaps sadly making the painful decision that he was beyond saving, and had to be put down. (Of course, this would have overlapped quite a bit with Jaina's role that expansion.)
Calia would also have worked very well in Cataclysm, giving us a very significant connection to Deathwing himself, and most importantly, a connection to old Deathwing, when he was still Daval Prestor, master manipulator and schemer.
If Calia survived her brother's murderous rampage because she was off with "Lord Prestor", only to re-emerge safe and sound now, years later, it would lead to so many intriguing storylines. Where was she? What was Deathwing doing/like all those years? What happened to turn him from Mr. Smooth into Godzilla? Did she meet Prestor and hang out with him? Did she, in her years of captivity by the Aspect of Death, learn a little more about him than the rest of the world knows?
Maybe she'll have seen a softer, less rage-y side of the big DW that we didn't know existed. Maybe Deathwing "in private" is a much different being than the angry behemoth rampaging around Azeroth. Did he have actual goals and ambitions, that Calia might have heard him talk about? Or maybe even in his lair, he was utterly insane and broken of mind, a frightening testimony to just how much the whispers of the Old Gods can change and shatter someone.
Deathwing aside, what about Calia herself? Whose side would she be on after all this time? Would she be under an enchantment, something Deathwing was fond of doing? Or maybe she's feeling some Stockholm Syndrome or had a change of heart, much like Moira Bronzebeard, and is actually fully aligned with her captor. So many possibilities!
(It's too bad Moira's story already exists, because omg Deathwing baby?? Anyway.)
But she could have been so much more, too! You want to talk connections? Calia has them in spades. Remember all that tension about Gilneas being accepted into the Alliance? Calia knew both Genn and Varian prior to Lordaeron's fall, and could have been crucial in those negotiations. Hell, her "adoptive older sister" relationship with Varian could be great in itself! Probably one of the few people who would be utterly unimpressed and not intimidated by Varian's gruff act, since she remembers Varian when he was a snot-nosed kid playing with wooden swords with her brother. Calia was also close friends with Jaina, and if Calia were to resurface safely, we might actually get to see Jaina being happy for a change.
Calia could have also been something Jaina might have desperately needed, following Wrath's epic conclusion - a friend, peer and confidante who knew and understood what she was going through. After all, not many people would have mourned Arthas' death - Jaina's been rather alone in this. In fact, Calia might be one of the only other people in the WORLD who would also grieve for him. (Muradin does, a little, but he's busy. Besides, I don't see him sharing tea with Jaina and drowning their sorrows together.)
...also, people are always screaming for Jaina and Varian to hook up so the human nations can be united, and because, omg boy and girl talking? THEY'RE GOING TO FALL IN LOVE. Jaina's talking to a single guy? WEDDING BELLS INC. But that garbage aside...Calia would actually make a lot more sense. She's nobility, like Varian, and unlike Jaina, who was rather tomboy-ish and untamed, Calia was very refined and formal during her childhood, well-versed in politics and procedure. I don't know if she and Varian would get along, of course, but she'd definitely know the proper etiquette, decorum and behavior expected out of a queen.
Furthermore, a Varian/Calia marriage would also have potentially-huge political ramifications, since their union would technically unite the kingdoms of Stormwind and Lordaeron...if they can get Lordaeron out of Sylvanas' cold, dead hands, that is.
And speaking of the Forsaken, Calia's claim to Lordaeron would be sure to cause a fuss among the Forsaken, considering that a) her claim is indisputable and legit, and b) she IS their rightful queen, considering many Forsaken were formerly Lordaeron citizens. At a time when the Forsaken is running rampant through the northern Eastern Kingdoms, plaguin' up Gilneas, destroying Southshore, etc., you can bet that this sort of chaos and conflict in their ranks would be very, very appreciated by the Alliance.
There were so many options for Calia, and she would have fit perfectly into this expansion, given Cataclysm's general sense of anarchy and surprise. After all, what would be more dramatic and dichotomy-shaking than her sudden reappearance, going from "presumed dead" to "major political player" in the blink of an eye?
But now? Without Deathwing? I can't help but feel that seeing Calia in the future is just going to feel...empty. Sure, some of her plot hooks still work...sort of. I mean, it's too late to be the peacemaker between Varian and Genn, and Jaina's sadness over Arthas will be a thing of the past ("Let's be sad about Arthas together!" "What? Honey, I got over that years ago. I'm busy being sad about Theramore now."). But the whole Lordaeron/birthright plot hook will still be solid on its own, or at least it will be until Sylvanas snaps and that whole empire comes crumbling down, because who knows what will happen then.
But the Deathwing association will be the elephant in the room, and it'll just feel so weird to see Calia and not be exploring one of her most unique hooks, a hook that no one else in the entire WoW universe has. In Cata, it would make perfect sense to ask her "So, uh, wasn't that guy you were engaged to...Deathwing?" But afterward? In Mists, or later? Meh. Who the hell cares, it's in the the past and Deathwing is dead and
It would be like if Alleria came back, and didn't have anything at all to do with her sister's increasingly psychotic behavior, but just stood around in town offering random quests. Why waste a beloved character with a rich connections and backstory like that? And it's not just a waste, it's completely nonsensical. You can bet if Alleria came back and found out her sister had become this horrible, murderous undead Banshee Queen, she'd be like "um, WTF" and try to contact her or take action.
Actually, here's a question. Assuming Calia does show up down the line...just how did she survive for all this time with no one knowing, if not in the sequestered, hidden-away company of Deathwing? I dread a terrible hand-waved "I had amnesia, LOL" storyline, when being Deathwing's prisoner would have made so much sense.
(Disclaimer: I suppose she could have been on Kul Tiras when Lordaeron fell, and could thus be reintroduced with the island nation. Maybe now happily married to Tandred Proudmoore. And perhaps no one realized she was there because the only people who knew she was visiting the island were Scourged. But Jaina would probably have known...anyway, I don't know how keen I am about this idea, as it seems fairly unbelievable, but I guess it's a possibility.)
I'd almost prefer just never to see her at all, rather than her potential be wasted and her mysterious survival be some eye-rolling explanation. And yet, people keep asking about her, and Blizzard continues to dance around the question. They know they have a valuable resource in Calia, and they'd be silly to waste it. So we're going to see her eventually.
It just won't be as interesting without Deathwing around.