Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Going back to the roots of WoW (part 2)

In part 2 of my "Going back to the roots of WoW", where we look at the inspirations Blizzard have had for different raid instances, we have come to the raid instances of Burning Crusade. Just like back in "vanilla" WoW, as the original part of WoW is commonly called, the design of the raid instances in Burning Crusade vary greatly. We have everything from jungle temples like something taken from Indiana Jones, to castles on dark mountain sides like something from Bram Stokers Dracula, and nearly everything in between. Let's take a closer look.

Bearing great resemblence with the "vanilla" raid instance Zul'Gurub, this is also inhabited by the forest trolls, more precisely the Amani tribe. Like in Zul'Gurub you will face different animal aspects, and finally the end boss himself - Zul'Jin, who represents every animal aspect in the instance under one fight. This instance is located in Ghostlands, which was a new area added with the BC expansion, but not placed in Outlands. It lies quite close to the Blood Elf starting area and home capital city of Silvermoon. Lorewise Zul'Aman used to be the center of a huge troll inhabited area, but is now all that remains of the troll empire since the trolls were nearly vanquished by humans and high elves. Part of the high elves later turned into the Blood Elves and joined the horde. Although there are factions of trolls who belong to the horde as well (the playable trolls), Zul'jin was greatly angered at the hordes decision to let the elves join them and decided to collect a mighty army to exact his revenge.

The instance holds six bosses, four aspect animals - Akil'zon (eagle), Nalorakk (bear), Jan'alai (dragonhawk), Halazzi (lynx) and the two final bosses Hex Lord Malacrass and Zul'jin who both represent every animal aspect. Hex Lord Malacrass is among the toughest bosses I have encountered in the game since his abilites are based in what classes the raid brings to the fight and therefore vary greatly from fight to fight. This brings an amount of randomness to the encounter not seen in any other boss fight (that I've seen).

The instance also features the character Harrison Jones, who help the players to enter the instance by smashing on a huge gong. He himself meets a tragic end quickly after but actually reappears in Northrend, once again fighting the trolls.
Like with Zul'Gurub, Zul'Aman is heavily inspired by the Aztec society, with animal aspect gods and the whole "temple in the jungle" theme.

Sunwell Plateau
When released Blizzard had planned for it to be the toughest raid instance until the release of Wrath of the Lich King. It seems they succeeded since some of the bosses in SP are among the toughest ever (but I've never fought them myself unfortunately). SP is lead by the eredar demon lord Kil'Jaeden who is also the acting leader of the Burning Legion. The agenda of the Burning Legion is simply to eradicate any life in the universe. This of course has to be prevented, which is the reason the player attacks the SP. One encounters different demons and underlords of Kil'Jaeden on the path to fighting him. The idea of a Burning Legion falling upon creation, lead by something that looks alot like a version of the devil, is probably borrowed from the apocalyptic ideas of the Bible, and many other religions. Kil'Jaeden corrupts good into evil, like the boss M'uru, who is a fallen and corrupted naaru. The naaru are the gods of the Draenei.
The design of SP is alot like the capital home town of the Blood Elves, Silvermoon. The colours mostly run in yellow and red and the architecture resembles what Rivendell looks like in the "Lord of the Rings" movies. It gives the impression of great luxury and sophistication, with magic broomsticks sweeping the streets. If you want to know more about why Kil'Jaeden has decided to reside in the Sunwell of the elves, I suggest looking up

Black Temple
The black temple used to be a not so black temple, when it was the holy site of the draenei. However, the evil warlock Gul'dan decided it was going to be the headquarters of his Shadow Council, counquered it and turned it into the Black Temple. The final boss of BT is Illidan Stormrage, yet another good person turned corrupt by the evils of the world in the Warcraft lore. Anyone who has played the warcraft series will know quite alot about Illidan and have a special connection to him. Since I haven't I don't know much about him, and I don't sigh whenever I see his face. I even know a girl who has him tattooed on the back. It's a cool tattoo though.

Illidan used to be a night elf demon hunter. In attempts to be even more powerful he committed some horrible acts and was imprisoned for 10.000 years, something which also gained him the epithet "the Betrayer". Like in Sunwell Plateau, the player encounters numerous demons and underlords of Illidan before being able to fight him as the final boss. The design of Black Temple is like the counterpart of Sunwell Plateau, with dark colours instead of bright ones. It is still a temple design though, and really has the feel of a normal place turning corrupt. Sort of like in Silent Hill, when there is a "normal" phase and a "everything is evil and horrible" phase.

One of my alltime favorite instances, Karazhan is the biggest instance of BC with its twelve different bosses. What makes the instance so much fun is probably that although every boss is fought in the same setting, the castle of Karazhan, the fights are greatly varying and fun. The design of Karazhan is one of the best in all of WoW, with a cozy feeling of being in the castle of Dracula. There is no fight with a Dracula character however, and the final boss is Prince Malcheezar. Not much is known of him except that he resembles Kil'Jaeden alot and probably is a sub-commander of the Burning Legion.

The bosses of Karazhan actually deserve their own post, and I intent to write about it more thoroughly sometime ahead. Karazhan became the most popular raid instance Blizzard had ever done when it was released, which probably also had to do with the fact that is was the first 10 man raid (not counting Stratholme and Scholomance) and therefore accessible to a larger number of players (like myself). I have run Karazhan countless times, and somehow it never got boring. It has the perfect balance between trash mobs and boss encounters, and like mentioned each boss was a fun and interesting challenge. Some included playing chess against the Magus Medivh, yet another corrupted good guy, or taking part in a theater event which could either be Romeo and Juliet, Little Red Riding Hood or The Wizard of Oz.

Like I said the instance of Karazhan is clearly inspired by the castle of Dracula, and very well designed to give a cozy/creepy feeling and keeping the pace up. Karazhan shouldn't be missed by anyone, although of course some of the charm is taken away when the events aren't as difficult on higher levels.

Serpentshrine Caverns
In Zangarmarsh the Nagas have begun to pump water into a huge artificial lake called the Coilfang Reservoir. Inside it the leader of the Naga, Lady Vashj, has set her lair. The nagas used to be high elves but after using their magic recklessly and irresponsibly they were mutated into humanoid sea serpents. Their leader, Lady Vashj, decided to follow Illidan into Outlands and help him, since she thought he could offer her more powers. It is her plans to help Illidan the players are to divert by attacking her in her lair. On their way to her, she being the last boss, the players will encounter different sea creatures and underlords of hers. One of the more notable encounters is The Lurker Below which has to be fished from a special pool.

The design of SSC is that of an underwater complex. Alot of the raid is on bridges over water, some fights are by water and against water. The colours run in watery green and blue. It is quite comfy and feels a little like being underwater, although you're not. Alot of people think the Naga will return in the upcoming expansion Cataclysm, and that there will be another raid instance like SSC. It would be fun, but we'll have to wait and see.

That's all the raid instances of the Burning Crusade, if I remember correctly. Next time we'll take a look into the raid instances of Wrath of the Lich King. See ya then!

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