Friday, October 09, 2009

Executive Power via Swords SPOILERS FOR 3.3 PTR

There be spoilers ahead, yarr. Ye know the drill by now, matey....

DENNIS: Listen! Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

ARTHUR: Be quiet!

DENNIS: Well you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!

ARTHUR: Shut up!

I mean, if I went around sayin' I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me they'd put me away!

 Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Arthur's brush with the Lady of the Lake (I'd like to believe if it did happen it was a lot less mythical and more Monty Python, but that's just me) is just one of the countless examples of how large pieces of metal made by sweaty overweight Blacksmiths have come to be something of a big deal. Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, one of the three Imperial Regalia of Japan is as important in that country's history as Excalibur is in ours, and scattered throughout literature there are countless examples of Named Swords with Magical Powers. I could give you you a dozen from Lord of the Rings for starters... but fortunately for now, I won't. What I will do is talk about one particular sword that is about to become fairly significant in Warcraft Lore: Quel'Delar.

The sword in question, outside the Argent Tournament on the PTR

From the datamining that MMO have done on the sword, it becomes clear there's an Epic questline being prepared to reforge Quel'Delar. You find initially the hilt (though as yet there's no indication as to it's drop location) and then you're sent on a series of errands to bring together what remains of the sword, in an attempt to reforge it. This can only be attempted inside the Pit of Saron, the second of the three new five mans, and requires Infused Saronite to do so. You also need the hammer from Forgemaster Garfrost, and to be at his anvil to complete the process. Once complete you're forced to go back to the Forge of Souls to temper the blade... after which, according to the datamined information, you begin to feel a strange compulsion...
'You have re-forged and tempered the sword, yet it sits quietly in its sheath, showing no signs of the power it should possess. You say the sword pulls you, as though it possesses a will? Dare you bring it where it wishes to go? It is not right that the sword should be this silent and this insistent, yet I fear that if you do not take the sword to its destination, we will never learn why. Bear it with you to the Halls of Reflection, but be on your guard and prepare to tell me all of what you learn there'
And here we get our biggest indicator as to what exactly is going to happen in the Halls of Reflection, courtesy again of the quest text. We will meet someone of HUGE Lore significance: Uther the Lightbringer:
'Take Quel'Delar to the Sunwell as quickly as possible, P. Trust in Uther's words when he says that you will not always be able to control the blade while it is subject to the evil of the Lich King's influence. You must travel to the Isle of Quel'Danas, and there, seek entry to the Sunwell itself, where you can cleanse the sword. The guardians of the Sunwell will not simply allow you to walk in, so you must find Halduron Brightwing, who will be inspecting the guards there'
It's probably wise at this point to say a few words about Arthas' sword, Frostmourne.
"Whomsoever takes up this blade shall wield power eternal. Just as the blade rends flesh, so must power scar the spirit."
Discovered in a cave in Dragonblight by explorer Muradin Bronzebeard, the sword allowed Arthas to finally defeat the Dreadlord Mal'Ganis, but forfeited his soul to the Lich King, transforming him into a Death Knight. Clearly it is an item of tremendous power: however, there are hints that if separated from the wielder the sword's power can diminish. WoWWiki has a section on Frostmourne's powers as detailed in the Roleplaying game, and it says something very interesting in light of what we found out yesterday about the weapon's current location on the PTR:
' long as the wielder's original body remains within one mile of Frostmourne, the sword maintains control of the body, and he may not be completely aware that his consciousness has shifted to the weapon. Beyond one mile, the sword cannot control the wielder's body, and the wielder of course finally becomes quite aware of his current state (if he is not already)...'
So we have stablished that Frostmourne lies in the Halls of Reflection, unguarded. We surmise from the RPG information that if separated from it's owner, it's power wanes. We now also know that Uther himself is tied in with Quel'Delar's reforging and that the two blades are destined to be inextricably linked... and then there is the information today that has surfaced on Blizzard's website, in the form of two new biographies. This sword will be wielded by both Horde and Alliance, by two women whose fates are forever entwined with Arthas and the Lich King. One is out for revenge, the other to save the love she lost so long ago.

What we are yet to see is what happens when Qulel'Delar and Frostmourne are in the same room. As you can tell I'm already rather excited at the prospect...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Who is Martin Victus? SPOILERS for 3.3 PTR

Yes, there be spoilers. BIG HONKING HUGE ONES. Continue at your peril.

No really, there are, stop reading NOW!

Why are you still here??? I'm gonna spoil you!!!!!

Right, now they're gone, let's take a look at the two new wings of the 5 Man Icecrown Citadel Instance: The Pit of Saron (so more of Martin later, coz we'll meet him there) but firstly, the Forge of Souls, which is where we start our journey... and where we meet the New, Improved Jaina Proudmoore.

As you can see she's had some extensive plastic surgery, been down to the Mall for some decent armour (where's the belly button piercing though?), and has the look of a woman who really wanted just to study but ended up having to drag hapless explorers around Icecrown on potential Suicide Missions. We meet her with the customary yellow ? in the Forge of Souls where she gives us the first of a sequence of quests, making this entire dungeon feel very similar to the Magister's Terrace experience. What has changed most noticably is what you'll recieve as a reward:

Still a lot to do here as you can see as that's the Old Jaina Image on the quest completion tab. In a very welcome development, quest rewards now give you a visual indicator of how much reputation you will be awarded for completing them. This is no doubt to work in tandem with the questing improvements we've discussed previously on the Map screen.

The hastily formed five man group of hapless explorers who I pulled together at nine am this morning completed the instance with no deaths on Normal difficulty and in less than 30 minutes. We experienced a variety of trash and two bosses: Bronjahm and the Devourer of Souls, which shares the same model as the Reliquary of Souls from Black Temple (which now explains some of the QQ-ing I've read about Blizzard recycling boss content.) However it's just a visual resemblance; both fights are non static, involve brains in place and could quite easily catch out the less experienced dungeoneer. I won't spoil details but the second fight especially is not easy, even on Normal, and both should provide a decent challenge in Heroic Mode. Once you've cleared these two... well, that's it. Instance is complete, you've done your quest and if everything was fully functional there'd be a portal to take you and Jaina directly to the Pit of Saron. For us, we have to run back to the start. It's not easy being a trailblazer you know...

 Bronjahm meets his end in the Forge of Souls

You enter the Pit of Saron straight into a fight, which doesn't end at all well if I'm honest. So then it's up to you to round up a new set of soldiers for the new challenge ahead, and to destroy Scourgelord Tyrannus, who sits atop a Frostwyrm who is strangely familiar... but more of that later. For now we have a new quest from Jaina: destoy the end boss and free 20 slaves along the way. The Pit is big with a large variety of trash, both static and otherwise, and some real care will be needed in Heroic not to come a cropper as you clear to the first boss: Forgemaster Garfrost. Once you have him down (watch the rocks, they're big and they hurt ^^) you'll find you've freed a large number of captive slaves as well... amongst whom is the mysterious Martin Victus. He quickly organises the fighters into a coherent group and readies them for the fight... but there's one more boss to remove first, the Leper Gnome Krick and his abomination sidekick Ick (did I really just type that?)

Mark 2 Jaina gives the orders in the Pit of Saron

And here is where we get a HUGE indication as to our goal in this 5 man: Krick reveals that Frostmourne, Arthas' sword, apparently resides unguarded in our ultimate destination: the Halls of Reflection. This is big news for anyone who knows just how important Frostmourne is to controlling Arthas himself, if you did your quests in Dragonblight and paid attention. This also ties in very well with the Quel'delar questline which we know will be running in Icecrown at the same time: perhaps Jaina will use this sword in battle against Frostmourne itself. What could be more likely however is that the 5 man dungeon will alter Frostmourne as a weapon, in a way similar to the way the Ashbringer was uncorrupted by Fordring. It's all speculation at the moment though because the last dungeon is not yet available.

Once we have the bosses in the lower quarry dead it's a rolling gauntlet up to the top tier and the last boss. If you hate the ice from the sky that is a part of the Hodir fight in Ulduar you won't like this run either: there's a cave to negotiate with the White Circles of Terror appearing with scary regularity. Once we're up, Martin appars with a load of freed slaves and keeps the Scourge at bay while we fight and dispatch Tyrannus. Now here things are a little unclear, and I'd need to run the dungeon again to check, but I'm 90% certain when we killed the Scourgelord we also freed his frostwyrm mount.... who just happens to by Syndragosa...

The Mysterious Martin Victus, with Sindragosa behind him

So currently I have more questions than answers concerning the Lore ramifications of what I've seen, but I'm left with a profound sense of building up to something REALLY special in the third wing of this dungeon. The design of these two wings so far is spot on in my opinion: linear progression, challenging fights and (I hope) rewards that justify the effort. There's also a tangible sense of major events just beyond our reach, which I like a great deal. Of course we had no loot and I think many of these fights may well get harder, but if this is what we have to look forward to on the 5 man front I do get the feeling that Icecrown itself is going to be VERY special indeed.

More PTR news as we get it :D

A Tribute to Insanity

New PTR Build downloading as I type. Maybe this time I can go get into the new instance \o/

Amongst the datamined items popping up thus far, a new slew of Achievements:
  • Looking For More: Use the Dungeon tool to finish random heroic dungeons until you have grouped with 10 random players total.
  • Looking For Many: Use the Dungeon tool to finish random heroic dungeons until you have grouped with 50 random players total. Awards the title: the Patient.
  • Looking For Multitudes: Use the Dungeon tool to finish random heroic dungeons until you have grouped with 100 random players total.
I am SO aiming for that title. Just.... well, just *because* :D

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

What is To Come...

One of the things I love about the datamined information from MMO is the chance it gives people like me to speculate on what may be coming in game. In amongst the first slew of information we got from the PTR was the addition of a new model: Terenas Menethil. Those of you paying attention will know this is the father of Arthas, the voice we hear in the Lich King cinematic:
My Son... the day you were born, the very forests of Lordaeron whispered the name... Arthas.

My child, I watched with pride as you grew into a weapon... of righteousness. Remember, our line has always ruled with wisdom, and strength. And I know you will show restraint when exercising your great power.

But the truest victory, my son, is stirring the hearts of your people.

I tell you all this, for when my days have come to an end, you shall be King...

It is no surprise therefore to see Arthas' father appear in game as we approach Icecrown, especially if you take a look at the video above which is by far the best representation of an in-game event I have ever seen. Ashbringer depicts the events around the Epic Death Knight quest 'The Battle for Light's Hope Chapel' and I cannot help but think the parallels between Mograine and Arthas will be played on to the full. In fact, I'd put money on seeing a similar scene with Arthas and his father as we witness at Light's Hope with the Mograines.

What is most satisfying for me from a Lore Nerd's point of view is the foreshadowing we've had of the events leading to Icecrown. The sword in the ice, Quel'delar, so close to the spot where Sindragosa was raised, has been sitting quietly for a long time, and now we also have the potential of an epic questline to reforge it and use it in the batttle ahead. We have a man in Tirion Fordring who understands Arthas, but who also understands what it is like to lose a son. The questline in EPL/WPL that starts with Fordring and helps you escort his son ultimately to his death (and ultimately pushes Fordring to retake his place as the Head of the Order of the Silver Hand) is the start of a long journey with this Paladin, a man driven by a need to see justice prevail and the Light win over the Darkness. We have two factions almost at war, their men looking only to conquest and their women left to aid us in what could well be Azeroth's darkest hour. I have never been a great fain of Jaina Proudmoore but I feel it's right that it's her who will be leading the Alliance in the first part of our journey in the 5 mans. Considering how badly the Sons of Azeroth have done...

Considering the changes Blizzard have made to the game with Wrath, I cannot help but feel a sense of anticipation at what is to come. Part of me thinks that another Wrathgate Cutscene is coming, and I hope I'm right, because to have those added to the game at this point would be pretty much the icing on the cake of an expansion that has delivered the dramatic, and more. I'd expect to see Bolvar back too, in one form or another, but in the end I'm hoping that Blizzard can deliver an end to this Expansion that justifies all that we have come through, that ties up the Hero Class storyline and that finally sees us taking centre stage with Azeroth's heroes of past, present and future.

Roll on 3.3 :D

Decisions, Decisions

This may be news to some of you so I'm repeating it here: as of 3.3 there will be a Raid Quest available from the guys who currently give out the Dailies. The reward is a rather nice 33+ glods and... TEN Emblems of Frost. All you need is to take down a raid boss. The current datamined list (thanks to MMO) on the PTR is as follows:

It's an interesting selection, considering it can be completed in either 10 or 25 man 'flavours'. That's the easiest parts of Ulduar, the first 4 bosses in each wing of Naxx, what I assume will be the first boss in Icecrown (Marrowgar), OS  and... er... Malygos. I suspect as a Guild when that one pops up it will be a good opportunity to get a load of people their Achievement and the Champion of the Frozen Wastes title, and for the better geared to try the six minute achievement. Needless to say ten elbows is going to be a pretty big incentive to go do the bosses in question...

This of course answers the question 'what happens to Emblems of Conquest in 3.3?' They will be useless, in effect. Everything moves up a slot: Triumph becomes the emblem that drops in Heroics, Frost replaces Triumph. Much QQ'ing results as people realise that you can again gear quickly without ever stepping into a 10 man.

I look forward to seeing the rewards when they pop up on the PTR.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Guiding the Way

Back from my break, with the customary Post-Getaway-Illness. Kids, you gotta love them. I meant to do this before I left, but you know how it goes... so here we are now with what I think is one of the most significant PTR developments thus far.

So the Game Map has again undergone something of a regeneration. We have already noted how quest items can be tracked, now we have the quests themselves to refer to (though as you can see it is not yet fully functional, bizzare green squares notwithstanding) There I am, the small arrow at the Tournament, but I would bet at some point that icon will change to something easier to see on a map that size. What I'm now interested in is how this particular feature will play out in Expansion Beta, especially with new areas as yet unexplored.

I'm still unable to get into the new instance because of the Phasing issue, and there are still issues with DC's on zoning (which to be honest I'm having in the game as well currently and therefore may well be related to server lag) so there's nothing new to report, but I'd expect a new build soon especially as it's US maintenance today. What I will show you as a point of interest is my PTR mailbox.

So, they may not move across your achievements when you make a PTR copy, but it appears that the things you achieved as a result are unaffected, especially when related to in-game rewards. Of course none of this stuff is any real use (though I will grab the potions from Rhonin's package should I get a chance to instance) but it does show how much stuff I've managed to nab via Achievement in the last few months. I can see why it's such a popular pastime...

Right, updates later but for now I gotta find a place to hang all this washing with it tipping down outside... :(