Thar Yonder Lich King

So my guild got the Lich King down last Friday.

I’d like to think this was a significant raiding accomplishment that finally gives me the ability to call myself a real raider. We worked hard on it and our victory was unquestionable – ironically, much more so than our victory over Sindragosa, who we barely got down in an arduous fight that I’m not entirely sure we could repeat, at least not without a lot of wipes and heartache. If I were to make up an RP history of our guild’s achievements, Sindragosa would be a Pyrrhic victory, leaving a battered, weakened party standing over the slain Frostwyrm’s bones. One of us didn’t walk away at all. Much of our difficulty in getting down Arthas, in fact, stemmed from our troubles replacing the raider we’d lost. In a way, though, this only made the victory sweeter. Our rebuilt raid is, if anything, stronger than ever.

Throughout the fight, though, I couldn’t help but feel the whole thing could have been done… better. I’m thinking about this from a storytelling perspective here. The fight mechanics were interesting and challenging and I don’t really have any complaint with them, but the story…

They had a lot to work with, here. There’s an awful lot of backstory and loose ends relating to the Lich King, from Arthas’ own history to the Ebon Blade to the Forsaken to Wrathgate, and I feel like very few of them got any closure. Terenas Menethil put in his appearance and that was kind of neat, but other than that, it was just fight mechanics that were fun but meaningless to the story, and then WOO TEH LITE SAVES, PRAISE TEH LITE. Oh, and Bolvar.

To me, the capture of Bolvar (and Saurfang the Younger) was much less interesting than the other result of Wrathgate – The Lich King was infected with the freaking New Plague! He was clearly affected by it, and it pissed him off. What did this mean? What would it do to him? This was the burning question I had when the Wrathgate cinematic ended, and I was hoping it would be addressed later. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Apparently he shrugged it off because he’s just that awesome. Me, I’d rather pretend that the Necrotic Plague was actually the New Plague, which the still-infected Arthas was spreading willy-nilly amongst his enemies and his own followers. It almost makes sense – a few tweaks to the way it behaved and a change of the disease’s name and it would have turned a random boss mechanic into Chekhov’s Plague.

So sans New Plague, it’s the power of the Light, wielded by Tirion Fordring, that defeats the Lich King. I feel like Fordring was one of the characters who least deserved to be in that scene – he had no history with Arthas, no vengeance to wreak or answers to seek. All he had to offer, plot-wise, was a lecture about what a bad boy the Lich King had been. Painfully conspicuous in their absence were Darion Mograine and especially Sylvanas Windrunner. Long before there was even a World of Warcraft it seemed like Blizzard’s writers were building up to a bloody revenge upon the Lich King at the hands of Sylvanas. It’s been a comeuppance years in the making, and when its time finally arrived, she was unceremoniously ignored in favor of two paladins blathering about duty. Like we couldn’t just walk into any one of a half-dozen Argent Crusade camps and get an earful of such talk without having to slay a Lich King first.

Speaking of Bolvar: the man irritates me greatly. Isn’t this the same Bolvar who let Onyxia lead him around by the nose (or something, anyway) for years while Stormwind crumbled from within? He really doesn’t seem so strong-willed or incorruptible in light of that history. Oh, and if you’re Horde (which I am) he’s also a general for a country you’re currently at war with. But he’s a paladin, so of course we all trust him to assume power over an unstoppable army and then willingly isolate himself for all eternity. I’m hoping that, come Cat, we see a sub-faction or two of Scourge break away from Bolvar’s mastery in the same way that Sylvanas broke away from the original Lich King. Perhaps led by a Crypt Lord or Frostwyrm? It seems like when I see Frostwyrms they’re at best lackeys, or at worst treated like dumb beasts. They’re supposed to be quite intelligent and it’d be refreshing to actually see one in a position of authority. As for Crypt Lords, well, I just think they’re awesome and could use more screen time.

In my opinion, though, the biggest loose end that was completely ignored is that “original Lich King,” by which of course I mean Ner’zhul. This was the orc that started it all – all the Warcraft games, the destruction of Draenor, the damnation AND the salvation of the orcs, the Burning Legion’s reintroduction to Azeroth – all of it. His story was long and tragic and deserved a much better ending than the inexplicable subsuming of his soul by a demonstrably weak-willed prince who he’d already established domination over. Arthas himself was a reasonably interesting character, but he was no Ner’zhul. Either one of them was more interesting than what we got in Wrath of the Lich King when Blizzard’s writers decided to mash the two characters into one, utterly destroying one of the most complex evil-mastermind-and-Dragon pairs in any video game and replacing them with a single two-dimensional Sauron wannabe. I wasn’t really expecting them to undo damage of this scale, but I was hoping they could at least acknowledge Ner’zhul’s existence, right there before the end. No such luck.

All in all, a lot of missed opportunities for some really nice storytelling. Damn, I’m really sad about Ner’zhul. It ain’t easy being a Lore buff.

  1. #1 by Button on September 21, 2010 - 4:36 pm

    I’m not sure that Ner’zhul was entirely ignored. IIRC Ner’zhul is trapped within the armor, and especially the helm… there was a lot of lore-speculation about Arthas’s death animation when it was data-mined up. It happens right before the cinematic, so I don’t think most people notice it – but he falls over, the helm rolls off, he reaches for it, and then collapses. And it’s with the placement of the helm on his head that Bolvar becomes the new Lich King.

    He’s not explicitly acknowledged… and I kind of wish he was, if only so nubs don’t go “LOLLORE!” when he comes up again… but the way the helm affects Bolvar’s voice and attitude when it’s put on his head… yep, Ner’zhul is still alive and kickin’. Plus Blizzard is on record saying that his story has yet to be told. He’ll be back. (I hope.)

    Also… we should totally geek out sometime and flesh out an RP history of the gang.

    • #2 by arbington on September 23, 2010 - 5:23 am

      The only weird thing about that is how insistent Terenas and Uther were that there “always be a Lich King,” implying that when Arthas was dead there wouldn’t be one. If Ner’zhul really did survive Arthas’ death, then there would still be a Lich King – after all, he doesn’t need a breathing body to control the Scourge, he did it just fine before Arthas ever laid eyes on Frostmourne. Still, if the blues have said that Ner’zhul’s story is yet to be told, that’s definitely a good sign.

      • #3 by Button on September 23, 2010 - 1:18 pm

        I wonder…

        Does anyone in game actually know that Ner’zhul exists? Sargeras does, Kel’thuzad did, Arthas did… Illidan and Kael’thas knew that there was a Lich King, but didn’t necessarily know the nature of his being. When Arthas comes out of Icecrown calling himself the Lich King, who would even suspect that old Ner’zhul was still around? As far as they could know, the old Lich King was probably deposed, not merged-with-into-one-entity-even-though-technically-he-still-seems-to-exist-within-his-armor.

        Of course, the use of OOC information IC has plagued this entire storyline. How could Tirion know that putting the helm on someone would make them the new LK? How would – oh my god.

        Arb. Arb Arb Arb Arb Arb. So according to the books Arthas overpowered both his human side and Ner’zhul in a five-year-long dream. In the dream he stabbed Ner’zhul with Frostmourne, and only then did he come out of the dream. Ner’zhul was in Frostmourne. So how’s this for a theory then: Terenas didn’t tell Sylvanas/Jaina/Tirion that there must always be a Lich King – Ner’zhul did.

  2. #4 by arbington on September 24, 2010 - 9:38 pm

    I’m pretty sure I ran into a random NPC in Undercity who referred to the Lich King as Ner’zhul, though I can’t remember which one now. It would make sense for the Forsaken to know the Lich King’s true nature at least, anyway, since they were his former servants, though I guess there’s no telling how much he would have told them. If he did tell them who he was, then I’d imagine it would have become common knowledge, because Forsaken seem pretty common and the fact that Ner’zhul is the Lich King would be juicy gossip in the Orc world.

    Wow… now that’s an interesting theory. Wily old Ner’zhul up to tricks! I like it!

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