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Theramore’s Fall: A Look at WoW’s First Scenario

At this time during World of Warcraft’s release schedule it would be typical to feel a certain sensation of pre-expansion excitement. Having played World of Warcraft since The Burning Crusade, I fondly remember being excited about both Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm. However, with under a week left until Mists of Pandaria’s release, my feelings on the expansion can be summed up with “meh.”

I want to be excited about Mists of Pandaria, but I am finding it more and more difficult as the release date gets closer. One of the things that got me hyped about the previous expansions was the pre-expansion world events. The Scourge Invasion preceding Wrath of the Lich King is probably my favorite, but even the Elemental Invasion set the mood for Cataclysm. It seems Mists of Pandaria will not contain any pre-expansion world event. Blizzard has instead opted to use a Scenario called “Theramore’s Fall” to set the stage. Was it enough to bring some needed hype to Mists of Pandaria?

The answer, unfortunately, is no. If anything, “Theramore’s Fall” actually made me less excited about Mists of Pandaria and my feelings seem to be echoed in blogs and on forums. I believe there are two main reasons why I view “Theramore’s Fall” as a failure: it was a poor substitute for a proper pre-launch event and it was poorly executed.

Pre-Expansion Events

Blizzard set a powerful precedent when The Burning Crusade was to be released by creating the Opening of the Dark Portal event. If players ventured to Blasted Lands they could take part in slaying the horde of demons that began pouring out of the Dark Portal. In addition, Highlord Kruul, a high-level demon, periodically roamed several zones in Azeroth (such as Stranglethorn Vale and Eastern Plaguelands), as well as appearing near the capital cities. For roughly two weeks after the expansion launched, players could visit the Dark Portal and receive a commemorative tabard.

For Wrath of the Lich King, players were treated to some truly unique changes to the world. A plague began to spread which affected players and NPCs alike, turning them into undead scourge. Players across both factions could communicate and trade items while affected by the plague. While unintended, it was still a very cool experience. Necropoles began to appear floating above certain zones taking the combined effort of players to bring down. Additionally, the Lich King sent undead minions to Stormwind and Undercity in a brawl where faction leaders from both sides took part to bring a stop to the attack and figure out how to eliminate the Lich King once and for all.

Prior to Cataclysm being released, the Elemental Invasion took place. Throughout various zones in the world, elementals surrounding a Mysterious Device would attack. Cultists appeared in Orgrimmar and Stormwind, trying to recruit citizens into their worship of Cho’gall. Elementals would also attack the main faction cities. If the elementals were successfully repelled, players could venture into various old instances and fight Kai’ju Gahz’rilla, Crown Princess Theradras, Grand Ambassador Flamelash, or Prince Sarsarun. WoWHead has an excellent synopsis.

Each of those pre-expansion events gave players something new and unique to do in World of Warcraft and, more importantly, it put players in the mindset to face the next challenge. When we compare “Theramore’s Fall” to these events, is it any wonder players feel very disappointed?

But that really is the wrong way to look at “Theramore’s Fall.” It is not a pre-expansion event. It is a Scenario. Community Manager Zarhym confirmed as much on twitter.

@OstietheGnome: Theramore scenario completely underwhelming compared to other pre expansion events. It’s Meh.

@CM_Zarhym: Was never meant to be a world event. It’s the first Scenario of the game. Tons more content coming next week!

When Blizzard announced Scenarios almost a year ago, this is how they were described:

“Scenarios will allow small groups of players to adventure together in short instances, with progressive objectives and a story arc. Scenarios are completely role-less, meaning tanks or healers aren’t necessary to succeed — any class combinations can work. Queues will be fast! Smaller scenarios will play similar to group quests and will help players earn faction reputation, while larger scenarios will play out like epic PvE battlegrounds with major objectives and plenty of scripted events.” Source.

Fast queues eh? Well I guess no system is perfect.

“Theramore’s Fall” fits in perfectly with that description of a small scenario. It feels just like a group quest.

World of Warcraft’s fan base gets a lot of criticism for being too self-entitled. There have certainly been times where that criticism is justified, but I do not believe that is the case now. All of the players expecting a Mists of Pandaria pre-launch event to be on par with previous expansions seems reasonable to me. I cannot understand why Blizzard would opt out of having a true pre-launch event when players remember them so affectionately.

The Art of Storytelling

As I said, “Theramore’s Fall” is so disappointing to so many people because they were expecting a pre-launch event. But does it stand up to critique if it is looked at properly as Scenario? Yet again, “Theramore’s Fall” disappoints.

The obvious problem is the story. Plainly put, it is missing. From the Horde perspective you appear on a ship outside of Theramore and are told to sabotage the Alliance ships. You end up rescuing some Horde spy and then a bomb detonates on Theramore. What? Why? What in the world is going on? Presumably Garrosh has ordered the bomb, but why? What was the failed assault on Theramore to begin with? Did Jaina do something wrong? I hate feeling like some puppet that just takes orders.

When transitioning to Vashj’ir or Twilight Highlands as the Horde, the player is left standing on a ship while some story is played out through dialogue from NPCs. Why did the Theramore Scenario not begin this way? One of the main focuses on Scenarios seems to be telling a story, and this is a terrible way to do it, Blizzard.

The only thing that caused me to feel any emotion during the Scenario had nothing to do with Blizzard and everything to do with a semi-roleplaying Hunter in my guild. He visited Theramore before taking part in the Scenario to have a look at its current state. While there, he came across a dog named Spot and realized that it would be very unlikely that Spot survives the Horde attack on Theramore. He then decided to save the little guy by taming him and bringing him to a stable where he would be safe. I am not a roleplayer and do not play on roleplaying servers, but even I have to admit that his actions were adorable. Why did it take this Hunter to make me feel something? Why was the Scenario so emotionally flat?

I have not read the latest World of Warcraft novel, Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War, but based on the comments of those who have, it seems the novel might cause the Scenario to make even less sense because it is inconsistent with the book. Either way, I should not have to read the novel to understand what is going on in a Scenario. The Stormrage novel is a good example of how the books and game should not interfere with one another. The events of the book do not need to be known to understand what is going on in the game. The books should be extra bits of lore for those who are interested and not mandatory.

But again, it seems that even the book does not help players understand the Scenario, so it is a moot point in this context. I think it is a terrible way for Blizzard to begin a new expansion. The lack of a pre-launch event giving context for the expansion is particularly damaging if you consider that Mists of Pandaria has been criticized from day one as lacking any story or “big bad” character to go after. This was Blizzard’s opportunity to get people excited, and I think they dropped the ball.

I would love to hear anyone else’s thoughts on this.

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One comment

  1. This was the article I had written before somebody had the same idea. Although mine reads more like a rant and would have been filed under Rants.

    I’m hugely disappointed with this Scenario. I haven’t been this disappointed with the game since I found out no Spirit cloth would be dropping in Firelands, and I was rather apathetic about my guild’s lack of progression for that raid tier because of it. Theramore’s Fall absolutely fails as a pre-launch event. It fails to be engaging, it fails to be relevant, and it fails thematically.

    The Burning Crusade had a rough pre-launch event. It was the first pre-launch event, so of course it was a bit rough. But it gave players something to do. It included demons, which are arguably a huge part of the Burning Legion. And the Dark Portal was reopened! Demons came forth! Kruul wandered Azeroth and posed something of a threat to capital cities and other zones. It had relevance to the expansion and it worked thematically: invaders from The Unknown, beyond the Dark Portal—and that’s exactly what TBC was all about. We were exploring the unknown. At the same time, to the denizens of Draenor (or what was left of it), we were invaders from beyond the Dark Portal.

    Wrath of the Lich King had the best pre-launch event. We see the return of the necropoles from the Naxxramas event. Oh hey, Naxxramas made a comeback in WotLK. This made sense. Then there was the zombie plague, and we saw the introduction of Grand Apothecary Putress, who had nothing to do with the expansion, let alone the biggest in-game event which started in Dragonblight. Nope, Putress was completely irrelevant. (THIS IS SARCASM. Putress was the central figure for the Wrathgate and Battle for Undercity, which were the only two things you would hear about in the months leading up to WotLK. And, unlike Theramore’s Fall, everything came together coherently.) The zombie plague brought the Horde and the Alliance together over a common threat; we were literally brought together because we could communicate cross-faction with the zombie language, and we sort of united against the Lich King in Northrend (who deals heavily in, uh… textiles, I guess?) There were the attacks against Stormwind and Orgrimmar. To cap it all off, Garrosh and Thrall butted heads over leadership in the Org arena. It was almost as if Thrall was going to be preparing Garrosh to take over as Warchief throughout the expansion. Oh hey, Ulduar trailer, I didn’t see you there standing next to Argent Tournament vignettes.

    Even Cataclysm’s pre-launch event had relevance. The Twilight’s Hammer cult recruiting new members. Elementals invading and having to defend our cities. Our leaders tried to understand the coming threat by investigating it, instead of simply wiping it out. We see Thrall step down as warchief and the introduction of Aggra. Except for the water boss, we went to a location relevant to each elemental domain: Ahn’Qiraj for air, AND HEY LOOK THE ONLY GOOD BITS OF ULDUM ALL REVOLVE AROUND AL’AKIR AND SKYWALL; Blackrock Depths for fire, and we returned to Blackrock Mountain on two occasions (both contrived, but I digress); Maraudon for earth, to kill Crown Princess Theradras—Therazane’s daughter—which incidentally comes up in conversation when we first meet her in Deepholme. (JUST A COINCIDENCE, I BET.)

    Theramore’s Fall?

    Here, member of the Horde, go attack an Alliance town for no reason. Oh hey, here’s a bomb. Members of the Alliance, go see what just happened and do nothing important. It’s so bad, I’ve been advising returning WoW players to skip the Scenario and just play around with the new talent system instead, maybe take a romp through LFD or LFR to get themselves reacquainted.

    There’s nothing relevant there. Mists of Pandaria is supposed to ratchet up the conflict between the Alliance and the Horde. This has nothing to do with that; sure, this is a catastrophe (albeit an anticlimactic catastrophe completely unbeffiting of all the hype), but it’s just so… flat. In Southern Barrens, we see conflict between the Alliance and the Horde. There is no easy black/white morality here, everything is in shades of gray. We see that the Alliance commander wanted to do things honorably. We see concession by the Horde that Taurajo was a valid war target. All of this comes through in-game, we see that both sides want to do the right thing (and that the other side is a complete bastard), and we’re left with nothing other than a grim reminder that war is ugly. Theramore’s Fail? It’s completely dependent on reading Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War for context. The events in-game are inherently black/white in nature—you know, that lazy morality from before: Horde drops bomb on Theramore. There are no explanations given. Horde players are lied to about what is going on until literally the last second. We don’t even know what makes the bomb so potent, or how it came to be, without either reading the damned novel or rolling an Alliance character and raising it to max level.

    The event fails thematically, too. This is the first Scenario we get to see on live. What is offered for story content? Nothing. Reports from beta are that this is the only bad Scenario; every other Scenario is engaging, relevant to the expansion, and provides ample amounts of story content in-game. There is so much lore presented throughout Mists, and the storytelling is Blizzard’s best work to date (again, these are the reports from beta). Theramore’s Fail is completely unlike the rest of Mists, completely unlike every other pre-launch event. Why? It’s an utter disappointment.

    And, if it’s not supposed to be a world event, not supposed to be a pre-expansion event… then where is the pre-expansion event? Why bother releasing this one event—sorry, Scenario—early? Why not hold off on the Scenario until the “plot points” (as if there is any plot point beyond “here’s a bomb, LOL!”) are relevant to players?

    It fails as a pre-launch event because it’s “not meant to be a world event.” It fails to be engaging because it requires out-of-game materials; Wowpedia, if we can’t be bothered to get the book. (Aside: isn’t it disturbing that the relevant parts of the book—that the Horde stole the Focusing Iris after the events of Dragon Soul—can be summarized in one sentence but that this same sentence can’t be properly conveyed in-game?) It fails to be relevant because there is no gorram context given, and no readily apparent ties to the upcoming expansion. It fails thematically because it is so incongruous from the rest of the expansion.

    I mean, I obviously care about the game still if I can work up the effort for this post. I’m still going to buy Mists of Pandaria (because I’ve known for several months that Mists is going to be awesome, unlike this Scenario which was kept under wraps for whatever pointless reason.) And, I even care enough about the Scenario that I’m going to plead that Blizzard doesn’t do “Theramore’s Fall: Extended Cut,” if only because I want this indelible error to stain Blizzard’s otherwise-pretty-good track record.


  1. Is Blizzard Releasing Too Much Content? | Clever Musings - [...] to get players to level 90. Reaching 90 unlocks three raids, half a dozen new dungeons, eight scenarios, innumerable …

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