Re: Artifact Chains & the Broken Isles

Kinda have a few random thoughts I wanted to get down. This is not going to be terribly organized because, without going into too much detail, the next couple days are going to be kinda stressy and hectic. So this is me trying to clear the decks in my head a bit, which means a bit of wordsplatter about the Artifact weapon chains coming in Legion and some miscellany about the Broken Isles within the context of Azeroth as a whole.

Artifact Weapon Chains

Something we can automatically tell about the Artifact chains, at least from what little we’ve been told so far on the class preview blurbs, is that all of them are going to involve going to some old and new locations in order to perform some of the steps necessary to acquire the artifacts themselves.

Without coming up with an exhaustive list, we’ve got what appear to be Legion-inhabited world(s), Icecrown Citadel, Karazhan Catacombs, Dalaran, somewhere under Tirisfal Glades, the Terrace of Endless Spring, and Light’s Hope Chapel, aside from a bunch of new locations in the Broken Isles themselves. We can probably assume that this is going to be a lot of solo scenario-driven questing that uses assets that are otherwise used elsewhere in the game. But it’s pretty interesting to consider that there’s a team of quest designers who sat down to generate 36 unique experiences that are meant to deliver on an epic, personal and meaningful story about an artifact weapon of immense power.

It’s just surprising to me to see that they don’t seem to be trying to find ways to use multiple locations for the same artifacts. From an asset creation standpoint it’d be more profitable to do it that way, and yet if the existing blurbs are any indication, we’re not going to see much duplication if any. Depending on how long these artifact chains are, it’s really a pretty broad amount of content that’s going to be wrapped up in this.

The disadvantage, of course, is that for players who really only focus on a single main character, that means the rest of the questing experience has got to feel full. Players who alt at all run the risk of being overwhelmed, but players who don’t alt are at risk of feeling like the content is once again not thick enough if the artifact chain fails to deliver.

At the same time, I think this is a good experiment for Blizzard to embark upon w/r/t content creation and I really want to see how it turns out when they double-down on it.

The Broken Isles

Okay, so, here’s where I start waxing poetic about the shape of the world of Azeroth.

Part of the immersion problem I’m having with the Broken Isles right from the get-go is the part where they don’t really seem to be a group of broken islands. Thal’dranath and the Broken Shore? Sure. But aside from that, all the rest of the territory in the continent appears to be largely contiguous… y’know, like a continent and not an archipelago. Someone says to me “Broken Isles” and an archipelago of really damage landscapes is what comes to mind, and that’s without considering how the Broken Isles have appeared previously in the game canon.

Now, of course, it’s easy to argue that Blizzard has got every reason to diversify the expansion content, especially when it comes to building on places that only had a bit of representation in the RTS games; not all of Draenor was a dry red wasteland, just as not all of Northrend was an arctic hellscape. So if the Broken Isles are really more than just a cluster of islands that were barely big enough to hold some Stormreaver bases and the Tomb of Sargeras (and some random ruins from Suramar) then quite frankly that’s perfectly fine.

The other problem I run into when it comes to the Broken Isles is the part where we haven’t really got a compelling reason as to why this place hasn’t been on the map until now. We all knew Northrend was in the world when WoW started, but no one went there because the Scourge owned the place. The whole narrative about Pandaria was that a) everyone on Pandaria thought the rest of the world was wiped out in the Sundering and b) anyone who could remember that Pandaria even bloody existed in the first place couldn’t find it because Shaohao’s mists hid it from everyone. So those places had a pretty good reason to be off the map.

The Broken Isles are probably slightly west of the Maelstrom, occupying the space between it and Vashj’ir. It just starts to strain credulity that something the size of the continent we’re seeing in Legion would be completely missed by all of the air and sea traffic headed to and from the Eastern Kingdoms. And we’ve been given no indication that the continent has been concealed as Pandaria was or is as out of the way and outright hostile as Northrend was.

And overall, when we look at the conceit we’re being given for the expansion (find the Pillars of Creation hidden in the Broken Isles in order to seal the Hell Rift that Gul’dan tore open over the Tomb of Sargeras) then the questions just keep coming. Why were the Pillars localized to this particular area of Ancient Kalimdor? Isn’t it convenient that these areas survived the Sundering/Shattering so effectively? How do the Pillars relate to the Halls of Origination in Uldum and bloody HOW can the Titans’ technology be so distributed across the surface of the planet with no discernible connectivity between them?

It’s possible that some of these questions get answered, but it’s also possible that a lot of them won’t be, in lieu of focusing the narrative on the fight with the Legion in the expansion. But with how many links are getting drawn between the Broken Isles and past content, it’s interesting to consider the possibility that we won’t see things like ruins of a Stormreaver base from Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, or anything about why Deathwing didn’t go to his own lair and chose to flee into Deepholm instead.

None of that impacts my excitement for the expansion, which is still pretty high. It does drive home the idea that the method Blizzard has used for worldbuilding in WoW basically requires a certain malleability, and consistency in certain areas takes a backseat if it gets in the way of gameplay. Which is ENTIRELY Blizzard’s prerogative, and I don’t say this to impugn what they’re doing at all. It takes a certain kind of nerd to even notice that something doesn’t add up, because in a lot of cases it has got exactly zero impact on the story being told.

I still believe that aside from all of the other ways that I feel rewarded for being a part of the world of WoW, I’m always going to appreciate the opportunity to watch it evolve and change over time, and really get a sense for what a long-form development looks like from the outside. It’s really remarkable, and it’s hard to articulate why.

That’s likely a whole post unto itself, though.

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2 thoughts on “Re: Artifact Chains & the Broken Isles

  1. I think there will be some doubled up with the artifact zones. Off the top of my head, Karazhan crypts hosts DK and Warlock, Dalaran has some Mage and Warlock, Tirisfal Glades covers Paladin and Warrior.
    With the Broken Isles, I would suggest that they got a bit squashed into a single landmass by the Cataclysm. As for no one knowing much about the place, I think people generally avoid it due to it’s proximity to the Maelstrom, although that doesn’t explain why it wasn’t rediscovered during Cataclysm.

    • It’s another example of the scale of the world being really screwy, then. Which I wouldn’t normally treat as a problem, except for the part where different authors treat the scale of the world in different ways. Golden has a tendency to treat the view of the world in-game as accurate, while Knaak and Stackpole gave the world a larger scope and didn’t marry themselves to the in-game representation.

      As for the artifact chains, you’re right that there may be some duplication. Not all of the descriptions made that analysis possible, so it’s hard to tell what they’re doing. Everything’s subject to change, so I guess we’ll see where we end up, but it really feels like something about the decision to go to the Broken Isles and do these quest chains aligns with the Chronicles series coming out next year. Finding out what’s under Tirisfal, notes about the Black Empire, details on the Wild Gods… it’s like CDev is finally beginning to fill in the gaps in history.

      That’s ominous in and of itself.

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