The Perfect Blight (WoW spoilers)

0.

I. The Forsaken
II. Why in the world…?
III. Angrathar the Wrath Gate
IV. Aftermath
V. Misc notes and thoughts

I.

They call themselves the Forsaken, and despite being allied with a number of other groups, they’ve never been shy about their ultimate goal: wiping out everything not-them. The most positive spin I was ever able to put on their quests was ‘they want to turn everybody into free-willed undead rather than mindless undead’. And the New Plague was an endless storyline, showing up almost everywhere the Forsaken appeared. Fetching materials, testing formulas, couriering samples to colleagues. It would, of course, be very useful against the Scourge, which the Forsaken used to be part of, and now hate above all things.  But somehow it was never done. It was like an alchemist’s dream of lead into gold: tomorrow, or the next day, or maybe next week.

In fact, it was the Apothecaries who drove the development of the New Plague, but partially because of the generic greeting and farewell voice messages shared by all Forsaken, it was easy to assign a homogenous character to the entire people. “What would you ask of Death?” “I am Forsaken.” “Trust no-one.” “Watch your back.” “Dark Lady watch over you.” “Beware the living.” “Remember: patience, discipline.” “Our time will come.” “Embrace the shadow.”

This turns out to matter.

It seems that the only reason the Forsaken allies with anybody is because they’re not yet strong enough to achieve their goals alone.

Since the expansion was nigh, I’ve been thinking that if the Lich King is actually destroyed, the story won’t really be complete without also dealing with the Forsaken, because the difference between the goals of the Scourge and the goals of the Forsaken are very slim, and mostly center around the continued existence of the Lich King himself.

II.

Given that the Forsaken have never been secretive about their hatred for the living and will give out New Plague missions to any member of the Horde, why does the Horde tolerate them? 

Mostly, the Horde is a collection of reformed cultures: trolls who have given up cannibalism, orcs recovering from demonic taint, elves coping with a magical addiction (and the desperate choices made by addicts). The one exception to this theme of ‘a second chance at social acceptability’ is the tauren, who seem to specialize in seeing into the heart of things. A city of ex-Scourge whose second-in-command is an actual demon fits right in. Everybody deserves a second chance, right?

But why tolerate this New Plague madness, the promises of death to even their own allies? I think the answer goes like this:

Various advisory figures within the horde strongly believe that the undead state of the Forsaken is a curse or disease that can be cured, returning them to their original state. Basically, they’re very ill people, and if helping them pursue this pipe dream of creating a plague that will destroy both the Scourge and the living keeps them motivated and interested in continued existence, that’s great!  Meanwhile we’ll work on a cure.

and maybe a little like this:

They don’t really mean us!

Besides, it’s not like the Royal Apothecary Society is useless; after all, they thwarted a zombie plague that swept Azeroth shortly before the expedition to Northrend launched.

III.

Angrathar the Wrath Gate, beseiged. To the left, the Alliance forces; to the right, the Horde. After cleaning up a number of little details, including rescuing new allies, cementing other alliances with the red dragons who are the guardians of life, and even helping the Forsaken reach a New Plague formula they were happy with, the player is rewarded with prime seats to watch the fall of Angrathar.

(Here’s the youtube link. I’m going to quote dialogue for people who don’t like videos (like me, often), and because I really like some of it. Indulge me.)

The leaders of the Horde and Alliance ride together, the enmity of the past replaced by, at most, a friendly rivalry. The consequence, perhaps, of the shared achievements in Outland…

And the Scourge guarding the Gate fall.

The leader of the Alliance forces calls out the Lich King. “Arthas! The blood of your father, of your people, demands justice! Come forth, coward, and answer for your crimes!”

Angrathar the Wrath Gate opens. The Lich King walks out, Frostmourne in hand.  His reverberating voice is silky and amused as he says, “You speak of justice? Of cowardice?” An army of ghouls and skeletons crawl out of the ground behind him, replacing the one just destroyed. “I will show you the justice of the grave, and the true meaning of fear.”

The horde leader, the son of the oldest advisor to the Warchief, isn’t intimidated. Unfortunately, he probably should have been. He charges the Lich King, and is instantly struck down. Frostmourne pulls the light from him.

The Alliance leader does the ‘You will pay!” spiel. The Lich King starts to taunt him some more. “Boldly stated but there’s nothing you can d– What?!” Green light flares overhead.

Laughter rolls across the battlefield from on high. There is a single silhouette on the edge of a cliff, and then vehicles roll up behind him. Grand Apothecary Putress, who cured a zombie plague, is having the best day of his unlife. “Did you think we had forgotten? Did you think we had forgiven? Behold now the terrible vengeance of the Forsaken!” Catapults shower barrels of green goo over the battlefield. “Death to the Scourge, and death to the living!” 

The Lich King coughs and gags.

The New Plague works.

IV.

The Lich King stalks back behind his gate, muttering about Sylvanas and how this isn’t over yet, as his army falls apart. The Alliance and Horde forces try to flee, but there’s simply no time. Putress turns his back on the dying and walks away. “Now all will see.”

As the leader of the Alliance forces is overcome by the New Plague, he realizes it’s all over. The New Plague is perfect, and it will spread and consume everybody. His last sight is of winged figures approaching.

It’s the red dragons, with their alien eyes, coming with the only thing known to stop a plague: fire. Fire like a hammer, fire like a blade, lifting the plague wagons and breaking them like toys before incinerating their contents, fire charring the flesh from the bones of the undead, dead, and dying.

Afterward, the cut scene ends, and the player is deposited in a changed world. The environs of the Wrath Gate are a burned disaster scene, with the few survivors screaming and fleeing in mindless horror.  The Dragonqueen crouches with her consort on a pile of rubble and melted metal. Her aura prevents any more violence from occurring in that place.

She sends the player to take the armor of the Horde leader to his father, and his father sends the player home to the Warchief. There, it’s revealed that, indeed, the difference between the Forsaken and the Apothecaries is very large indeed, because Putress and his ally, the demon Varimathras, tried to kill Lady Sylvanas in a coup just as they launched their assault at the Wrath Gate. The Forsaken capital fell to the revolutionary forces while Sylvanas fled to the Warchief Thrall.

What follows is an epic sequence where the player accompanies Sylvanas and Thrall on an invasion to retake the Undercity and deal with Varimathras. After the demon is finished off, they’re about to search for Putress to deal with him as well, when the main Alliance leader appears with his own invasion force. They’ve already dealt with Putress, and now they’re ready to get rid of Thrall and the rest of the Horde as well.

After all, now they know what happens when you give people second chances, don’t they? King Varian Wrynn knew they were scum all along.

V.

While I was pretty impressed by the Wrath Gate cinematic, I also found myself deeply involved in the scene after the defeat of Varimathras, when the Horde and Alliance once again return to a state of war.  I was ready to kill King Varian of Stormwind myself after his stream of invective about the orcs and the horde, and it was tragic but inevitable that somebody intervened to try and let people cool off. Oh well.

After a day or so of letting the plot developments sink in, I realized that while of course I was horrified and frustrated by what Putress had done and how it had destroyed years of slow-grown goodwill between the Alliance and the Horde, part of me cheered for him when I rewatched the cinematic.

I think it’s because of just how long they’ve been working on the New Plague. They’d turned a dream into something that made the Lich King himself choke and gag. I think the only thing they hadn’t really planned for was the dragons.

Given my previous post on ethics in WoW, it’s interesting to note that in order to trigger the Wrath Gate event and its followups, you do have to work with the Forsaken in that region to perfect the New Plague. So if you don’t want to dirty your hands with biological warfare, plot simply doesn’t happen and the siege at Angrathar never progresses past that stage. I’ll have to observe if later quests assume it happened and refer to it, or just imply it did. 

But the content designers clearly want to link player involvement with plot and plot consequences, which I think I’m happy about.

I also think it’s interesting how a story can be assembled from bits that don’t directly connect to each other. For example, in the content area after the Wrath Gate area, there’s a lot of pvp conflict between the Horde and Alliance. Nobody refers to Angrathar directly, but if you’ve participated in the event, it’s pretty easy to assume cause and effect. There’s an extra tang of viciousness that I suspect is entirely in my head, and if I hadn’t done the event it wouldn’t stand out any more than previous pvp scenarios.

Finally, I wanted to mention the spoilers I’d had before the event and how they warped my expectations of the event and some of the preceding content. I’d heard that Putress was a traitor, that Varimathras was a traitor, and that Sylvanas was almost killed. And also that there was a cut scene.

The image I built as a result was that Putress was a traitor for the Lich King, and that the cut scene would feature an attack on Sylvanas. So I kept looking for Sylvanas in Northrend, and I was very aware of plotlines about treachery in the preceding content, and I was prone to considering Putress’s attack ‘awesome’ rather than ‘treacherous’. After all, he was just being consistent…

By the way, there’s an Achievement associated with participating in the Wrath Gate event…

I expect my next epic WoW post to be about another plotline that grants an achievement upon completion. It features a troll, and the Lich King, and also seems to revolve around dirty hands and extremely ambiguous ethical choices (based on quest titles). I’m looking forward to it!

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Chrysoula

I used to be at attractmode.net, but flakiness is one of my primary traits, and the domain expired. Apparently it was popular enough to be snatched up!

4 thoughts on “The Perfect Blight (WoW spoilers)”

  1. I just completed this on the alliance side. I thought I’d share some more spoilers to provide a little perspective.

    The only run-in I had with the new plague in Northrend is a small quest line in Howling Fjord where you spy on some Foresaken that are plaguing a Vyrkul town. You eventually gather a plague sample and take it back to a local alchemist for examination. The “local alchemist” is a drunken gnome who attempts to create an antidote by mixing the sample with whatever she’s drinking at the moment. The plague sample is amusing in and of itself. The “flavor text” on it says, “Just look at this stuff. Why are the Foresaken so evil?”

    You take the “antidote” and test it on a Vyrkul prisoner, who turns into an ooze and then explodes.

    At this point, you’re feeling kinda icky. The prison guards have mixed reactions…most of them say something along the lines of, “what kind of sicko are you?” but there’s at least one that says, “hey…cool!”

    After this, you’re told to bomb the plague tanks in the foresaken town and you start feeling good about yourself again.

    In Dragonblight, you do a bunch of quests to save Wintergarde keep from the scourge that are attacking from the direction of Naxxramas. You’re a one-man wrecking crew. At one point you’re driving a steam tank around the ruined town blasting anything that is already dead but just hasn’t stopped moving yet…it’s very cool. The quest givers stroke your ego at every opportunity and you end up feeling like you’re all that and two bags of chips.

    The battle for Wintergarde culminates in the destruction of a lich. He throws an AoE incapacitate spell so he can monologue at you for a while, but Bolvar Foredragon shows up, frees you, and kicks his butt. He tells you to meet him at the Wrategate with no delay.

    You do a couple of small quests for him when you get there – they involve talking to the Wyrmwrest dragons. At one point you’re flying a red dragon lobbing fireballs at ghouls…fun.

    Finally, he tells you he’s going to end this and the cut-scene runs.

    After the cut-scene, you take Foredragon’s shield back to the king of Stormwind. When you get there, the king is furious. He really can’t tell the difference between the Royal Apothecary Society and the rest of the horde – he’s going to kill them all.

    Jaina Proudmore (leader of Theramore) convinces him to let her talk to Thrall first, and he agrees. The player gets to come along and watch the exchange. It’s there that you learn about the revolt of the Apothecary Society and the fall of the Undercity. At this point, I’m still not sure I trust Sylvannas – I find it hard to believe the “new plague” thing happened without her knowing exactly what it was for.

    Jaina (and the player) head back to tell the king. He decides that since the Undercity is up for grabs, it’s a good time to invade.

    This point took me a day or two to grasp. As I was doing it, I thought we were helping to “reclaim the Undercity” from the forsaken rebels. But that’s not what we were doing. The “Undercity” is actually the capital of Lordaeron, which was until rather recently a human kingdom. We were “reclaiming” it from the Horde.

    There’s a point where we’re slogging through the green slime killing abominations and the king says something along the lines of, “Look around you. Look what those savages have done to our lands.”

    I don’t think the king expected to find Thrall there. We head in through the sewers to kill Putress, and after much butt-kicking we find him in the Apothecarium and kill him. After Putress is dead, Thrall yells something, presumably to his followers. He’s just killed Varimathras. I think this is the first time the king realizes he’s there. We run over there where the king delivers a short speech before attacking. At that point, Jaina iceblocks everyone and teleports the player back to Stormwind.

    Maybe it’s just that I haven’t finished the other zones yet, but other than that Kirin Tor quest, I’m finding a lot less ickiness on the alliance side than you describe. There is one part where you watch while a priest torture a ghoul for information, but it’s hard to get worked up over that one since I had just finished slaughtering a whole field full of identical ghouls that were trying to kill the last of the townspeople…

  2. The Scourge, especially the parts of the Scourge consisting of mindless undead, are really the perfect bad guys because there’s absolutely no ethical concern in putting them back where they came from.

    The Hand of Vengeance content pretty much ends at Wrathgate; it’s clear it was all leading up to the attack there, including other Forsaken ickiness.

    I think after Wrathgate and Grizzly Hills, a lot of the quests shift to coming from neutral third parties. There are at least two questlines that come from the Argent Dawn and Ebon Blade so I bet you’ll see those.

    After watching a conversation at Argent Vanguard between NPCs, it occurred to me that ‘death knights’ were perhaps just a way of giving the Alliance their own Forsaken to deal with.

    By the way, during the phased Orgrimmar sequence, the city was full of Forsaken refugees. The politics of who Loerdaron City/Undericty belongs to and why are interesting but they’ve taken it in unpleasantly realistic directions, what with the King of Stormwind turning it into a threat of genocide.

  3. I’ve been working on the “Guru of Drrakkuru” quest lines. I don’t know if this is an alliance problem or a general problem, but everyone I know (myself included) has ended up doing those two quest lines in the reverse chronological order.

    And at least in my case, it was completely on accident – I just didn’t find the earlier one until I had already completed the later one (I’m being purposely opaque here so I don’t end up spoiling it for you).

    I’m hoping it doesn’t ruin the suspense too much.

  4. I think it’s important to note that the “kill all the living” mentality held by many Forsaken is a direct reaction to the “kill all undead” mentality held by some races, humanity in particular.

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