The Faults Of Theramore

September 20, 2012

I’ll admit it; before this week, I knew very little about the new World of Warcraft scenarios that will be introduced with the Mists of Pandaria expansion. All right, so I don’t deny that I’ve had my head way too far up in the pet battle system to give any other upcoming feature much thought…

This changed Monday when the game went live with Theramore’s Fall, and I discovered that “instanced three-person group quest” pretty much describes scenarios in a nutshell, and no particular need for tanks or healers. The only difference is, objectives are given to you in stages, so you’ll have to complete them in order to move the story forward.

Yes, you heard that right. Story. My excitement level rose when I learned this, mindful of the rich and colorful lore behind the Warcraft franchise and pondering the many ways Blizzard can now use this new mode of story-telling to their advantage.

But days later, it appears that the Fall of Theramore scenario has been showered with rather unanimously tepid reviews. Personally, I was tempted to agree, even though the joy of being back to playing with my old WoW guild pretty much trumped every complaint I had — the fact that it was too short, not very inventive, and just in general lacked the oomph I would have expected from an expansion pre-launch event.

Still, because I’ve read Tides of War, the WoW novel that provides all the details behind this event, I didn’t notice anything amiss about the story until I saw Green Armadillo’s post, and then I realized that he’s absolutely right — if you haven’t read the book, you’ll have absolutely no bloody clue what it’s all about. So a mana bomb hits Theramore, a bunch of ships are burning, and Jaina Proudmoore’s hair is now white and she’s being scary. Okay. Since I’m Alliance, I only did that faction’s version of the scenario, but I looked up some videos of the Horde side, and things look even more confusing over there if you don’t know what’s going on.

Actually, now that I’ve taken some time to think further about it, even I’m slightly peeved at how everything in the book was hastily boiled down to a short cutscene and a couple lines of dialogue. Selling us short with explosions and cheap destruction is what this is, as so much of what made this a poignant, momentous event for Azeroth was completely left out. This isn’t fluff I’m talking about either; this is the actual whys-and-hows behind what’s happening, which you’d think would be relevant to the understanding of the story.

Also, call me crazy, but while a tie-in novel should give players more background and context into the story, I don’t think the most important and exciting scenes should be locked and hidden away behind its covers. Not to mention how people, you know, tend to get irritated when they have to shell out more money for pertinent additional story to a game they’re already paying monthly to play. (And I say this even as someone who reads a lot of game books, and enjoy doing so a lot.)

A longer instance with more explanation and detail seems to be what most players wanted out of the scenario, so if being story-driven was their goal, it’s clear that the opportunity and potential was squandered with this one. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure Blizzard is well aware they missed the mark with FoT, and hopefully future scenarios (at least ones that don’t have anything to do with limited-time events) won’t be so cut-and-dry. WoW has plenty of material to work with and now they have real way to deliver context with content; they just need to beef up the execution especially since a good story component has recently become something many gamers expect from their MMOs.

And finally, not that I’m frustrated about my bad luck of not getting anything else in my reward bags or anything, but…fireworks? Considering Theramore was just wiped off the map, a little harsh, no? Well, pretty, at least!


  1. I’m not a lore nerd like most of my brethern, what I want is good gameplay, and somewhat of a challenge. It just wasn’t there.

    • Let me put it another way…I tanked on my Ret Pally….MY RET PALLY!!!

    • Well, they did make it so scenarios can be completed by any three players, regardless of roles (one time I did it as a dps cat druid with two mages, and we were still okay). I actually like that they did that, in fact.

      You’re right that it wasn’t much of a challenge though, which makes me wonder why they put an ilevel restriction in in the first place, as it seems they wanted to make it easier to be more inclusive during this limited event. so like, why not just allow all 85s then?

      Anyway, it wouldn’t have mattered to me even if it was dirt easy. I think I would care more about getting interesting objectives and better storytelling. It would have more than made up for lack of challenge.

  2. The last few books have been like this though. Everything happens in the book and you get barely a mention of it in game. I really think it should be the other way around. The game should give you the lore and the books should just back the lore up and expand on it. Sure I play the game for the challenge of instances and raids but I also play the game for the story that its able to tell. I shouldn’t have to get that from a book. That’s the beauty of the medium but sadly its no longer the case with WoW.

    • I absolutely agree. I’m also uncomfortable with this trend, though I guess it was less noticeable to me in the last couple of books because I thought those ones barely had a plot 😛 But Tides of Theramore actually had stuff going on in it, pretty important stuff that wasn’t covered in the game, and like you said it really should be the other way around.

      Actually, come to think of it, I think the last book that actually got this balance right was Christie Golden’s Arthas novel. It wasn’t a great book but at least it was one that complemented the information we knew in game, and not told it completely.

  3. As Rohan noted, this is not a new trend. I never set foot in the Sunwell raid, but if memory serves the final encounter of the entire expansion revolved around characters from the comic. (Ironically, also if memory serves that’s where our current Blue aspect came from.)

    The question I had playing Theramore, having stayed away from book spoilers in case I wanted to read it, was the Focusing Iris. I was puzzled because that item is relatively significant – having played a key role in the Dragon Soul raid (and a role that I thought implied the thing wasn’t actually removable from The Nexus – why didn’t the aspects just port it out to power up the Dragon Soul if it could be moved?). I assumed the name couldn’t be a coincidence, but this raised more questions than it answers about how the heck the Horde got it, why the Blue flight did not respond by torching Ogrimmar, etc.

    I still don’t understand why the heck this is happening now – either in the lore or in terms of pacing an expansion where they pre-announced that Garrosh was the final boss. Couldn’t this have been the focus of Patch 5.1? It’s such a huge wasted opportunity – why couldn’t Horde PLAYERS have raided the Nexus and Alliance PLAYERS fought Jaina afterwards to make her come to her senses?

    The one encouraging thing I’ve been hearing is that Fargo seems to understand that he over-corrected for excessive amounts of story in the repeatable portion of content, but that the correct solution was to have quests BEFORE AND AFTER the repeatable scenario that explained what was going on, rather than to do absolutely nothing in game.

    • I don’t know what to think of the Focusing Iris either, to be honest. It could be a) the most relevant plot point in this entire thing, or b) the most useless. Assuming they’re going to go somewhere with it. How the horde got their hands on it in the first place is something even the book doesn’t really explain, it’s pretty much “this is how it is, now take it or leave it.”

      Anyway, quests explaining before and after would go a long way. If what you heard is true, that’s pretty encouraging for me too.

  4. From the scenario perspective, if you haven’t read the book then you would honestly be lead to believe the Goblins dropped the bomb for pure giggles and no other reason. LOGIC says otherwise (and meta logic if you do know the book or the fact Garrosh is going to be the end boss in Mists).

    I discussed it in my review (http://arcanewordsmith.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/amateur-review-tides-of-war/), but the book left me with more questions than answers. Namely, how did a Blackrock get OUT of the mountain, TO Orgrimmar AND become BFF’s with Garrosh? This is to say nothing of the “magical retrieval of an artifact from FIVE dragons.”

    I just think between the scenario and the book, I’ve been left incredibly disappointed by Blizzard just going “ok, so here’s the Coles notes version of the plot. Don’t nitpick, just enjoy the new content next week.”

    • “From the scenario perspective, if you haven’t read the book then you would honestly be lead to believe the Goblins dropped the bomb for pure giggles and no other reason.”

      LOL, this. 😛

      Nice review, I wrote one earlier this week too. Wasn’t a bad book, but you’re absolutely correct about having more questions than answers. Seriously, the biggest plot hole has to be how Garrosh’s horde managed to get their hands on the Focusing Iris. Not even an attempt to explain that at all. And glad I’m not the only one puzzling over Garrosh’s new Blackrock BFF. I thought I’d missed something from before, and just shrugged it off. Something fishy’s definitely going on there though, or maybe Blizzard just wants to set up an extra villain as a raid boss and I’m just overthinking it 😛

      • I never thought of that. 20 bucks says him and his friends are one of the raid encounters when the time comes.

        The more I think about it, I mean I have always enjoyed Christie Golden. Just from the perspective of an author do you not turn around and go “oh, about these giant plot holes…”

        I suppose we could eventually have some of these things explained in game. Part of me doubts it, but part of me thinks that’ll be there attempt at saving face as well.

      • I like Christie Golden as well; though, I’ve only ever read her WoW stuff and like, maybe one Star Wars book of hers. I’ve always figured that many of these authors who write media tie-in books are very restricted in what they are able to write, maybe Blizzard or LucasArts or whoever just goes, “Never mind the plot holes, here’s the framework we want you to follow, so now just shut up and do it!” 😛 Well, I still enjoy her stuff much more than say, Richard A. Knaak for sure (Stormrage was disappointing).

      • I think I’m the only person who liked Stormrage, though that was probably in part because I read it over a long period of time. I did have some disappointments with it as a whole, but didn’t mind it terribly. My wife really didn’t like it.

      • I think part of my disappointment stemmed from my preference for druids and love for Malfurion. I was really looking forward to it because of that, so I kinda asked for it by going in with higher than average expectations.

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