Before we leap ahead into the Cataclysm of another expansion, I’d like to do my traditional pre-expansion look back on the joys of WoW past.
Most days, day in and day out, it’s kind of the same old thing, right? Especially when an expansion or content patch is this long in the tooth.
Ahhh… but there are those moments, and you know you’ve had them, where the everyday game is eclipsed by sudden pulse-pounding excitement, chills, thrills, surprises and “Holy crap, that was cool!” moments.
The one truth to those moments, is that once you’ve had that moment, you’ll never experience the magic in quite the same way again. The best we can hope for is to try and recapture the remembrance of that magical moment while playing a once and future alt the next time around.
I was talking with Cassie about this, and for her several once-in-a-gametime moments sprang immediately to mind. For this retrospective, it’s these special, magical, once in a lifetime moments of Cassie’s I’d like to visit.
The first one for Cassie, literally the first, was when she was playing her first ever character, her Rogue, in Elwynn Forest. She was questing, and exploring, moving through this unfamiliar, strange new online world. Her video game experience, while extensive, had to this date resided solely in platformers and console RPGs such as Spyro the Dragon and Kingdom Hearts. An expansive, persistant online world where she was free to roam and explore to her heart’s content was wildly new, when framed against such a background of “on the rails” linear storylines.
It was while she moved ever deeper into Elwynn Forest, clearing the way and feeling like a badass, stabby stabby, that she ran into that diabolical archfiend, Hogger, for the very first time.
The moment was exhiliarating, terrifying, and in the end, a brutal, bloody defeat. Hearing her cries of rage and frustrated bloodlust, I rushed to her desk to see what was the matter. That was when I had the dubious pleasure of explaining that, oh yeah, Silver Dragons around mob portraits, and mobs with unique and personal names, were generally BAD THINGS. Yeah, I know, thanks for the news flash, any more things I might like to add? Like daggers do damage and traveling without a mount sucks? “Umm, no dear. Love you!”
The next memorable moment came soon after, as Cassie traveled on foot walking along the road from Elwynn Forest to Westfall, and picking up quests along the way.
This moment also evoked cries of anger, and I again went rushing to see what had happened. There Cassie lay, her body broken and bloody upon the road of Westfall.
“But… I was on the road! They’re not supposed to eat me if I’m on the road!”
Oh yes, that was truly a memorable moment full of surprise, shock and dismay. Not even traveling upon the road will grant you safety in the deadly world of Warcraft. Plus, I have to say, in the coyotes’ defense, Cassie did look mighty tasty.
Yep, just leaving the castle of Stormwind some days is putting your life in your own hands. Or, to put it a different way like Martin Sheen expressed in Apocalypse Now, “Never get out of the boat.”
Another moment for Cassie that she remembers with stark vividness is when she was questing on her own in Loch Modan. She has a policy, where she will never cause harm, or by her inaction allow others to cause harm to innocent little critters. Bunnies and squirrels of the lands, rejoice, for if I were to look as if I might target one, my ass, it doth be grass.
This softhearted kindness, however, does not extend to that most dreaded of ursines, “Ol’ Sooty.” Ol’ Sooty, the massive bear possessed of a strength and power dwarfing that of Hogger, at the time of this telling still a mighty Elite, normally resides up in her mountain lair, overlooking the small village down below.
But not on this day, oh no. No, this day, while Cassie strolled peacefully along, Ol’ Sooty apparently had heard about this most tasty of travelers, and descended from her mountain cave in order to path back and forth along the trail, where any questor scurrying hither and yon to and fro from Thelsamar may run across her.
Cassie, seeing a bear wandering out in the open, took aim and fired.
Ah yes. “Bear in the open, 30 meters, fire for effect.” “Hit.” “OH SHIT!!!”
You could hear the cries of anguish all the way to Mississippi, I swear. “A big damn bear just fell on me!”
Ever since, as she levels new alts, she makes a point of stopping by Loch Modan to “say hi” to Ol’ Sooty… from the barrel of a gun.
Not that she holds a grudge, or anything. Oh no…… far be it from ME to ever suggest such a base canard.
Last but not least of Cassie’s recollections, is the day she sought to level her Rogue’s lockpicking skill.
She had read that just up the road and over the hill from Lakeshire was a wonderful spot for young Rogues to pick lockboxes that respawned quite speedily.
Nobody, however, thought to warn her that she should watch for PACKS of HUGE FREAKING ORCS hiding behind the trees looking for tasty Rogues to eat.
In her own words, she was “brutally assaulted”. I asked her, “What, by the orcs?”
No, by all the people that, when Cassie complained to friends about being ganked and dying, told her “Oh yeah, they always do that.”
In conclusion, I’d like to add two moments for myself.
First, is the incredible tension being on foot, without a mount, brings when leveling without a flying mount in Hellfire Peninsula. Whenever that ground shakes, my head whips around. “Fel Reaver? Where? Oh shit, RUN!”
Which is a laughable idea, considering those bastards move like the wind. A foul wind. Nothing says “Another poor sucker’s getting eaten” quite like watching from a distance as a Fel Reaver pauses, and then breaks into Formula Mach One mode across the plains in hot pursuit.
My second personal moment, and to show that not all of them have to be “Surprise, you’ve been jumped by an overpowered Elite”, is the entire Wrathgate chain.
That moment when the cinematic first unfolds for you, taking you out of the game and immersing you unexpectedly into the story was just a wonderful thing.
I understand that’s going away in the new expansion. That makes me sad, in a way, but the truth is… once you’ve experienced any of these moments, you can never quite recapture that same magic.
You will never think you’re safe on the road once you’ve been eaten, you’ll have learned about aggro ranges.
You will never idly tag a mob with a Silver Dragon portrait, or the title of Elite, or having it’s own, unique name again in pure innocense. You may do it by accident, but if you do, you won’t be shocked and horrified, because you’ll know what just happened, even as it’s happening to you. Again. Damnit.
Each moment in the game that you learn something new is a good experience, growing, getting better, gaining knowledge and, hopefully, wisdom. And that’s a good thing.
But it does raise the bar for what it will take for us to feel that next magical moment. That new surprise.
Here’s looking back at many long years full of such moments, and hoping that in the years to come, the biggest Cataclysm will be the destruction of our expectations, and a whole new range of magical moments to experience.