Having read War Crimes, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the Vision of Time quests would be anticlimactic. I suppose it was mildly interesting to see things about which I had read, but I was hoping for a little more. On the plus side, at least I won’t have to go killing on the Timeless Isle for Epoch Stones now. Farming while watching Netflix was getting tedious.
While I love Christie Golden’s Warcraft books, this was my first by Richard A. Knaak, and I found it severely lacking. The story seemed a bit sloppy, and I didn’t care for the writing. However, the overall story was an important part of the on-going Warcraft story.
The story centers around something that should be a huge event in the Warcraft universe. I’d expect this to be listed alongside the war against Illidan, the War in Northrend, and the Horde-Alliance War after the Cataclysm. It’s an epic story, and fans of the universe should enjoy learning more about the events. While not a problem with the novel itself, I should point out that Blizzard seems to overlook the events of this novel in the game itself.
I have a few major problems with the book. The first one is the most important despite being the hardest to articulate. I just wasn’t feeling it. I gave up on Stormrage three times before finally getting through it. It jumped around to different characters and took a long time to get me to care about most of the characters. I eventually came around to Broll, one of the main characters, and I would enjoy seeing more of him in the future. The biggest hook for me was the inclusion of Hamuul Runetotem, Archdruid and tauren. While he wasn’t the most front-and-center character, he was someone I liked, so I clung to him.
Two major characters, Malfurion and Tyrande, seem flawed. Malfurion, despite having difficulties and setbacks, just seems far too powerful. Tyrande on the other hand received some characterization but usually takes a backseat to Malfurion. Why yield to him so much? Knaak does have her assert herself sometimes, which is good, but it’s still hard for me to think of her as a real character when Blizzard treats her as nothing but a figurehead next to Malfurion.
Malfurion needs to gather power to perform a task, so he draws as much power as he can. Shortly after that, he realizes he doesn’t have enough power, so he draws all the power he can, which is just a bit more. Of course, it’s still not enough, so what does he do? He draws all the power he can out of those same sources and finds a little more this time. I had to ask myself, “didn’t Malfurion already tap all the power he could from that?” Apparently the answer was no.
Late in the book, someone’s identity is revealed to the reader and some characters. Tyrande does not learn of it at the time, but in the chapters following her, Knaak continually references the true identity. He points out that Tyrande doesn’t currently know the identity but that at some later point, Malfurion tells her. Then he slips into continually having Tyrande thoughts include the identity. It’s true that it’s Knaak the narrator using the true identity, not Tyrande, but it feels reads very oddly.
My final complaint is regarding word usage. There are certain descriptions that Knaak uses over and over. This character wears a stoic expression. That character’s face is stoic. This scene is macabre. That creature is macabre. Yes, we get it.
Admittedly, the events described in Stormrage are interesting. The novel also fills a gap in Warcraft’s history that will be apparent to people paying attention to the games. If you’ve asked yourself what happened to the trouble with the Emerald Dream / Emerald Nightmare or wondered why Malfurion was suddenly back in Azeroth, this novel will answer your questions. However, if I were to rate the novel without consideration for the larger universe, I’d have to give it even lower than the two out of five stars that I did.
After running through the Theramore’s Fall scenario last night, I can say that I was pretty disappointed. I like the concept, but Theramore’s Fall was not very interesting. I hope it isn’t indicative of the other scenarios. Obviously, I’ll be spoiling the scenario in this post. At the end, in a separate section, I’m going to be spoiling the novel. It’s worth noting that without being familiar with the novel, the scenario makes no sense at all.
My first complaint is about how the scenario is integrated. What are we doing? Why are we here? How would I even know about this scenario if I didn’t read blogs? There’s nothing in the actual world. There should have been something on the Warchief’s Command Board along with guards barking out instructions. “All able-bodied members of the Horde are to report for war immediately!” Of course, you’re not going off to the main battle for Theramore. When you talk to the guard, he could say something like, “Warchief Hellscream has requested the best of the best for the special mission. You look like you have what it takes. Report to him at once.” Garrosh could have some dialogue before queuing you for the scenario. But no. There was nothing.
Instructions are displayed on the screen. I actually like this because it makes it clear. However, there was no explanation for why we were doing these tasks. I would have liked an NPC to tell us the instructions. I started on a Horde ship docked at Theramore and was tasked with rigging explosives on six Alliance ships. Why were there explosives on those ships? I don’t know. Who’s telling us to do this? I don’t know. Stage two tasked me with informing a goblin that the explosives were set, allowing him to blow the ships. There are Horde NPCs along the docks but not much real fighting. In Stage three I had to defeat some guards and the flightmaster. He was a simple boss. It was time to defeat a siege engine in stage four. Fun little enemy. It was nothing compared to actual bosses, but when you think of scenarios more as quests (possibly without tanks or healers), it seemed decent. It’s worth noting that there don’t seem to be armies anywhere. Where’s the Horde? Where’s the Alliance? It doesn’t make a lot of sense.
At that point a cutscene is played showing an airship stationed by goblins dropping a huge mana bomb on Theramore. Where did they get the mana bomb? Was there an actual battle or just the bomb? Without the novel, this isn’t answered.
I received a bag at the end of the scenario that contained five Horde symbol fireworks. You can kind of see the symbol in my screenshot. It didn’t actually look much better in the game. I suppose this is kind of realistic. Fireworks usually look almost how they’re supposed to look.
Zidormi, the NPC that usually stands in front of the portal to the Caverns of Time in the Violet Citadel, now stands near the western bridge leading to Theramore. She’ll temporarily phase you back if you want to see Theramore in its previous glory. I don’t know if she’ll be here permanently, but I really hope so. I like being able to see the old content.
Here’s a quick bullet-pointed summary of the novel that helps explain the scenario.
- The blue dragonflight is slowly disbanding.
- The Focusing Iris is stolen from the blues as they move it. They were hiding it because the mortals know about the Eye of Eternity.
- Kalecgos sees if Jaina might have some insight.
- Kalecgos and Jaina slowly fall in love.
- Jaina gets an apprentice named Kinndy Sparkshine, daughter of Windle Sparkshine, the Dalaran gnome who lights the street lights.
- Garrosh declares that Kalimdor should belong only to the Horde and orders all Horde races to amass an army.
- Malkorok is a former Blackrock orc and is now Garrosh’s right-hand man and personal bodyguard.
- The Kor’kron Guard are now acting like enforcers and secret police, led by Malkorok.
- People who speak out against Garrosh are either never seen again or return from visits from the Kor’kron severely hurt.
- The Horde destroys Northwatch Hold and plans to march on Theramore.
- Garrosh is using dark shaman to create elemental giants to use in war.
- Baine and Vol’jin vocally oppose Garrosh.
- Baine sends a messenger to Theramore warning Jaina that an attack is coming. He feels bad that he must be part of it but says that it would be bad for the tauren to openly oppose Garrosh.
- Baine also returns Fearbreaker to Jaina, instructing her to return it to Anduin. He doesn’t feel like it’s right to keep it.
- Garrosh holds army for a long time rather than marching on Theramore.
- Jaina convinces the Kirin Tor to help her.
- Almost all high-ranking generals of the Alliance along with the Kirin Tor come to Theramore to defend it.
- Garrosh waits until the Alliance’s forces are all gathered in one spot before leading an attack.
- There is an all out war between the armies of the Alliance and the Horde. Yes, there are many people involved although it’s not shown in the scenario.
- The Kirin Tor mages are magically reinforcing the walls. One Sunreaver mage, Thalen Songweaver, actually weakens the walls to allow the Horde into the city. He’s caught by Jaina and jailed.
- The Alliance and Horde both lose a number of soldiers before the Horde is pushed out of the city.
- A small number of Horde rescue Thalen Songweaver from Theramore. This is what the scenario is about.
- Garrosh reveals that he had the Focusing Iris stolen from the Blue Dragonflight. He used it to create the largest mana bomb ever built and then orders it dropped on Theramore.
- This explains why Garrosh waited until Theramore was reinforced. The reason why he battled on the ground at all was simply for the glory of war.
- Rhonin claims that Jaina should be the future of the Kirin Tor and teleports her to safety as he attempts to suck the mana bomb explosion to him and contain it as much as possible.
- Most Alliance generals are killed as was her apprentice, Kinndy. Rhonin is, of course, dead.
- Jaina returns to Theramore physically altered by the arcane exposure. She steals the Focusing Iris herself.
- The Horde naval fleet creates a blockade around Kalimdor.
- Jaina decides that the time for peace has ended. She vows to flatten Orgrimmar, including all children, herself.
- Varian and Anduin are appalled at the change in Jaina and do not like the idea of destroying an entire Horde city.
- Varian believes they must come up with an intelligent plan. He rebuilds the Alliance fleet and decides to make a feint for Darkshore, hoping the Horde navy responds. The bulk of his ships will sail for Orgrimmar so that Alliance forces can enter and kill Garrosh Hellscream.
- Varian tells Anduin how a true king must be responsible for both the good and the bad. He tells Anduin he’s proud of him and knows that Anduin will make a good king if he (Varian) doesn’t return.
- Anduin gives a speech to the people of the Alliance, blessing them and causing them to glow with the holy Light.
- Thrall returns to Kalimdor after the elements’ new unrest at the elemental giants being used by the Horde.
- Thrall confronts Jaina who is no longer willing to call him a friend. She attempts to kill him.
- Kalecgos talks Jaina down from using water elementals as a giant tidal wave against Orgrimmar, and Thrall leaves.
- Garrosh somehow summons krakens to use against the Alliance navy.
- Jaina uses the elementals to defeat the kraken.
- Garrosh pulls his forces in to defend Orgrimmar, the Alliance navy sail to release the Alliance’s other ports from Horde control.
- Jaina, not knowing what to do with herself, goes to Dalaran. She requests to formally join the Kirin Tor.
- Kalecgos, no longer an Aspect after the battle against Deathwing and with no blue dragons left following him, decides to join the Kirin Tor as well.
- Jaina returns the Focusing Iris to Kalecgos.
- The Kirin Tor, following a prophecy written by Antonidas, not only accept Jaina but also put her in charge of the Kirin Tor.
- The Kirin Tor also accept Kalecgos.
- Kalecgos declares that mortals are very capable and hands the Focusing Iris over to the Kirin Tor.
Pretty much none of this is explained in the scenario. Some of the details are likely not needed, but the scenario needed a lot more lore than what was in it (none). The book, while excellent, is missing a couple things as well. Most notably, I’d like to know more about Malkorok and how the Horde obtained the Focusing Iris.
Character development was excellent for the most part. I can see how Jaina would snap even if it seemed a little extreme. Garrosh has gone all out war-crazy. It seems odd that he was against the Forsaken’s use of the blight but is okay with the huge mana bomb. I suppose you could assume that he’s decided that enough is enough and is now willing to go to more extreme tactics; However, we don’t really get in his head enough. It’s just not explained.
Varian is becoming a wonderful character. He’s war-crazy side seems fully integrated with his logical side. I love that he’s proud and accepting of Anduin now. Varian seems like the kind of noble king that the Alliance deserve. I’m starting to wish my character could look up to him.
How do you make a raid?, Olivia Grace, WoW Insider, 8/20/12.
Olivia recounts what she learned about raid design from Lead Encounter Designer Ion Hazzikostas and Lead Game Producer John Lagrave at Gamescom. It’s a fascinating read!
Reminder: Scholomance and Scarlet Monastery prepped to change for good, Anne Stickney, WoW Insider, 8/17/12.
With these two instances being updated in Mists of Pandaria, Anne describes a bucketlist of things to do in the instances before the patch hits.
WoW Insider interviews author Christie Golden, Anne Stickney, WoW Insider, 8/21/12.
I love Golden’s book, so it’s nice to see her answer some general questions as well as talk about Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War.
Because the Old Gods, Garrosh Hellscream, The Warchief’s Command Board, 8/5/12.
I actually want to highlight this blog more than this entry (although hearing about everything’s the fault of the Old Gods is pretty funny too). This blog is almost entirely written from the perspective of Garrosh Hellscream. It’s really great.
Know Your Lore: Nazgrim and Taylor, faces for their factions, Matthew Rossi, WoW Insider, 8/22/12.
An examination of these two character who, apparently, take on bigger roles in Mists of Pandaria. They are the leaders of their factions on the actual battlefield.
Shared Topic: Are you playing in the WoW Beta?, Chris Pearson, Confessions of a Grown-Up Gamer, 8/11/12.
I would have linked this in my Shared Topic post had I been reading his blog. (Sorry, Chris!) Now that I know how great his writing and thoughts on WoW are, I wanted to share this one. Chris beta tests extensively as part of his job, so he doesn’t want to beta test in his personal time. He also wants to be surprised by the finished product. He sums up my thoughts pretty well!
Patch 5.0.4 changes hit and expertise, Matthew Rossi, WoW Insider, 8/21/12.
This could be some good information if you’re one of those sad people who plays tanks or DPS! Wait, and what do I need for PVP? Oh, he didn’t cover that.
Wild Pets of The Jade Forest, Cymre, Bubbles of Mischief, 8/18/12.
Look at that Bucktooth Flapper! I want him so badly!
Discovering OpenRaid, Chris Pearson, Confessions of a Grown-Up Gamer, 8/20/12.
Chris discovers OpenRaid, a site that helps people run cross-realm raids.
Thrall: Hour of Twilight by Christie Golden is an exciting addition to the World of Warcraft story. I recently finished it and found it pretty exciting. In it we see Thrall grow as a person, the ascension of a new Aspect, an important battle with the Twilight Flight, the return of Nozdormu, and an interesting reveal about the various enemies of Azeroth. Previously I read The Shattering, also by Golden, which I enjoyed much more, but I still found Hour of Twilight to be a good read. The ending, while not a cliffhanger, didn’t seem quite right to me, but this might be due to what I know or think is to come in the next patch.
The question now is, which book do I read next? Do I read a Hugo award winner, Agent to the Stars, which I’ve been wanting to read for a while, or another World of Warcraft novel? I’m leaning towards another World of Warcraft novel – Rise of the Horde, Stormrage, or Wolfheart! Rise of the Horde would let me continue reading Golden and learning of the glorious Horde, but the either two would let me try Richard A. Knaak and get a glimpse of the Alliance.