Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Culling of Stratholme

I had a chance to do the new Caverns of Time instance, The Culling of Stratholme, yesterday. My impressions are fairly negative. It is a rather disappointing instance, at least compared to Durnholde and Black Morass.

First off, Blizz makes it very easy for you by having all the citizens turn into Scourge very quickly. Arthas kills a couple civilians, but the vast majority of the time is spent killing undead. It sort of negates the whole impact of this event. In Blizzard's lore, the slaughter of civilians in Stratholme is where Arthas crosses the line, where Uther and Jaina abandon him. However, this instance pretty much puts Arthas on the right side, as everyone in the city seems to be converted to Scourge already. Of course, it would be hard to have players killing civilians, but that's the problem with choosing this event in the first place.

Second, Blizzard is too attached to the whole tourist angle for the Caverns of Time. Warcraft lore is decent B-level fantasy, in my opinion, but it is not strong enough to support tourists. It really only works when the player is a active participant. Maybe Lord of the Rings Online could get away with this, but I don't think Warcraft can. WoW needs the active threat, the notion that the players are needed, to work.

In the first two Caverns of Time instances, the Infinite Dragonflight supplied the motivation for the players to get involved. In Stratholme, they're pretty much an afterthought. They are only in one small section, as the second-to-last boss. It feels like Blizzard just added them in because everyone complained about Hyjal. You could strip them out and--aside from missing one boss--the instance would pretty much be the same.

So that's my view on The Culling of Stratholme. It's a mediocre instance that's little more than a glorified cutscene of an event from Warcraft III. Rather disappointing, really.


  1. No mention of the timed heroic event for the Bronze Drake?

  2. I don't know about that. I've just done it once in Regular.

  3. A Bronze dragon gets captured and you free it. It doesn't seem to be a super-important dragon, so it's not exactly altering the lore in huge ways. Unless I missed something.

    I think scaling back the infinites makes sense. They've disrupted the flow of time. We can't just fight them and expect things to work out. There normal flow must be maintained as well.

    Still, it wasn't as great as I expected. At the least I'd have liked to follow Arthas for a while and join him in kicking ass, even if we were effectively just observers with him doing most of the work. Perhaps Blizzard could have built off that, Arthas kicking ass, then we need to take over while he's tired and assist him against Mal'ganis since he was weakened by the infinites.

  4. Ouch. That makes me sad, because I was really looking forward to doing this instance.

    Oh well. Who knows, maybe the instance will be changed in later patches.

  5. I'm ok with the lore, just, it's a really badly designed instance to play. Besides being in a weird spot, it's forever to get to the action in there, with lots of potential for getting lost. If you wipe (like any escort dungeon) it is annoying as hell to restart, and basically has all the other annoying things about how blizzard has designed escort quests. And the first part of the dungeon seems to random to me (and apparently is really annoying to any tank trying to keep rage).

  6. Being a big fan if the WC lore and a book reader, I am very disappointed by the turn out of this instance. It seems to rushed without enough background on the events that took place and Arthas' reasoning. The corruption just isn't there.

    Additionally I was very displeased with Hyjal, for all the same reasons as Rohan.

  7. Actually I disagree. But I'm pretty much of a noob when it comes to lore, I just can't get it into my head. Maybe I should read some more novels, it would help a bit.

    Anyway, gamewise the new strat is one of my favourites in the expansion. I think it's beautiful, relaxing, very entertaining. Not just some static bosses lined up in a corridore. And the timed run is awesome! It gives pace to it really! I managed to complete it the other day but lost the mount roll. But I definitly don't mind trying to do it over and over again until I get it!
    The only thing I mind in the instance is the long boring speaches. It's great the first time, but you should be able to skip it when you're repeating content. And the guy walks SO slowly, which is a bit annoying when running against timer.

  8. About Hyjal: I always wondered what would have happened if the raid were to attack the Scourge base before talking to Jaina.

  9. 2 comments:

    - I *loved* the approach to Stratholme, seeing the Eastern Plaguelands in their pre-scourge version, walking up to that all too familiar bridge entrance without being attacked left, right and center by gargoyles and abominations.

    - I recommend you (re)play warcraft 3 to revisit the Culling of Stratholme. The city starts with 0 civilians and just a bunch of houses. Break down the houses and the people in it instantly go into a sort of coma, and then fully transform into ghouls 5-6 seconds later. The quest also focuses more on preventing Malganis from harvesting 100 people than it focuses on you slaughtering 100 people (i'd say the quest cannot be completed if you focus solely on killing civilians - you need to seek out Malganis time after time and stop him so he doesn't gain a lead on you).
    Imo Arthas did cross a line at Stratholme, in that he allowed his desire for revenge to get the better of him, and in turning away from Uther and Jaina. But his culling of Stratholme actually turns out to be fully justifiable - the town was lost already.

  10. I complete agree - turning the citizens undead is a huge problem. It feels like we're doing the *right* thing. But then, it couldn't have worked the other way round either, because we actually *are* doing the right thing (for the Bronze Dragonflight). Which leads, I think, to the conclusion that it was a bad event to turn into an instance.

    If I ignore the lore for a second, I'm a bit disappointed by the way the instance unfolds. We agree to help Arthas and then he.. disappears for three bosses? I got such a kick out of fighting with Thrall, it would have been nice if Arthas had stuck around from the beginning. Not a team player I guess.

    Having said all that, I still think it's a fun instance if you can get past the story. It's paced well, there's a nice variety of encounters and it looks fab.

  11. I haven't done Strathomle, but from what I read here the only encounter with someone from the infinite dragonflight is one boss who tries to stop Arthas? At least that's more than what happened in Hyjal, because it sucked when you look at the somewhat confusing story around the infinite dragonflight.

    Unless I have missed something I still don't quite understand that faction. What's their purpose, goal and leader?

    From what I can gather they have tried to do 3 things to change history (I don't count Hyjal since they weren't there).

    1. Stop Thrall from escaping, which ultimatelly means keeping Thrall away from getting the Horde back together and later in alliance with humans and night elves.

    2. Stop Medivh making the portal between Azeroth and Outland. This would mean no orcs in Azeroth, and ultimately no alliance.

    3. Stop Arthas crossing the line to "the dark side" since his culling of Strathome is considered to be his point of no return to become the Lich King.

    My conclusion so far is that either the Burning Legion itself is behind the infinite dragonflight. Or they are a totally different faction that sees they would benefit in some way that Burning Legion had succeeded.

  12. I really liked the isntance at first, but when you're trying to get the heroic acheivement done and the timing is down to the wire waiting for all of that walking around and the endless speeches from Arthas and the other dragonkin seem to drag on and on!

    But when we're not in a hurry I still find it fun to re-live the time so many years ago I controlled Arthas in the Culling.

    It could be some sort of Time Paradox!! I'm up in the sky controlling Arthas while my future self is down here helping Arthas meet his destiny!!


  13. My guild finally managed to complete the timed event :). I was also the lucky one to grab the mount as well XD.. He's a runt in comparison to my Red Drake, but still its cool to have another of the dragonblight to fly around with! My guild leader was ticking me off to no end and I almost didnt come along with them in that run; but I stuck it out since a Ret pally is almost a necessity in that place to clear out all of the ghouls so you can get to the elite mobs. I'll be helping all the rest of them out to get their mounts as well, but I think we have a good sense of the instance now and can easily progress through it with minutes to spare.

    The biggest thing to watch out for is mana conservation. Do your best to do as much damage with the least amount of mana used (if your a paladin use divine plea as soon as the CD is up) and AoE most of the place.

    Lore-wise I think the instance works alright since we're trying to stop Arthas from tipping the scale from sanity to insanity with his pursuit of revenge. I think we don't have too much control over it though which is why I think more people have a bit of discontent with it. That and we were forced into "cleansing" Stratholme with Arthas instead of playing off of reasoning with Arthas from Jaina's perspective more. All we got was "Arthas, I can't do this; I won't help you do this." Then off we went to destroy the Scourge.

    That and Blizzard didnt want us to actually change the events in time (Didn't get to actually down Malganis) .. so we tried to change the events in time, but in the end it was all for nought (besides racing to save a dragon (lets say it's Toad for this example) -- BUT THE PRINCESS IS IN ANOTHER CASTLE? lol)

  14. Well, I agree with you for the most part.

    The CoT are really just an outlet for Warcraft fanservice. Want to fight with Malfurion and Tyrande? Want to see young Thrall? Want to fight hordes of dragons that aren't from any existing lore at all... ok, all but BM then...

    While lore is important and interesting to ME, I know that 80% of the player base could care less. I'm OK with the tourism to a certain extent - the fact that they do it at the expense of lore (with the example of Arthas not mowing down civilians being a great one) is one of the tragedies.

    The other tragedy is that an entire DRAGONFLIGHT has been relegated to tour guides. When we were trying to get the AQ gates open on our server and the lore was flowing freely of full blown dragons warring alongside night elves against an empire controlled by and old God... Up until this point, 2-6 full blown dragons were known of (if you count the greens), and they were serious fights. A dragon dying was something that 40 prepared epic (rare back then) heroes might have a chance to do.

    An empire that could challenge and kill numerous full blown Bronze dragons (the Quiraji) was a big deal. Also, Chromie was cool in WPL.

    Now the Bronze dragonflight are there to help you teleport to places easier and guide you into and through the rides in the fun-house CoT. I remember when Nozdormu was someone you approached with caution and offered help to... not someone who asks YOU to help out.

    This doesn't mean the instances aren't fun, just a little weak in the lore sauce.

  15. I have only done it on regular so I can't speak to issues of the heroic version. I more or less like it, though I agree with you on a few points. I'm not a big fan of running around from one side of Strat to the other. I'm not enough of a lore nerd to speak to how appropriate it is for the town to quickly turn into undead so you can start culling it. The consensus that I'm reading is that Arthas was justified in the action because the turning of the population was occurring; however the act itself was extreme and the rest is history.

  16. If you look back at the gate when you fight the first few waves you'll see Arthas standing there,
    What is evil and "wrong" according to the impact of the culling is that not all of the citizens are undead. Some neutral citizens do try to run out of the city, and they do get cut down by Arthas and the soldiers blocking the gate.

    Also what is implied during the time when you're doing the first 2 bosses is that Arthas and his soldiers are actually doing the culling - going house to house to kill people.

    Thus, he only joins you AFTER he has (according to original WCIII objectives) "saved" 100 citizens from Malganis. So when he joins you the deed is already done.

    Blizz probably don't want to force players to do the actually culling - game mechanic wise, it would be boring going around kill 100 neutral citizens. Not to mention the impact it has making you feel sullied doing such unwholesome deeds.

    The only minor disappointment, due to hardware mechanics is that you don't feel like you are in a a big army - Culling is one, the other is Battle for the Undercity. When I did it, I had myself and a moonkin running around the sewers with Varian and Jaina - that's an army???

    I noticed the soldiers do come in - but are not active participants in the battle.

    I'm ok with that because I know to have an army would decrease performance and would probably put more people off than to scale it back drastically and "pretend" that there is an army there.

  17. I think it's only worth running for the drake mount....

  18. I think the explanation for the Infinite Dragonfligth is in the Yogg Saron encounter.
    We find out that Yogg Saron was controlling Blackmore, Medivh , Arthas and a few others. And remember te quest in Dragonblight where you go to the bronze dragonshine to look for the infinite Dragonflight's leader and you find Nozdormu?

    What if Nozdormu, KNOWING that Yogg Saron altered history already by controlling some of the main characters, decided to craete the Infinite Dragonfligth to put things right? I mean in the lore Nozdormu is supposed to be missing, and he is the master of time, and whoever created the infinite dragonflight had to have his cooperation.

  19. Interesting. I realize I'm a year past this posts origination, but perhaps this is more a statement about history in general? and some truth about the history of Arthas?

    Consider the discovery of the Americas and the destruction brought to those native peoples. The incoming forces described the natives as godless savages as an excuse for genocide. They destroyed their cultures and pushed them to the point of extermination. Only in some recent decades has this come to light.

    Perhaps, Arthas has been painted in a bad light by Jainas and Uther all this time so they can justify killing the scourge by the millions, in an attempt control Azeroth. Did Arthas really kill 100 unplagued citizens? or just 4 that tried to escape being tested?

    I know now what I saw with my own eyes, and so do each of you. No longer will I believe the lies told to me and my people for generations . . . . FOR ARTHAS!!!

  20. I did the instance and im just curious, If Arthas is such a bad guy... why do we stop the infinites from killing him. It sounds like going back in time and killing him before he becomes the Lich King is a logical and apparently viable solution to the problem of how to stop the Lich King from taking over.

  21. The thing that's really bothered me about pretty much all the CoT instances, less so with Thrall, increasingly with Black Morass, but so much so with Culling that I probably won't even play it (seems odd, I know, having 'integrity' with a fictional character, but maybe I'm an RPer at heart) is WHY are we doing this? Why are we helping Medivh unleash the foul Horde on Azeroth? Why would we help Arthas murder innocent people and eventually become the Lich King, the enemy of ALL life? There doesn't really seem to be any explanation offered to players, and for me it's annoying. I avoid playing the CoT instances not only because they're somewhat annoying, but also because I hate helping villains!

    I'd appreciate more storytelling involved that justifies why we heroes would want to help the worst villains in WoW history. It's like building a time machine and using it to go back in time and help Hitler invade Poland.