Saturday, September 26, 2009

Arthas as a Villain

Arthas needs a victory.

Ever since the Battle at Light's Hope Chapel, Arthas has lost battle after battle. The players enter Northrend, and from zone to zone, they defeat Arthas at every turn. The closest he comes to victory is at the Wrathgate, but the Forsaken interfere and he has to retreat. Even in the latest patch, he's all, "Fools, now you face Anub'arak", and then the players promptly kill Anub'arak. Again.

As a result, Arthas is coming off as a "paper tiger". He shows up, makes a speech, and retreats defeated. A good villain needs to be respected. In a normal story, the heroes can't go from victory to victory. They need to suffer setbacks. For example, The Empire Strikes Back is one long acknowledgement of this necessity.

But in an RPG, can the game really impose failure on the players? To me, a game putting you into a no-win situation seems very unfair. In some ways, this is because we already have failure in the game, but it's just a temporary state. You wipe, and you try again. Victory may be hard, but it is possible. The game forcing you to lose seems like a betrayal of this principle.

But for the good of the storyline, Arthas needs a victory to reinstate him as a real threat.

I don't think that Arthas can score a victory over the players directly without it coming across as contrived.1 The best path is probably to kill at least one major NPC in combat at the start of patch 3.3.

I think there are three candidates that would immediately restore Arthas' credentials as a villain: Jaina Proudmoore, High Overlord Saurfang, or Tirion Fordring. Of these three, Tirion is probably the best choice, as the central opponent of Arthas. As an additional effect, Arthas could shatter the Ashbringer, bringing tears to the eyes of all warriors, paladins, and death knights.

Jaina and Saurfang are also good choices because they tend to be popular with their respective factions. The downside here is that a death would have less impact on the opposing faction.

1 Though it would be hilarious if Arthas killed your little Argent Crusade squire. It would be pretty hardcore to permanently lose a pet. By WoW standards, anyways.


  1. I agree completely. I'm reluctant to see a major figure die, but maybe that just means it would be more effective. My personal favorite would be burning down Orgrimmar or seriously corrupting Darnassus.

  2. Excellent post, making a very valid point. I am with you on Fordring being the best choice of a her to defeat, thus putting Arthas back on the map as a big bad relieving himself of his current status of also-ran/near has-been.

  3. You're right. And really I am disappointed that Blizzard hasn't followed some tried and tested screenwriting rules here.

    Darn it, we're supposed to start the last act on a downer with all the odds against us.

  4. What about what happened in Zul'Drak? Specifically at the end of Drak'tharon Keep?

  5. Well, that was a sort of victory, I guess. It was pretty much negated instantly in the first part of Zul'Drak.

    Plus, that was less Arthas winning, and more Drakuru playing you.

  6. Darion is also a strong death candidate. The post-Wrath status quo is for DK's to be back with their factions, not following the Ebon Blade on both sides of the conflict. Shattering the Crusade and the Knights of the Ebon Blade might be the plot of part of the Icecrown 5-man.

    If you really wanted a dark horse candidate for a shocking death, I'd say Thrall. The rumor was that Garrosh would be taking over the Horde to have it be more war-like anyway, the airship fight in Icecrown is supposedly a race between Varian and Garrosh (where's Thrall?), and Thrall is bad-ass enough that even the Alliance would give props to Arthas for offing him.

  7. Kill Jaina, Thrall, AND Tirion. It's a major game-wide loss, coupled with a loss that really hurts your faction. Also, killing those 3 pretty much wrecks any chance of peace between factions, which is supposed to be gone come Cataclysm anyways. You can justify unity just long enough for a revenge killing, and then the war is on in full force. Then, even if Arthas is defeated, he still succeeds in destroying the united front between Horde and Alliance.

  8. You have to remember that the villain is no longer just Arthas, but also the Lich King himself intertwined.
    If I was to write a good plot...I would have the major bad guy seem helpless and let the good guys look to be unstoppable. Then when they go in for the kill let loose with the full force of a fully operational Deathstar! (nice reference huh?)

    You have to also remember that the Lich isn't just content with taking over Azeroth..he is looking for payback for his imprisonment in Northrend as well by those that did the imprisoning. I could see Blizzard taking the loar (if they still know what it is) and throwing us some major stuff with Arthas.

  9. Doesn't Arthas gains a victory when he destroys his hearth in the Cathedral of Darkness?

  10. No, Tirion is the one who destroys the Heart.

  11. Actually, Arthas doesn't even have to kill any major lore figures in 3.3 in order to score a major victory that will make every player in Northrend - in the entire Azeroth - scream for his blood.

    Just one little vial of good old Zombie Plague dropped into Dalaran's water supply, and the horror will start all over again - and this time, Putress won't be around to invent a cure.

  12. Jaina popular? Not really, I'd prefer that orc-hugging feminist gone and signing in the choir invisible. Because of her inactivity and orc-hugging we'll be losing Ashenvale and that I can't stomach.

  13. I don't think we necessarily need to have a hero to die.

    How about an instance where we make in-roads and kill a bunch of scourge. And then Arthas shows up and really kicks our ass - and Tirion had to come save us...

    Then the last 'boss fight' is to escape the instance, which is now exploding with falling ice, frost fire spewing from the floor, skeleton arms grabbing your raider's heels that you need to free them...

    Before "Lich King's Fury" instant wipes the raid again.

    Tirion gives you a reward should you manage to escape.

  14. Oh my god, you can't kill Jaina, the entire emo demographic would burst into flames.

  15., I love your idea! Please submit it to the developers :)

  16. I think the intent of the developers has been that all of your victories against the Lich King are really supposed to be _his_ victories. The story in WotLK has been that Arthas has a personal interest in your character, and that he's essentially leading you down his own path of corruption.

    Not that I disagree that Arthas has become a paper tiger, though. All we really see as players is Arthas losing over and over, and it's occurring over such a long time frame that it feels like Arthas is powerless. Especially because we know that whatever Arthas does, we're not going to end this expansion on his side, so there's no threat there. So the narrative has been weakened and Arthas seems ineffective. So yeah, I agree Arthas needs a victory and that is probably best accomplished by killing or corrupting a popular NPC.

  17. If Arthas killed my personal squire, I would hate him forever. I'm very fond of that little guy, I named him the Wart after King Arthur, and I make him carry my flags...


    In all honesty, I'd have a much more personal reaction to him if he did something that affected me directly. My main is a Draenei, and I doubt she'd be all that cut up if Jaina or Tirion Fordring were out of the picture. It would be great to find something that would affect the characters personally -- like in the death knight starting area. Arthas sent them to die as bait for Fordring... I know it pissed me off when it happened to my DK.

  18. Arthas could have a massive victory without killing anyone.

    Imagine if he just broke out of Icecrown and took over Crystalsong (the place is empty anyway). And not only that, but imagine if the first phase was to send Sindragosa and literally shoot Dalaran out of the sky.

    From that point on - instead of this pristine city in the clouds, you have the cities in rubble around you with scourge LITERALLY coming in through the walls.

    Instead of Crystalsong being a mostly idyllic zone, it's another Scourgeholm - a nightmare of undead and Nerubians.

    And while I'm on the topic of Nerubians - I really feel like Blizzard dropped the ball with the way they ended Trial of the Crusader. Here we have 4 bosses in a row with zero trash, but a *twist* at the end is... a 5th boss without any trash.

    If anything, we should have had the most epic gauntlet event to date, with scores of mobs rushing the Champions and Anub'arak at the end. But I guess it's too late to complain about that.

  19. Zuragorvis/Anvilmar1:34 PM, September 28, 2009

    What if Arthas is NOT a villain at the end? While we're talking Star Wars analogies, what about the Vader/Emperor thing at the end of Jedi? Maybe Arthas will shed the influence of the Lich King and help us, Thrall, Jaina, and Tirion take down the Lich King, and goes down as a tragic hero in the meantime? (there's no way Thrall sits this out, is there? Please make Thrall be part of this, I'm tired of Garrosh). You could make Frostmourne a separately targeted item, like Kologarn's hands, and killing it can restore Arthas to his old self. (end Phase 1) Then Arthas leads the raid against the Lich King until he must sacrifice himself to save someone (Jaina is the obvious choice here)(End Phase 2)Then Jaina, Thrall, and Tirion take up the charge to help with the final push to kill the true LK (end Phase 3)This would be a truly epic way to end the story started with Warcraft III, and open the door for all new characters and lore for Cataclysm.

  20. Saurfang will almost certainly die.

    The Alliance lost Bolvar to the Horde (kind of). The Horde hasn't yet lost a hero in Northrend.

    Saurfang is the main thing preventing Garrosh from taking the mantle of Warchief, and let's face it... Saurfang would never serve the sniveling brat-son of Hellscream. (Saurfang would be warchief)

    Saurfang has stated that he'd kill Garrosh before letting him take the horde back into a pointless war with the Alliance.

    With the announcements about Cataclysm... unless they were misdirection... I'm thinking Saurfang will die in some way before the end of this expansion.

    I'm not sure, but I think they're using Jaina alot in their comics, so they probably won't get rid of her just yet.

    Darion and Tirion are both potential lambs as well... but a bit too obvious (which with Blizzard meant very likely). Both of them lose their primary purpose once the Lich King is gone. They're not *quite* Maives, but almost.

  21. But, but, bu... wah! I just bought my squire a pony!

  22. Looks like you are on to something. New info about 3.3 reveals that Jaina and Sylvanas will battle Arthas in the 5-man. Arthas will not die in this battle I guess, but what will happen to Jaina and Sylvanas? Undead Jaina? Dead Sylvanas. Jaina stepping in as the new leader for the forsaken? ;)