You are at the end of the road. Do you…

Patch 3.3 is coming, yay woohoo, all that jazz. By now we’ve all no doubt been following it meticulously. Or possibly not. In effect I am asking myself this question: is patch 3.3 just more of the same old grind that we got in 3.2? Or is it the spine tingling conclusion to 5 years of arch nemesis lore. Yes, I remember back in vanilla when Icecrown was only talked about in whispers, where Northrend was this forbidden continent to the far north, frozen and ancient, filled with horrors of the lich kings creation.

Now Kel’Thuzad, once the scourge of Lordaeron, is no more. Even the old god of death, Yogg-Saron is no more. And the valiant heroes of Azeroth have taken to slaughtering eachother in the arena, supposedly as way of selecting only the worthy people to go to Icecrown Citadel. Tirion does have a bit of explanation to do there in my opinion.

In short: Is Icecrown more of the grindy loot fest that the Argent Coliseum has been? Or is it actually going to be a climactic struggle, rivalling Ragnaros in epicness? Yes, ol’ Rag is a shade of his former self these days, but answer me truthfully those of you who witnessed it back then: Was it not epic when he burst forth from his pool of molten rock? TOO SOON EXECUTUS!

To answer the question, it may well be a climactic struggle, an epic ending to an epic expansion. But story and lore is but one part of the epic feeling. The other is…loot. And the third is: stuff to do that isn’t just dailies and more silly rep grinding.

I might’ve covered point 1 already. Let’s get right down to point 2 then, the loot, the reason we kill the poor bosses 10 times rather than 1. And with that, we have to mention the loot distribution system since its an integral part of the whole notion of loot. It is possibly here that we’ll see the crux of the matter appear.

Now, Blizz have already revealed the loot system, or rather it has been mentioned in various places by people who have experienced it on the PTR. The usual clause about subject to change will apply here of course. But judging from this description(link) we will have to first get the standard “hohum” version of the epic, only to upgrade it as we go along. Sound like a familiar system? That’s because it is…it’s a slightly altered version of the Zul’Gurub and Ahn’Qiraj loot systems. While those were perhaps based on rep it still amounts to the same thing; you have to grind the instance enough to get the loot.

In effect that places a brake on things, not the progress per se, but the loot progression itself. It would only hinder raid progression if it contained blocking mechanisms like FR or FrR or some other vanilla tactic, but it doesn’t. So why do it at all? Because it will extend the length of time that people will be interested in going back to the instance. Not that there will be anywhere better to go, but it seems simply like a delaying tactic. People are going to get their T10 no doubt, they just have to wait a tiny bit longer before they upgrade it.

The third leg is the “non raiding” bit of the patch. Realistically speaking, I doubt very much that we’ll get a departure from the Coliseum formula. The indications all point to more of the same, for better or worse. There is a new faction to grind for too (The Ashen Verdict). It is a tried and tested formula, but one can’t help but think that it starts feeling a bit samey by now. “Right-o, that’s one more faction to exalted. Next!”

It is the balancing act between the (perhaps) too hard reputation requirements for the heroics of TBC and the fact that immediate access, or “default key”, solutions are…let’s face it…boring. If anybody can just waltz in, a bit of the feeling of achievement does go away. For some that is no problem (yes, I’m looking at you “gief eipx n0w!” people), but for people whom might be a tiny bit interested in stories and lore it is unsatisfying. I could go on at length, but that would be a topic all of its own. The important point is to appreciate the tightrope that Blizz is walking.

So, all that said, will Icecrown Citadel be a fitting conclusion to the reign of the Lich King? From a game perspective seen, Blizzard are pouring all of their experience into making it the best raiding instance yet, and given their ability to walk tightropes, it is quite certain to be a good bit of fun. While Naxx might have suffered because it was essentially a pre-TBC refurbished to modern standards, Ulduar (and to a lesser extent the Coliseum) had very new and very interesting challenges. And most of all, it had a grand majesty about it…and is there anything better than to kill bosses in environments that look nice? I am confident that the raiding aspect will be good and that we wont be let down.

And just to reiterate it, yes I fully expect a new batch of dailies and new pets, and new tabards, and new bits and bobs to grind for. After all, we have to make money for repairs don’t we. While I don’t enjoy the grindy aspect of WoW, I am quite certain that we wont be let down here either.

That said however, in one way patch 3.3 is destined to fail.

Bringing closure to a storyline that began with the very launch of vanilla WoW 5 years of go cannot possibly live up to all the stories, memories and lore that comes before it. I still remember entering the Western Plaguelands, riding to Chillwind on my slow horse and taking in the destruction and desolation that the Scourge had brought with them. The names and the places of the past, when they were more than just places to grind runecloth for a tailoring alt: Andorhal, Corrins Crossing, Scholomance, Stratholme…

So when the Lich King finally dies, when Arthas and Nerzhul are finally destroyed…then what? Do we go back to the daily grind for the Ashen Verdict “to get that cool undead baby gryphon” or do we sit back and reflect upon the 5 years that have built up to this moment?

What will you do?


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