The day I had dreaded since I first read the spoilers finally came. I killed Nazgrim. I finally jumped into an LFR for the Gates of Retribution and found myself standing in front of the gate to the Valley of Honor. I followed a few other stragglers into the Cleft of Shadow past the dangling corpses of the Cleft’s old warlock inhabitants. We ran directly into Ragefire Chasm, and there stood General Nazgrim with an army of Kor’kron. The orc soldiers were dispatched quickly enough, but Nazgrim gave his best and took a few efforts and plenty of determination before he fell. He died a warrior’s death. I had the opportunity to do it again after requeueing for the rest of the instance, and I can only wonder what his thoughts would be each time this occurs.
“These heroes, who I have given task after task to, each of them dutifully repeating in the other’s steps, had finally come all at once. And I stopped them. Twenty-five large they stood, and twenty-five large they fell. Suddenly they rose again! They congregated across the chamber, dancing and eating. Finally after what felt like an eternity, they charged again. The fight was tougher, but I slayed them all. And again they rose. A few heroes appeared to have been replaced, but their number was a constant twenty-five. They rushed me and, despite my efforts, I fell. Soon, I was the one to suddenly arise, only to find twenty-five more heroes clamoring for Garrosh’s head. I did the only thing I know to do: I raised my axe…”
As someone who spent time away from World of Warcraft, I remember the feeling of returning to the game after a long absence. I remember standing on Mulgore’s plains and recollecting my Saturday mornings searching for a Venture Co. caravan. The green fields offered a sense of serenity, one that would be lost in higher levels as enemies became fiercer and the world revealed itself to be unforgiving to the wayward soul. I returned to Thunder Bluff, which remained constant, with its great Totem-like central tower. Some things had changed (I don’t believe there were auctioneers in Thunder Bluff on my earlier visits), but the place was familiar enough that it was welcoming and reassuring. I had missed those places while I was gone, and I was glad to be back in Mulgore.
I’ve always considered myself a fan of the Tauren. Thunder Bluff was the first city I found before hoofing it all the way to Orgrimmar, moving along the Gold Road through the Barrens. I was disappointed to find a zeppelin connecting the two cities had been added, and even more disappointed to learn that the zeppelin provided an excuse for blocking off Mulgore from the Barrens altogether after the Cataclysm. The now-lost Gold Road run from Thunder Bluff to Orgrimmar will always be a cherished memory.
Thunder Bluff was easy enough to learn; it was just a matter of figuring out which floor you needed. Most basic goods and services were the first floor; the second floor was for leatherworking and tailoring, among other professions; and the third floor was for Cairne. Imagine my surprise when I got to the maze that is modern Orgrimmar.
I didn’t spent much time in old Orgrimmar. I don’t remember which Valley housed Thrall, or where I set my hearthstone. I know I parked my alts in one of the huts during my hiatus. I returned to World of Warcraft a few short weeks before the Cataclysm and spent my time wandering the world, so I don’t have many memories of the Horde capitol as it was. After Garrosh took charge and the city changed, I learned it well. Perhaps being able to fly around and sit atop the cranes at the rear of the Valley of Honor facilitated the process.
I never cared for the mini-Thunder Bluff added to the Valley of Wisdom. It was nice to see Tauren culture represented architecturally, but we have Thunder Bluff. I wandered the Goblin Slums because the Kor’kron guards would direct players there when looking for a First Aid trainer. My rogue and warlock became familiar with the Cleft of Shadow. Were those spikes around the Cleft’s entrance always there, making the chasm look like a gaping maw? As someone who can appreciate when cities change and locations are lost, I should have spent more time in old Orgrimmar. My memories now are too weak, and all I know is the present. And that present is jarring when running through the Gates of Retribution.
The step-function of time that Warcraft presents us with is disconcerting. Upon being dropped off at Bladefist Bay, I”m pretty sure one of the towers, one that housed a quest giver (Nazgrim?) before our departure for what ultimately was Vash’jir, has been moved. I didn’t remember there being such a trench along the front wall of the city. Did the Kor’kron build all this? I don’t know what I am misremembering and I don’t know what happened in the time we were gathering supplies in the Barrens for Vol’jin. Orgrimmar is still a vital city in game, but lorewise, we players have not been inside since patch 5.2 at the latest, and that’s only if we traveled back for supplies during our conquest of the Isle of Thunder. Most likely, our characters have not been back since departing on Hellscream’s Fist at Mists‘ launch. NPC’s may spit at us, claiming that they know what we are up to while we go about our game-related business, but as far as canon goes, we are not in that city. If Gamon can wind up tied to a tree, who knows what fate would have befallen our heroes? At best, we might wind up in an “Escape From Dalaran” situation.
I know that Vol’jin’s defenses outside Orgrimmar have built up. I suppose this is the fruits of our extensive Barrens labors. Vol’jin was smart to trade what amounts to some throwback jerseys for enough lumber and oil to fuel his war machine. The fight with the Iron Juggernaut happens in the middle of the Dranosh’ar blockade. Every Horde member knows that this is where players are constantly dueling, and its weird to be forced into a PVE fight in this hallowed PVP location. We defeat the metal scorpion and breach the gates. Orgrimmar looks the same, but is different. Aysa Cloudsinger shows up and finds Ji Firepaw in dire straits. (So much for Varian’s admonitions.) Goblins are dancing in the auction house. Named orcs are assembled throughout the city, and I find myself struggling to recognize any of the NPC’s. I’ve never concerned myself with these characters – I’ve probably bought the occasional item or repair from them – but now I want to know just how many of Orgrimmar’s citizens are going to die in this raid. How many vaguely familiar background faces will need to be replaced? I recognize Mokvar the treasurer, but not for his accounting skills. I don’t wander into Garrosh’s throne room, so I hear Eitrigg’s exposition about the Underhold from outside. I can only wonder who is left inside. The Forsaken ambassador? Belloc Brightblade? Anyone?
Earthbreaker Haromm and Wavebinder Kardris emerge and we battle throughout the Valley of Strength. How long has this been an open killing field? I’ve defended Garrosh from Alliance onslaughts before, but never did this area feel so boxed in – like it was intended for a fight. I get the impression that Blizzard has slowly been massaging Orgrimmar’s geography to transform it from vibrant city to raid zone. Haromm and Kardris are stalwart representatives of Orgrimmar, having been Shaman trainers since vanilla, so it’s fitting that they should die here, but this is Garrosh’s stronghold. The Underhold exists only because Blizzard needed to justify adding raid assets (especially after people complained about End Time just re-using Dragonblight) and also because Garrosh’s throne room is too small for a final fight. It was designed to be well-fortified – to make it difficult for an alliance raid to kill the Warchief and make them earn their victories. PVE raiding is more about challenging mechanics than it is about tight quarters and armies of aggravated players defending against your efforts.
Regardless, the Dark Shaman are defeated, and we wander through the Drag, killing Blind Blademasters as we go. Several of Orgrimmar’s inhabitants are blockaded in their shops, and I am too busy fighting to look for any familiar faces. Matron Battlewail yells as the conflict approaches the orphanage, a nice touch highlighting just how terrible war is, and we find Gamon chained to his tree. One of the goblin vendors flees through the chaos. I want to explore the rest of this martially impacted Orgrimmar – to see just how this city has reacted to the terrible state of emergency it finds itself in. Where are the Tauren in the Valley of Wisdom? (Baine did caution Vol’jin he had people in the city during their meeting in early 5.3) What is the fate of the flight master and everyone on the upper tier? Is anyone even left in the Valleys of Spirits or Honor? Alas, we rush headfirst into the Cleft of Shadow, and my second encounter with Nazgrim is nigh.
Orgrimmar is very much the same city it always was. The structures that were built since the Cataclysm remain. Everything is familiar, but to know you tread on hostile ground makes the whole experience feel wrong. Many times I have hearthed from danger back to the safety of the Wyvern’s Tail, and it feels wrong to be walk these streets knowing that danger is afoot. On a more fundamental level, I am the danger. Although justified, I and the other twenty-four heroes are the agents bringing destruction and chaos into our beloved city. Garrosh fortified the city because he knew we were coming; Vol’jin’s revolution was not a quiet one. Orgrimmar is literally a city under siege, and it feels wrong to know we are the besiegers.
The Seige of Orgrimmar is proving to be a fitting final chapter to an enthralling expansion. For Horde members, the Gates of Retribution are one of the most exciting and emotionally-charged raid experiences in a while. I’ve put the souls of the Golden Lotus to rest, been cleansed by Norushen, and now slain General Nazgrim. I still have to fight the Klaxxi Paragons that I awoke, and I still have to defeat the Warchief I supported. This raid was not just tough for my battle prowess, it was also tough on my heart.
Thanks for the years of service, Ghostcrawler. May your nerf bat get some much deserved rest. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/10715261517
The Warcraft movie has been moved to March 11, 2016. Such a change must have taken great Force. https://twitter.com/Warcraft/statuses/405820745302814720
Base HP is gone in Warlords of Draenor. Health will be based entirely off your Stamina. Thanks, Obamacare! https://twitter.com/Celestalon/statuses/407340330170593280