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The disconcerting sensation of contentment

The Disconcerting Sensation of Contentment
Spoilers for Patch 5.4 in this post

Guys, I'm happy with patch 5.4.

I know there's lots of people who don't like the Timeless Isle, but for me it's perfect - head on over, do a few quests, blow some coins gambling with a monkey person, head on out. I very much enjoy Siege of Orgrimmar. I feel like progression has been at a decent clip and I really, REALLY liked the after quests (and my wolfie mount who is now my favorite mount ever) including the bit in the Vale that I won't talk about before the jump for spoilers. I'm even happy with my class - protection is better (it still needs a ton of gear to be viable, but it always has), arms is much improved and is great for AoE, and fury is solid if unremarkable (and there's something beautiful about Storm Bolt for fury right now). In short, I really have to work to find something to complain about.

I admit, I don't really know what to do with myself. I'm an infamous curmudgeon - to find myself logging on, enjoying myself, and then logging off is somewhat confusing for me. Now, I've always enjoyed playing World of Warcraft - if I didn't, I wouldn't still be doing it this many years later - but it's always been an enjoyment tempered by this or that thing that really bothered me.

Right now, nothing in game does that. I still have my concerns, of course - I am never going to stop hating Dark Shaman, because no matter what I do, it's possible for two or three things to pop up at once and do 750,000 damage to everyone in melee in one second, and when that happens I almost always end up sniffing the dirt in the Valley of Strength. But that's a minor quibble.
The Disconcerting Sensation of Contentment
I'm not saying this to belittle or dismiss anyone's real concerns - just because I'm happy with the game at the moment doesn't mean you have to be. I think, if anything, what it means is that for the first time in a while I've given myself permission to be happy with the game. Back at the end of Cataclysm I let a lot of people's opinions ruin things for me - I couldn't enjoy Dragon Soul because people were constantly complaining about the re-use of the art assets (even though I not only didn't mind that, I thought it made perfect sense) but when Siege of Orgrimmar was announced, I no longer cared what people said about that aspect of the raid (and there's plenty of new stuff to see in Siege, a whole new underground level hollowed out of the Ragefire Chasm) and I could just enjoy seeing the changes to a familiar place.

It helps that Mists of Pandaria has had the most story polish (whether or not you feel your particular faction got enough story development, or the story development you wanted isn't the issue) of any expansion to date. Expansive and good voice acting. Really well-done questing. Scenarios, which debuted just before Mists went live, did some nice work in giving players a new way to absorb the unfolding lore of the expansion. And the overarching theme of the expansion, the question "What is worth fighting for" saw itself answered in a lovely, small but visually impressive coda that ties everything back together. Frankly, this is the most layered story World of Warcraft has ever attempted to tell, and it has been told with the most visual flair and emotional punch they've managed. Ever. If you care about the story at all, you'll feel the impact of seeing it unfold.

One example that springs to mind is the detail that went into the raid itself. We see the aftermath of Hellscream's reckless dig into the Vale as we march through it, trying to put down what he allowed or caused, bringing peace to the anguished spirits of the dead and striking down the Sha infestation that followed in the wake of Hellscream's act of monumental hubris. Following the defeat of the Sha of Pride, which is itself the metaphor made manifest, we shift gears to a full on invasion of Orgrimmar and what was a redemptive act - making amends for what the arrival of our ships has ultimately wrought - switches to a retributive one, making Hellscream at last pay for what he's brought about. The invasion of Orgrimmar is in essence the players getting to serve as the chorus in a tragedy, as the real secret of Siege of Orgrimmar is that the protagonist is not us, but Hellscream himself. Garrosh is the flawed, tragic antihero of this story. It is Garrosh who tried too hard, dared too much, failed to learn the lessons of his father's legacy and his ultimate defeat, laying broken on the floor of his stronghold is similar in tone to MacBeth's death at MacDuff's hands - Hellscream, too, has listened to the whispers of a fell power, and like MacBeth, did not understand what he was told.

In a way I find Garrosh's survival deeply satisfying for this very reason - his story isn't done. This is his lowest point to date - it's in seeing how he changes afterwards that we'll get to finish his character arc, and I find it wonderful that it was the diverse hands of the players that pushed him from the heights of his arrogance.

So here I sit, riding my wolfie mount around Stormwind, being happy. I promise I'll try and get irritated about something soon. Maybe PvP - I've been doing more of that lately. Sadly, I kind of enjoy it a little.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Mists of Pandaria

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