Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What's the Recipe for a Cataclysm, anyway?

Warning: Herein lie major spoilers, based largely on my experience in beta, but including elements of Christine Golden's The Shattering, and a handful of developer notes, Blizzcon comments, and other gleaned facts.

The world has changed, and there are a lot of questions about this but most important are "Why? And How?"  (You know you are asking these. Don't pretend otherwise!)

All signs point to Deathwing but it's not really that simple. He is at the root of all this for sure, but the damage to our world comes from four separate (though related) problems.

Please follow the jump if you wish to pursue this question with me.

The four devastating events are...

1- The Elemental Revolt
2- Twilight Hammer Attacks
2- The Breaking of the World Pillar
3- Deathwing's Flyby

The Elemental Revolt
... is the earliest of these events. In fact, it has been happening for months now in game while we are supposedly going about our business in Azeroth, unaware that a big honking dragon is coming for us. Every earthquake we are currently experiencing is the result of earth elementals getting feisty. Orgrimmar gets burned down because of wayward fire elementals. The elements of wind and water are churning up the seas and will definitely be the cause of much flooding we are to soon see.

The Shattering significantly follows Thrall's investigations into these matters. What he discovers is that the elements are "afraid" of the coming of some large destructive force (I'll give you three guesses as to what that is). Terrified elements cannot be reasoned with, as Shaman normally do. But the elements of Azeroth are still basically Good Folk, they are just not thinking very clearly and in a panic.

Flooding at the Wetlands definitely is a result of this. A new volcano sprouting up in the heart of Ashenvale is the result of a magma elemental who really really wanted to party. The redesign of Orgrimmar is only happening because unruly fire elementals took out much of the city.

Twilight Hammer Attacks!
 This part of what's happening is slightly confusing for now. In The Shattering, the fire that tears up Orgrimmar happens before Thrall leaves town. And it is attributed to sulky fire elementals. Now, it looks like Cho'gall and Ambassador Flamelash scored a win against the Horde city instead.

Similarly, the Park District of Stormwind is gone. The earliest explanation for this was that DW smooshed it. However, when you see these ruins, it looks more like wind and water eroded away the slope overlooking the harbor, causing the park district to collapse-- a type of damage much more attributable to the elemental onslaught than to a dragon.

It's key to understand that while the elements of Azeroth are generally benign and have a long relationship with our Shaman, the Elemental Lords, who were minions of the Old Gods are pure evil. It's one thing that the elements are confused and upset, but it's a wholly different and more serious problem if the Elemental Lords or the Twilight Hammer are spurring them on.

The Breaking of the World Pillar 
...is the biggest of these occurrences. When Deathwing last departed the mortal realm, he somehow ended up in Deepholm, a "plane of earth" created by the titans way back in the day. and featuring at its center, a very large, very strong pillar that supports the ceiling.

When it came time to leave, Deathwing pulverized the World Pillar on his way out. The implication is that this realm of earth is about to fall in, sucking in a great deal of what is on top of it. Breaking through the planes like this also set off the massive earthquakes and tectonic shifting that I believe is responsible for things like the Barrens getting bifurcated, the flood of Thousand Needles, tsunamis the world over, and a variety of volcanoes going off.

One thing that concerns me: Deepholm is supposed to be another "plane" so space and time between it and Azeroth may not really be relative to one another. But the implication is that the World Pillar is directly under the heart of the Maelstrom, which was the location of the original Well of Eternity. What the hell kind of coincidence is that? The source of the original Well has been one of the bigger mysteries of Azeroth. Many think it was produced by Old Gods as a source of corruption into the greater world. But now, it is directly tied to a Titan Construction. Curiouser and curiouser.

Regardless, I think most of the seismic shifting of Azeroth is probably traceable to this incident. If there is to be one big bang that makes the whole land tremble and break apart, then this is the one. The cinematic, I think, supports this. We see the flooding of Thousand Needles, and the tidal wave washing over Booty Bay, and Deathwing is pictured in neither instance.

Deathwing's Fly-by
The damage from Deathwing himself is most difficult to assess mostly because I'm getting a lot of mixed messages about how big and bad Deathwing really is.

Deathwing is huge. Fricking huge. He makes Malygos look like a baby. He spews magma, wears metal armor he had hammered into his own skin. He is Badass.

And yet, when he plops down on top of the parapet of Stormwind in the cinematic, he doesn't crush it. There are some nice permanent claw marks, sure. But I think DW still has to put some effort into whatever he wants to tear up since he didn't just bulldoze most of SW just by twitching his tail

See... Concept art suggests that Deathwing could do all this. But he didn't.

In the Badlands, Deathwing definitely went on a tear. There is a massive gouge in the ground, and the peaks of two mountains have been completely shorn off. Neither of these have anything natural about them. They had to be the result of "intelligent" destruction.

But I'm not sure yet of what kind of effort Deathwing made there. Did he just dislike the Badlands as much as I do and thought he would take a few mins to redecorate? Or did he really dig in and go to work on the place? Or... are we looking at the remains of a battle? Did something fight DW in the Badlands. Go, see for yourself, but the destruction in this one zone is quite different from any place else.

I also have noted that places that Deathwing flies by in the cinematic are full of Twilight Hammer activity afterwards. The crushing of the Stonewrought Dam, for example left a nice big empty space for the cultists to move in on. Auberdine got messed up, and now it's pretty well surrounded by the Twilight Hammer.  Maybe DW was visiting specific sites in the world as a part of the bigger plan.

And lastly, why did DW visit Stormwind? He could have surely leveled the place if he wanted. In the cinematic and our new load screen, we can see him drop onto the Valley of Heroes, knock over the statue of Danath Trollbane and ...

Well, something stopped him. Something had to have stopped him and I have no idea what it was.
I'm dying to find out. Deathwing didn't look at the toppled statue and say, "Good! I always hated Trollbane," and fly off. Something made him leave at that point. Perhaps there is more of the Cataclysm left to see in game.

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