WoW: Comic Moments

I’ve identified the goblins as WoW‘s comic relief characters, but really, there’s a lot of comic bits sprinkled throughout the game, including moments of self-parody. The first quest in the Hillsbrad Foothills area, for example, involves briefly taking on the role of quest-giver. You sit there on a horse, unmoving, with a yellow exclamation mark over your head, with a list of quests to give out to whatever adventurers ask for them. Three people come, and each is a player caricature: a clueless newbie (recently-raised undead still suffering from brain rot), a trash-talking bully, an arrogant twinked-out moron with stuff far above his level (“Yes, this horse IS made of STARS”). Their banter is full of pop-culture references and mocking of typical WoW quests (“Are there not bear asses to collect?”), and you meet each of them later, bailing them out of the trouble that their incompetent attempts at the quests landed them in. And yet, in the end, one of these story branches turns serious, and the character proves unexpectedly noble, sacrificing himself for the sake of the Horde. Just because something starts as self-parody doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.

Or consider what happens in the previous section, in Silverpine Forest. At one point, you’re asked to singlehandedly take down the force field surrounding a city of magicians. There are several classes of human guards in Ambermill, including Ambermill Watchers and Ambermill Warders, but once you fight your way through them, you start encountering Ambermill Witchaloks. The thing that makes this joke actually good, rather than just a pointer at someone else’s joke, is their behavior: they shout overblown imprecations and cast spells that have basically no effect other than graphical effects that are flashy but kind of stupid-looking. To the unprepared player, though, they’re accompanied by a moment of panic. “Cower, monster, as I summon a veritable army of Wolfoids!” — and suddenly a mob of knee-high worgen spawns around you. Even weak monsters can hurt a lot when they attack in large quantity, so this scares you, until you notice that they’re just milling around and not paying attention to you at all. And it’s at this point that the witchalok taunts “Now you are surrounded by Wolfoids! What will you do? Where can you run?”

And this is smack in the middle of the grimmest part of the campaign I’ve seen yet — a story of cruelty and betrayal, containing the first major loss for the player’s side. At one point in this section, you’re assigned three companions for a mission, former Alliance leaders recently turned undead. They’re assigned to help you recover stranded troops hiding in a war-torn town. Instead, when you find the troops, they kill them, as punishment for their cowardice. They go on to turn against Lady Sylvanas at a crucial moment and become the bosses in Shadowfang Keep (which is a little odd if you play through Shadowfang Keep before this happens, but WoW is pretty full of counter-temporal weirdness right now). These same three are to some extent played for laughs, as they discuss the advantages of their new state, or send you on a tangential quest to recover all the pieces of an associate’s body so they can turn him undead too, and then immediately kill him again after going to all that effort.

2 Comments so far

  1. matt w on 17 Feb 2011

    Having just made that comparison, I’m amused to see that your post on (3D) Mirror’s Edge came right after your post on crashscumming in Gish. How did you find moving from the one game to the other?

  2. matt w on 17 Feb 2011

    …aaand that comment was supposed to go on another post. Sorry.

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