With the Lich King set to fall in a few months, the ZAM team wonders why these incredibly powerful foes just keep... dying.
As World of Warcraft players scurry about to get the latest gear from the Lich King's minions, it's only a matter of time before the slow moving Arthas himself must fall, presumably dropping some of the rarest shinies to be seen thus far. Of course, after the fall of the Lich King, and after most players have experienced all that there is to experience in WotLK, Cataclysm will come barrelling out the door, thrusting a new nemesis into the spotlight and leaving the old one behind to be forgotten. A few months after this, three level 85 players will go back to the dusty old Lich King encounter and beat the 25-person version with just the three of them; they will record a video and set the whole escapade to loud techno music, and that will be the last we'll ever hear of Arthas.
Now don't get us wrong, we, here at ZAM, really do love World of Warcraft; so much so, in fact, that we selected it as our "2009 ZAM Game of the Year" for its Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Unfortunately, what we are talking about is just how… predictable this progression is becoming. With every new expansion, Blizzard introduces the arch-nemesis of the day and players meet (and kill) this arch nemesis in about a year's time. Users may also meet this arch-nemesis before the fated final battle is to take place, and since the absolute destruction of the player is usually a bad way to advance the story, World of Warcraft's bad guys (and girls!) must pull one of those "I could kill you but instead I'm going to mock you so that you can kill me later" kind of moves. Every time.
Looking back, even the Lich King prefers to kill his own Warlord instead of the 'amusing' player because they're… well… amusing. And that's not even mentioning the puzzling fact that Arthas continues to allow hundreds of thousands of players to walk right through Naxxramas, home to many of his most powerful generals, minions and even his chief lieutenant, Kel'thuzad. Kel'thuzad even appeals to his absentee master, the Lich King, who then deems it fitting that he should send… four beetles (two if you're in the 10-person raid!) who are instantly gobbled up by the loot-hungry raiders.
If we move back even further, while players will meet (and bother) Illidan constantly in their adventures through the Outlands, at least they don't see him physically until it's time to actually fight him at the end of The Black Temple. The same cannot be said, however, of baddies like vanilla World of Warcraft's Nefarian (aka Lord Victor Nefarius), master of Blackwing Lair. In fact, Nefarian actually watches you beat up his most powerful minions before you finally fight him in his throne room: once in the Blackrock Stadium, where he watches you smack around his ally, Warchief Rend Blackhand, before he makes a hasty exit, and once in Blackwing Lair, when he corrupts the red dragon Vaelastraz to kill your raid, but then inexplicably leaves so that he can wait for you in his throne room.
Keeping all of this in mind, while Cataclysm promises to deliver destruction and danger on an unprecedented level, will World of Warcraft players ultimately experience the same game of cat and mouse that they've been wading through for the past five years? Since it is considered inevitable that each expansion will deliver an 'expendable' enemy, it stands to reason that the next big name to fall will, most likely, be Queen Azshara (although Tom Chilton has noted that the Blizzard team does not intend for her to be the main enemy in Cataclysm, even though it is presumed that her influence was the cause of Cataclysm). Will Azshara ultimately follow in the footsteps of all of her powerful predecessors, underestimating these heroes who have destroyed some of the most powerful agents of the Burning Legion?
Either way, for players who are big fans of story, lore or even believable enemies with common sense, it seems this endless parade of tactically challenged opponents may one day run out as Blizzard runs out of stronger foes. In reality, it is assumed that, one day, players will end up facing off against the big boss himself: Sargeras, the creator of the Burning Legion. Considering that it has even been noted in the Warcraft RPG Source Book Shadows & Light that Sargeras is not one to fight fair, it is definitely time for players to hope for an adversary who truly deserves the title of arch-nemesis, and not just another achievement and some shiny loot. No offence, Arthas.