Moment of Awe at the Wrathgate

The ominous Wrathgate
When you first pick a race in World of Warcraft, an introduction plays that describes the race’s background. If you choose the undead (the Forsaken), it is a bit… unusual. While most horde races talk about uniting against the tyrannical alliance and securing their place in the world, the undead claim that their alliance with the horde is simply one of “convenience;” ¬†they would strike down anyone in their path to “ensure their dark plans came to fruition.” (link)

By the time the second expansion came out (Wrath of the Lich King), nothing ever came of this. You get the feeling that the undead don’t really care about anyone but themselves, but it isn’t necessarily apparent in the story line. You couldn’t ever go out rogue from the Horde and start killing anyone you choose. Their weak allegiance¬†was just a neat fact in the background. I always enjoyed this aspect of them, always ready to backstab someone to become more powerful. And it wasn’t just an evil thing; the truth was that the Forsaken had an awful curse placed on them and their past, and they had a strong sense of loyalty to their own kind. Alas, throughout Wrath, and after the past two games, I had largely forgotten about this aspect of the undead’s past and had come to expect nothing more than fun lore. That was, until the Wrathgate…

Never before had I seen a cinematic begin after completing a quest. It was completely unexpected and blew my mind. Suddenly I was questioning what would happen with the undead race: would they break off? What would happen to the factions? It was this moment of awe that sucked me into the moment, story, and environment. I was so excited for what was to come unlike any other moment I had ever played WoW.

What was it about that moment that blew my mind so much? Partially, it was the surprise: again, I had never seen such a cinematic midway through WoW. Partially, it was excitement, in that it was a great plot twist with possible game-changing consequences. But I think most of all, it was that I was so into the story: suddenly, the actions I did had impact on the environment. In Wrath, the world around you now changed as you did quests. As you fought your way up to Arthas, the main boss of the expansion, you would slowly slay his armies and establish outposts along the way. The Wrathgate was the first step in the process, and easily the most memorable.

The undead didn’t end up switching factions in the end. It turned out that a rogue faction of them had broken off in an act of vengeance against all others. I was a little disappointed in this fact, but the moment was still strong as ever in my mind. The ability to affect the player so personally in such a large massively multiplayer game is something I believe Blizzard, the creator, excels at (and is constantly getting better at). To this day, it’s one of the strongest moments of awe from a video game that I have ever experienced.