Between Grimm in DS and my own undergeared butt in Heroics, we’ve finally – as of last night – gotten to see all the threads in the endgame story for this expansion1.  It’s gratifying to see that the endgame has a more solid narrative than ever before.  Only twice does it succumb to what I call the "Gallery of bads" syndrome.

Alien_Sector_Corridor If you remember the pilot movie for Babylon 5, you no doubt remember the Gratuitous Alien Gallery, a venue that Sinclair and Alexander cut through on the way to somewhere more useful.  The Alien District, as it was called, resembled more of a toxic petting zoo than a place where aliens lived and carried out business – glass booths with aliens standing in them, cubicles with aliens standing them, empty spaces with aliens standing in them – you get the picture.

A lot, it might be noted, like Icecrown Citadel, and many other raids. Just dudes. Standing around. Doing standing around dude things.

Some examples.

  • Karazhan – you have to beat up the stable boy, the castellan, and a travelling group of troubadours to even get close to the guy that’s making the place go bad2.  And even then, there are rooms off to the side with a couple of dragons, a bereaved father, and a studious demon that you can go beat up just for funsies.
  • Icecrown Citadel – With an airship at your disposal, you can just fly to the spire and take care of business. But instead we go the long hard way through a gallery of bads, none which even matter, and some which were plain made up – had no previous connection to lore – for this instance.
  • Naxx – For this gallery of bads to even make SENSE, they had to force you to clear each wing as part of unlocking a portal to the one guard dragon that stands between you and the big bad.
  • The Eye – Aside from Alar (and who doesn’t want a shot at a flaming mount?), you can walk right in to Kael’s throne room and start beating on him. And speaking of dudes just standing around. Don’t belfs own chairs?
  • Ulduar – After taking down XT and Kologarn, not much stopping you from just jumping down into the pit and getting jiggy with Yogg. Well, aside from the invisible barrier that forces you to go the long way, but it is not mentioned as part of the lore.

aran The common thread here is that you have a bunch people standing around scratching their butts, doing nothing but looking decorative until a bunch of mercenaries comes along to rob them.  You don’t have to kill off Moroes3 – he doesn’t drop a key. You don’t have to kill off Putricide 4 to get to the Lich King. Notwithstanding game mechanics, why exactly is Ignis standing around? What is the purpose of Aran, other than fleshing out some lore that didn’t, really, exist? 

While this is coming off as a rant against how artificial and contrived the circumstances of most raid bosses are constructed, it is intended as praise for Dragon Soul.

The five-mans leading up to it, while somewhat contrived and confusing at times, do actually link up to the raid elegantly.  The escort quest at the end exists for a reason (as any raider knows, the front door is blocked). And, granted, the "echoes" do fall into the "contrived bad dude just standing around thinking bad dude thoughts" trope, but the next instance in the chain more than makes up for it in integrating the bosses into the story. 5

yorsahj The only raid-related boss issue in this case are Zonza and Ballchucker.  They exist only to be beaten and looted. They serve no part of the story other than to stand around and look lootish. Had they been integrated better6 I’d have no complaint, but they weren’t. They block nothing, unlock nothing, drop nothing related to the story7. They are Miscellaneous Bad Dudes. In holes.

But, overall, the endgame for this expansion has proven to be far superior to what we’ve seen before.  I don’t know how much of an actual story that MoP will have. If it does, I hope they improve on the linear story-based raid instance over the collection-of-loot-piñatas rogues gallery approach. It was a lot more fun and a lot more interesting.


  1. Minus Deathwing, which Grimm is working diligently on. []
  2. Oh, and before a "fix" in 3.0.2, you didn’t even have to do any of the lower castle stuff – you could go straight to Curator if you didn’t want loot. []
  3. Within the story line – I’m not counting locked doors suddenly popping open, which isn’t the case here anyway. []
  4. Ditto. []
  5. Plus, bare-chested Nelf Illidan has to count for something in somebody’s scorebook. Flora like. []
  6. "To get to the temple, you must take this tunnel, heroes! And beware the Faceless Ones!"  I dunno, that was too easy. Should Fargo send me a check? []
  7. While I love it so, loot doesn’t count for this discussion. []
4 Responses to “Gallery of Bads”
  1. Rades says:

    Great post. I had the same feeling of disinterest in Firelands, where REALLY, the only boss that serves story purposes are Baleroc (gatekeeper) and of course, Staghelm.

    Ironically, I didn’t have this feeling for Blackwing Descent, even though all the bosses were just there in their own little rooms. Why? Because when you think of the place as Nefarian’s home, it made a lot of sense. Magmaw was the pet, Omnotrons were the defense system, Maloriak was the crazy scientist and Atra/Chim were Maloriak & Nef’s weird experiments. It just…felt believable.

    But then you had Bastion of Twilight, where every boss was neatly segmented in a linear path, in their own little bland circular rooms a la Mega Man, and it felt stupid. (IMO)

    • Grimmtooth says:

      I pretty much felt the opposite in that BoT at least had a “you gotta get through these guys to get to that guy” whereas BWD seemed like an excuse for five bosses to stand around looking menacing whilst we beat on their employer. Only the fact that Nef was locked out via a non-obvious invisible door mechanism (and Omnomnom’s apparent influence on the door to the elevator) kept a lot of peeps from going for the gold on day one.

      Oh, and I forgot Hagara. But at least they have a narrative for her.

  2. Q says:

    Just a quick note:

    If you’re going for the Ashes of A’lar, DON’T WASTE TIME ON A’LAR. The bird, for some reason known only to Blizzard, actually has nothing to do with the mount bearing his name and DOES NOT DROP IT. Sneak right past and head straight for the big guy.

    Kael’thas drops the mount. And after eight months of two-manning weekly it with a shaman friend, we each managed to get the Ashes. They’re lovely and worth the grind.

    • Floramel says:

      Hoo hoo, you’re right. I had forgotten about that. Well, a bunch of 85s don’t really have to sneak. I think A’lar just hopes they don’t notice him!

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