Eight Years of World of Warcraft

This week marks the 8th Anniversary of The MMO King World of Warcraft. Eight years and four expansions later WoW stands tall as the most successful MMO in history. Don’t let the recent dip in numbers fool you, there’s a reason all the so-called “WoW-Killers” failed to dethrone WoW. As many wise people at MMO-Champion often say, the competition would exist if not for WoW. Many who leave WoW for “better” MMOs end up coming back before too long. There’s just something about the World of Azaeroth that keeps you coming nack for more.

I started playing WoW sometime between December 2007 and March 2008, can’t remember exactly. It was during the tail-end of TBC and Black Temple was on grind for the Iconic Warglaives of Azzinoth. When Warth of the Lich King went live it would be the first time I would actually clear Heroic Dungeons and Raids while they were  current. In Cataclysm I would actually get my Paladin geared enough to tank raids. In comparison, Mists of Pandaria’s end game…actually I’ll save that for a separate review. When the next major patch goes live (expected soon) I will post a proper review of the Expansion.

Instead, here’s a repost of a thread I updated on my forums:

2. World of Warcraft (PC): 20 Million Players worldwide can’t be wrong. The only reason I did not give it the top spot is because it’s against my personal beliefs to give MMOs the #1 spot because they’re constantly being updated with new stuff. The biggest and most popular MMORPG in world history picks up after the events of Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. For those familiar with WC3:TFT you know it ended with the Traitor Prince Arthas becoming the new Lich King. We’ll go to what happened since then later on but first, we’lll do things in order: The Base Game, The First Expansion, the Second Expansion, the Third Expansion and the 4th Expansion.

The Base Game, or Vanilla WoW as it’s called by the WoW Community starts 4 years after the Third War. The Night Elves of Teldrassil and Ashenvale joined the Alliance, giving them (The Alliance) a stronger presence on Kalimdor. The Alliance strongholds are Stormwind (Last Human bastion of power after the fall of Lordaeron and Arathor; they’re led by King Varian Wrynn), Ironforge (Dwarven Capital, they’re led by King Magni Bronzebeard), Darnassus (Night Elven Capital, they’re led by The High Priestess of Elune Tyrande Whisperwind) and starting in Cataclysm, Gnomergean (Gnomish Capital, they’re led by High Tinker Geblin Mekkatorque. Until this point they shared Ironforge with the Dwarves and Gnomeregan was a Level 28-25 Instance). The Undead Forsaken joined the Horde, giving them (The Horde) a stronger presence in the ruins of Lordaeron’s Capital City. The Horde strongholds are Orgrimmar (Orc Capital. They’re led by Warchief Thrall until the Cataclysm. After that, he’s succeeded by another…), starting in Cataclysm The Echo Isles (Troll Capital, they’re led by the Witch Doctor Vol’Jin. Until this point they shared Orgrimmar with the Orcs and The Echo Isles were ruled by a traitor), Thunder Bluff (Tauren Capital. They’re led by Chief Carine Bloodhoof until the Cataclysm. After that, he’s succeeded by his son Baine) and The Undercity (Undead Forsaken Capital, they’re led by the Banshee Queen Sylvanas Windrunner).

Players can choose a Faction, race and class to play as in the World of Warcraft. Will you be a Night Elven Druid or a Troll Shaman? The choice is yours to make. Many characters from the Wacraft series make an appearance–Jaina Proundmoore, Shandris Feathermoon, Uther the Lightbringer (his ghost, anyways), Tirion Fordring and even Deathwing’s children Onyxia and Nefarian. Speaking of Onyxia: In December 2009, Blizzard retired the Level 60 Raid, replacing it with a Level 80 interation with all the loot upgraded by 20 levels. Those who beat the Brood Mother the first time owe it to themselves to go back and beat her again at 80!

The first expansion, titled The Burning Crusade or TBC as it’s called by the WoW Community starts off a year after the start of the Base Game’s perceived start (five years after the third war). The Dark Portal has been reopened, beckoning heroes from the Alliance and the Horde to Outland where Nightmares are born. TBC introduces two new races and for the first time, a new class for each faction–to the World of Warcraft. Joining the Alliance are the Honorable Draenei, or “Exiled Ones”. The Draenei bring Shamanism to the Alliance–previously a Horde-exclusive class. They were led to Azaroth from Outland on the Interdimensional ship Exodar–which crash landed on Azuremyst Isle, which is off the coast of northwestern Kalimdor–by the Prophent Velen. Joining the Horde are the Driven Blood Elves, or “Sindorei”. The Blood Elves kidnapped the Naaru M’uru from Outland and using its power, founded an order of Paladins called the Blood Knights–previously an Alliance-exclusive Class. They reside in Eversong Woods, which was destroyed by the Scourge Invasion led by the Death Knight Arthas. They Blood Elves of Silvermoon City are the survivors of Arthas’ invasion of Quel’Thalas and are led by Prince Kael’thas Sunstrider.

After the Blood Elves’ beloved Sunwell was corrupted by the bones of the Arch Lich Kel’Thuzad, the Sindorei (which means Children of the Sun in their native tongue. Consequently, the Night Elves are the Kaldorei, or Children of the Moon in their shared language) were forced to seek new sources of power. When Kael’thas left for Outland with Illidan Stormrage, the Ranger-General Lorthe’mar Theron became the Regent-Lord of Silvermoon City. In order to enter Outland, one must be level 58+. The Draenei and Blood Elves have their respective starting areas but you must have TBC to access them. In addition, the level cap is raised to 70. Awaiting players in the Black Temple is the ruler of Outland and legendary Demonhunter himself, Illidan Stormrage. Even after you’ve defeated him, that leaves his right hand to deal with: Kael’thas Sunstrider, the self-titled “Sun King” in the Tempest Keep 25-Man Raid.

Outland is actually the remains of Draenor, the homeland of the Orcs and Draenei. The Orcs were brought to Azaroth during the Second War by The Burning Legion. With the help of a young Shaman named Thrall, the Orcs cast off the Demons’ hold on them and fought alongside the Alliance during the Third War, founding the New Horde soon after. Most of the Draenei fled Draenor to Azaroth using The Exodar seeking aid to reclaim their shattered home. An interesting instance (10 or 25-man raid) introduced in The Burning Crusade is Karazhan in Deadwind Pass. This was the home of the Last Guardian Medivh. Apparently it was originally supposed to be included in the base game but it was implemented in TBC instead. The Orcs learned more about their heritage in Outland and Thrall even convinces Grom Hellscream’s son Garrosh to return with him to Orgrimmar (Grom Hellscream was the one who caused the Orcs’ fall by being the first to drink the blood of the Mannoroth. He later redeemed himself by killing the Arch Demon (with help from Thrall).

Not long after Kael’thas fell to Adventurers in Tempest Keep, the Burning Legion set to work opening a second portal on the Island of Quel’Danas using the corrupted Sunwell as a power source. The Shattered Sun Offensive–a faction made up of the Blood Elves and Draenei of Shattrath City–work to reclaim the fount of power. Awaiting adventurers inside the Magister’s Terrace is Kael’thas Sunstrider. Despite his apparent death, the Prince of the Blood Elves was raised from the dead by the one trying to enter Azaroth: the Dread Lord Kil’Jaedeen! After you deal with Kael’thas, you’re in for a 25-man raid on the Sunwell to stop the ritual already underway to summon The Deceiver into Azaroth!

The Third expansion, titled Wrath of the Lich King or WotLK by the WoW Community picks up right after the events of The Burning Crusade. After the Heroes of Azaroth defeated Kil’Jaedeen and banished him back to the Twisting Nether, the Prophet Velen purified the Sunwell, redeeming the Sindorei. Not long after, Stormwind’s King Varian Wrynn returned (Varian’s exploits are detailed in the World of Warcraft Comics) in time to help defend the city from the sudden Scourge Invasion. meanwhile, Thrall is going through the same thing in Orgrimmar. After defeating the Scourge, the Harbringer of the Lich King beckons for Heroes to challenge the Lich King in Northrend.

While the Alliance Vanguard and the Warsong Offensive make their preparations to strike at the heart of the Scourge Empire in Northrend, the Lich King has already made his move in the Plaguelands. WotLK introduces the Death Knight as the first Hero Class to the game. In order to create a Death Knight, one must have an existing Level 55+ Character on their account. After the Battle for Light’s Hope Chapel, The Death Knights of Acherus break away from the Scourge under the leadership of Highlord Darion Morgraine–the very same who betrayed his father, resulting in the Ashbringer becoming corrupted.

When Tirion appears to confront Darion, he severs the Lich King’s control over the Death Knights of Acherus. When the Lich King himself appears he admits he sent the Death Knights as pawns to draw out Tirion Fordring. Of course, the Lich King’s plan only partially succeeded. In the time he himself was a Paladin, Arthas should have known better than to underestimate a Knight of the Silver Hand. After dispatching Darion, Tirion takes up the Ashbringer, instantly purifying it. After chasing off the Lich King, the new Ashbringer forms the Argent Crusade who alongside the Ebon Blade, vow to see the Fall of the Lich King. Like the Argent Dawn, the Argent Crusade and the Ebon Blade is made up of all of the races of Azaroth from both the Alliance and the Horde. Darion knows that to better their chances of victory, the Ebon Blade needs help from the Alliance and the Horde, which he gets. Now that you know the story of how the Death Knight Class is open to both factions, let’s go back to what I said about Arthas Menethil some time ago. The next few chapters are more of a history lesson but if you played Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne feel free to skip the next four paragraphs.

As I mentioned before, Arthas Menethil become the new Lich King when he donned the armor of Ner’Zul, the previous Lich King and creator of the Scourge. Arthas’ path to becoming the new Lich King actually started when he was was still a Paladin. At the time he was Prince Arthas of Lordaeron, son of King Terenas Menethil II. His love interest is the gifted Mage Jaina Proudmoore and he is trained by one of the greatest Paladins of all time, Uther the Lightbringer. When he put the citizens of Stratholme to the sword after they’d eaten grain tainted with the plague of undeath, he truly began the path to becoming the next Lich King.

After the Culling of Stratholme (which can be relived as a 5-man instance in which you must help Arthas purge the city), he chased the Dreadlord Mal’Ganis to Northrend, where he learned of the Runeblade Frostmourne from his Dwarven companion Muradin Bronzebeard (brother of King Magni Bronzebeard and Brann Bronzebeard). Muradin is disappointed to learn Frostmourne is a cursed blade when they find its resting place but Arthas’ resolve is unwavering. The instant he draws the blade, a piece of ice strikes down Muradin, who falls near the now former Paladin’s discarded Hammer. With Frostmourne in hand, Arthas defeats Mal’Ganis but not before the dreadlord tells him it was the Lich King himself who arranged for Arthas to find Frostmourne.

The first soul claimed by the Runeblade is its wielder, Arthas Menethil. The next would be that of his father. When Arthas returns from Northrend to a hero’s welcome, he kills is father and later, his mentor Uther. It is not the deaths of King Terenas and Uther the Lightbringer at the hands of the Traitor Prince that puts the mortal races on notice–it’s the destruction of Quel’thalas, the Magical Homeland of the High Elves. Leading an army of the damned, the Death Knight Arthas annihilates the Elven defenders and kills its King, Anasterian Sunstrinder. The future of High Elves of Silvermoon is stolen when Arthas corrupts their beloved Sunwell by casting the remains of the Archmage Kel’Thuzad into it, raising him into an immortal Arch Lich.

Before leaving with Kel’thuzad, Arthas demonstrates what’s since been called the M.O. of the Scourge. After killing the Ranger General Sylvanas Windrunner, he tears her soul from her body and turns her into a Banshee. Unlike the rest of his undead army, Arthas allows Sylvanas to retain her free will and locks her now soulless body in an iron coffn and carries it with him as a means of reminding Sylvanas of her defeat at his hands. The tables are turned sometime later when the Burning Legion–aided by the Demon Hunter Illidan Stormrage and Kael’thas Sunstrider–set their sights on destroying the Scourge and Arthas at their source–the Lich King Ner’Zul, who lies trapped in the Frozen Throne in the Icecrown region of Northrend. Arthas returns to Northrend and aided by Anub’Arak, reaches the Frozen Throne in time to drive off the would-be assassins. He then dons Ner’Zul’s Helm of Domination, effectively becoming the new Lich King.

For 2 and a half years, the Frozen Wastelands of Icecrown were silent. Outside the Plaguelands of Lordaeron, the Scourge were being snuffed out on Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. Unbeknownst to the world, an internal battle was waging in the mind of the Lich King Arthas: The wills of Ner’Zul and Arthas were fighting for dominence. In the end, Arthas won out, simply stating: “There is no more Arthas Menethil or Ner’Zul. Only the Lich King.” After the events of The Burning Crusade, the Lich King stirs. He unleashes his Army of the Damned upon the Horde and Alliance strongholds on Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms, setting the stage for the events of Wrath of the Lich King. Battle-hardened Adventurers who’ve faced the horrors of Outland can traverse the untamed continent Northrend at level 68+. A Ship/Zepphelin from Stormwind/Orgrimmar or Menethil Harbor/The Undercity will take adventurers to the Alliance/Horde footholds in Howling Fjord and Borean Tundra, respectively. The level cap is raised to 80 and for the low, low price of 1000G (and being level 78+), players can use the Flying Mounts they bought in Outland on Northrend.

The Lich King sends his worst against you, but you are not alone. The Knights of the Ebon Blade and the Argent Crusade push all the way to Icecrown, where they set up a forward base into the Lich King’s domain. The Alliance Vanguard (headed by Bolvar Fordragon) and the Warsong Offensive (headed by Saurfang the Younger) attempt to open a second route into Icecrown via Anguar’thar The Wrarh Gate but their advance is stopped by the Lich King himself, who kills Saurfang with Frostmourne. Things are worsened when an uprising in The Undercity leads to a Forsaken attack that decimates the gathered Alliance and Horde army and claims the life of Bolvar, forever shattering the uneasy coalition between Stormwind and Orgrimmar.

King Varian Wrynn demands retribution and gathers an army of the Alliance’s bravest, marching them into The Undercity. After killing High Apothecary Putress (the Forsaken who developed and unleashed the New Plague at the Wrathgate), Varian is horrified at the sight of the Forsaken’s laboratory where the New Plague was researched. At the same time the Alliance was avenging the lives lost at Anguar’thar, the Horde–led by Warchief Thrall and Sylvanas Windrunner–took on the author of the uprising: The Dreadlord Varilimathras. Shortly after defeating the dreadlord, Varian and the Alliance Forces with him enter the throne room. The King of Stormwind declares war on the Horde in the name of the Alliance and a fight breaks out. The fight stops as quickly as it begins when Jaina Proudmoore (who joined him up to this point) intervenes and teleports the Alliance Forces back to Stormwind.

Not long afterward, Brann Bronzebeard stumbles upon Ulduar in the Storm Peaks northeast of Icecrown. An ancient evil stirs in the dark structure. Something the Titans could only…contain. It’s the Old God of Death Yogg-Saron. Having taken control of the guards who keep him imprisoned, The Kirin Tor of Dalaran (which relocated to Northrend to aid in the war against the Lich King) sound the call for heroes to brave the depths of Ulduar and subdue the evil within. Meanwhile, the Argent Crusade makes progress and sets up a Tournament Ground in the Northeastern corner of Icecrown. There, they prepare Heroes of Azaroth for the assault on Icecrown Citadel. When the preparations are complete, Jaina (Alliance) and Sylvanas (Horde) lead a small group into Icecrown to learn what they can about the foe they will soon face.

Jaina/Sylvanas communes with Frostmourne in the Halls of Reflection where they talk to the spirit of Uther the Lightbringer. Uther tells them that even if the Lich King is killed, another must take his place. Without someone controlling the army of the damned, the Scourge would prove to be a great threat to all life on Azaroth. Immediately after learning this, The Lich King enters the room and chases Jaina/Sylvanas off. Armed with this vital piece of information, The Knights of the Ebon Blade and the Argent Crusade formally combine their forces into The Ashen Verdict. They have but one goal: The Fall of the Lich King.

As the Heroes of Azaroth storm Icecrown Citadel, we learn death wasn’t the end of Saurfang the Younger. He was raised as the Lich King’s most powerful Death Knight to fight against his former allies. Awaiting the Harbringers of Justice at the Frozen Thronze is an unexpected surprise: In addition to the Lich King, awaiting the Heroes is Bolvar Fordragon–long thought dead. Alextrasza the Life-Binder’s cleansing fire granted him protection from the plague but left him horrably disfigured. When the Lich King returned to the Wrath Gate, he claimed Bolvar and Saurfang the Younger. He successfully turned the Champion of the Horde but despite being tortured, Bolvar would not kneel to the Lich King. Having seen more than enough of the Lich King’s atrocities, Tirion Fordring leads the long-awaiting battle against the Lich King. It’s win or serve in death.

Against the odds, Tirion and the Heroes prevail, shattering Frostmourne in the process. After the ghost of Terenas Menethil II attends to his son’s final moments, he reminds Bolvar of what Jaina/Sylvanas learned before: Someone must take the reins and become the new Lich King. If not, the Scourge would tear Azaroth to pieces. Tirion is about to don the Helm of Domination when Bolvar dutifully offers to become the Jailer of the Damned. The transfer of power is instant as Tirion places the Lich King’s helm upon the former Alliance Champion’s head. Bolvar recalls the Scourge back to Icecrown and freezes himself inside the Frozen Throne as the first Lich King lay. While the Heroes of Azaroth were dealing with the Scourge in Northrend, an old enemy finally makes his move.

The Third Expansion, titled Cataclysm or Cata by the WoW Community starts during the Fall of the Lich King. Deathwing The Destroyer–formerly Neltharion The Earth Warder–emerges from the bowels of Azaroth, forever changing the face of the world. The worldwide destruction wrought upon Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms results in a shift of power in the Horde and the Alliance. The destruction of the Greymane Wall in Silverpine Forest reveals to the outside world the fate of the people of Gilneas. When King Genn Greymane ordered the Greymane Wall’s sealing, he unknowingly doomed his people. A curse swept across Gilneas, transforming its citizens into Worgen. When the Forsaken attack, the unexpected arrival of the Night Elves bring the Worgen into the Alliance. Meanwhile, the Bilgewater Goblins find themselves at odds with the Alliance and join the Horde.

In additon to two new races, new race/class combinations will be available–Tauren Paladins, Dwarf Shamen, Troll Druids, Night Elf Mages and Blood Elf Warriors, to name a few. Starting in Cataclysm Humans and Blood Elves will both have the same classes: Warrior, Priest, Mage, Warlock, Hunter, Rogue and Death Knight. In addition Worgen will have the Druid Class and Goblins will have the Shaman Class, raising the Paladin, Druid and Shaman ratios per faction to 3-2 (Human, Dwarf and Draenei to Blood Elf and Tauren), 2-2 (Night and and Worgen to Tauren and Troll) 2-4 (Draenei and Dwarf to Orc, Troll, Tauren and Goblin). Wait, there’s more: A Heroic Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep will be introduced, allowing players to rechallenge the classic dungeons at the new max level–85.

After reclaiming Mount Hyjal from the Twilight Hammer, the Cenarion Circle led a dairing campaign into The Firelands, homeworld of Ragnaros. With the help of brave heroes from the Alliance and the Horde, the Fire Lord was defeated forever. With the help of brave heroes, The Earthen Ring repaired the rift befween Deepholm and Azaroth torn open when Deathwing returned. The World Shaman Thrall, former Warchief of the Horde helped the Wyrmcrest Accord by delivering the Legendary Dragon Soul to Wyrmcrest Temple after The Bronze Dragonflight recovered it from the past. Thanks to the heroic efforts of the Wyrmcrest Accord’s Champions, Deathwing was slain.

With the world’s continued existence assured (for the time being!), The Alliance and the Horde focused on their own war. Originally sparked by The Wrathgate Incident in Northrend, the war escalated when Thrall’s protege Garrosh Hellscream became the new Warchief of the Horde. The young charismatic son of the Orc Hero Grom Hellscream had a more Spartan approach compared to his predecessor: “You will serve the Horde or be crushed beneath it!” The controversy surounding the death of Cairne Bloodhoof involving the young Warchief nearly fractured the Horde. His disgust with the Val’kyr Sylvanas brought back from Northrend after the Fall of the Lich King did little to earn him the support of the Banshee Queen. He didn’t trust the Vol’Jin and viewed the Blood Elves and Goblins as fodder for the Horde War Machine.

The destruction of Theramore not only saw the death of the Archmage Rhonin but it saw the Horde lose their biggest supporter in the Alliance: Jaina Proudmoore. The surprise attack leveled the city and nearly killed her. Blinded by rage and grief at the death of thousands of innocents, the intervention of the now-former Aspect of Magic Kalecelos stopped her from flooding Orgrimmar.  Elsewhere, whispers of a mythical land shrounded in mists revealed by the Cataclysm bring the Alliance and the Horde to the shores of Pandaria for a bloody landgrab.

The Fourth Expansion, Mists of Pandaria or MoP for short starts in the month’s following the fall of Deathwing. The continent of Pandaria is unlike any other land on Azaroth: The land itself reacts to the chaos of war the Alliance and Horde bring with them. The arrival of Aysa Cludsinger in Stormwind and Ji Firepaw in Orgrimmar introduces the Pandaren and the Monk Class to the World of Warcraft. Pandaren are a unique race in that they start neutral. After you finish their introductory quest area you must choose to join the Alliance or the Horde.

Chose carefully, for the battle lines have been drawn. Your closest friend on the Wandering isle could be your most hated enemy in the Karasang Wilds! The ways of the Monk can be learned by any race except Worgen and Goblins. Will you protect your friends as Brewmaster (Tank), heal your allies as a Mistweaver (Heals) or take thefight to the enemy (Windwalker)? The Monk class is the first Melee Heals Class in the game and also the first class that emphasizes both Hand to Hand Combat and Combat with Staves.The level cap has been raised to 90, Cooking has been revamped and the new Pet Battles feature should make for an interesting distraction.

As of November 2012 the next major patch promises to be a turning page in the fight for Pandaria. As promised, Alliance and Horde reinforcements reach the shores of Pandaria and dig in for what’s sure to be a long and bloody conflict. Prince Anduin Wrynn’s disppearance two months earlier has brought King Varian in search of his son before Horde forces find him. The Warchief’s recent actions forces the hand of Vol’Jin and Lorthe’mar Theron while the World Shaman is forced to take a stand against his successor’s brutality in Southern Durotar.

Ok, I think I’ve done enough talking about WoW, yes? Anywho, now you at least have an idea of why myself and 20 million others hold this game in such high regard. The game has been available since 2005 and has spawned 4 expansions and a load of books based around the Warcraft Universe (the most recent, Tides of Darkness is a prequel to Mists of Pandaria). The question some of us ask ourselves: How will it end?

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