Discovery, together: The number 1 reason “the new Ulduar” will differ from the old UlduarPosted: February 18, 2013
Since the moment Blizzard devs began talking about the upcoming 5.2 raid, it has been described as something akin to Ulduar.
This is awesome, since Ulduar tops my list of favorite raids. The place was huge and epic, the lore was great, the bosses and hard modes were varied, interesting, and a lot of fun… and less than four months later, it was old content, replaced with a five-encounter arena.
When the unveiling of Uldum was announced for Cataclysm, I was hoping that this zone would be home to the next Ulduar. However, it was not to be; we got a couple of very airy, windy places, an outdoor dungeon in an Egyptian-themed town… and Halls of Origination.
Halls of Origination is one of those “things I wish were different” in WoW. Here was a place that shared certain design elements with Ulduar, but was merely a dungeon filled with god- and statue-bosses. This isn’t to say that HoO was not an interesting, challenging, or well-done instance, but it was, after all, just a dungeon.
I’ve discussed with sympathetic friends the idea that HoO had the potential – with some expansion of the scope of the place and its denizens – to be an amazing raid, but it was not to be. Perhaps Blizzard felt it was too soon to “go there” again, and maybe they were right -and maybe it was too similar aesthetically, as well – but I always felt like it was too bad that HoO wasn’t created as a raid. Then again, maybe it’s good that non-raiders got to see the place…
Anyway, that brings us to 5.2 and the Throne of Thunder.
Described as being similar in scope to Ulduar, ToT does look pretty huge, at lease from the outside. I’ve declined to watch almost all of the “check out ToT” videos, because I want to experience its awesomeness for myself.
But that’s not all. I want to experience it for the first time with my team. And that’s just not going to happen.
(And no, this is not because I am one of those people who pines for the way WoW used to be more, thinks the current game is broken, caters to casuals, blah blah. This is just a fact of life, because of changes to the game that are ultimately better for more people – changes that I take advantage of all the time.)
The reason? Raid Finder.
Yep, one of the things that gnaws at me about Raid Finder is also one of the things that’s cool about it, which is that it allows people who don’t normally raid – or who wouldn’t normally see all of the bosses – to experience the raid at a lower scale of difficulty. I’ve felt that during this tier. I’ve killed all of the bosses many, many times on RF difficulty, and many times I had a few of my teammates with me. However, LFR is like a big heroic dungeon: you go in with strangers (unless you take your entire 25-player team), clear the section you entered, collect your bags/loot and go home. The feeling of wonder, of epic discovery with your teammates, is largely missing.
Unfortunately, I do fit into that category of “player who wouldn’t otherwise see these encounters…” this tier. So, it was good, at least on that level, to have that opportunity with LFR.
Contrast that to Ulduar, which our 10-player team ran when it was current. We went in and learned the opening trash in our vehicles. We did hard modes on Flame Leviathan. We fought Ignis in his huge room. We fought Razorscale and XT, then moved on to the other wings…
Some of my favorite memories of raiding come from that time. Discovering the tram that took us to Mimiron is something I’ll never forget – we spent something like ten minutes screwing around on the tram and the track, and looking at all there was to look at along the way. Freya’s room was amazing. Making The Descent Into Madness felt real and kind of scary. And it was all stuff that we experienced together, as friends, which makes the memories that much more special.
That type of feeling has been all but destroyed by Raid Finder. Going into something new, like the MV LFR, was like going into a dungeon for the first time. I didn’t even really think about it much in there, because it was compartmentalized anyway, and while Elegon’s chamber was kind of cool, it was just that: kind of cool. But I really felt it in Terrace of Endless Spring. I’m pretty sure I went into that queue solo the first time, and the beauty of the surroundings and the nature of the boss encounters left me feeling like I was missing out on something. Of course, I could pass along knowledge culled from experience on subsequent runs to guildmates, but it’s not the same.
And with Throne of Thunder, I’m not excited about discovering the place on my own. I’m annoyed that I basically have to forego the pleasures of those potential discovery memories, acquired with nine other people, like we did back in the day. I’m actually kind of dreading it on a certain level, although dreading “something extra not happening” is kind of weird, but it’s there in the back of my mind, nonetheless.
But I don’t really have any other option. As much as Blizzard has tried to play it down, vehemently arguing that “you don’t have to do LFR necessarily,” Raid Finder helps a huge number of players gear up for normal raids. LFR gear helped me get the gear that I wear now, and in the case of my weapon, my late-boss LFR Sha-Touched is better than the normal-mode Elegon bow I picked up a couple of weeks ago. Tier 15 also has pretty big gear upgrades, as well – even in Raid Finder. So while, yes, technically one doesn’t have to participate in Raid Finder in order to raid, I could also theoretically choose to not acquire gear from other sources, and then I would have bad gear, and I would hold back my team and, perhaps, lose my spot, or at least miss out on a chance to kill more normal raid bosses and get better gear.
So when ToT-RF Part 1 comes out the week after the raid releases, I’ll be there, trying to get a piece or two to help me out in the normal raid, thus helping out the team itself. Because, ultimately, I’m excited about helping my team see as much of real-ToT as possible. But I’ll likely discover it myself, and I’ll be thinking, “This is cool. I wish _________ were here.” And it won’t be the same.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m super excited about Throne of Thunder. I think it’s going to be awesome, in many Ulduar-like ways.
But it won’t be the quite same as Ulduar. In my WoW life, in 2013, that’s pretty much not possible.
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