Would you rather be Frodo or Aragorn?

In the next Wrath patch, Blizzard announced that players will have the opportunity to face down The Lich King himself in a 5 man instance.

On cue, the outraged complaints began. How can the end boss of a whole expansion possibly be epic if you can fight him in a (casual friendly) 5 man instance? Surely he should be a raid boss? But I don’t see that myself.

Going back to Lord of the Rings, who has the more epic adventure? Frodo and Sam sneaking into Mordor on their own to destroy the ring, or the rest of the Fellowship who get to ride with the great armies, participate in world changing battles, and do valorous deeds? They are both epic and exciting adventures which turn the course of the story.

It’s been commented before that Icecrown bears a strong resemblance to illustrations of Mordor. Is it so hard to imagine that the parallel goes deeper? After all, why mess with a winning formula? (And not messing with winning formulas is one of the things that Blizzard does best.) And using important lore characters in group instances was one of the ways in which LOTRO really brought their epic storyline to life. I don’t remember players in that game complaining that it wasn’t ‘fair’ or ‘epic’ that they got to fight trolls alongside Legolas, or talk to Frodo in Rivendell before the fellowship departed.

I think Blizzard will take the easier route and although the 5 man encounter will be meaningful in terms of story, it won’t actually allow the 5 man group to defeat Arthas. But I can’t help wishing that they could. It wouldn’t stop the raid instance from being epic and exciting if we knew that some brave adventurers were also sneaking into Icecrown on a bold but uncertain mission to weaken our foe so that our strike would be successful.

24 thoughts on “Would you rather be Frodo or Aragorn?

  1. Scale != quality. No one would complain if Arthas would be in a 5 man dungeon that can be done by 0.1% of the playerbase.

    The problem is that he is the endboss of an instance that “LF2M tank and heleer ICC farming 10-15 runs”

    • Actually plenty of people would complain, because it’s pointless to make content for 0.1% of the playerbase. Your players are wondering why they waste time on a fight 99% of the players wont bother with, especially if it is the big bad of an entire expansion.

  2. LotRO handled this well with the Watcher. Solo players get to defeat it at the start of the volume 2 epic. Standard groups get a more challenging fight later in the epic series. Raid groups get the hardcore experience in a tedious and unforgiving lair fight. Of course, only the raid group actually ‘kills’ it, but at least everyone else has had the Watcher experience.

    If Blizzard handle it like this for this 5-man, i.e. minor setback for the Lich King rather than utter defeat, then I can’t see why anyone should have a problem with it.

  3. There is something called “grandeur” that huge battles like Cannae, Agincourt, Stalingrad or other major battles, like the Siege of Minas Tirith or attacking the Gates of Mordor, transpire.

    But the feeling of awe and terror is only interesting if you watch this from afar. Being the 16th footman in a line of 100 in the 5th in an army of 20.000 and getting crushed by a giant rock from a catapult is nothing people would find that satisfying. Nor did soldiers fighting in such battles like D-Day really experience the armchair general feeling, they often could not do anything and were just afraid.

    Now enter this not so grand scale but more personal conflict: Frodo vs Ring vs Sauron vs Gollum vs friend Sam vs the whole of Mordor’s Orc armies.

    If all of it depends on you alone, or you are part of a key group of only a few people with a vital and near impossible task, this is much more demanding and you feel you are much more involved indeed.

    I believe Blizzard handles Arthas like the Watcher in Moria. YOU will be the reason for his demise, all glory to you. Killing him, the final blow, will be left to an army. Both solo/casuals/non-raiders and raiders alike should feel some satisfaction this way.

    • I was trying to think of a good word to describe that feeling of being part of something huge and epic. I like grandeur 🙂

      I’m not sure whether it is only interesting from afar. It’s exciting to be in the crowd at a big stadium concert or football match, for example. (Granted war is probably more enjoyable from a distance though.)

      And the way the Watcher was handled in LOTRO sounds great actually.

    • Ah, but as well as having an unparalleled level in the ‘Strength of Will’ talent, he also had a few best-in-slot items, including ‘Mithril Shirt’, ‘Glass of Galadriel’, ‘Sting’ and some old heirloom item – a ring, I think it was.

      He also had a reliable questing partner, which one should never count too lightly.

  4. Frodo never met Sauron, otherwise he would probably have fallen on his belly and wet himself, before lamely handing the ring over.

    If you want a truly heroic meeting between an underdog and a great evil, read the tale of Beren and Luthien from the Silmarillion – the encounter with Morgoth in his throne room is epic.

    Back to the main issue – the problem with making Arthas a 5 player dungeon end-boss, is he will become just another in a long long line of end-bosses that simply fall over dead after a couple of minutes of nuking.
    This guy almost wiped out humanity, remember? He destroyed Lordaeron and the Elven Kingdoms, and would probably have won if the Forsaken (and the Burning Legion) had not deserted him.

    Magisters Terrace vs Tempest Keep? I know which version of Kaelthas I had most pleasure beating, and it wasnt the pathetic wretch in MgT.

  5. Very enjoyable post for a LOTR junkie! And although my heart tells me that I WANT it to be possible to make encounters for small groups I can’t quite see it happening. It’s just like vlad says about MgT. That was a fun 5-man, absolutely, I loved it, but…. hardly epic. I don’t know exactly what makes it. Is it ONLY about the size of the mobs? Would it have felt epic if he was the size of Ragnaros? Maybe… I’m not sure. I remember Shadow Labs. Murmur felt quite impressive first time I saw him. Out of shear size.

    • It is an interesting question. How do you make a 5 man feel epic. And funnily enough, thinking back, I was very impressed by a lot of the Wrath five mans the first time though:

      Following Arthas through Stratholme
      Falling though Azjol-Nerub and realising how huge the underground kingdom was
      The sheer scale and beauty of The Old Kingdom
      The awesome globes and star decor in Halls of Lightning
      The cut scene with Brann in Halls of Stone
      Flying around on drakes in the Oculus

      It’s quite a lot of epic, really. Just after you’ve run an instance a few times, you forget ….

  6. I think the real problem with making him a 5 man dungeon is that there has never been any groundwork laid for that in the story. Was Naxx 5 man? No. Was Ulduar five man? No.

    It would one thing if sneaking in the back door a la LOTR had been a plot device from Wrath launch. In LOTR the first book is about the fellowship. But that story has never been developed in Wrath. So I can grasp why people are having an objection to it being tossed in at the last moment.

    • Arthas has turned up in a few 5 man instances and quests already though. And the friendly NPCs we’ll be running with are very familiar, we’ve done quests for them and seen them in cut scenes and so on.

      I don’t think what Blizzard have been trying to do always works, but I do love them for trying. (does that make sense? Trying to do linear storytelling in MMOs is just weird — how can you tell a linear story that goes “and then I cleansed stratholme 16 times” that makes sense anyway?)

  7. Boromir was actually my favourite but that probably says more about me than anything else.

    Originally, I wasn’t sure about this sort of thing from Blizzard but now I totally applaud it. I’m all up for making more personal, casual based epic encounters.

  8. In answer to your question, Frodo has a long hard march through one of the most unforgiving terrains on the planet only to have his finger bitten off and then have to go back to the Shire. Aragorn becomes King of a people and gets to make out with what Tolkien desribed as the most attractive woman alive. I’d keep my fingers and go for the Elf chick!

  9. The trouble with trying to tell epic stories is that everyone wants to experience them. You can’t build up a character and storyline and then cut it off at the end by saying “no, you can only do this with 24+ of your bestest friends”. Yes, Arthas should be one of those Big Bads who takes half a continent’s worth of martial force to utterly demolish, but then again, this is a *game* that doesn’t bother making a lot of sense in the first place.

    At least he’s not just being made into a Dragon munchie. He *could* have gone out in an epic Bambi vs. Godzilla moment:

    Arthas: “Rarr, fear me and my deathly powers of Death!”

    Deathwing: “L2P, noob. It’s my turn.”


    • I find it interesting that one of the issues with playing an MMO is that if you do a quest that places you as some kind of world saving hero, you have to just pretend you don’t know that loads of other players did exactly the same quest.

      But why is it so (relatively) easy for people to abstract that for a questline and so hard for them to abstract it for an instance …? I wonder if it is because you don’t tend to repeat quests on the same character, or because having other players in the group makes it less immersive anyway …

      • Good point. It’s probably a bit of both, as well as the lower profile of quest baddies. We really do accept a lot of storytelling weirdness with a wink and a nod. (It reminds me of the articles that try to pin down the physical properties of “Azeroth”, and how the physics are all wrong without some really weird explanations… or just some handwaving and “magic” as if that explains everything. Yet, we blithely soldier on, willfully ignoring the weirdness.)

  10. In FFXI a lot of the epic storyline fights were restricted to 6 players, with a max of 18 for some. 25+ is usually storyless endgame raids. Small parties generally are better for missions, because people hate trying to get 20+ people to do a fight, any fight. Especially if its hard, and people have completed it.

    You have to balance epic fights with people’s capacity to organize them.

  11. I’ve recently begun playing DDO. And one of the first instances (Spoiler warning, just in case) pits you against a dragon. Only… not.

    You are to break a mind controlling device while a group of NPCs duke it out with the dragon. Hem, no, distract it. You only get to watch their fight, and flight from afar (or close) during your delving.

    Well, it felt epic. There was a sense of urgency, that these 4 were chased by a dragon, and we had to find the crystal before they got eaten. We didn’t even fight the beast !

    So there is epicness to be felt in a small group, while not even being against a giant big baddy. Just watching it can be enough. And having a meaningful mission to do.

    Even more, i think if we had been against the dragon in the end, it would have felt different, because we would have beaten it. it would’nt have felt so dangerous anymore…

  12. I think it really all depends on how they handle it. I mean you’re going in with a small, 5 man task force to infiltrate the citadel, but I don’t really think they expect you to defeat Arthas with only 5 people.

    I saw an achievement on MMO Champions that I believe is for the 5 man which details that you have to escape from Arthas in X amount of time. I can only assume that means he chases you out of / into some other part of ICC at some point / time in the 5 man.

    I don’t think you’ll kill Arthas in the 5 man, it’s just a segue to the 10 / 25 man raid.

  13. I have to agree that there’s no way you actually kill Arthas in the 5 man. It’s just going to be some really cool pre-storyline for the raid instances. If done well, I’m hoping they’ll put together similar winged 5 mans in the future. I’m a big fan of us living history rather than reading history. 5 mans seem like the ideal place for that.

  14. No offense, but nothing has felt “epic” to me since the 72-man raids on Nagafen and Vox in EQ1. Yes, it used to take 72 human raiders to bring down these “end game” tyrants. With corpse runs and xp loss making failure sting.

    So what if Arthas is fightable in any shape or form with any number. If you want a Frodo experience, play Dragon Age, Oblivion, Fallout3, or the Witcher. Frankly, single player games are the best at delivering the Frodo experience. In an MMO, the bad guys should tear thru you like you’re nothing unless everyone you know and some people you dont come together to conquer large villains.

    What made LotR great was that many heroes fought many battles in many places to conquer Sauron and his allies. There’s no reason a 25 man raid couldn’t have 20 raiders directly assaulting Arthas while a 5 man group split off to disable “empowering” devices around his lair to make him killable. Frodo + Aragorn = win.

  15. Pingback: Arthas: My part in his downfall « M.M.O.S.H

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