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.