I know that a lot of players feel that storytelling is a sideshow to the main event in games; it doesn’t involve gameplay, and it’s seen as fluff to keep the punters/ fanfic writers amused. I don’t agree with this view, I think the role of storytelling in games is to make encounters feel meaningful – why else would we care about characters and avatars like Lara Croft, Sonic, sackboy, Commander Shepherd; might as well just represent the player by a giant blue square.
But like it or not, the quality of storytelling and NPC design has a huge effect on how players respond to different parts of the game. Or in other words, the virtual reward of being able to deliver a good kicking to an NPC who people truly hate is on par with epics for a lot of people. After all, the epics will get replaced soon enough, but the storyline is a lasting memory and experience.
So, in that vein, which is the most unpopular storyline in Wrath? It’s undoubtedly the blue dragonflight – we kill an aspect (that’s like a demi-god) and no one cares. A few completists wonder whether that story was supposed to tail off, and everyone else is glad that Blizzard seems to have buried it. This is partly because of an unpopular raid fight which involved awkward vehicles, but it’s also because the writing didn’t make us care.
Piss him off by killing his consort? That was your entire plan?
I’ve had the great misfortune to play through Colderra again on an alt recently. It’s a subzone of the Borean Tundra in Northrend (ie. this is Wrath content) and although it’s not horribly painful as an experience, it’s also not a shining beacon of level design. Kill 10 x, collect 10 x, return to quest giver and be told to kill or collect x other things. And so on.
But the low point of the zone is the Keristrazsa questline. A game like Dragon Age would have nailed that storyline, because it has all the right elements. A wronged prisoner seeking righteous revenge, enlisting the PCs help, everything goes pear shaped and she ends up in a worse state than before, doomed to have her mind broken and forced to become Malygos’ new consort.
Now that really should have been good story material. But not in the hands of Blizzard writers, oh no.
What actually happens is this:
You discover the arcane prison and one of the NPCs at the local base is able to unlock it. He tells you to open the prison at your own risk. When you do so, a pretty girl who is really a dragon appears. Malygos (big bad dragon aspect who will die to countless raid groups later on) has imprisoned her – boo. We don’t entirely know why but she’s out for revenge.
You agree to help, having already been told that the blue dragonflight are the bad guys here. She has you gather some stuff so that she can lay a trap for Malygos’ consort, who you later kill on her behalf. OK, so that was kind of random revenge fantasy on the NPCs part but I guess she has been imprisoned for ages and that has to take it out of you.
Then she moves to the next stage of her plan. She has you lay out the consort’s corpse on the ground and she burns it, and calls out to the dragon aspect to come look at what she has done. Now, this really should set danger warnings because dragon aspects are very badass. In any case, he comes out of the Nexus to mourn? (Well, he laments about the consort so he’s actually got more sympathy at this point than the NPC you’re helping.) Keristrazsa literally flies loops around him for no special reason, she doesn’t seem to want to attack. Then she lands, tells you to run away and … Malygos comes down and spirits her away to an instance. I’m not sure why being frozen in an instance is going to persuade her to be his consort. In any case, when you get to the Nexus, she’ll beg you to kill her so she can hand over some epics … or something.
It’s just that bad. It doesn’t make sense on any level, it’s confused, the characters are stupid and yeah. I got nothing. Dragons have really failed to impress. Again. Except Onyxia.