Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Halls of Reflection Lore

This blog post will discuss events from the Halls of Reflection. There are major spoilers contained herein. This post is also something of a rant.

Read on at your own risk.
Still with me? Good.
When you arrive at the Halls of Reflection there is a dialog between Uther the Lightbringer’s spirit and either Jania or Sylvanas.
One of the first things that Uther tells her is that there must always be a Lich King. What an amazing let down. All this time we’ve been fighting our way to Ice Crown Citadel to end the scourge threat, and then Uther tells us it’s all for naught for there must always be a Lich King.
There was a time, even as late as the Second War, when there wasn’t a Lich King. Since there hasn’t always been a Lich King, why must there always be a Lich King. It’s a very unsatifying ending. In fact, it’s no ending at all. Stories have a conflict and a climax. They reach a resolution. Without being able to destroy the Lich King, the story never reaches a resolution.
But it gets better. Not only does there always have to be a Lich King, but apparently there is still good in Arthas. Can we push the Darth Vader allusions any further? So the good Arthas is inside the Lich King. If Uther is to be believed, it is the good Arthas that has been holding back the Scourge from destroying Azeroth.
First of all, in both the novel about the Lich King and subsequent quests in Ice Crown, Blizzard has pretty much laid out that Arthas is no more. He and Lich King are one. They are inseparable.
Secondly, the Heroes of Azeroth can handle the Scourge.
The Heroes of Azeroth have been defeated the Scourge time and again. We defeated them in the Western Plaguelands and the Eastern Plaugelands. We defeated them at Scholomance and Stratholme. We defeated them in the original Naxxrammus. Some of Azeroth’s heroes defeated the Scourge from within and broke free of the Lich King’s control. They walk among us now as Death Knights. We pushed them back in the Howling Fjord and the Borean Tundra. We halted their gains in Zul’Drak. Now we’ve taken the fight to their very door steps in IceCrown.
Now we’re to believe that every victory was only because a benevolent Arthas was holding the Scourge back? Are you freaking kidding me?!?! It’s like your older brother, after you beat him the first time at One on One says ‘yeah, yeah, whatever, you beat me, but I wasn’t trying my hardest.’
Furthermore, Uther tells us that without a Lich King, the Scourge would swarm over the face of Azeroth. So this unthinking, massive zerg would just overwhelm a battle hardened, thinking, and strategic foe. I find that unlikely. Remember 300 Heroes of Azeroth held Light’s Hope Chapel against 10,000 Scourge! Numbers alone do not win a battle.
With the Dark Portal open, Azeroth has access to aid from the Naaru. With Illidan defeated, Xiri or another Naaru could come to Azeroth to assist the Heroes. How well are the Scourge going to do against a being of pure Light. And we now have the cleansed Ashbringer which can lay waste entire swaths of undead.
Look, we got resolution in Vanilla WoW.
Ragnoros was sent back to the Plane of Fire. We got to the bottom of the Silithid problem and destroyed C’thun. We even got resolution with the Scourge over the Plaguelands and turned Kel’Thuzad’s phylactery into the Argent Dwan.
We got resolution in Burning Crusade.
We put and end to Kael’thas and Vashj. We killed The Betrayer and reclaimed the Temple of Korabor aka The Black Temple.
There will be no resolution with Wrath of the Lich King. He will live on and we will be distracted by Deathwing’s movements and have to leave Northrend.
The entire story now seems contrived, and wholly unsatisfying.
Arthas is the last major villain from pre World of Warcraft. After him, World of Warcraft Lore will have to stand on it own. I’m not sure the it is up to it. We don’t care about another villain the way we cared about Arthas, Illidan, Kel’Thuzad, Kael’Thas and Vashj.
I'm sure there will be a sentiment among some to end their Warcraft careers with Arthas. He seems like a good and logical ‘stopping point.’
Were I more cynical I might believe that this is simply Blizzard’s leaving open a way to bring the Lich King back at some point. He’s been such an iconic villain, surely the allure of fighting him again would keep people playing. Perhaps at the end of Cataclysm we’ll fight him again and he can tells us that Ice Crown Citadel was ‘merely a setback’. That is a distasteful thought.
What do you think? Have I got this all wrong or does the idea of there having to always be a Lich King seemed contrived. Is there something I’m missing here?


Eric said...

I do think it is a bit contrived as it does seem to ret-con WoW lore but I think you miss a very important point. The Scourge wouldn't be a mindless horde. Remember, Sylvanas the Banshee Queen. She was but a lieutenant of the Lich King. Arthas has a great many generals of equal or higher standing. What would the world be if suddenly we had 10, 20, 30 different factions of undead similar to the Forsaken?

To me that is the only reason there must be a Lich King. I think its terrible writing to say that there is a tiny fragment of Arthas in side holding things back. It would have been a lot better to embrace Arthas' dark side and simply say his pride keeps him from making the killing stroke. That he wants to challenge our greatest heros and defeat us. To delivery a devastating moral blow to the Alliance and Horde and break our spirit.

Blue said...

I am also somewhat torn with this. I like that the story remains, however cliche and watered down it becomes with the "setbacks," so to speak. I think there will be some twists and turns involved. Either the Lich King will find another host that will allow the darkside to reign (Wrynn, Hellscream, et. al.) or the Lich will fuse with someone who can control it. I am seeing Ellevis' idea of it being Thrall as a possibility...however crazy that seems.

If you remember during the Cataclysm information surge, one statement said that Azeroth will have a new guardian...Thrall. Could this new "guardianship," entail the containment of the Lich King and the scourge? I think its a possibility. With this scenario we have a new "conclusion," but with a whole new ball of wax to unravel.

I could be WAYYY off base, I am no lore expert whatsoever. Just an interesting thought.

Isa said...

I read a point on some blog or another that while the Ner'zul and Arthas were merged, inseparable, and irredeemable as the Lich King, Frostmourne stole Arthas' soul before that ever happened. Which could explain why there might still be a good side of Arthas floating around somewhere.

I also don't find the idea that the Lich King is necessary to hold back the Scourge all that implausible. Numbers may not be everything, but realistically when you can kill your enemies then bring them back to fight on your side, that is an incredible advantage, and one that should have seen the Scourge victorious long ago. From that perspective I can buy into the idea that the Lich King has been holding the Scourge back.

All that said, I do agree that the resolution all this information seems to be leading to is unsatisfactory.

Adlib said...

Wow, I didn't get to do Halls of Reflection the other night due to the instability of the instance servers, and I haven't done it yet, but wow, I agree! That's disappointing. I would hope he's speaking symbolically, and that he means there has to be a Lich King in the sense that there always has to be a bad guy to balance the good. It doesn't sound like he is though. Good post.

kyrilean said...

It's been a few months since having read Arthas, and a spoiler warning for those who haven't, but didn't the last page show Arthas in his mind and the "good" Arthas was represented as a child which was killed by the "bad" Arthas? And Arthas destroyed what was left of Ner'zhul, didn't he?

It was my understanding that Arthas is the Lich King and not some conglomeration of Ner'zhul and Arthas. As for a tortured good soul remaining? Yeah, OK it's Vader all over, but it still works.

I agree with you wholeheartedly about the "always must be a Lich King" thing. Why?

Honors Code said...

It reminds me a bit of Pirates 3. "The Dutchman must always have a captain."

Anonymous said...

What about Azshara? In The Sundering Mannoroth seemed to show that she had some pretty serious powers, and to the elves at least she's still a pretty big villain.

Kaziel said...

I think the need for a Lich King is closer to what you just said, Honors, in the sense that there must always be a "Captain" and less of a case of this defeat will be "just a setback."

The impression I get from it is whoever does take up Frostmourne in the moments after Arthas' death will at first be fighting a battle with Frostmourne and the personality of the Lich King that I feel inhabits it. And while at first said person will keep it at bay, causing most of the might of the Scourge to remain dormant (pockets of it controlled by Death Knights or Liches will still be active but they are special cases). But as time goes by, less of the weilder of Frostmourne will remain and more and more he will become the new Lich King until finally the Scourge and it's master lives once more!

BUT! What makes this more than just a "mere setback" is that first off, this is a new Lich King. Arthas/Ner'zhul Lich King's plans are shattered and he does die. So in that regard we do win, but the threat of the Scourge remains an eternal threat, staved off for a few years, maybe even a decade at the best, but much like the Dark Side of the Force, you can never fully banish it's potential danger.

Additionally, I theorize that Frostmourne is too powerful to be destroyed. And how long would it be before someone would be tempted by it's power and take it? Even if it was somehow theoretically guarded by the combined forces of the remaining Knights of the Ebon Blade and the Argent Crusade along with forces from the Horde and the Alliance, eventually someone (or something...) would take it. It's better to have the sword in plain sight with one we know and one we can watch so that when (not if) they eventually fall under the sway of the sword once more, we know it and can be prepared and fight him on much more equal grounds.

Finally, I believe that the one who will take up the burden of being the new Lich King will be Bolvar. He's already been somewhat twisted, but has maintained his hold on his sanity. I'm guessing he will help us during the fight against Arthas or he will show up as we defeat him, and takes up Frostmourne as a great sacrifice to ensure no one else has to bear what he has.

The only other real option is Tirion, and I really hope it's not him. I like Bolvar, but Tirion holds a special place in my heart as I've read the book by Metzen with him in it and made sure to do all the quests that he's a part of.

Plus by having it be Bolvar it creates more tension between the Horde and the Alliance as Varian blames the Horde even more strongly for the loss of Bolvar, this time not for his death but for him becoming the Lich King. I'll remind you that Blizzard has stated they want to go further in the direction of war between the two factions, not away from it.

Honors Code said...

I've been in the Bolvar is the next Lich King camp for a while now, but your explaination about Frostmourne and the Lich King is eye opening. Didn't Arthas go into a 'dormancy' period at the end of the Third War after he put on the helm of the Lich King?

Anonymous said...

Frostmourne stole Arthas's soul, along with several other "good" people like Uther. Through these souls, Frostmourne exerts some restraint on Arthas and the Scourge is thus somewhat contained. That is why Arthas has moved Frostmourne to the HoR, away from him, where the souls will have less influence on him.

As far as the "there will always be a Lich King", this does not mean there will always be an Arthas! I truly believe that Arthas will meet his end, but that another person will have to take the helm and assume the powers of the Lich King to keep the Scourge in check. Lich King /= Arthas. Personally, I think Darion Mograine might be the choice, as the stated purpose of the Ebon Blade has been to defeat the Scourge. This will repurpose them as stoic guardians and sentinels, containing the Undead forces and making sure that they do not over-run Azeroth.

Your point about there not being a Lich King before the Third War... he wasn't needed because there was no Scourge! Undead were extremely rare before the events of the Plague, which was unleashed by the original Lich King (Ner'zhul) who was created by the Legion following the failure of the orcs in the Second War.

Kaziel said...

Yes he did, Honors. There was approximately a 4 year period where everything that the "Scourge" was done by his liuetenants, such as KT and Anub. Honestly, the Lich King has only been awake since approximately the end of Vanilla WoW, with the appearance of Naxxramas.

I would theorize that said dormancy was the process of the intergration of Arthas and Ner'zhul into one being known as the Lich King. Remember that both of them were already almost completely evil at that point, so it was relatively smooth. For someone who would resist it all the way, that could push out the next great Scourge activity by a decade or more.

Kaziel said...

Though I will agree that some of the "Eternal Lich King" is there for game mechanics and not pure lore. Mostly Death Knights as PCs in this case. Many DK players are in it for vengeance against the Scourge... but what would happen if the Scourge disappeared? Suddenly the DK's pull out, theoretically.

Unless there's an eventual return of the Lich King, then the DKs need to be there to help stave off the Return of the Night of the Living Dead! (WeOoOoOo)

Dorgol said...

Tirion as the new Lich King is too obvious. I won't be surprised when it happens, but I'm hoping it doesn't.

Likewise, I don't want to see Bolvar take up the crown, either. I see for him two plausible outcomes - death (mirroring Saurfang's death) or survival. If he survives he could either reign in Wrynn and stave off war - OR he could do a 180 (blaming the Forsaken for what happened) and go Rambo on the Horde.

If Blizzard were to take MY vote - I would have Mograine become the new Lich King. The ironic twist of someone redeeming themselves, defeating their enemy, and then BECOMING their enemy... that's a strong image in my mind.

But yeah, I'm betting it will be Tirion sitting on that thrown by this time next year.

Tegoelf said...

I started typing a response, but it got too long, it became a blog post, to summarize:

Arathas is evil, and beyond redemption, but that doesn't mean there is no good left in him fight the demon he has become.
Second I see thrall Jaina and others as being present when arathas falls helping us, and being the ones to decide on who becomes the next litch king.

I think Thrall will be next, partially from he being one of the few to be good enough to resist the evil, and partially because the last one was alliance.

Third, the sword without a master is a powerful and dangerous thing, As a convenient way to wake deathwing, and set off all out war between the horde and the alliance I will bet that the power threatens to destroy the world before thrall can control it, and in that process Jaina sacrifices herself to contain the power long enough

Nice and neat ending, The horde loose Thrall, and blame the alliance for allowing him to do this, The alliance see Thrall as killing Jaina so they go after the horde. Meanwhile the power surge from frostmourne begins to wake deathwing

all things provided in this are purely the work of a deranged mind, and may or may not be true, rumor mill it at your own risk

AntiSemantic said...

My interpretation was that the position of Lich King is more neutral than we have come to see it. Whoever wields the power of the armor and the Frozen Throne is, essentially, the hive mind of the Scourge. How that power is used it up to the mind in question.

Arthas was a tool for evil simply because his soul had already been dominated by Ner'zul via Frostmourne. If someone were to don the armor and mentally fight whatever presence is left within it they could conceivably restrain the Scourge, or even use them as a tool of the mortal races.

That is, if they win.

And that's why I see this arc ending with Mograine becoming the new Lich King. From the end of the death knight's storyline he has been represented as someone who redeems himself by wielding dark powers against other dark powers. Combine that with the fact that his entire raison d'etre is to defeat the Lich King and you have a character that is perfectly set up to challenge the armor and attempt control the armies of the Scourge from within. Doing so is an absolute sacrifice of self and freedom and, is an ideal way to finish of Mograine's personal story.

Honors Code said...

Part of the reason I believe it'll be Bolvar is that at Blizzcon, Metzan said "We leave part of ourselves up there." I just don't believe the players have enough of a connection to Mograine to be that impactful. But we have a strong connection to Bolvar, especially if you were raised in a pre Wyrnn Alliance like I was.

Capn Skillet said...

Spoiler - Speculation alert!

Since I'm a hordie, I also have a theory that Sylvanas might take up the mantle of Lich Queen, using the power of Frostmourne to somehow convert the scourge to Forsaken. Just another theory.

Also, not all the major villains are dead. In Cataclysm, we will of course face Deathwing. In the following expansion, if there is one, then the only extremely major enemy left will be Sargeras and another showdown with the Legion.

I'm pretty certain that after we take out Sargeras, there might not be much more room for WoW. But they've been very creative over the years, so who knows what will happen?

lethal said...

I think you said it yourself with the Pirates 3 comment.
Whoever takes up the crown of Lich King doesn't have to be a force of evil, much the same as Orlando Bloom changed the Dutchman into what it was supposed to instead of evil.

I think a major lore figure will take up the mantle of the scourge to contain them. If you think about the Scourge like a wild animal, its much better for them to be restrained rather than all over azeroth they suddenly go nuts. Perhaps why we can fight them as its army vs army over strategic targets. A mass zerg rush i think would stretch the capacities everywhere.
The new Lich King might not be evil necessarily, but they will have to make some sort of sacrfice for the cause.

I really don't think we will see Lich King 2.0 or 'was just a set back'
This is where we kill him

Anonymous said...

I'd have to say I agree with your reaction in general. When I saw that exchange in the instance, it immediately called to my mind shades of Diablo and the imprisonment of the Prime Evils in soulstones.

While I don't like it, I can look back at Wrath and see possible seeds for this along the way. In several (near-)encounters with the Lich King, the Heroes of Azeroth have been "spared," left to face a lieutenant or coaxed onward. One could argue the Lich King, or some part of him, has been engineering his own defeat all along.

I have some trouble buying that, however, when weighed against the evidence that any good in Arthas is gone.

As for candidates to take up the "burden," I've heard Tirion suggested. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that option, but he's a more faction-neutral figure than Bolvar, Sylvanas, or even Mograine and he's been important to the Heroes throughout Northrend, especially the final push in Icecrown. He's familiar enough to everyone that I wouldn't be surprised if Blizzard went with him as the next Lich King.

Barachiel said...

Honestly it all depends on how it shakes down.

Arthas' soul was stolen by Frostmourne in WC3. That could be the shard of good remaining, drained by the sword itself. So while Arthas may be iredeemable, there may still be some small part of him that's holding back. It's a stretch, but not impossible.

The real thing is how the "there must always be a Lich King" plays out. If its a Pirates 3 thing, where the role of the LK is changed, I think that could be good. Arthas dies and pays for his crime, but the ROLE of the LK is redefined.

It could go either way, honestly.

What's my main Again? said...

It has to be Bolvar. If you go into icecrown citadel you can hear that since wrathgate bolvar has been constantly tortured and yet still hasn't given up. Someone that strong, that dedicated is the only person who could become the lich king and not use the scourge as a weapon.

I really like the idea of someone having to take the lich kings place. The ultimate sacrifice, giving up ones own life for the continuation of humanity. If he were to be destroyed I don't think the scourge would remain mindless for long. The burning legion isn't completely gone and there are a few old gods that I think would have the ability to reclaim the scourge.

Not to mention the possibility of sylvannas getting control and using them to continue converting all of azeroth into undead.