Tag Archives: warcraft

World of Warcraft is a Feeling #3

Where was I? Oh yeah, I wrote about Warcraft 2 and Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness. For some reason Roman numbers don’t work very well online, so I’ll stick with regular numbers. So, what happened after Warcraft 2?

Well, as pretty much every RTS fan must remember: Warcraft 3 happened. Oh my god, what an epic improvement on the game that was. It was one huge leap forward for gaming and I completely missed its initial release. I had moved away from games for a bit, only playing some NHL 2001 or something like that on the odd chance and some Final Fantasy VI. This was in 2002, the game had been out for a short while and after messing about with some copy I got myself the Battle Chest.

A Warcraft Battle Chest was nothing more than the game and its expansion with two guide books. Warcraft 3 was fully called Warcraft III: Reign Of Chaos and the expansion was ‘Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. The time between Warcraft 2 and 3 was a bit vague, things had transpired but it was pretty tricky to figure it out. Also, the storyline was hard to follow in Warcraft 2 because I never played for very long at one time, so the names didn’t stick. With the fabulous promo video and the epic cut scenes and clearly outlined story, Warcraft 3 was something new, something else and something wonderful.

Summertime Blues

It was a summer holiday and I had to work a lot at the supermarket that year, but during the holiday of my parents I would play all the time when I wasn’t working. I actually threw my matrass down next to the PC so I could save time. Ridiculous, I know, but I was that insanely into it. To follow the whole campaign and learn of the characters like Arthas MenethilThrall and Grom Hellscream (already a favorite from the past along with Korgath Bladefist) and ofcourse Illadan Stormrage. It was miraculous and completely immesive. The game was good for hours and hours of unlimited, unchallenged gameplay.

This was the game you were discussing with your friends, this was a story that you wanted to have retold and tried to trace. It was by far the best thing Blizzard had done this far and the whole sales numbers proved as much. Warcraft III is at the base of the succesful DOTA and League of Legends games and set the bar for RTS games for years to come. So while playing it, I was living in the Warcraft Universe and every moment I wasn’t, I was still there in my head. It was great stuff.

Innovation

Where the previous games had named characters, these had personalities. That was one of the things that Blizzard may have taken from the likes of Red Alert and Command & Conquer. Having characters with personalities helps the player in feeling part of the grand narrative. Something the man from Blizz understood like no other I suppose.

What also helped, was an environment that felt more natural and alive, not the barren wasteland that you were left with in the pervious games. There was a better ambient sound to accompany the setting and critters that you could kill, but also random mobs. Marauding gnolls, rampaging ogres and the ever present Murlocs. Also, the campaigns where you had to rely on skills and fast commanding were so much better and fun to engage in. Landing in Kalimdor with the Orcs really felt like finding a strange and mysterious land, not just the next puzzle. Corrupting the land with the undead felt a bit grimy and wrong, but also awakens the sadist in you.

To me these were major innovations in the game, though probably not as unique as it felt to me, but very significant.

source: Battle.net

Not just single player fun

For me personally, I’ve never been a great online player. Frankly, I sucked on the battle net servers. Battle Net had been launched already for Starcraft players a few years previously, to faciliate online playing. Interesting enough, the online playing was the future and Blizzard was one of the few companies really getting that.

Not only that, the game was so big, that you could discuss it easily with your friends who had started playing it. Funny enough, one of my best friends held the game wrapped up for 12 years before engaging in it, recently finishing the game finally. It was a weird throw back to discuss some elements in the game, since many of them where later sort of rectified in the ongoing narrative of the game in World of Warcraft.

Out of an ocean of mediocre games, this one rose above and beyond and was for me definitely the one that got me hooked forever on the game. It was not long after that WoW was released, which I didn’t start playing at first. I took some time… but I did start with the novels.

It’s just before I got into the biggest and I think best MMO of all time.

The Reading of Books #14

I read some game books from Warcraft written by Christie Golden, Greg Keyes’ Elder scrolls novel and another one of Dayal Pattersons black metal histories.

Christie Golden – Arthas: Rise of the Lich King

source: Goodreads.com

Sure, you’re not getting high literature with the Warcraft books, definitely not if they are supposed to clean up a bit of the past and connect a previous game to the World of Warcraft ‘Wrath of the Lich King’ storyline. If you did not play Warcraft III, this book adds to your experience. If you did, this is the plaster in the wall for you and I can’t deny truly enjoying the gaps filling up and in fact replaying the Arthas storyline in Warcraft III at the same time. What a great game…

What is true is that the author really takes the time for the gaps and therefor leaves little room for describing the in-game events, specially towards the end. It feels like a sudden sprint to the Frozen Throne (you know what I’m talking about) through Ahzjol-Nerub in just a few pages. Remember that first target reader, for that reader this is very bad reading material, because sense it makes none. There’s also a symbolic element in the story, that never really comes to fruition. Christie Golden is a great writer, but even though this was highly succesful, I believe she could have done better.  Still, well worth reading and almost required for the lore-lovers.

Gregory Keyes – Lord of Souls

source: goodreads.com

Since the Elder Scrolls book I read the other time was part one, I guess it only makes sense that I continued with part II. I think it was dragging out the adventure a bit too long, because I go very dishearthened at some point and reading it didn’t seem as much fun anymore. Still, I did continue it and sadly the end of this was also not what I expected.

I normally try to say quite a bit about a book, but in this part the story just continues. You’d expect to find a good reason why the story is split into two books, but that never really seems to make sense. There’s not more depth to the key players, no new additions to speak of and basically just a long stretch of wrapping up the story in a rather clumsy way. I guess my fanboyism is not great enough for this.

Christie Golden – The Shattering: Prelude To Cataclysm

source: goodreads

Since I quit playing WoW during the great years of Wrath of the Lich King, I never got to experience the Cataclysm content in its prime. I in fact skipped this whole part in favor of playing other things, doing other things and working. That being said, I know that Cata was an expansion with a lot of lore invested in it. This book by Christie Golden is part of that build-up, reading it in hindsight might be a bit disappointing, but still worth it.

I always lack the same things in the novels by Golden, I miss a certain amount of action and character depth. There’s a lot of expressions and inner monologues, but it always stays on the surface. Even the blossoming romance between Thrall (Go’el) and Agra is in a way never going deeper (only through ceremony a sort of spiritual expansion is mastered). That being said, the book offers an intriguing build-up to what was about to happen in game, which could also be found in Night of the Dragon. Is it a real addition? Not really and it bums me that the death of one main character becomes such a footnote in the history of Warcraft.

Dayal Patterson – Prelude to the Cult

source: heathenharvest.org

Though this is not a real big read, I felt it was worth mentioning. In his histories of black metal Dayal Patterson found room to gather up some of his nicest interviews for an appendix piece of those. It’s a really cool read and still rather recent material. It gives some more depth to elements in the books and allows the artists to share some words themselves. This is a well worth addition for anyone rading the stories about this nocturnal cult.

If you are keen on this, please visit their website and buy your copy straight from the makers. Support this awesome project. Thanks.

World of Warcraft is a feeling #2

Warcraft returned to me with the second incarnation of the game.  That took some time, because to be honest I never had that first edition on my ow pc. I had to go see my friend for that.

I think the way I got the game Warcraft II is already rather iconic for that time. Remember that glorious days when the internet was still rather new and far off? My dad would go to computer nights to get software. Basically, he would let me tag along and everyone was waiting for the guy with the Twilight discs. Remember those? If you had acces to them in that time, you were the bomb. I managed to get my hands on one at some point in time, which had GTA London on it.

Sourcce: Wowwiki, artwork by Chris Metzen, instrumental in sparking ones fantasy

So we were scrolling through lists of installable content when my eye caught the glorious title I needed (I wasn’t looking for it, but there it was): Warcraft II and Warcraft II: Beyond The Dark Portal. The game was installed on our PC and the glorious quests to defend Azeroth could finally start from our own home.

The story of Warcraft II becomes more dense and coherent. Characters emerge and re-emerge, like the fabled Lothar and ofcourse the newly introduced Paladin class with Uther The Lightbringer at their head. More units, more complexity and also much more fun. What I liked most were the heroes, that gave more depth to the story, the variation in terrain and the possibilities to persue air, water or land battles.

Names like Terron Gorefiend, Korgath Bladefist, Ogrim Doomhammer and many more sounded great. I love how they all sometime in the future would show up again, but it sparked my interest and imagination. What I liked particularly much in this version of the game, was the ability to create your own levels. This was also a feature of the later Starcraft, which allowed you to deply hero units (not hero’s as in WCIII, more like unique characters) and all sorts of special stuff. Ofcourse, the levels I build were shit and not at all fun to play when it came down to it, but no matter. The ability to be part of this world and create in it was enough at the time.

We played it together, in turns or just watching eachother play it. It was discussed with my close friends even. The story was kinda being made up on the spot. The story telling was not that clear as yet, but we were fighting Orcs! With Knights! It was epic.
It’s hard to explain today with the old footage why it got to me so much. Why this game defined my gaming experience for the next decades and why I still rarely play other games. It was the epic quality of the music, the grand story and the ability to be in control of all that. It’s  the complete product that Blizzard creates, which is so important in teh experience you have as a player. It was awesome.  Warcraft I captivated me, but it was Warcraft II and that amazing expansion ‘Beyond The Dark Portal’ that cemented my love for this game.

I don’t often dedicate a post to someone, but I’d like to dedicate this one to my brother. He was, is and always will be a better gamer than I am, but has never shied away from taking the time to take me along on his quests. I’m very grateful for that, for sharing the magic, even today.

The reading of books #13

Another series of books read, this time Plutarch, Greg KeyesDayal Patterson and Richard A. Knaak. From Ancient Rome to the Elder Scrolls and Warcraft.

Plutarch – The Fall of the Roman Republic

source: Goodreads

Yes, another book by Plutarch. This time focussing on the transferral periode from the late republic to the empire, describing the lives of Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey the Great, Cesar and Cicero, who brought an end to the Republic. It’s a fascinating bit of storytelling, where Plutarch clearly shows he’s not in love with Cesar. In fact, he barely manages to keep it out of his words. Then again, none of the figures in this book appears to carry his favor, maybe Marius a little bit in most of his life. Sulla doesn’t get of lightly and Crassus looks like a buffoon. Pompey is the tragic figure in this version of events, together with Cicero I suppose.

The one life missing would be that of Cato, who opposed Cesar for as long as he could. It was a great read, that I enjoyed very much. Enough to order some more actually. What is lacking here, is the pairings with Greek lives. I’m also very curious about those and I must say I doubt the way the publishers dealt with that. All in all, it gives good insights in a highly confusing period of our ancient history.

Dayal Patterson – The Cult Never Dies: Volume 1

Source: Goodreads

Dayal Patterson started something big with his first book ‘Black Metal: Evolution Of The Cult’. It was not enough, he had the desire to catalogue the entire black metal scene and its aspects, so here is the second book and first in a continuing series of looking at the blackest music genre you can find. Patterson takes a clean, journalistic approach to bands like SatyriconSilencer and Mgla and many, many more. It opens up the scene to new investigators, without disclosing all and keeping its edge of mystery in place.

The print looks minimal, which is good. The pictures are only in black and white, which is also rather enjoyabable and fitting. Patterson illuminates specific sections in this book, like the Polish black metal scene and the SDBM scene that emerged as a progenitor of post-blackmetal. He does this by taking out pivotal bands, but also interesting marginal acts to illustrate the broader whole. A well worth read for fans of the genre and intriguees.

Greg Keyes – The Infernal City

Source: Goodreads

This is the very first novel of the Elder Scrolls franchise by Bethesda (known for their game Fallout mostly, but also Skyrim). The book tells the story of a human character Annaïg and an Argonian called Glim (Lizard people) in the world of Tamriel. A strange floating city approaches and brings doom to the lands. Annaïg and Glim decide to assault this city and try to warn others of the coming doom. While being captured by the dark denizens of the city, they succeed in reaching prince Attrebus.

Another story there unfolds, with the Prince’s life being under threat and his carreer an apparent illusion to facilitate Empire propaganda. The central imperial city has little interest in helping those under attack by the floating city on the fringes of the empire (even just outside it). Attrebus sets out to carve his own destiny and to become the person he is supposed to be as a prince. The book is well written and the characters do get some background, though sometimes they are a bit foggy in personality. The work introduces the figures and peoples of the Elder Scrolls universe and thus makes for a nice read and introduction. Now I should get part two though.

Richard A. Knaak – Night of the Dragon

Source: Goodreads

I felt this urge to read the only Warcraft book that was still unread on my shelves. Probably I was not up for some literary masterpiece, but the writings of Knaak for Blizzard are always fun and catchy. So I started reading this follow up to Day Of The Dragon, the very first in the novel series of Blizzard. In this book we return to the doomed mountain where the first novel took place and the same key players converge, unwittingly of eachothers whereabouts on Grim Batol. Krasus, the dragon/mage, Vareesa Windrunner and a bunch of angry dwarves.

The plot deepens, when another of the black dragon flight emerges and plans to…dare I say? Take over the world. This time the book does not involve Deathwing, but some familiar elements of his evil will return in this story. It rekindles and connects other  storylines, which is always very pleasant for an afficionado of the game like myself. The series of near-death escapes is a bit too dense for my taste though, but you can’t win ’em all, can you now? Looking forward to maybe playing some more in that fabulous world of Azeroth.

 

The Reading of Books #7

Another series of books have been read, this time Louis Theroux, Bertrand Russell, Isaiah Berlin and one of the Warcraft books by Richard A. Knaak.

Louis Theroux – Call of the Weird

I’ve loved the docu-reports of Theroux, visiting weirdos all over the place. What I did not experience as yet is a particularly personal touch to all that. In this book Theroux describes his return to a numver of these individuals and groups, like neo-nazis, porn actors, UFO believers and gangsta rappers. This time only armed with a laptop, it’s a  quest for understanding and connection with the individuals he met during his journeys. In some cases getting closer, in others just running into brick walls.

It’s most surprising how Theroux makes people open up and be vulnerable. In writing he is more honest and sincere then when he was in front of the camera. He writes from a personal perspective, which makes it easier to relate to his writings and find understanding for the weirdos he meets with. This book is a must for those who watched the show and who wonder what became of the figures you came across back then. Some will surprise you quite a bit, some stories are new and shocking.

Bertrand Russell – A History of Western Philosophy

Bust of Russell, source: Wikipedia

I will admit that it took me forever to finish this book, which is, obviously about philosophy. This is probably the book that helped Russell get his Nobel Prize and pretty much how he was certain of enough income for the latter part of his life. It has been critisized a lot, but that is hardly surprising, seeing it embodies a whole history on its own. Some parts are totally clear and others, like the bit on Bergson, are very incomprehensible. What is so strong about this book, is that it makes the otherwise dour topic rather witty. In fact, Russell does not shy away from making jokes.

“There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.” – Bertrand Russell

Why did I read this book? I have to ask myself that question, since I really started it more than 2 years ago. I listened to it, because it was clear cut, interesting and filled with a wealth of inspiration. It’s hard to understand every philosopher, but it helps to have it buried somewhere in your mind. Apart from that, I must admit that I find a certain joy in struggling with the problems they created, the philosophers, and following their footsteps towards solutions. If that is in any way your thing too, I recommend reading this bulky masterpiece.

Isaiah Berlin – The Crooked Timber of Humanity

Source: Goodreads.com

Berlin is one of the writers I have always felt opposed to untill recently. I started getting intrigued by him due to trying to understand the tradition of counter-enlightenment. Stating that Berlin is a full on part of that, would be false. He does however, offer genuinely philosophical arguments considering problems in the tradition that currently seems to be the prevailing one in the West. In this book a collection of essays and shorter articles tells us about the not so perfect state of humanity and how we try to make the best of it with often faulty, though lofty ideals.

The density and clarity (the combination is the refined brilliance that needs to be mentioned here) of Berlins writing makes me an instant fan of his philosophical writing. Not only is Berlin very clear and cohesive, he also does not shy away from being witty from time to time, which is essential in keeping someones attention peeled for a whole book. His insights have helped me develop new ones and that is the greatest gift a book can give you in my humble opinion. I salute this writer and if I ever pen down one article as brilliant as his, I will be happy.

Richard A. Knaak – Wolfheart

Source: Goodreads.com

Yes, also during this month some pulpy reading took place with a new Warcraft book about king Varian Wrynn. The book ties up some old stories, like the War of Ancients trilogy and Warcraft III. Knaak is a brilliant writer and has been responsible for most of the Warcraft books, or so it feels like. He writes lively characters, with insecurities and flaws and thus creates a debt that in-game you hardly find and that separates the fans from… well, the rest.

source: Galleryhip.com

Also the Worgen start making sense, where I had some issues with the inclusion of a werewolf race at first. It now seems like a brilliant twist to add a race without an actual homeland and thus bringing back good old Gilneas to the fold. The character of Genn Greymane still lacks a bit of debt in my eyes and could really do with some bolstering, but then again, I have not read all books as yet. Varian Wrynn is becoming a nice counterpart of The Horde’s ‘Green Jesus’ Thrall, which is good but should not be the same mistake as before. I am a bit bummed that Maiev turns out to be such a twat. The return of her brother Jarod Shadowsong was more than welcome though. There is also the danger of making Malfurion and Tyrande the mommy and daddy of the alliance, which would suck a bit too. Both have a bit more fury in them then Knaak shows in this book.

 

World of Warcraft is a feeling #1

Source: WIkipedia

In general people assume I’m a gamer, because of Warcraft. By that I mean, people that don’t know me very well. Sure thing, I play various games on our monthly game nights (we hold them with a small and variying group of friends)., but the amount of video games I’ve played is small. Sure, I had days where I would try various ones, but in general it was never much. There’s a few games I did play a lot and one of them, though the word ‘franchise’ might be better, has always had a special place in my heart.

I played video games since I had acces to a Commodore 64 and quickly had a love for the good old RPGs and such, but there was hardly any of that. It took some time for me to get to that. I also played on a Super Nintendo  and a Game Boy, so Lufia and Zelda are no strangers to me. It was the game I played at a friend one day though, that captured me. I was allowed to pick a game from the list and chose the one with the resounding name ‘Warcraft’.

We played for hours, not realizing our mission we started building an enormous expansive conglomoration of buildings over a couple of days. Suddenly other creatures started marching into the screen, which were Orcs. We fought the bravely with our confused mayhem of wizards, clerics and foot soldiers and victory was ours… if we ever figured out about that bridge we had to cross to get to the enemy.

Now, back in that time there was so much on the market when it came to games, so I never got my hands on Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. I only played it at the friends house, but I loved that game. I loved the Tolkienesque setting of humans and elves fighting Orcs (not sure about the elves, but for sake of argument). The game play felt innovative, new and challenging and I was captivated by this game.

The cinematics where impressive, there was a guy speaking about epic warfare between Orcs & Humans. I mean, there were cinematics! What was also really cool is the general atmosphere of seeing a map, a war room with two people on a table and hearing a story every quest. It totally added to the experience, which was quite new. Granted, if you look at videos of the game now on youtube it will be hard to imagine how captivated we were by it. I had been reading Tolkien already and it made a major impact on me, so this game was exactly there at the right moment.

Source: Battle Net

It took some time for it to re-emerge and become the game we played forever. More in a following chapter about my favorite game.

Sounds of the Underground #8 WoW Edition

For this edition of my look at new music I will go underground into the World of Warcraft and link to you the five records that made playing WoW most enjoyable. Therefor this post is dedicated to Kostas K.

Marduk – World Funeral 

Source: Metal Archives

Some albums are good for grinding. The blundering force of the Swedish death metal band has some added razorsharp guitar work that goes well with slaughtering a lot of enemies in WoW. Specially fitting for those who play a melee class I always felt, or a fireballin’ M.A.G.E. The sheer fury might not matche the questing though.

The songs pound ever onwards, unrelenting and full of rage. The harsh, barked vocals add that warlike feeling to the songs. Marduk is one of a kind I always think. They mix the atmospheric elements of black metal with the devastation of death metal in a unique way. Live it was less impressive I have to admit, but this band is definitely one of my WoW soundtrack ones.

Keep Of Kalessin – Kolossus

Source: Metal Archives

With ‘Kolossus’, the band from Norway has unleashed a melodic and epic masterpiece on the world. The record came out in 2008 and struck me immediately. Perhaps in some ways it was the gateway record for me to get into black metal in the first place. Particularly the song ‘Ascendant’ is a perennial favorite for me. One of the characteristics of the album is the tight sound. The record sounds well produced and clean, which makes it rather accesible.

The second thing is the enormous amount of catchy riffs that keeps pouring out of the speakers. Layered songstructures give space for a lot of those, creating a semblance of the distorted sound commonly used in black metal. It helps that this band looks like a bunch of Elven warriors. I played this music while questing/levelling a lot. Epic black metal is best metal!

Therion – Gothic Kaballah

Source: Metal Archives

Hearing ‘T.O.F. – The Trinity’ the first time opened my mind to a whole unknown side of heavy metal music and to Therion itself. Soon after I downloaded this album and later purchased it. I have listened to this music so endlesly that I pretty much knew every song by heart. I’ve seen Therion live since then 3 times, unfortunately two of those were after the release of ‘Sithra Ahra’ and one after ‘Les Fleurs Du Mal’ (a record I can not love…sorry).

If this band had not been recommended to me, I would never have found them. I’m pretty sure I would not have gotten heavily into Celtic Frost either then and maybe a lot of stuff would not have happened then. The songs are full of occult references, mysterious topics and confusing wordings. My favorite, I guess, has become ‘The Perennial Sofia’. No band really sounds like Therion and Gothic Kabballah is the most unique work they produced.

This record is one of the few that really are essential to my record collection. Without Therion, I would have missed out on so much beauty. I know some people find it easy to hate on them now, but to me they’ll always be a bright light in the scene.

Bolt Thrower – Those Once Loyal

Source: Metal Archives

I guess the whole idea of recommending this record had a lot to do with our guild name. Titled ‘The Angels Of Death’, there was an obvious link to the universe of Warhammer 40k and thus to Bolt Thrower. Their specific brand of death metal has never ceased to amaze me up to a few weeks ago when I saw them live. They’ve only affirmed their greatness to me. Though my favorite song is ‘World Eater’ from one of their first albums, the record I started listening to was ‘Those Once Loyal’. For some reason the order of songs was messed up in my mp3 list, so first was always ‘Anti-Tank (Dead Armor).

The sound is rather clean, compared to their original work, and embraces a continuous, pounding sound that gives you the feeling that a tank is about to over run you. Powerful rhythms and churning bass sounds pave the way for the onslaught that is Bolt Thrower. Particularly suited for the heavy grinding work (with a higher level char).

Ensiferum – Victory Songs 

Source: Metal Archives

Maybe the most WoW band out there, since their folk elements really have nothing to do with any folk music. A bunch of guys in kilts playing a blend of melodic death and power metal about wielding swords, drinking magic potions and sailing out to fight. We even had a tank called Ensiferum in the guild so that adds to the whole things. The epic songs with a big fun factor and not too much complicated elelements were great for a night of questing on your own and enjoying guild chat.

We also had a tank named Fluff, but that’s a whole different story… With this fun band I’ve come to the end of my WoW album list. When I started playing, I listened to a lot of shitty stuff during the levelling. I’m still levelling characters in WoW. Currently a Dwarf Shaman and a Night Elf Death Knight. Soon Warlords of Draenor will be out and I’ll level onwards alone.

But with these great tunes, perhaps more will join the cause.