Last week, at MMO Melting Pot, the question was raised (indirectly taken from a post at Killed in a Smiling Accident), “Can you ever feel like a a hero in game, and is that as a player or character?” I think that WoW provides opportunity for both.
At Killed in a Smiling Accident, Melmoth seems to equate being a hero with being more powerful that your opponents. Then he goes on to say that being overpowered is dull. I don’t think that being a hero means being powerful. It means doing important deeds, often against more powerful foes. It also means being singled out and recognized for your accomplishments.
As a player, still remember evasion-tanking Prince Malchezaar to his death while my nine raid-mates all lay dead around me. That was a truly heroic-feeling moment as a player.
In game, the improved-in-Cataclysm method of storytelling through questlines has done a pretty good job of generating a heroic feel for my character.
Here’s one moment…
<mild quest spoilers below, so don’t read on if you haven’t done these zones yet>
In Twilight Highlands, toward the end of the questlines in the zone, you are sent to assist Alexstrasza in her efforts against Deathwing. The quest givers and NPCs often refer to you by name, praising your efforts. The word “hero” is thrown around or implied a number of times. When Alexstrasza is injured, they ask you to carry her to safety.
The fact that I got to interact with Alexstrasza, one of the most iconic figures in the lore, and that my efforts were more than just as an errand boy, and that I was personally recognized by name really hit home. I definitely felt like Blizzard did a good job in that zone of getting me invested in the story line. I actually worried about the fate of the Dragon Aspect, and was eager to take part in the event.
(Of course, those who never read quest text miss all of that)
On the other hand…
I thought Uldum failed in that. I never felt like I was doing much of anything. The quests implied that I was going to do something important. More often than not, though, the key parts of the quests happened in cinematic cut scenes where I was just an observer. It felt like Harrison Jones was the hero in that zone, and I was a glorified assistant.
The story was entertaining, I guess, but it definitely did not make me feel heroic.
- doing something important to help your guild achieve = heroic actions
- being recognized for your deeds by name by important lore figures = heroic feeling
- following a lore figure along while he does everything = not so heroic
Also, I think the game really missed a lot of opportunities to have more heroic-feeling quests. One of the new Cataclysm quest styles is to follow a whole quest chain, and then at the end pit you against a named “quest boss” who is a bit tougher than a typical mob.
It seems like every time that happened, and I got myself all psyched up for the challenge, the game would throw something in there to remove the difficulty. For example, there is a quest in Twilight Highlands to go kill several Twilight Cult leaders. As I started to fight the first one, I noticed that he was pretty tough. I was prepared to dig into my rogue bag of tricks – evasion, vanish, stuns – in order to beat this challenging foe. Then *pop* Mathias Shaw shows up and backstabs him and he dies very quickly. /yawn
The “boss” quests do that repeatedly – give you a chance to fight a hard opponent, and then steal your glory with some NPC that helps, or a magic item that makes the opponent weak, or some quest item that does massive damage. I think the only quest mob that really gave a challenge was Skullcrusher the Mountain. You still had help with that from NPCs, but at least it took a while, and there was the interesting mechanics of having to revive your NPC friends.
I consider that a big miss by Blizzard. If the “quest bosses” were a little tougher, we might feel more heroic from beating them. Also, players might have to learn to play their classes a bit better in the process. Still, that cannot be done. Why? In the current system, if you can’t complete a quest, then the entire rest of the zone’s quests are cut off for you. So quests have to be idiot-proof, and that removes the possibility of hard quest bosses.