Cheers to Blizzard.
While I really enjoy the lore of WoW, I don’t think Blizzard has always done such a great job of projecting the overarching storyline throughout the game’s quests. Leveling up in The Burning Crusade, it was easy to remain oblivious to major characters like Illidan Stormrage or Kael’Thas Sunstrider. Quests that literally ask you to pick up piles of shit in Nagrand don’t help the situation, and like most other quests, little light is shed on the struggle between good and evil.
Much of that has changed in Wrath of the Lich King, and it’s obvious early on, from being thrust into the heat of a raging battle at Vengeance Landing, to watching the Lich King make an appearance at the very end of Drak’Theron Keep. There’s an evil badass in Northrend, and his presence is felt everywhere.
There are some 22 pre-requisite quests leading up to the opening of the Wrathgate, making it one of the longest questlines in the game. Along the way, lore is revealed piece by piece, culminating in a joint Horde-Alliance offensive at the Lich King’s doorstep. It’s here that the major drama unfolds, and we get to watch from the center of the action as the unified forces are betrayed by a rogue element of the Forsaken. Both Saurfang the younger, and Bolvar, the Alliance captain, are killed by the Forsaken traitors.
After the betrayal — and the death of Saurfang the younger — you’re tasked with delivering the grim news to High Overlord Saurfang at Warsong Hold.
The High Overlord tells you his son should not be mourned — he died in battle, serving the Horde. After a brief conversation with the younger Hellscream, Saurfang sends you to Orgimmar to deliver the news of the Wrathgate events to the Warchief.
This is where I got a bit confused. I thought I was having a UI error — there were no vendors in Orgrimmar, the city was quiet, Forsaken refugees had taken up camp in the public areas, and the city guards were saying the capital was on lockdown.
It wasn’t until I reached Thrall that I realized the quest was ongoing, and the cutscene at the Wrathgate had been only the beginning.
It seems the situation is extremely grim. Varimathras, majordomo of Sylvanas Windrunner, had joined with Grand Apothecary Putress in orchestrating the betrayal at the Wrathgate — and now Undercity has been lost to the Horde, overrun by demons.
In terms of lore, this is pretty major. Varimathras was a fixture in Undercity, a brooding and unfriendly Horde leader, but a Horde leader nonetheless. Thrall decides on an immediate course of action — the Horde will muster its forces and take back Undercity by force, and you will accompany those forces, fighting side-by-side with the Warchief and Sylvanas.
The Battle for Undercity
After taking a portal to the outskirts of old Lordearon, the Horde’s faction leaders are lined up outside the city, surrounded by Warsong battleguards and siege engines raining fire down on the city’s walls.
With a rallying cry, Thrall readies his forces and warns the battle is about to begin. This is where things get really epic — fighting alongside the Warchief and Sylvanas as you cut your way through the outer courtyard, then into the heart of the underground city. And the cool thing is you don’t have to feel underpowered — Thrall blesses his war band with an aura, granting huge HP and damage bonuses. My shaman suddenly became a beast with more than 40,000 hit points and Stormstrikes that landed for tens of thousands of points in damage. He’d need it for the onslaught of elite demons coming from all angles.
After wave upon wave of demons, finally we arrive at the Royal Quarter and the confrontation with Varimathras.
A great job by Blizzard, placing the player in the middle of an epic battle and a series of events that have a real impact on the game world. From this point on, the Forsaken Betrayal has real consequences on how WotLK plays out, and unlike lesser quests where NPCs or baddies respawn minutes (or seconds) after they’re killed, Varimathras is gone for good. There’s also some real insight here into the tenuous, short-lived peace between the Horde and the Alliance, and the impact of the rekindled animosity between the two factions as they look ahead to a confrontation with the Lich King.