Why I Can’t Follow WoW’s Story

I hadn’t had a chance to play much WoW since Tuesday, so I logged in Thursday night to continue my adventures with my Mage and his new Ebonchill gizmo. I hadn’t done much of anything since he obtained his Artifact.

When I logged in, I had a quest to turn into the Great Alakazam, or whatever his name is. (I can’t quite make it out in the picture below.) I clicked him and turned in the quest, not really paying attention to what it was. I vaguely remembered this guy was supposed to find more mages to bring into “my” class hall.

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He had another quest which I accepted. I didn’t remember anything about what I was supposed to be doing or why, so I expected to read this quest and have my memory jogged about what I was doing. This is the quest I got:

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Basically I was supposed to pick the first zone to go to in the Broken Isles.

On a game mechanics level, it was obvious what I was supposed to do and why. This was where the “scale-the-zones-to-your-level” started to come into play. I could go anywhere that struck my fancy.

From a mechanics perspective, that’s pretty cool. I like it.

But then I started to think about my character. Why exactly was I supposed to go to a zone at all? What’s my character’s motivation here? Am I looking for something? I already got my Artifact, which was the last thing I remember I was supposed to be looking for.

Again, this is the point where I would read the quest text to refresh my memory. Re-reading it, I see that I’m supposed to “get this show on the road” and “plan my first moves.” Um, what? Moves for what? What show? I’m holding the Great Powerful Artifact right in my hand. Shouldn’t I just go to Legion Headquarters and kill the Big Bad and save the world? I thought that was the whole point of getting the Artifact in the first place.

People who understand WoW are probably screaming at their screens now about how obvious the answers are, but my point is that if your only source of information is the text in the quest dialogs, it’s not obvious at all.

I thought that perhaps the last quest had some crucial information that I missed, so I went looking for a way to bring up a list of quests I’d completed. If there’s a way to do that, I sure couldn’t find it. Once you finish a quest, all that knowledge is apparently gone forever. (Yes, I know I could go to a wiki and find every quest ever made. That’s not the point.)

I figured there must be something on the map itself that would give me an explanation.

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Not really. Just a list of zones. I zoomed in on one to see the explanatory text. Here’s the one for Azsuna, where I ended up going:

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Um okay. Khadgar is “planning an expedition.” That’s really informative. Why do I care about this expedition, exactly? Where is he going? What’s he hoping to find? (I’ve already gotten the Artifact, Khadgar!)

And, again, who the hell is Khadgar? :)

(Okay, I remember him from earlier in the expansion, but I still don’t know who he is or why I’m taking orders from him.)

Browsing over the other zones I discovered that Khadgar apparently had plans for all of the zones, simultaneously, a feat which I found somewhat incredulous.

(By the way, do we really need to see how much gold we’re going to get from quests any more? Is anyone even the slightest bit motivated by how much gold or experience a quest gives in WoW? 1.54 gold is not even a significant amount for me. That would buy, like, one copper ore on the Auction House.)

It turned out there was more information when you click on Accept.

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Okay, at least there’s a little bit of meat here. But it just raises more questions than it answers.

First, he says we need to reseal the Tomb of Sargeras. Okay, sounds good. You might think he would then go on to explain why we need to do that, but you’d be wrong.

The very next thing it says is that Khadgar has uncovered information about an ancient relic which might stop the Legion.

The first thing I’m thinking is that well maybe that information is in that Tomb you want to seal, Khadgar. Maybe don’t seal the Tomb then. And what is that Tomb anyway? Why do we need to seal it? What’s in there that’s so bad? Who or what is a Sargeras? Why do I care about him, her, or it? Why do I care anything about these Broken Isles? From my Mage’s perspective, I’ve never even heard of them before.

And by the way, I just got an ancient relic. It’s called Ebonchill, a supposedly devastating weapon of mighty power. Now you’re telling me I need another gadget? Nobody told my poor little mage that stopping the Legion was going to be an endless scavenger hunt. Maybe just let the Legion have the Broken Isles. What do I care? Are any of my Mage friends there? Do I have a Mage house there? Mage family? Did I go to Mage high school there?

No to all of the above. I clearly remember going to Mage high school somewhere around Ironforge. (And the Legion isn’t bothering them anymore.)

Somewhere on the Internet, there are probably very reasonable answers to all of my questions, but the point is that there are no answers in any of the quest dialog text. What I showed above contains every piece of information given to the player in the game. Is it any wonder that everybody just skips the quest text in WoW?

And that’s one small example of why I never know what is going on with WoW stories and lore, and why I’m never immersed in the game world. It’s purely a mechanics game for me.

7 thoughts on “Why I Can’t Follow WoW’s Story”

  1. Literally every answer to all of the questions you are asking was covered in a fully voice-acted scenario or cutscene within the last month.

    1. Yes, but like he said between doing those and then progressing he had a few day break and in the intervening time he forgot why we were there doing what we are doing. His point is there isn’t a good way in game to remind himself about it all.

  2. That is also simply incorrect. Take Aszuna for example. Khadgar goes with you and is talking about what must be done, and why, the whole time. Then the ancient dragon talks about it. On and on throughout the zone.

    The complaint boils down to: I can’t remember what I did, can’t be bothered to look it up and won’t pay attention (read: I refuse to pay even the slightest bit of attention) to what is going on around me.

    OMG I’m so confused. What gives Blizz?¿

  3. I mean, as the other commenters explain, there are answers available to all these questions. But I don’t blame you for not remembering: the answers are, in standard Blizzard operating procedure, really generic and disposable.

    Anyway, it’s not worth remembering WoW lore because loose ends are never resolved and retcons are abundant. For example, whatever happened to the tidbit from the WoD legendary quest chain that Khadgar was an impostor? Is that a plot point which will pay off later? An unfounded slur by Guldan? Or just a story beat that Blizzard forgot about?

  4. When I started blogging one of my plans was to do Close Readings of MMO quest text. Subject therm to the full rigor of Leavisite Practical Criticism. Maybe even get a little structuralist on their asses. Then I thought about William Rees Mogg and “Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?” and decided not to bother.

    In a practical sense, i can attest that installing the GW2UI for WoW has radically improved my interest in reading WoW’s quest text and my ability to follow it. It’s the same text but the presentation is so hugely superior that it almost magically seems to improve the whole storyline.

  5. These seem like nitpicks, but there’s definitely something to your experience. I think WoW would benefit from a recap text on the loading screen like certain RPGs do. That or at least have a recap journal in-game somewhere. There’s zero I read quest text if its 90% recaps every time.

    That said, WoW lore and story is fairly dumb. It seems to be mostly plot by committee or plot to justify gameplay ideas and little else. Even when things are added, it feels more like a copy/paste from some other story/idea/mythology. My Warrior is running around Valhalla in service of Odin right. Excuse me, the Skyhold in service of Odyn. Ugh.

  6. Nice. Yeah, from what I remember of WoW, they were pretty great on the mechanics, and on the world itself… and their lore was pretty good, but their storytelling was subpar at best. They seem like they’re trying to turn that around, but at this point, it seems like it’s trying to turn a very large ship. It can be done, just really slowly, and with much resistance.

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