The Advent of Heroic Raiding
Someone asked me this past week what I think about heroic encounters from a lore perspective, and to be perfectly honest, I really never gave it much thought. While every instance has a specific place in Warcraft lore, they are also an amalgam of contradictory points just in noting that we can clear them in anything from every few minutes to once a week despite the importance of their contents.
With all of that in mind, in retrospect I think that I can appreciate what Blizzard has tried to do, at least in part, with heroic encounters, though I do have a few spots. So this week I want to take a look at the first of the different heroic models in the game and what I think they do for the stories being told in their respective instances.
First is the father of heroic raiding, Sartharion. Prior to the Sartharion encounter the only way to challenge a raiding guild was to create an unforgiving and arguably fast paced encounter like we saw in M’uru and Kil’jaedan, but the only way to keep the player base happy is to deliver content that can be completed with a little effort and coordination, but the Onyx Guardian gave us both of those models at the same time, and he did so without multiple lockouts or restrictive raiding.
Not only did Sartharion offer both a casual encounter and an almost over the top challenge, he provided a range of difficulties between the two. How much of a challenge a raid wanted from Sartharion was a decision it could make even after entering the instance. If the raid wanted to go in and out with tier tokens, it simply had to defeat the three Twilight drakes overlooking Sartharion and then engage him directly, but fighting the dragon without killing his ersatz brothers meant that, in moments of panic, he would demand their aid, bringing them into the fight to create a new mechanic and new circumstances.
The Sartharion model was arguably perfect. Varying degrees of difficulty provided varying degrees of reward by adding items to his loot table that were unavailable in the previous difficulty level, but what truly made it perfect was that the lore was it enhanced by the option to leave drakes alive and engage Sartharion. Engaging the individual drakes gave the raid a bit of insight as to what was going on. Each guarded a clutch of Twilight eggs and whelps and guardians, and well, they were Twilight drakes themselves, but they never revealed so much as to blatantly offer an explanation for what was taking place in the sanctum.
Sartharion himself was equally vague. He willingly informs the raid that the eggs in the sanctum are his charge, and he will die to protect them, but other than knowing that black and Twilight dragons are generally bad things to have around, there are more questions than answers in the invasion. Leaving drakes alive, however, create new dialogue as Sartharion becomes more and more agitated by being assailed, and eventually becomes more and more panicked that he may fall. He demands assistance from one drake first, a drake that swoops down taunting that their father always knew he was a weakling–less than a minute into the encounter a new connection is established that was undocumented in the previous difficulty–Sartharion and the Twilight drakes share a primarch, and given that Sartharion is a black dragon, it can only be one of two dragons, one of which is dead and the other’s whereabouts unknown.
Each drake provides increasingly more interesting banter as Sartharion admits that he either cannot or will not protect the eggs alone, and it is revealed to the raid that the drakes themselves feel superior to the dragon who is apparently their ward.
The model creates an environment in which lore is not withheld from a raid, it is simply activated by choice prior to starting the encounter. And yes, I really am one of those people that enjoys raiding for the lore–anyway, before we continue I pose this question!
Which heroic encounter in the game is your favorite and why? Is it just the difficulty or the lore that makes it interesting, and what do you think is the best heroic model in use?