Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Archive for January 10, 2011

Where Have All The Draenei Gone?

This post was originally written for the Secret Santa exchange for Pix over at Pixelated Executioner, but I’m afraid not many people who read my blog may have actually read it. With his permission I’m reposting it here, if you’ll forgive my gratuitious and continued use of Draenei cookie photos. I know I’ve used them in another post here, but darn it, I can’t help myself.

When I signed up for the Blog Azeroth Secret Santa gift exchange, I was pretty excited. Surprises are fun to exchange and to receive! My name’s Vidyala, and I normally write over at Manalicious – about mages, raiding, guild leading, baking, casters, and other shenanigans.

I found out that I’d be writing for Pix – who I don’t know very well, but through some careful sleuthing have discovered at least two things:

1) We both like food (I’m guessing from involvement with Nourish, here)
2) We both like draenei.

This post begins and ends with one and has plenty of the other in the middle.

Accordingly, here’s a gingerbread Lelissa.

Yes, Christmas at my house included Ginger Draenei, and one of them customized for Pix. I have no regrets!

There was a question asked at Blizzcon for those of us who especially enjoy draenei and their lore, and I’ve been thinking about it since. Basically, the question boiled down to this (I’m paraphrasing, here)

“We haven’t seen or heard much about the draenei since TBC and they were hardly visible in Northrend at all. Is Cataclysm going to remedy this, and can we expect to see more of the draenei?”

When I heard this question, I cheered, because I’ve asked it myself on many occasions. Unfortunately, the answer was essentially: “There isn’t much more about the draenei in Cataclysm, but we’re aware that they’ve been a bit neglected.”

I have been inclined to complain about lack of draenei involvement in the events of Northrend, but since giving it some thought, I’ve been realizing that it actually isn’t all that bad.

The Burning Crusade
For someone making a fresh draenei character in TBC, the opportunities were boundless. In my opinion, draenei have had the best starting zone for years. The quests do an excellent job of laying out the adversity the draenei have faced, establishing their opposition, and culminating in a series of quests that actually pit you against elite enemies. Even though you’re only level twenty, you leave the draenei starting zone with resolve and a very clear goal: you must go to Outland and defeat the Burning Legion. These quests are only available to draenei characters, and they reward you with a unique tabard.

Throughout Azeroth the draenei presence is low – despite the player population, they really aren’t supposed to be a high-population race, but there are subtle nods to them in many places. Ambassadors are working with the kal’dorei in Forest Song to help rebuild. There is a lovely (but tragic) pocket of quests in the Swamp of Sorrows that deals with an Anchorite trying to find a way to rehabilitate the Lost Ones there.

Of course, once you go through the Dark Portal, draenei are the primary focus. The main “hub” city for the expansion was Shattrath. Most of the zones are rich in draenei lore, whether giving an insight into the past (as in Hellfire), getting involved in helping the small community of Telredor (Zangarmarsh), forging an Alliance with the Kurenai in Nagrand, or helping the restless spirits of Auchenai.

Draenei are at the forefront of many initiatives, including the Sha’tari Skyguard, the Shattered Sun Offensive, and of course – The Aldor. They were central to the main conflicts of the expansion. At the risk of repeating myself here, this expansion was an awesome time to be a draenei, whether you were a roleplayer or just had an interest in the game’s lore. It’s natural then that when Wrath came out, we were a bit shell-shocked to suddenly be thrown into the back row.

A draenei in TBC also had many race-appropriate fashion and accessory options for bashing skulls or whatever else suited their purpose.

Wrath of the Lich King
The presence of draenei characters or stories was pretty low in Wrath, it’s true. There’s a small contingent of them at Valiance Keep in Borean Tundra. There’s a shaman in Howling Fjord who charges you with inhaling some pretty powerful incense that lets you walk around outside of your body. There’s good old Modoru at Star’s Rest – the Sentinels there are making fun of his extremely draenic clothing.

Hakmud of Argus can be found cruising around on the Traveler’s Tundra Mammoth (it’s a nice little bonus that you can purchase the robes Modoru is wearing from him for a mere 50 gold. Hand-sewn draenic silk doesn’t come cheap, you know!).

The infamous Jadaar and Asric made an appearance in Dalaran and later at the Argent Tournament grounds. If you haven’t listened to them it’s worth it – they have a history stretching back to Jadaar’s peacekeeping days in Shattrath. The two of them are hilarious.

Vindicator Maraad (from the comic series) is flying around on the Skybreaker, although he doesn’t have much to say, and I’m sure I remember a draenei Death Knight up in Icecrown.

It used to bother me that draenei had such a low-profile in this expansion. After all, they’d thrown their lot in with the Alliance. They came to Northrend to help with a common foe, and they’ve made Azeroth their home. Didn’t they deserve at least a little bit of screen time? The more I’ve thought about it, though, the more I am comfortable with them throughout this expansion. There were many NPCs present in the various Argent factions that were draenei. They didn’t have any major lore characters or major lore moments, but their presence was felt.

A story can’t have all major characters, someone has to play a supporting role. The draenei were playing this role as the native races of Azeroth fought an enemy that had devastated their world and their people – just as the Alliance helped the draenei strike back against those who had devastated their world. It wasn’t really about us this time around, and that’s okay.

While somewhat out of their element in Northrend, draenei could still be equally badass.

Cataclysm
So how is the presence of the draenei shaping up in the latest expansion? Despite the developer’s answer to the question above – that there isn’t much about them in the Cataclysm – I have to admit that I’ve been pleasantly surprised! The Earthen Ring is playing a prominent role in recent events, and there are draenei and Broken representatives among them, many of them high-ranking. That is primarily the extent of draenei involvement so far in Cataclysm. They aren’t central to the story, but they are around, and that’s actually about right. It’s not about the draenei any more, except that they are invested in the world the same way that all of the other races are. They’ve been integrating all this time, a notion that is borne out by the new Draenei cinematic. Here is a transcription for you: (The old draenei starting zone cinematic can be seen on Youtube).

Empowered by the Holy Light and the undying strength of their convictions, the draenei led the charge against the demonic Burning Legion in Outland.

Now, with the Legion’s defeat, they have completed the desperate mission that first brought them to Azeroth. Though some draenei were sent back to Outland to revitalize their former civilization, the majority have vowed to remain and uphold their sacred commitment to the Alliance.

Driven by a powerful vision, the immortal Prophet Velen believes that a great war between the darkness and the light is fast approaching, and that Azeroth will be its principle battleground.

As one of Velen’s chosen you must stand bravely against the shadow and ensure that your people are ready for the war to come.

I like that the starting cinematic was actually updated to reflect the events of the Cataclysm. Unfortunately, the zone itself wasn’t – new draenei are still stuck in a “time capsule” of sorts, where the questgivers are all in awe that you survived the crash and have been in stasis all that time (a really long time at this point, considering the events of the Burning Crusade are concluded and most other draenei helped defeat the Lich King in the meantime.) Can you imagine that conversation?

“Sooo, while you were pulling a Rip Van Winkle, we found a new world, but we crashed on it, then we defeated the Burning Legion on our old world, but then some undead threatened this one…but we killed them, except there’s this dragon, fire, flood thing going on here now…”

Hey, it’s not called World of Settle Down and Open A Bakery-Craft, right? Although at least one of my characters would love to do just that. So the draenei are a small part of the story again; Outland suffers from similar continuity issues but Blizzard has said that it’s not high on their priority list to fix and change it. I can’t really blame them, either – overhauling Outland to make sense with the current story would be no small task, and they’d rather put that effort into developing new content to attempt to appease the insatiable appetite of players.

Speaking of Outland, one very nice addition is the inclusion of draenei artifacts in the archaelogy profession. I won’t spoil them here, but if you have any interest in Archaelogy and/or draenei and orcs you’ll know that once you hit “Outland” levels you can find some interesting lore items. It’s a small thing, but I know I appreciate it greatly. In fact, generally when it comes to draenei lore I’ve been counting my blessings. It’s not as if other races like gnomes and dwarves had an entire expansion more or less dedicated to them. Many races play bit parts in the overall story and have few major lore representatives, so it really isn’t that bad. Meantime, those of us who are draenei fans will continue to play our characters, roleplay our characters (if that’s your thing) and/or make baked goods in their likeness.

The only problem with character-shaped cookies is bringing yourself to actually eat them.

That might just be me though. What do you do to celebrate your love of draenei (if you have one?) What do you think Blizzard could have done differently in Cataclysm? I would’ve actually liked the Stormwind Jewelcrafting contingent to be draenei. It wouldn’t be tough to do, it’s not implausible that some draenei would be living in Stormwind, and we do have a racial bonus to Jewelcrafting, after all!

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