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World of Warcraft

NECA – Heroes of the Storm Thrall

If there is one central figure in all of World of Warcraft Lore to pretty much everything going on, it’s the Orc known as Thrall. Some people suggest his is a Mary Sue stand in for Chris Metzen who was basically in charge of WoW for a very long time. Even when Thrall tries to take a step out of the story, it always brings him back to fix everything. He also has the Nickname “Green Jesus”.

Thrall has had a few different roles and looks over the years. This particular design, like The Lich King, is not from World of Warcraft, but from Heroes of the Storm. Maybe with the success of their Overwatch line we can get the somewhat more iconic Hooded Shaman look for Thrall, but for now, armored Warrior will do.

There are a lot of design ideas from the Lich King that are shared by Thrall. He is loaded with detail and little scuffs and his paint work is really well done. He is also very bulky, which hinders his articulation quite a bit. Like Frostmourne, Thrall’s Doomhammer separates into two pieces to allow it to be inserted into his fist.

He definitely looks pretty impressive, though he isn’t particularly dynamic in his pose ability. The look also pushes more of an Orc Warrior vibe than the Shaman design he is more known for. He captures the look of the character well though. Certainly better than those Warcraft movie figures we got. Thrall didn’t get a figure in that line but his father Durotan did.

The real issue with this figure is that it was, and still kind of is, pretty hard to come by. The only store in the US I recall ever seeing these was Toys R Us, which went out of business. Amazon has them but they are pretty marked up. It’s a nice looking piece that would work well for general fans of the series and not just toy people, which makes it kind of a shame they were so hard to come by.

NECA – Heroes of the Storm Arthas (Lich King)

I have a real love/hate relationship with NECA.  They get a lot of interesting licenses, and for the most part, do nice sculpt jobs on most of their figures.  However they use some weird plastic that’s kind of flakey and prone to breaking and often results in stiff or stuck joints.  There are ways to loosen them up but it just feels like a shame that the figures often don’t work too well out of the packaging.  In many ways, they remind me of MacFarlane Toys of yesteryear, when MacFarlane was a huge presence in the toy industry.

NECA HotS Arthas Lich King

Fortunately, I didn’t have any major issues with my Heroes of the Storm Arthas.  Well, not issues that could be overlooked.  Probably the only “real” issue is that the articulation is severely limited by his sculpt.  Fortunately, Arthas isn’t really a nimble character, so he doesn’t really need a lot of dynamic articulation.  The detailing on the sculpt is where this figure really shines too, which makes the limitations it causes more excusable.

NECA HotS Arthas Lich KingNECA HotS Arthas Lich King

The detailing across all of the armor is fantastic, there are tons of little greebles and spikes and such everywhere, all of them nice and clean and cleanly painted.  The cloth cape is also a really nice touch and hangs very nicely off of his back.  Some may take issue with how brightly colored his overall design is, this figures is based on Arthas as he appears in Heroes of the Storm, not how he appears int he Warcraft Universe, which tends to be more grayscale.

NECA HotS Arthas Lich King

NECA HotS Arthas Lich King

His sword, Frostmourne is very nicely done as well.  The sculpt looks good and works from both sides with the wrap around horns on the hilt.  Someone was also smart too in realizing that the stiff plastic of Arthas’ fists would never flex out enough to let the hilt in, the handle is removable, so you can slide it up in and reattach the blade.

NECA HotS Arthas Lich King

This really helps him have a nice solid grip on the weapon, and the peg in the hilt fits snugly into the blade piece without feeling like it’s going to break.  There is very little not to like about this figure, aside from the HotS vs Warcraft pain scheme.  Personally, I kind of prefer it, since it helps accentuate a lot of the detail that would have otherwise gotten lost in an all silver colored design.  His size is very nice as well to pair with other 6″ figures for an imposing undead king.  Heroes of the Storm Arthas is an excellent figure, if you can find him anywhere.

NECA HotS Arthas Lich King

NECA HotS Arthas Lich King

Review – Movie – Warcraft (2016)

I have to say, I was pretty excited to see the Warcraft movie.  I don’t currently play World of Warcraft but I got pretty deep into the game in recent years.  I played all of the original Warcraft games back in the day as well, especially Warcraft 2.  I also enjoy films such as The Lord of the Rings, which kind of felt like the same idea, a large sweeping epic.

Ultimately, I ended up really let down by this movie.  I’m not sure that it’s really a bad movie, it’s just not particularly amazing, despite the pretty impressive visuals.  The entire film, something just felt really off.  I worry a bit that my experience with the video game series was part of the reason for the sense of distraction I felt throughout the movie.  Warcraft isn’t a straight retelling of the Warcraft story, it’s simply, heavily influence by the lore.

It’s also important to know that the movie Warcraft is intended to be based more on the video game Warcraft, that old RTS game, and not World of Warcraft or the books.  This feels like it shouldn’t be notable, but it is, because World of Warcraft has expanded and mildly retconned things to make them work for it’s story.  It’s also worth pointing out because the original Warcraft didn’t exactly have an amazing, deep story.  Orcs come through the Dark Portal, Orca and Humans battle it out in a series of medieval battles.

All of the proper players are present on both sides, Gul’dan, Doomhammer, Blackhand, King Wrynn, Lothar, Medivh, Khadgar are all characters who would have had some hand in the events of this time period of the Lore.  The movie shows the Orcs baely leaving the area around the Dark Portal, though the game was a large war across several regions and Stormwind was eventually raided by Orcs.  I mostly wanted to mention this because the movie presents a really odd mix of set up for sequels while not quite explaining things that really could be important later in sequels.

The main set up element is Durotan’s Orc baby, who makes several appearances in the film though doesn’t do much, since he is a baby.  This baby orc, in the Lore will grow up to be Thrall, aka Green Jesus, who is the first leader and founder of the modern Horde.  The real missed opportunities though come from what feels like the complete omission of anything before the orcs enter the portal at the start of the movie.

I really feel like even a narrated montage of events leading up to why the Orcs are entering the portal would have really helped.  There isn’t any mention of Sargeras or the Burning Legion that I recall, though Fel Energy is a large part of the plot.  There also isn’t any mention of Grom Hellscream.  Grom isn’t part of the “First War” featured in this film, but he was the first Orc to be corrupted by the Blood of Mannoroth which lead to the downfall and corruption of the Orcs.  He later becomes friends with Thrall and in general is a very pivotal character in many later plot elements.  He is also the father of Garrosh Hellscream, though it would take a dozen movies to get to the events that make Garrosh Hellscream important.  Maybe the plan is to tell his story with flashbacks in a later film.

Like I said, the little things like this kept coming up as distractions, which may have tainted my enjoyment of the film, though there’s definitely more to it.  It’s easy to compare this movie to The Lord of the Rings, both are grand tales of high fantasy with a large following of fans.  Visually the effects, especially the orcs look great, but there’s also this odd factor where everything just feels extremely clean, TOO clean.  You never really get the feel for the grittiness of the war, it just feels, much like the original game, like an excuse to have some Orcs and Humans fight each other.

The other major problem is the schizoid all over the place plot.  This is also part of where a bit more fleshing out of the back story would have really helped a lot.  Giving us some better glimpses as to the corruption that seduced Gul’Dan and Medivh would have gone a long way to show the motivation behind these two.  A montage sequence at the opening of the power of Sargeras (effectively, the devil), and the Burning Legion, and their quest for power and how it led to the fall of the once peaceful and noble Orcs would have done a lot to make characters like Durotan and Garona, who question the actions of their people, more sympathetic.  Instead the movie just opens on a giant portal and Gul’dan sucking the life from a bunch of blue people to power said portal.  No real premise provided.

Ultimately, while I did find this film disappointing, I accept that the early Lore of the Warcraft universe is in fact, kind of bland.  There’s set up in this movie to eventually to run through Thrall’s story, which could easily have interweaving bits setting up the story of Arthas.  Both of these events are really good plot lines and would make incredible movies.  I just hope that the poor performance of this film doesn’t hurt the chances for sequels, because I’d love to see Thrall’s time as a gladiator and his eventual creation of the Horde on the big screen.  I’d definitely love to see the fall of Arthas as well, as his story is such a tragic tale that would work well as a movie.  While Warcraft kind of falls flat as a film, I’m holding out hope that things can get better in some sequels.  It’s just so bad this weak initial story pretty much has to be told first, since it’s the foundation of everything else

World of Warcraft – Part 03 – Blood Elves

So yeah, my experiment with MMOs has come to a bit of a culmination of events.  In general, I’ve been finding myself kind of frustrated and stuck in a bit of a rut when it comes to games in general.  In order to try to spice these things up, I decided to do something I haven’t ever done and have actively preached against for ages.  I signed up for an MMORPG.  I don’t mean, started playing some watered down Free to Play game, I mean a paid monthly subscription (not that i can’t cancel it later or anything).

I considered trying something newer like Guild Wars 2 or Secret Wars but I’m seeing those as being a bit pricey.  World of Warcraft has been the most enjoyable of these titles I’ve tried and it’s the “Big Daddy” of the genre, so why not.  It also helps that Blizzard has the base game on sale so i get the game and a month of play for $5.

With this upgrade, I decided to make a new character.  I’ve been playing my orc a bit but I’ve been finding his gameplay a bit boring.  He’s a Hunter class, so his primary features are ranged attacks and his pet.  This means every fight amounts to me standing 50 feet away from the enemies while my little pet Boar runs in to take all the damage and deal a bunch of damage.  It’s easy, and safe, but I’m essentially playing a support class for a damn pig, and I’m not real content with that.

So I created a new Warrior class Blood Elf.

I have no idea of Blood Elfs and Warriors are a good combination or not.  Some of the things I read online suggested not, but I wanted to play warrior and I liked this character, so I picked it.  I really want to play an Alliance class but I think my next character is going to be a Tauren, and I’m going to try my hand at making him a “carefully curated and useful party character”.  For this Blood Elf, I’m pretty much just running with “hey this seems like a cool ability/move/weapon/etc, so she is probably totally useless for anything meaningful (which seems to be Tank/Support/DPS).

Also, Blood Elf is not a class Trial players can use.

Anyway, so far, I’m enjoying playing as a Warrior and a Blood Elf much more than playing as an Orc Hunter.  I have all sorts of fun useful skills that let me heal and damage enemies at once and I’m not limited on what types of armor I can use like the Hunter is.  I also get to explore a whole new part of the world which is considerably less Brown than the Orc lands.  Lots of forests and fancy crystals and architecture.  The monsters seems more varied as well, I swear 90% of the monsters over on the Orc land are Scorpions or Boars.  Though the other day I did kill some Giraffes.  Medieval fantasy giraffes, not real ones.

One of the real interesting aspects of playing WoW is getting used to the impermanent aspects of the game play.  The closest comparison i can think of is The Elder Scrolls, where I can defeat an enemy or townsperson or whatever, and find their body laying there for ages even if I walk away (in some areas).  Meanwhile, in WoW, I’m on a quest to disable some sort of mechanism, which I do, and the little energy bolts disappear for some nice visual feedback, and then, while I’m still in the room battling some enemy, the thing turns back on.  My first thought is that I need to do it again, maybe do all three faster.  Then i realize, this is an MMO.  The system needs to reset itself in case another player is coming along.  It’s kind of funny to think that this machine will never be off. 

It’s even more hilarious when you consider any quest where you have to slay some specific enemy.  Some poor NPC leader gets to die and respawn, for all eternity.  In fact, I got to see this first hand when i defeated the boss, but was killed by one of his followers.  When I returned, the boss had respawned.  I was frustrated a bit because it meant I had to fight the boss again.  Then I noticed his body was still laying where I had left it nearby.  I just needed to collect the loot and leave.

The loot being his head.  Blood Elves are apparently obsessed with collecting heads, I think I’ve collected like 5 or 6 so far.

Anyway, on the subject of dying, I’ve found that warriors seem to die a lot.  I guess the idea is that I’d recruit a friend to be a healer to help keep me alive.  I’ve found that fighting more than one enemy at a time is almost an instant death sentence.  It’s getting better now that I have some abilities that can heal and hurt at once, but I still am finding it easy to get overwhelmed.  This wasn’t a problem with the Hunter Orc, since he has a Boar tagging along to absorb damage.

Anyway, I have no idea how long I’ll stick with this, but I’m enjoying it for the most part so far.  I’m really looking forward to getting a mount, if only so I can travel faster.

World of Warcraft – Part 02 – Giving it a Chance

So, I was trying to hold out just a little longer before writing another one of these for something else… something, better.  I will probably get to at least one more of these posts, maybe two if I manage to get to my level 20 cap.  If you’re just tuning in, or have not gotten what’s going on here, I’m working on playing through some of these many Free to play MMOs available on the market and giving some thoughts.  I’m starting with World of Warcraft since it is “the game”, or at least, it once was and seems to still be what other MMOs are measured against.  Part one, where I start my adventure can be found here.

I wanted to go ahead and get a part two out there.  At this point in my play, I can not fathom any reason why anyone would pay a monthly subscription to play this game.  Ever.  I have absolutely no clue how this game is so popular even from a social aspect angle, there are much better experiences out there.  There are also way better gameplay aspects out there.

Now, I am still sticking it out to see if things get better, which they might.  Firstly, I am currently at level 9, which as near as I can tell in this game, is synonymous with being on the edge of *more*.  Or even on the edge of possibly what could be called the “real game”.  For example, There are several features, even basic things like achievements, which I currently can’t get which say “Unlocks at level ten”.  I’ve encountered several quests and even a phantom ghost wall which said I had to reach level 10 in order to access them.  I remembered that I needed to upgrade my hunter skills and while so far I’d unlocked something like one per level, level ten adds at least half a dozen including things like the ability to train more pets.

So once I pass this level 10 mark, I can already see a whole new wealth of possibilities.  As i said, there will be at least one more post on this topic, after I’ve done some of this new stuff.

I also have made it to some sort of very large city.  So far, I’ve been to three towns, all were mostly deserted of other players and all could be viewed end to end from any point in the town.  I have recently arrived at a large city and it was chock full of other players, many riding mounts and all considerably higher level than I.

On the other hand… the combat is boring.  Traveling is boring.  Here’s the pattern as I travel between towns, I wander through a vast open empty area, eventually I reach an area full of enemies, these enemies all attack one at a time and often only after being provoked.  Being an archer, primarily, this means i target the enemy.  I walk towards them mashing “2” until i am in range of my special attack, then I stand there mashing 2 while the normal auto attack shoots arrows and my pet runs in to take all of the damage.  After killing the enemy, I walk up to the body, i look a few useless trinkets that I’ll later sell, then i find the next enemy.

This is slow and tedious.

The travel itself is also slow.  There may be a way to point to point travel that I have not discovered, but as much as I think, say, the fast travel of TES or the point to point TPs in Second Life kind of “break the experience” (when I played oblivion I made a point of NEVER fast traveling), trudging through the land of Warcraft is really really laborious.  I’ve left several old quests behind from my current city and I am absolutely dreading the idea of wandering back to complete them.

So, I’m really holding out for more excitement, and I have a feeling that I’ll either find it soon or not at all.