Blizzplanet Review – Diablo III: Book of Tyrael

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Reviews, Diablo 3 News

diablo-iii-book-of-tyrael-cover-full-sizeThe Diablo III: Book of Tyrael is now on sale at the New York Comic Con (booth #1564) and local bookstores. I grabbed my copy from the Insight Editions booth at the New York Comic Con for $28.

Diablo III: Book of Tyrael was written by Matt Burns (Associate Publishing Developer, Blizzard Entertainment).

Book Materials

In terms of printing materials, this book has the typical Blizzard-quality standards and what you would expect from an Insight Editions book. It’s awesome. The front cover’s Sword and ornaments artwork is embossed — giving you that special visual and tactile feeling. The lower part of the book is wrapped by a cover jacket.

Now I think this book kind of went a few notches up in terms of detail in comparison with Book of Cain and other similar Blizzard licensed products. If you take a look at the outer side of the pages which run along the width of the book in Book of Cain — you will notice the pages’ border were truncated to mimic ancient scrolls. Diablo III: Book of Tyrael lacks this, but instead the pages’ border is painted in gold. It’s crazy. You can even see the light reflect off the golden surface. The photo doesn’t even catch half of how it really looks like.

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In the interior of the book, all pages have this wash-out material that gives you a feeling this is an old manuscript. It’s rare to find a page that has no artwork.

Finally, at the back of the book is some sort of envelope glued to the cardboard. The center has a seal one can detach to open the envelope. Within is “The Red Tree of Khanduras” listing Deckard Cain, Archbishop Lazarus, Prince Albrecht, King Leoric, Queen Asylla, Prince Aidan, Leah and Adria.

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When you unfold the poster it is kinda huge. It has an artwork of a big tree. The roots seem to entangle The Black Soulstone. The branches have images of all the characters mentioned above concerning “The Red Tree of Khanduras”.

On the other side of the poster, it shows the same characters in their final fate: Queen Asylla decapitated, Leah as Diablo the Prime Evil, Aidan as the Dark Wanderer, King Leoric as the Skeleton King, Adria holding the Black Soulstone, Albrecht as Diablo, Lazarus and Cain death.

Review

Diablo III: Book of Tyrael is written from the point of view of Tyrael. However, Tyrael attached writings from Deckard Cain’s Journal and Leah’s Journal to pass the wisdom down to his new Horadrim, and future generations. It is not written as a novel, but more as a compendium of notes.

There is no index page or content list. The entirety of the book is a roleplay from the point of view of the Diablo III characters. An exception is the credits page.

Diablo III fans should definitely get their hands on this book. There are many elements from the upcoming Diablo III: Reaper of Souls expansion; and probably the expansion after that.

I have never seen such an extensive collection of lore about Adria the Witch. Adria’s past prior to her arrival to Tristram is written by Leah, and her story after arriving to Tristram is from Deckard Cain’s notes. Tyrael got Leah’s notes from Bastion’s Keep.

Some of the lore comes from Diablo III: The Order by Nate Kenyon.

Tyrael shares his experience as mortal in his charge as the new Wisdom. Charge that’s short-lived as Imperius doesn’t acknowledge him and ignores his warnings about the Black Soulstone.

Tyrael is confused with all the raw emotions coursing through his mortal body. Fear to fail his duty as Wisdom. Emotional insecurities assaulting him.

The book reveals why Tyrael decided to steal the Black Soulstone from the Angiris Council, and why Westmarch as its burial ground. The story of Adria the Witch, the Founding and Ruin of Westmarch, and lore about the Crusaders can be found in the book, too. Take this book as a prelude to Diablo III: Reaper of Souls; and as a primer for the upcoming novel Diablo III: Storm of Light by Nate Kenyon which hits bookstores on February 2014.

Content List

There is no index/contet list, so I’ll simply list the sections found throughout Book of Tyrael:

Introduction – This is a letter from Tyrael to the New Horadrim.

Part One: Adria

The Witch of Tristram
Adria’s Origins
Adria’s Quest
Zoltun Kulle and the Black Soulstone
Conclusions

 

Part Two: The Fate of the Black Soulstone

Being Mortal
The Dissonance of the Angiris Council
Wisdom
The New Horadrim
Rakkis and the Founding of Westmarch – Prelude to Conquest
Campaigns Against Ivgorod and the Barbarians
The Creation of Westmarch
The Lost Ruins of Westmarch
Crusaders

 

Part Three: Miscellanea

A Timeline of Sanctuary

  • Pre-History – (Inarius)
  • Recorded History

Factions of Sanctuary

  • Amazons
  • Assassins
  • Barbarian Tribes
  • Council of Elders
  • The Coven
  • Crusaders
  • Druids
  • The Edyrem
  • Horadrim
  • Iron Wolves
  • Mage Clans
  • Necromancers
  • Paladins
  • Patriarchs (Ivgorod)
  • Rogues
  • Skatsim
  • Templar
  • The Temple of the Triune
  • The Thieves Guild
  • Trade Consortium
  • Zakarum

Figures of Interest — this is a long section with brief descriptions of several humans, demons and angels throughout history. Some only mentioned in the novels and the comic book.

 

Artists

Some of the artists behind all the artwork in Diablo III: Book of Tyrael were the same from Book of Cain, while others seem to be new.

  • The Black Frog
  • Nicolas Delort
  • ENrang
  • Riccardo Federici
  • Gino
  • John Howe
  • Joseph Lacroix
  • Iain McCaig
  • Jon McConnell
  • Petar Meseldzija
  • Jean-Baptiste Monje
  • Glenn Rane (Cover)
  • Ruan Jia
  • Dan Hee Ryu
  • Adrian Smith
  • Yang Qi
  • Bin Zhang
  • Zhang Lu

Credits

BLIZZARD ENTERTAINMENT

Matt Burns (Writer)
Doug Alexander (Creative Direction, Layout and Design)
Chris Metzen, Micky Neilson, and Brian Kindreagan (Additional Story Development)
Victor Lee (Additional Art)
Josh Horst, Kyle Williams, Skye Chandler (Producers)
Cate Gary (Editor)
Justin Parker (Lore)
Jerry Chu (Licensing)

Special thanks to: Christian Lichtner, John Polidora, David Lomeli, Benjamin Zhang, Peter C. Lee, Leonard Boyarsky, Michael Chu, Valerie Watrous, Evelyn Fredericksen, Sean Copeland, Leanne Huynh, Audrey Vicenzi, and Joseph Lacroix.

INSIGHT EDITIONS

Raoul Goff (Publisher)
Chrissy Kwasnik (Art Director)
Vanessa Lopez (Executive Editor)
Anna Wan (Production Manager)
Elaine Ou (Editorial Assistant)

SPOILERS

The Coven is actually a remnant of what was once known as the Triune (the ancient religion seen in Diablo: The Sin War trilogy)

Adria was born in Kingsport — curiously, the southern port of Westmarch — where Reaper of Souls takes place.

Adria’s father was Sevrin — a powerful merchant in Kingsport, who strangled his wife in a fit of rage.

Adria possibly killed her own father some time later when an unusual fire burned their home. She fled north to the Westmarch capital. Joined a group of witches. Turns out Adria and Maghda met there in their youth. Years later, both witches joined the Coven and took control of the group after killing its leaders.

Adria later departed the Coven after a schism with her partner — around the time of the Darknening of Tristram.

On one of Cain’s notes, he acknowledges after taking Leah as child with him, he began to research about Adria. He decided to keep what he learned a secret, and hid the truth to Leah.

I’m surprised this book has a long timeline similar to Warcraft’s. Also most of these Leah’s notes dating Diablo III (Caldeum and Bastion Keep) are written in 1285 Anno Kehjistani. Some notes are denoted as “1st day of (what seems like a month)”. Examples: Ratham, Kathon, Ostara.

Short descriptions of each important human, angel and demon throughout history (alive and deceased).

Zoltun Kulle was from the Ennead mage clan — group which delved into transmutation and enchantment magics.

The Black Soulstone was a profane simulacrum of the three soulstones Tyrael gave the Horadrim years ago.

Now we have another name of the first Horadrim group: Jered Cain, Tal Rasha, Zoltun Kulle and Iben Fahd. The latter was among the few survivors who attempted to defeat Zoltun in his lair.

The first part was Adria and Zoltun Kulle. The third part is from the point of view of Tyrael. He expresses how he feels as a human. How he felt as an Angel and how he viewed the flaws of the Angiris Council.

“I deliberately took on the form of a mortal, sacrificing my angelic essence, in response to the Council’s continued inaction. In doing so, I hoped to set an example to the Heavens — to prove that laws can be bent for a greater good.”

Tyrael left the Heavens after Diablo the Prime Evil was defeated. He couldn’t bear the angels’ judgment — who blamed him for the countless deaths of angels. I think this is the first time we ever hear how angels are born. Tyrael mentions before he left back to Sanctuary he witnessed the Lightsong — the creation of new angels. The angels tune their essences into the Crystal Arch in synch. The harmony of this “sound” and “light” creates new angels.

Blizzplanet Review – World of Warcraft Ultimate Visual Guide

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Reviews, World of Warcraft News

dk-publishing-world-of-warcraft-ultimate-visual-guideMy copy of the DK World of Warcraft Ultimate Visual Guide just arrived. I purchased it myself. I was curious to see such a big box for a book. When I opened the box and held the book on my hands, I literally jaw-dropped.

I wasn’t expecting this book to be such a monster-sized one. I have reviewed many Blizzard products in the past 10 years, but this one just broke the record in size. The Product Dimensions: 11.9 x 10.3 x 0.8 inches don’t mean much in context until you have it in front of you. IT IS HUGE! It is heavy too. 3 Pounds. I’m surprised I didn’t pay more for the shipping than for the book ($3.99 shipping).

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Cover Jacket

As usual, all Blizzard Entertainment books come with a cover jacket wrapped around the book. You can frame it as a large poster (13.8″ x 10.3″). When you remove the cover jacket, the book itself has a printed duplicate of the same artwork in full color (except for the missing logo and title text).

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On the cover jacket’s internal flap you can read:

“A universe so vast as to be immeasurable — incomprehensible even to your greatest minds.” – Algalon the Observer

The World of Warcraft Ultimate Visual Guide was produced in close collaboration with Blizzard Entertainment, creator of World of Warcraft, the world’s biggest online role-playing game. The book explores the epic history, races, major characters, and locations of this thrilling fantasy realm, delving deep into the World of Warcraft lore.

In addition to giving readers an overview of Azeroth’s history, the book provides a behind-the-scenes look at World of Warcraft’s development. This unprecedented, long-awaited companion is packed with fantastic original World of Warcraft images, many rarely seen. Also featuring the very latest lore, this book is the ideal introduction to the World of Warcraft universe as well as the perfect guide for any adventurer, Alliance or Horde.

 

Adorning the interior of the book cardboard is a washed up monochrome version of this artwork.

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The title page: World of Warcraft Ultimate Visual Guide has the following image:

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Interior Content

Throughout the length of the book you will find awesome artwork never seen before and some known. On the lore side, you will find a description of each race, kingdom, class, magic types, leaders, legendary weapons, history, an updated timeline and so much more. Among the authors are Anne Stickney from WoW Insider and Kathleen Pleet.

I can’t stress out enough how much I like to see all the epic artwork, and even new images of Turalyon, Aegwynn, Queen Azshara before and after her transformation, Hakkar the Houndmaster, Draka, Durotan, Aggra, Garona Halforcen, Orgrim Doomhammer, Xarantaur and many others. The book also covers the many independent factions including villains and raid bosses. Pretty complete collection.

There are images from Warcraft II, Warcraft III, and World of Warcraft. Others from the novel covers, novel bonus images, the TCG, the comic book, and graphic novels. But definitely new ones I haven’t seen before. This guide is basically a compilation of many artwork published by Blizzard Entertainment throughout different media, as well as sort of an encyclopedia containing the World of Warcraft MMO lore basics for newcomers or people who have been around a while but don’t necessarily know much about the Warcraft universe or the majority of fans who haven’t read the Warcraft novels, manga or comic books.

I am surprised to see new artwork of Khadgar, Kurdran, Turalyon, Alleria and Danath Trollbane. These probably come from the TCG, but in my defense I didn’t collect them.

The lore is very up-to-date until Mists of Pandaria. Mar’li the High Priestess of the Spider Loa is featured, introduced in Patch 5.2 The Thunder Isle.

This book is definitely the Ultimate Visual and Lore Guide for beginners who recently joined the World of Warcraft MMO or who lack the basics of the overall lore behind the leaders, races, classes and other aspects of the game universe, but a feast to the eyes for old-schoolers too who love to behold great artwork by Blizzard artists — including the Sons of the Storm.

I don’t want fans to grab this book expecting something in particular — like a all out new lore, or the next expansion stuff. This is just WoW in a nutshell for newcomers spanning content from 2004 to 2013.

Credits

Around the first pages there is a foreword from Blizzard Publishing Lead Micky Neilson. To know a bit more about the authors of this guide, Kathleen Pleet is a BradyGames contributor involved in the development of the Vanilla, Burning Crusade, and Dungeon Companion guides. Anne Stickney is a senior editor at WoW Insider who writes the “Know Your Lore” column.

Blizzard Entertainment was knee-deep involved in the development of this guide. The credits list the following Blizzard Entertainment developers:

Production: Joshua Horst, Skye Chandler, Leanne Huynh
Editor: Micky Neilson
Lore: Sean Copeland
Lore Editor: Cate Gary
Licensing: Matthew Beecher, Jerry Chu, Audrey Vicenzi
Art Direction: Jeremy Cranford

The credits also list several DK Publishing and BradyGames personnel.

Content

Many might argue this is info already available in the WoWpedia — but you visit there to find something in specific through the “Search” feature. This guide, on the other hand, compiles all a fan needs to know about the lore basics for everything Warcraft. I wouldn’t doubt many people would visit WoWpedia to expand their knowledge after reading the guide.

The Titans, the Old gods, the Elemental Lords, the Burning Legion hierarchy and its demon races, even some of the War of the Ancients data. You can find it all in the guide. This photo shows you the Content List with all features by page.

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Grab your copy of the World of Warcraft: Ultimate Visual Guide while supplies last.

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Blizzplanet Review – DC Comics World of Warcraft: Bloodsworn Graphic Novel

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Reviews, World of Warcraft News

Blizzard Entertainment shipped me a copy of World of Warcraft: Bloodworn — written by Doug Wagner (WITCHBLADE/RED SONJA) and artist Jheremy Raapack (DC Comics Injustice: Gods Among Us).

The back of the book says: “Something stirs in the depths of Maraudon. Something wicked.”

WOW_BLOODSWORNThe tribes of the centaur have banded together and begun attacking Horde farms, villages and outposts without mercy or provocation. They murder every man, woman and child. What could bring these volatile tribes together? What are the centaur more afraid of than the imposing armies of the Horde?

In World of Warcraft: Bloodsworn, a small militia group is the only chance the Horde have of stopping an immense centaur war machine bent on overrunning all of Azeroth. Writer Doug Wagner and artist Jheremy Raapack deliver a tale of disparate heroes who must learn to embrace their differences if they are to save everything they believe in…

 

The front cover is a book jacket wrapped around the book. On the inner flap, is read:

Honor, Duty, and Loyalty: words fought and paid for in blood by every member of the Horde. Constantly fighting for their freedom, this faction of outcast races stands side by side against tyranny and persecution, but now something dark and powerful threatens their very existence. The Horde’s only hope is a small band of outcasts forced to team together. Their quest begins in the Horde capital city of Orgrimmar and will take them across Azeroth to the dreaded caves of Maraudon. Malgar, an orc hunter who desires nothing more than to be alone, is thrust together with a small Horde militia unit in hopes of stopping an enemy from an age long forgotten. This group of misfits must learn to put their differences aside if they have any hope of surviving. For to save all of Azeroth, they must defeat a god…

 

The story starts with a Horde militia chanting the Blood Oath of the Horde that players witnessed in Dragonblight when the Taunka pledged to join the Horde in the quest titled: “Blood Oath of the Horde” and later when Roanauk of the Icemist Village pledges the Taunka in “All Hail Roanauk!.”

“Lok’tar ogar! Victory or death – it is these words that bind me to the Horde. For they are the most sacred and fundamental of truths to any warrior of the Horde.

I give my flesh and blood freely to the Warchief. I am the instrument of my Warchief’s desire. I am a weapon of my Warchief’s command.

From this moment until the end of days I live and die – FOR THE HORDE!”

 

Right away the reader knows the story starts shortly after Deathwing’s Cataclysm. Garrosh has ordered the creation of the Garad’kra – a militia that will spread across all Kalimdor to report any enemy transgression into Horde territory, a militia able to act swiftly and in unison.

Readers will begin to know, separately, a little bit about each of the characters that end up banding together to follow Garrosh’s orders. These are the main characters and their bios:


Ironhoof

The warchief Garrosh Hellscream killed the leader of the tauren in a duel, allowing the grimtotem tauren (a dissident faction among their race) to capitalize on the opportunity and seize control of Thunder Bluff. Garrosh neither aided nor hindered the grimtotem, who were eventually deposed and driven out of the tauren lands, but this left the tauren less trustful of the Horde as a whole. Despite the events, the aged Ironhoof longs to prove he’s still a strong warrior and an asset to both the tauren people and the Horde.

Felgrim

The self-proclaimed “Forsaken” are an undead faction within the Horde. Its members have made several contributions to their allies, but have placed their own secretive agenda ahead of duty to the Horde in the past, a recent treachery from within the forsaken’s own ranks has made the Horde even more distrustful of their undead allies. Felgrim has grown weary of the suspicion directed towards him and reacts harshly to any sign of it.

Rada’jin

Although the Darkspear trolls served the Horde faithfully since Thrall’s arrival on Kalimdor, Garrosh saw them as weak and pushed them aside to make room for stronger allies. The Darkspear leader Vol’jin, threatened Garrosh and returned to the Echo Islands with most of his people, but ultimately was convinced to stay with the Horde despite growing tensions.

Rada’jin believes the answer is to prove how powerful the trolls can be, and as a shapeshifting druid he aims to do just that. He will show the Horde’s leaders that his tribe is a strong ally at any cost.

Ashra Valandril

Betrayal in their hour of greatest need drove the blood elves from the Alliance quickly discovering that their race could not survive without the support of allies and having no viable alternatives, these elves swore allegiance to their former enemies: the Horde. Ashra endeavors to elevate his people within the Horde, as he personally believes the orcs are using the blood elves for their own machinations.

Shagara

A shaman is called to seek harmony between the elements and themselves; an ancient tradition of the orcs that was reawakened when Thrall reformed the Horde under his leadership.

Shagara honors the ideals the former warchief upheld during his time as its leader, even when her new companions pursue their own goals over serving the greater good.

Malgar

Although he was a soldier in the Horde when they invaded Azeroth, Malgar felt he was a slave to the Horde’s masters and the demonic corruption that fueled them. When the Horde fell, Malgar was placed in a prison camp with other survivors. Thrall freed the orcs and took them to a new land, but now Malgar wants nothing more to do with the Horde. He wants the freedom to make his own way without the burden of serving others.

 

Doug Wagner has a very interesting story going on in World of Warcraft: Bloodsworn. It’s mostly focused on the centaur threat and the banding of a special Horde strike team. A dysfunctional one. Malgar is an orc hunter who used to be one of the corrupted orcs coming through the Dark Portal alongside Warchief Blackhand, and faced time in the internment camps. He doesn’t want nothing to do with Orgrimmar and the Horde. He won’t serve anyone.

A blood debt with Ironhoof bound him into this militia venture when the tauren warrior saved his hide during a centaur attack. The shaman lady orc Shagara is the leader of this team. The Undead Warlock Felgrim has to deal with hatred from other Horde races because of what Putress and his forsaken did at the Wrathgate. He has a deep regret crawling within his hollow skull. The blood elf guy lives in turmoil every single day of his life due to an important loss suffered presumably when the scourge invaded Quel’Thalas.

Criticism should be part of all reviews. There should be more about each character and revelations. It’s important to develop characters with a rich background. It’s a graphic novel, not a series, so in part due to frame space it’s nigh impossible to cover all the characters and still maintain a plot and a climax. Yet, there was enough individual character spotlight about their own inner-demons, there was a slight revelation about Felgrim the forsaken warlock which cements him into in-game events.

I think Rada’jin should have had more background lore considering he’s a troll druid and may have known

I’d personally like to see these characters again in future short stories in the website, and maybe another graphic novel or short limited series a la Ashbringer and Curse of the Worgen.

The dysfunctional team happens to grow into something else, united by a new team member whom is not even a Horde race.

Doug Wagner presents a very intriguing plot with this new teammate. Expectatives should be really high with this book, because certainly I have my doubts whether it is a simple bluff or whether Blizzard Entertainment is playing with the thought of a new playable race in an upcoming expansion. I totally didn’t see this one coming, not by a long shot. Yet it’s right there, wide open. In the canon in his graphic novel. Could it be possible?

“Lok’tar ogar! Victory or death – it is these words that bind me to the Horde…” — ‘Nuff said!

This graphic novel is going to give you an itch in the back of your mind that can’t be sated until BlizzCon for sure. A race that shares the same controversy as a playable naga race in a different way.

On the artistic side, Jheremy Rapaack totally nailed the Horde artwork. Very rich details in the armor, weapons, faces, hair. Jheremy was the perfect match to go with this World of Warcraft graphic novel, and I’m glad DC Comics and Blizzard Entertainment signed him to pencil it. Certainly, Jheremy should be in future Blizzard graphic novels, and other projects.

Grab your copy of World of Warcraft: Bloodsworn while supplies last.

HORDE BIAS! A Red Shirt Guy Editorial on the “Faction Bias” Arguments

Written by Ian Bates on . Posted in Activision Blizzard, Blizzard Developers, Blizzard Entertainment, Blizzard Product Reviews, Cataclysm, Lore, Novels, Uncategorized, World of Warcraft - Races, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria

Orgrimmar

Hi readers and welcome to my first editorial type article. With the release of Patch 5.4’s trailer (see it here if you haven’t already), the debate on whether or not Blizzard is biased towards the Horde in content development has risen again. Its a subject that really came to a head with the release of Cataclysm, enough so that Blizzard actually had Dave Kosak make a blog post, “Dev Watercooler: Faction Favoritism“. It was very negatively received, and in fact was seen by many as further proof there was faction bias favoring the Horde enough to be detrimental to the Alliance among Blizzard’s developers. So, does this faction favoritism really exist? Is Blizzard ignoring half their playerbase because they can’t muster the effort to to create content for a faction they don’t like? Or is this all overblown outcry from WoW’s notoriously unpleaseable fanbase?

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Sideshow StarCraft II Raynor – Terran Space Marine Sixth Scale Figure Pre-Order Available

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Reviews, StarCraft 2 News

Sideshow Collectibles opened pre-orders for the Starcraft II Raynor – Terran Space Marine – Sixth Scale Figure.

The size and dimensions of this figure is 15.5″ H (393.7mm) x 9.5″ W (241.3mm) x 6.75″ L (171.45mm). Sideshow Collectibles is pre-ordering this item for $499.99, and offers monthly payment plans as little as $56.25 a month. The figure is slated to ship on August 2014. Don’t worry, the pre-order will only charge you $50 today to reserve your copy as a non-refundable deposit.

The StarCraft II Raynor 1:6 Scale figure was announced recently at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con. Blizzplanet recorded video of the entire Blizzard Licensing Panel where this product was announced. Watch it now.

From the hit Blizzard Entertainment title, Starcraft II, Sideshow Collectibles is proud to introduce Jim Raynor -Terran Space Marine. Confederate marshal turned outlaw rebel, Jim Raynor does not back down from a fight. Equipped with technologically advanced armor and weaponry, the Raynor – Terran Space Marine was assembled from over 525 individually engineered components, making it one of Sideshow’s most ambitious Sixth Scale projects to date. The detailed armor features light up elements in the chest and engine vents, an impressive cache of weapons includes a C-14 Impaler Gauss rifle, a massive sniper rifle, and Jim’s signature revolver.

The Raynor Sixth Scale Figure features:

  • Fully Articulated Figure Body with highly detailed, fully articulated armor
  • Removable Helmet with retractable visor
  • Alternate Head(s) to display with helmet on or off
  • C-14 Impaler Gauss Rifle
  • Pistol with fabric holster
  • Sniper Rifle
  • Light up effects in chest, engine vents, and rifle (Images of finalized light-up effects, coming soon)
 

Artists

  • Anthony Mestas (Paint)
  • Michael Fictenmayer (Paint)
  • Big Shot Toyworks (Sculpt and Development)
  • Trevor Grove (Sculpt)
  • Kevin Ellis (Costume Fabrication)
  • The Sideshow Collectibles Design and Development Team

Manufactured by: Sideshow Collectibles

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Blizzplanet Review – World of Warcraft: Vol’jin, Shadows of the Horde

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Reviews, World of Warcraft News

world-of-warcraft-voljin-shadows-of-the-horde-9781416550679Gallery Books sent me a review copy of the World of Warcraft: Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde by New York Times best selling author Michael A. Stackpole.

I have been waiting for this book for about 8 months. On October 13, 2012, Michael A. Stackpole, Micky Neilson and Dave Kosak revealed plans to publish this book. You can watch later the video I posted of that Blizzard Entertainment Publishing Panel to learn more about the story from the writer.

I had many expectations for this book. I have played the PTR and the live realm for months, experiencing the Patch 5.1 Landfall and the Dagger in the Dark Scenario where Vol’jin is betrayed. His throat slit by an assassin sent by Garrosh to eliminate the Darkspear leader from the chessboard.

I enjoyed later Patch 5.3 Escalation, and of course look forward to Patch 5.4. This novel covers all the bases, all what Vol’jin experienced after we gathered the ingredients in Binan Village to save Vol’jin’s life. The story we missed in between the Dagger in the Dark scenario and Vol’jin’s return to Sen’jin Village in Patch 5.3 Escalation.

(Information here may be considered Spoilers — Read at your own discretion)

Vol’jin is taken to the Shado-Pan Monastery to be tended by Chen Stormstout and the monks. In his fevered dreams, Vol’jin stands before the Guardian of the Dead Loa Bwonsamdi and Sen’jin. Bwonsamdi is pretty pissed off at Vol’jin for the lack of sacrifices these past months, and for anchoring himself to life so fiercely rather than embracing death, tended by his Loa master. Vol’jin has so much to do for the Darkspear, for the Horde.

Bwonsamdi releases his claim over Vol’jin with a warning about his future. Vol’jin shall wish he had embraced death now instead of what Vol’jin will endure in the future.

Vol’jin wakes up a month after the events of the Dagger in the Dark scenario. Lord Taran Zhu and the Shado-Pan have been afflicted by unbalance lately. He sees in Vol’jin an enigma. He is Tushui, in contrast with Garrosh’s Horde. The Shado-Pan must teach Vol’jin the pandaren ways, and in return they must learn from Vol’jin and his vision of the Horde. However, there’s a twist. Two months earlier, the Shado-Pan Monastery harbored an injured human hunter. Both the human and the troll leader must learn to live together and tend to each other while on sacred ground.

Taran Zhu knows that once these two enemies heal and depart, they will be back to their old ways and kill each other. Taran Zhu seeds in them the pandaren ways, and the strength to defeat the emotions of the sha. In this way, bringing up a sliver of hope for the Alliance and the Horde.

I completely loved all the wisdom lines and elaborate parables poured in by the author Michael A. Stackpole. At times it reminded me of one of my favorite childhood TV series: Kung Fu.

It’s clear that Vol’jin will leave the Shado-Pan Monastery eventually as a different person. He will find a balance in his soul, he didn’t have before. He will return home to lead his people to victory with courage, determination and a complete domination over his fears and doubts.

He’s going to be the leader his people, his family needs. The Horde must safeguard its sense of family and unity.

Among the supporting characters readers will find Li Li Stormstout and Yalia Sagewhisper. Looks like Chen Stormstout has finally found someone to give meaning to his wanderer life.

If Yalia Sagewhisper rings a bell, you are right. She can be seen in the Shado-Pan Garrison (Townlong Steppes).

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There are many interesting scenes in this book. The action is very quick paced to the point one can get overwhelmed taking everything in. By page 50, so many things had happened I couldn’t figure out where the story was heading to. I was just hooked wanting to learn more.

Vol’jin manages to have some dreams during his sleep, communing with the Loa, or receiving their visions. In one of them there is this scene of ancient Zandalari trolls making sacrifices on their altars. The sacrifices were … Aqir. Sacrifices feeding Hir’eek the Bat Loa.

Better yet, the story shifts to present time Zandalari in Pandaria, those harbored in the Isle of Thunder probably before the Alliance and Horde got there. Readers will get a brief glimpse how the first troll and first mogu united forces, and why they were later separated. The mists and the Sundering. Note: The mists were lifted by Shaohao in an attempt to protect Pandaria from the coming destruction as per the portents of the Jinyu 10,000 years ago.

The Zandalari are worried. They had planned in advance. They were confident with the support of the Loa spirits. They accounted for the Alliance and Horde presence, however the full attention of the Loa was now shared. This is something they did not expect. They don’t know who the troll be, but he is a wild card to their plans and their portents. They must eliminate this wild card, this shadow hunter distracting their power sources: Vol’jin.

The Zandalari fear this unknown troll occupying the Loa attention. The storm, the curtain disconnecting the Zandalari from the Loa might herald the birth of a troll destined to greatness. And in fact, this is no longer the old Vol’jin. Through the Shado-Pan conditioning and training this Vol’jin is reborn a new troll.

Chen Stormstout has his share of screen-time in the story, and the author alternates between both points of views. At one point, Chen Stormstout leaves the Monastery with Yalia to go in search of Li Li at the Temple of the White Tiger, but learn she has traveled to the Zouchin Village — Yalia’s family live there.

After the novel, players can find Yalia Sagewhisper at the side of Lord Taran Zhu in the Bleak Hollow (Isle of Thunder).

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This review is just the tip of the iceberg within the first 90 pages. Looks like the novel will go into the Patch 5.2 Isle of Thunder campaign — as hinted in page 106. I have so much to read and learn in this 301-pages novel.

Order the World of Warcraft: Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde (July 2, 2013).

Check out the World of Warcraft: Dawn of the Aspects Part V review also available.

If you haven’t played World of Warcraft in a while, Blizzplanet has you covered. Check out the Patch 5.1 Landfall, Patch 5.2 Isle of Thunder and Patch 5.3 Escalation quest/dialogue transcripts and videos.

Characters

Vol’jin
Chen Stormstout
Li Li Stormstout
Keng-na (cub)
Bwonsamdi (Loa, Guardian of the Dead)
Hir’eek
Shirvallah
Lord Taran Zhu
Brother Huon-kai
Yalia Sagewhisper
Tyrathan Khort (human)
Khal’ak
Gyran’zul (youngest Zandalari shaman)
Tswen-luo (Yalia’s father at Zouchin Village, master of the fishing fleet)
Brother Kwan-ji (Shado-Pan monastery monk)
Brother Xiao (Shado-Pan Monastery monk)
Captain Nir’zan (Zandalari)
Lieutenant Trag’kal (dead Zandalari)

Mentioned
Rexxar
Rak’gor Bloodrazor
Zalazane
Master Gadrin (Witch Doctor trainer)
Bolten Vanyst (human)
Yenki and Chinwa (Yalia’s marriage candidates in her youth)
Vilnak’dor (one of the darker Zandalari Loa)
Akil’darah (Eagle Loa)
Elortha no Shadra (the Silk Dancer Loa)
Garrosh Hellscream
Larsi (female hunter following Tyrathan’s orders, dead)

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Blizzplanet Review – World of Warcraft: Dawn of the Aspects Part IV

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Reviews, World of Warcraft News

world-of-warcraft-dawn-of-the-aspects-part-1-coverIn Part IV of the World of Warcraft: Dawn of the Aspects digital story, Richard A. Knaak continues the epic battle between Galakrond and the Proto-dragons who one day would become Dragon Aspects.

Best part of this chapter is that Watcher Tyr is helping the proto-drakes in battle.

In the present, Kalec is assaaulted by the artifact he found underneath Galakrond’s bones. Artifact which forces him to relive the past events through the eyes and thoughts of Malygos.

In Dalaran, Jaina searches the library for a book she remembers had studies about a similar artifact found long ago.

Readers will find in Part IV how Watcher Tyr lost his hand. This is it! This is the sacrifice remembered by the first humans throughout milennia. The legend that one day inspires the foundation of the Order of the Silver Hand.

The way this story has been split into 5-parts makes the craving for the story more impactful. Something shared by comics fans who wait eagerly for the next issue.

It is a matter of time for us now to read the last part of this story.

Many expectations ahead of us in the final part. Will we see the other Watchers? Will we see any resemblance of the human ancestors? Will we see the arrival of the Titans and the Ordering of the Dragon Aspects?

Even more important … the present. It is obvious that Tyr has come to the Nexus with a unknown mission. He chose Kalec or is testing him. As in times past, Tyr saw promise in the proto-drakes. Observed them. Tested them. Allied with them to fight a common foe.

The question is, what threat is looming in the horizon that made Tyr seek Kalec? This is not just a story mechanic to let us see Tyr and the proto-drakes.

This is New York Times Best Selling author Richard A. Knaak.

When it comes to upcoming expansions, Blizzard brings in the heavy-hitters to flesh out an epic story.

We know through Wrathion’s questline that a big threat is coming Azeroth’s way. The Burning Legion. Even more threatening. In my interview with Chris Metzen and Micky Neilson (2009) they said Sargeras is coming.

However, we know what happened last time 10,000 years ago when Sargeras attempted to enter Azeroth. How the Old gods manipulated that with the Dragon Soul.

If the Burning Legion is coming in the next expansion, the Old gods might not be too far. Could Tyr’s return in the present mean Galakrond will live again?

So many lingering questions. Hopefully, we will learn a few of them in the final part (due June 17).

World of Warcraft: Dawn of the Aspects: Part IV can be read on Kindle , iPad, Android and on your PC/MAC internet browser with the Kindle Cloud Reader.

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Blizzplanet Review – DC Comics World of Warcraft: Dark Riders

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Reviews, World of Warcraft News

I had the opportunity to read World of Warcraft: Dark Riders courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment (Thanks, Lyndsi). I had waited so long to get this Blizzard licensed product on my hands. The first time fans heard about World of Warcraft: Dark Riders was at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con. Chris Metzen, Christie Golden, and Hank Kanalz (DC Comics) showcased several upcoming products at the Warcraft, StarCraft & Diablo Swag Show Panel held there.

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It’s been a while since the launch of the original World of Warcraft ongoing comics series. The series, formerly published by Wildstorm, ended with issue # 25. The main characters seen in Dark Riders were originally introduced in the World of Warcraft Special # 1 (Dec 16, 2009). Through advanced solicitations, it was known that two new titles based on the Horde and the Alliance would be launched shortly after the World of Warcraft Special # 1. However those titles never came to see the light.

On December 16th 2009, DC Entertainment announced through IGN the World of Warcraft comics had been cancelled, as well as the already-announced Horde and Alliance titles. From that moment forward, DC Entertainment was to publish graphic novels based on World of Warcraft.

Fast forwarding into the present, the Alliance graphic novel is World of Warcraft: Dark Riders. It is on sale as of May 10th. The Horde graphic novel World of Warcraft: Bloodsworn will be available on August 13, but pre-orders are available.

Artwork

The front cover by Alex Horley and Samwise Didier (Blizzard senior art director) looks awesome in glossy paper. It’s actually a book-jacket wrapped around the book. No one will blame you if you wish to frame it. The artwork has canvas texture, or gives the impression it was painted on one.

The interior artwork by Neil Googe looks different to what we have seen so far in the World of Warcraft ongoing comics, The Ashbringer, or even Curse of the Worgen.

The landscapes look very detailed and true to the game’s locations. Some of the areas explored in this story are:

  • Goldshire (Elwynn Forest)
  • Karazhan
  • Tower of Azora
  • Westfall
  • Gold Coast Quarry
  • Darkshire
  • Duskwood
  • Mannor Mismantle (Duskwood)
  • Tranqui Gardens (Duskwood)
  • Roland’s Doom
  • Raven Hill
  • The Opera Hall (Karazhan)
  • The Menagerie (Karazhan)

I have a complaint, but that’s just me. The armor of these Alliance heroes looks too simple. More work is needed to make the printed media and the game mesh further. I would have liked to see a really cool armor set for each class, and make the same set of the characters available to players in-game in the challenge mode rewards (for example).

Story

The story begins in Goldshire where the two main characters make screen time. Mardigan is a young and reckless man sent by his father, Mage Karlain, to the Lion’s Pride Inn to get a potion from an old friend alchemist.

Readers quickly find out about several groups revolving around the core of the story: the Wolf Cult from Darkshire, The Defias Brotherhood in Westfall, and the Dark Riders of Karazhan.

In the Tower of Azora, Theocritus summons the aid of Mage Karlain. The Dark Riders have been stealing artifacts of power throughout the region. Theotricus sent the Hand of Azora artifact to Westfall, in hopes of preventing its theft, and sends Karlain there to make sure it stays secure.

The third character of the team of heroes is introduced in the midst of The People’s Militia in Sentinel Hill. A priest unlike any we have ever seen with a nasty attitude — wait, is there one of any other kind?

The story has a nice pace moving from one place to the next, giving the reader a taste of what’s going on. Each character has his own motivation, but their paths are interwoven. All paths leading to the Dark Riders and the artifacts they have stolen.

I am usually positive in my reviews, but I try the best for my fanboyism not to cloud my judgement. The title is World of Warcraft: Dark Riders. However, at the end of my read I was left with disappointment. Their origin is explained by Brink, but I don’t know who were behind the masks, or who their new master in the present is, or what the goal to hoard these artifacts is.

We do learn these Dark Riders are not related to The Lich King’s Scourge, nor related to Gul’dan and his Shadow Council. Their origin goes way back to the era where Medivh was still possessed by Sargeras. However, none of that explains who the current master of the Dark Riders is. It would have made sense for this graphic novel if the Dark Riders were serving Prince Malchezzar and the artifacts were meant for a ritual to resurrect Sargeras (for example).

Other than Karlain, very scarce information is provided about each member of this team. I don’t know where the priest came from, or what organization Brink works for. Considering he is a rogue and knows so much intel, I’d guess his organization is Ravenholdt or SI:7.

There were so many loose ends in this graphic novel, I can’t but wonder if Blizzard Entertainment intends these characters to appear in an upcoming novel, website short stories (like Project Blackstone), or even wrap up these loose ends in the next expansion. Looks like cliffhangers set there on purpose.

world-of-warcraft-dark-riders-preview-4The Scythe of Elune was in the hands of the Wolf cult. The graphic novel doesn’t really reveal much about the Wolf cult. We know the Wolf cult deserter in Goldshire had seen something among the Wolf Cult that made him flee. I keep trying to understand what this might be that scared him, but I have no answer.

We need megalomaniac villains with long speeches to understand their motives. Kinda too cookie-cutter, but better than the scene where we see Gervase with the Scythe of Elune uttering not a single word.

I have a lot of expectations, and love when those are exceeded with a great story. Especially the great stories that the Dark Riders, the Scythe of Elune and the Worgen are deserved to be fleshed out more in this graphic novel.

The World of Warcraft: Ashbringer and the Curse of the Worgen are among the top World of Warcraft comics stories I have read. Those are favorites for many fans, not just me. This graphic novel should have exceeded the previous in terms of lore. Lot of stuff we didn’t know about Mograine and what transpired in Gilneas while players accomplished missions can be learned in those two independent stories.

That’s the rough part of the review. Now let’s go into the good stuff. This team of adventurers is a wreak. They aren’t friendly with each other, but they learn they need each other if they are to survive the many foes standing between them and their goal to retrieve the stolen artifacts.

With a team like this, the author Mike Costa no doubt had a lot of fun writing their dialogues which include tones of comedy, irreverence, and gray personalities. None is truly evil, but not completely good-hearted.

Mardigan is reckless and easy to be angered if provoked. He doesn’t need to be provoked, though. He picks on people he feels might be bothersome or staring. He’s young with the heart of a fighter, and headstrong.

Karlain is headstrong and rushes in without care. Like father, like son. The mage is too confident, self-absorbed and arrogant. A secret he’s kept from his son boils at his core.

Revil is the most annoying priest I have ever seen in any printed media. One might wonder if even the Scarlet Crusade would abhor his zealotry of the Light. Revil’s family was killed by the Wolf Cult. This event darkened his beliefs to a degree where he justifies the misfortune of people around him as something the Light approves to happen. An example is a couple of soldiers in Westfall fighting for a piece of bread. One stabs the other. Mage Karlain asks Revil to heal the wounded man, but instead he walks away saying his is not a mortal wound, and the pain will serve as penance for his selfishness. Revil is truly an A-hole. I love him.

Brink is an enigmatic gnome rogue. He knows a lot of intel about who the Dark Riders are, and even about the Wolf Cult. He even has deep knowledge about dragons. He’s a box of surprises, and no doubt I might want to hear more of him in the future. But please, open the box so we can learn a bit more. Deal?

This team really needed a dwarf hunter, and a Night Elf druid. From what Brink says at the end of the story, he will meet a night elf. I am uncertain of what the timeframe of this story is in relation to the present and other events. I assume Curse of the Worgen happens after Dark Riders based on what happens at the end, but it’s hard to be certain.

Regardless, while the graphic novel didn’t fill all of my expectations, the dynamic between the characters, their grey personalities and humor makes this graphic novel a good read. If you think this is a graphic novel for kids, think again. Lot of beheading, cleaving of arms and gore.

A toast to seeing these characters again pop in upcoming novels, limited series or website short stories. I’m looking forward for the World of Warcraft: Bloodsworn graphic novel (Horde version) and more stories. My mind hungers for more Warcraft lore and action.

I rarely rate my reviews, because numbers can’t really capture my opinion. An 8.5 only tells you I didn’t find it to be perfect. There was much more the story should have revealed and focused on. On the other hand, it was a fun read and I crave to hear more about these heroes.

Get your copy of World of Warcraft: Dark Riders. PC/Mac users can read this graphic novel on Firefox or Internet Explorer by choosing the Kindle link, then ordering the Kindle Cloud Reader version. Do you have an iPad, Android tablet or Kindle? This graphic novel is available for those devices too.

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Description

A brand-new original graphic novel featuring characters from the bestselling video game franchise, World of Warcraft!

A stalwart mage searches for a powerful artifact, stolen by dark riders, only to find his son accused of murder. A righteous priest, driven by a mysterious fervor, investigates a savage Wolf Cult. As the paths of these two men join, a fantastic adventure emerges! Supported by a cast of brave heroes, the two find out just how dangerous the wolf cult and dark riders are.

Justice, Courage, and Faith: These are the pillars of the Alliance. The faction, forged in the aftermath of a brutal and bloody war, has always sought to bring light to the dark corners of the world. Every day, scores of Alliance members travel far across Azeroth, fighting for good under the faction’s banner.

Yet other heroes, like the brilliant mage Karlain, begin their battles much closer to home. When his hot-tempered son disappears after being accused of murder, Karlain embarks on a journey that will take him from the dark and misty thickets of Duskwood to the haunted tower of Karazhan. Alongside Revil, an overzealous priest haunted by the past, the pragmatic mage works to uncover a mysterious connection between his missing son and a shadowy organization known as the Wolf Cult. What Karlain and his comrade discover will put their strength and resolve to the ultimate test.

To complicate matters, the two men are harried by the Dark Riders, enigmatic bandits who prowl Duskwood and other regions in search of rare artifacts. Only through tolerance and patience can Karlain and Revil restore order to their world… and to their own lives.

Further Reading: References

The final pages of “Dark Riders” has a section devoted to pinpoint where characters or topics mentioned in the graphic novel can be traced back in printed media or in-game continuity.

A glimpse into the lives of Karlain, Mardigan, Revil, and Brink before the events of this graphic novel can be found in World of Warcraft Special # 1 by Mike Costa and Pop Mhan (It is reprinted in World of Warcraft vol. 4 and also available in digital format for the PC/Mac and tablets).

The origins of the worgen have long been one of Azeroth’s great mysteries. Details about these savage beasts and the mysterious artifact that created them are offered in World of Warcraft: Wolfheart by Richard A. Knaak; World of Warcraft: Curse of the Worgen by Micky Neilson, James Waugh and Ludo Lullabi; and the short story “Lord of His Pack” by James Waugh (available on the WoW website). Both Curse of the Worgen and Wolfheart are available in paperback, digital book and audiobook formats. Follow the links.

Apart from the Dark Riders, other legends abound concerning Karazhan and the infamous Medivh, former Guardian of Tirisfal. More information about the haunted tower and its prior master is revealed in Warcraft: The Last Guardian by Jeff Grubb (of Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms and Magic: The Gathering fame). Warcraft: The Last Guardian was reprinted in a volume containing several Warcraft novels. You should order the WarCraft Archive.

Marshal Dughan, the stalwart defender of Elwynn Forest, makes an appearance in World of Warcraft: Stormrage by Richard A. Knaak, when he succumbs to the dreaded Emerald Nightmare. The book is available in paperback, digital book and audiobook formats.

Characters

Karlain (mage)
Mardigan – Karlain’s son
Marshal Dughan
Tannos
Revil Kost (Priest)
Theocritus (Tower of Azora)
Commander Althea Ebonlocke
Ambrose
Gervase (Wolf cult)
Jitters
Shagra (Wolf cult)
Gorfang
Brink (Gnome rogue)
The Curator

(ONLY MENTIONED)

Warlock Morganth
Aredhel (Karlain’s deceased wife seen in a vision of the past in Karazhan)
Medivh the Last Guardian

(GROUPS)

The Defias Brotherhood (Westfall)
Wolf Cult (Darkshire)
The People’s Militia (Sentinel’s Hill, Westfall)
Guard of the Watch (Darkshire, Duskwood)

(ARTIFACTS)

The Hand of Azora
The Scythe of Elune
The Cloak of Purity

Credits

The writer of “Dark Riders” is Mike Costa. He is written The Secret History of the Authority: Hawksmoor (Wildstorm, 2008), G.I. Joe (2008), Transformers: All Hail Megatron (2008), Resistance (2009), Transformers: Ironhide (2010) Hack/Slash (2011), Blackhawks (2011) — to name a few.

Neil Googe is the artist behind each “Dark Riders” panel. He is penciled for several comics since 1997. Shotgun Mary: blood Lore, Judge Dredd, X-men Unlimited # 41, Majestic, Wildcats: World’s End and more.

Colorists: Pierre Matterne, Lee Loughridge & Len O’Grady.

Letterer: Wes Abbott

Story Consultants: Chris Metzen & Alex Afrasiabi, Luis Barriga & Micky Neilson.

Cover: Alex Horley & Samwise Didier

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Blizzplanet Review – World of Warcraft: Dawn of the Aspects (Part 3)

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Reviews, World of Warcraft News

The World of Warcraft: Dawn of the Aspects: Part III (only $1.99) is now available to be read online on your PC/Mac via the Amazon Cloud or on your Kindle device, iPad or other mobile device. (Look out for Free Reading Apps for those without a Kindle device).

The big reveal: Watcher Tyr is on the spotlight.

Description

world-of-warcraft-dawn-of-the-aspects-part-1-coverTHE AGE OF DRAGONS IS OVER.

Uncertainty plagues Azeroth’s ancient guardians as they struggle to find a new purpose. This dilemma has hit Kalecgos, youngest of the former Dragon Aspects, especially hard. Having lost his great powers, how can he—or any of his kind—still make a difference in the world?

The answer lies in the distant past, when savage beasts called proto-dragons ruled the skies. Through a mysterious artifact found near the heart of Northrend, Kalecgos witnesses this violent era and the shocking history of the original Aspects: Alexstrasza, Ysera, Malygos, Neltharion, and Nozdormu.

In their most primitive forms, the future protectors of Azeroth must stand united against Galakrond, a bloodthirsty creature that threatens the existence of their race. But did these mere proto-dragons face such a horrific adversary alone, or did an outside force help them? Were they given the strength they would become legendary for…or did they earn it with blood? Kalecgos’s discoveries will change everything he knows about the events that led to the…DAWN OF THE ASPECTS

PART I

The former Dragon Aspects are on the brink of going their separate ways to forge new destinies. As Kalecgos ponders the uncertain future awaiting his kind, he uncovers a mysterious artifact that allows him to see through the eyes of his late predecessor, Malygos. Intense visions bombard Kalecgos, transporting him to a time when the original Aspects were no more than primitive proto-dragons. Across ancient Kalimdor’s northern plains, they fought for survival against each other and a terrifying creature that dominated the era: the Father of Dragons, Galakrond. But many questions remain for Kalecgos. What are the origins of this strange artifact? Are its visions a gift, or a curse?

 

Part III Highlights

The Dawn of the Aspects saga continues as Kalec has no option but to witness through Malygos’ eyes the experiences of the proto-dragons who would one day become Dragon Aspects. There are several topics to browse through in this third installment:

  • As seen in Part 1 (of 5), Kalec found a relic beneath Galakrond’s skeleton that triggered a series of flashbacks in his mind, as if the artifact had a mind of its own.

  • The flashbacks show Malygos playing detective and hunter, spying upon the proto-dragon Coros and the behemoth Galakrond.

  • Jaina Proudmoore has communicated often with Kalec in the previous Dawn of the Aspect parts, but in Part III she takes a more active role as she comes in person to the Nexus to find out what’s wrong with Kalec.

  • Unbeknownst to Kalec, while he was unconscious witnessing Malygos’ past, Jaina had found the relic within the Nexus. She identified its spellwork as that of Titan origin. Jaina has knowledge of the Keepers of Ulduar — remember this story happens shortly after the Purge of Dalaran (Patch 5.1).

  • The hooded humanoid haunting Kalec in the present and Malygos in the far past is revealed. It’s a keeper. One of Ulduar Watchers. We were right all along with the clues. It is Watcher Tyr.

  • As a continuity nod, Tyr refers to the land as Kalimdor, even though they are in Northrend. This is because The Sundering that caused the flooding of the seas and the Maelstrom is yet to happen several milennia later. The lands we know as Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms was formerly a massive continent in this time period.

  • Jaina is abruptly teleported to the skeleton of Galakrond at the spot where Kalec earlier dug the relic from. Buniq (wiki) — the spirit of the female Taunka talks to Jaina. This taunka died in the pages of Warcraft: Legends Vol. 3: Fiend (Tokyopop manga).

Review

We have read so far three parts out of a total of five in this monthly-format. I like this new format. Costs only $1.99, and keeps you hungering for more. On the other hand, reading in increments of only 30-50 pages allows you to read in one sweep, and resume your daily chores in real life and in-game.

Reading 387 pages is a daunting task that might take up to six hours or longer depending how fast people reads. So, reading it in short amounts is flexible.

In this third installment, we finally see the hooded figure. Watcher Tyr shows himself before proto-dragon Malygos. The Watcher has been able to stealth his presence even to Kalec and Jaina, who are among the top spellcasters in Azeroth.

In the far past, Tyr admits he has watched all of the proto-drakes for a long time. The other watchers keep to themselves secluded in Ulduar, without interacting much with the daily affairs of lesser creatures outside.

Tyr observes the outside world. It’s implied the Watchers have been experimenting, and Galakrond is somehow consequence of what the Watchers did or lacked to do. It’s not yet clear in Part III.

So far we know that Galakrond was the same size as any other proto-dragon, but something caused him to grow massively in size. Worser yet, he has a dark hunger that causes him to eat other proto-drakes. These are raised as no-living or undead proto-drakes after he pukes them out of his gullet — serving him as mindless drones.

I think there is much more to this than what has been revealed thus far. Keep reading Part 4 (May 20) and Part 5 (June 22).

I can’t wait to learn more about Watcher Tyr in the far past, and even more important — why is Watcher Tyr watching Kalec and showing him from afar the visions of the past? Why did Watcher Tyr teleport Jaina from Dalaran to the bones of Galakrond?

It all seems as if something dire from the past is about to happen in the near future, and Watcher Tyr requires the help of mortals. Doesn’t it all sounds like a groundwork for the upcoming unannounced expansion? Hint: BlizzCon 2013 might announce the next World of Warcraft expansion.

The Battle Rages On

Located at the final page of Part III is read:

“The Cataclysm changed Azeroth and its myriad peoples in many ways. Dawn of the Aspects depicts the uncertainty that now plagues the ancient dragons. But what lies ahead for the world’s other races?

In World of Warcraft’s fourth expansion, Mists of Pandaria, you can help shape this next chapter in Azeroth’s history. Become one of the first members of the Horde or the Alliance to explore the mysterious and exotic continent of Pandaria. Or take on the role of a noble pandaren (WoW’s latest playable race) and join the Horde or the Alliance, depending on which faction aligns more with your ideals. Regardless of the side you choose, your adventures will impact Azeroth in the years to come.

With the dragons forging new destinies for themselves, the task for safeguarding the world from evil has fallen to mortal hands — your hands. Will you rise to the challenge?

To dicover the ever-expanding realm that has entertained millions around the globe, go to WorldofWarcraft.com and download the free trial version. Live the story.”

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Blizzplanet Review – World of Warcraft: Dawn of the Aspects – Part II

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Reviews, World of Warcraft News

The World of Warcraft: Dawn of the Aspects: Part II will be available to fans on Monday, March 18th. Order it now, and get an alert when it’s ready for download on your favorite mobile OS or on your favorite internet browser.

Review

I find amusing Richard A. Knaak’s way to tell the story. It’s as if we, the readers, were a passenger on Kalec’s mind — who in turn is a passenger on Malygos’ mind and eyes.

I have to admit it’s hard to review pieces of a story, one piece at a time, instead of the whole story. Part II of Dawn of the Aspects leaves more questions than answers. The hooded figure appears several times throughout the story, but still no trace of who this humanoid might be to be confirmed. What some fans have speculated is this character might be Ulduar Watcher Tyr, but so far there is no evidence to support the theory.

The origin of the undead proto-dragons is still a mystery — other than these are the proto-dragons swallowed, then puked lifeless by Galakrond. We learn Galakrond was like the other proto-dragons, but no answers on how he became into a hulking behemoth. I have read fans speculation that the Old gods might have something to do with that.

In this era, there were several proto-dragons of colors we aren’t aware of, but there were also other smaller proto-dragons that Malygos considered as lesser animals without their intellect which needed to be herded and protected. Interesting.

Jaina appears, a couple of times, communicating with Kalec through their magical link.

Coros the blue-green proto-dragon appears often, and we might learn why Malygos distrusts him, with good reason.

We learn the brown proto-dragon’s identity: Nozdormu. Alexstrasza, Ysera and Neltharion have plenty of screen time in Part II.

I find it interesting that Richard A. Knaak explores the close friendship between Malygos and Neltharion in this early age of Azeroth. Remember, Neltharion wasn’t a dragon aspect in this age, and thus he wasn’t the earth-warder yet to have been corrupted by the Old gods.

That doesn’t mean Neltharion didn’t have his cunning and core personality in the baggage back then.

Something revealed in Part I, the proto-dragons were born in batches of three. Alexstrasza and Ysera were born from the same hatch of eggs. A third male brother was born. He seems to have died, devoured by Galakrond.

I recommend to read part II, even when our questions aren’t addressed yet. That’s mostly a byproduct of the story being split into a 5-part online book. The third installment will be available on April 22, 2013.

Characters

Zorix – shining golden proto-dragon
Talonixa – Zorix’s female mate
Coros – blue-green proto-dragon
Nozdormu
Alexstrasza
Neltharion
Malygos
Ysera
Kalec
Jaina
Galakrond

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Description – World of Warcraft: Dawn of the Aspects – Part I

THE AGE OF DRAGONS IS OVER.

Uncertainty plagues Azeroth’s ancient guardians as they struggle to find a new purpose. This dilemma has hit Kalecgos, youngest of the former Dragon Aspects, especially hard. Having lost his great powers, how can he—or any of his kind—still make a difference in the world?

The answer lies in the distant past, when savage beasts called proto-dragons ruled the skies. Through a mysterious artifact found near the heart of Northrend, Kalecgos witnesses this violent era and the shocking history of the original Aspects: Alexstrasza, Ysera, Malygos, Neltharion, and Nozdormu.

In their most primitive forms, the future protectors of Azeroth must stand united against Galakrond, a bloodthirsty creature that threatens the existence of their race. But did these mere proto-dragons face such a horrific adversary alone, or did an outside force help them? Were they given the strength they would become legendary for . . . or did they earn it with blood? Kalecgos’s discoveries will change everything he knows about the events that led to the . . . DAWN OF THE ASPECTS.

PART I

The former Dragon Aspects are on the brink of going their separate ways to forge new destinies. As Kalecgos ponders the uncertain future awaiting his kind, he uncovers a mysterious artifact that allows him to see through the eyes of his late predecessor, Malygos. Intense visions bombard Kalecgos, transporting him to a time when the original Aspects were no more than primitive proto-dragons. Across ancient Kalimdor’s northern plains, they fought for survival against each other and a terrifying creature that dominated the era: the Father of Dragons, Galakrond. But many questions remain for Kalecgos. What are the origins of this strange artifact? Are its visions a gift, or a curse?

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PART II

Powerful visions of history torment Kalecgos, forcing him to witness Galakrond’s brutality firsthand. The ravenous beast terrorizes ancient Kalimdor, consuming everyone in his path. The original Aspects and other proto-dragons struggle to temper their savage rivalries long enough to make a stand against their merciless enemy, but their efforts might prove useless. A horrific new threat is rising from Galakrond’s shadow: the undead. Apart from this chilling discovery, Kalecgos is troubled by a mysterious hooded figure from the distant past who appears in the present, pushing the blue dragon’s sanity to the breaking point.

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Excerpt

Malygos flew alone again, the proto-dragon warier than ever. Thanks to images flashing through Malygos’s mind, Kalec quickly understood why. The proto-dragon flew over lands to the east, where there had been several sightings of the not-living. However, as with many other things in previous visions, the exact reason why Malygos was scouting on his own was not so apparent.

As with the last area the proto-dragon had flown over, the landscape below appeared empty of animal life. However, in this bleak place, neither Kalec nor his host had expected to see many beasts. Still, Kalec gathered that Malygos had seen absolutely nothing.

Alighting on a low peak, Malygos peered around. More thoughts crept through Kalec’s mind, filling in some missing pieces. Malygos sought the reason for Galakrond’s frightful transformation into this hungry fiend terrorizing all, and he sought it very near where the behemoth kept his lair.

Kalec questioned the sanity of what Malygos desired but had no choice but to hope that Galakrond was far, far away. Malygos believed that to be the case, but both were aware that there was a chance he was wrong.

Malygos’s heart pounded from tension as the proto-dragon drew nearer to where the lair was presumed to be. The peaks there were so tall it seemed that they were trying to touch the cloud-enshrouded sun. Such giant mountains would be likely to provide caverns large enough to house a monster the size of Galakrond.

Something below caught Malygos’s attention. He dived toward it. At first, Kalec saw only rock, but then he realized that a portion of that rock was of a disquieting and familiar color.

The bones had lain there for some time, possibly four or five seasons. Those that were visible indicated a beast as large as many proto-dragons—or, as Malygos discovered after scraping away the earth from one area, it was an actual proto-dragon.

This one had perished violently. Many of the bones were cracked, and the partial skull that verified just what lay there had been crushed by a tremendous force.

Galakrond, Kalec knew. Here was an early victim. While to him it only served to show just how long Galakrond had been on his murderous rampage, Malygos evidently saw something more in the bones.

Although no one had yet witnessed how Galakrond reduced some of his victims to emaciated corpses that would rise as parasitic undead, the evidence of their existence was without question after Malygos’s battles. Yet Kalec now wondered, if this was one of the leviathan’s prey, why had it not transformed as the others had?

Silence reigned about them, but something made Malygos look to his right. To Kalec’s observation, there was nothing to see. Even a proto-dragon as courageous as Malygos could not be blamed for being jumpy under such conditions.

Returning to the bones, Malygos nudged a few around. With little exception, they revealed that Galakrond had ripped apart and chewed up this unfortunate creature. Malygos’s memories of a much smaller but still imposing Galakrond briefly arose, giving Kalec a startling glimpse of how the latter had changed. Galakrond as seen in the earlier stage had looked much more like a normal proto-dragon and not nearly large enough to swallow others whole. His body also had had a smoother, streamlined appearance. His coloring had been more muted, and the eyes had not had that incessant hungering look to them.

Malygos continued to ferret around among the bones, seeking clues. It was yet another hint—not that Kalec needed one—of how intricate his host’s thinking was compared with that of many of the other proto-dragons.

Somehow, he survived, the disembodied blue thought. Somehow, some of them survived… but how?

The proto-dragon tensed again. This time, Malygos looked skyward.

To the east, a shape already far too massive to be a normal proto-dragon raced toward the mountains—and Malygos’s position.

The mountains were too far away for Malygos to reach before he would be seen. Kalec’s host had no choice but to flatten himself out where he was. His coloring did not blend with the land, but the hope was that Galakrond would not fly near enough to notice.

A constant, heavy beat preceded Galakrond, the sound of his vast wings flapping. Malygos knew that with each beat, the gigantic proto-dragon crossed miles. The beat grew louder, closer. Malygos and Kalec knew that Galakrond was almost upon them.

But then the beat began to recede. Through narrowed eyes, Malygos watched Galakrond head away from him and toward the mountains. However, just as the icy-blue proto-dragon dared draw a new breath, Galakrond halted. Hovering, the behemoth suddenly began heaving as if choking on something.

Neither Malygos nor Kalec paid much mind at first to whatever assailed Galakrond, the giant creature’s physical appearance drawing their initial attention. Although it could not have been that long since the vision in which they had previously encountered Galakrond, Kalec was especially stunned by how much more misshapen the fiend had become. Not only was Galakrond oddly distorted, but he now had several growths randomly dotting his body. There were also a number of gray splotches that made it seem as if parts of Galakrond were decaying.

But just as Malygos and Kalec came to grips with this new, deformed Galakrond, the monster disgorged what had caused him such distress.

Bodies. More than a score of shriveled, limp proto-dragon bodies. They dropped in a horrendous heap to the ground, some flopping about as they struck. Malygos radiated immense distress at the sight, not only because of the awful slaughter but also because among the limp forms, he saw red, brown, gray, and even greenish-yellow bodies.

 
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Blizzplanet Review: StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Reviews, StarCraft 2 News

The StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm single-player campaign has shattered all my wild expectations. Even all my predictions based on the “Vengeance” Trailer were utterly wrong.

Wings of Liberty had a great story, but Heart of the Swarm is simply awesome. That on itself is a feat, considering it is the Zerg episode in the StarCraft II trilogy, and zerg do not talk, right?

Kerrigan the Queen of Blades has several supporting characters that assist her throughout her campaign to dispense vengeance upon Emperor Arcturus Mengsk. These zerg are Zagara the broodmother, Dehaka, Izsha, Abathur (Evolution Pit), and another servant I wouldn’t want to spoil.

In Wings of Liberty, Jim Raynor had the Cantina, the Bridge, Engineering and the Lab to move around aboard the Hyperion in terms of UI Navigation for the player. I remember the developers arguing about how to approach this, and it hadn’t been set in stone yet back then. Zerg do not socialize nor drink alcohol, the Engineering and Lab’s purpose is basically one and the same for the Zerg.

The StarCraft II Team narrowed it down to the most important aspects of the Zerg: what qualifies as a Bridge, the Evolution Pit, and Kerrigan’s Talent tree.

The Bridge

The bridge is the mouth of a zerg Leviathan — a massive space-traveling whale (reminds me of the Brood’s Acanti — X-Men). As players progress through the story, more support characters appear at the bridge and players can interact with them. It’s very entertaining to click these characters to access an in-game cutscene between Kerrigan and the support character. Lot of lore to learn from them in each mission.

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The Evolution Pit

After each mission, players usually see a new cutscene at the Evolution Pit between Kerrigan and Abathur. He was created by the Overmind from the genetic pool of different species to oversee the evolution of the zerg into perfect weapons of strength and essence.

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Players should go here to upgrade units like the Zergling, Hydralisk, Roach, Baneling, Ultralisk, Mutalisk and the Swarm Host — as each unit becomes available.

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Upgrade points can be acquired by completing the bonus objectives of each mission. These unlock new evolution missions which allow you to test two different strands of each unit in combat. At the end of these evolution missions, the player is given the option to choose which of the two strands to keep for future missions. Choose wisely. The choice is permanent.

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Kerrigan’s Talent Tree

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm borrows — to some degree — from the Warcraft III Hero system and the World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria talent tree system. I gotta admit it makes sense. Kerrigan is the Heart of the Swarm. She takes center stage in this zerg-centered episode in the trilogy.

Kerrigan is playable in most of the Heart of the Swarm single-player missions. In addition, there are certain missions where support characters become playable heroes when Kerrigan isn’t available. Each support character hero with its own unique abilities.

Players get access to the Kerrigan Talent Tree tab through the zerg Leviathan bridge UI — which is located at the bottom of the screen. Initially, players may choose one out of two talent options, but eventually a new column is added — giving players the ability to choose one out of three options per row.

In each mission, Kerrigan earns experience points, but completing bonus objectives adds a large chunk of experience. Not easy to complete these bonus objectives, but for those who are daring and have lots of time to invest, go for it. Kerrigan can grow up to level 70.

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Some of the talents add a new attack icon to the Kerrigan unit, while other talent options function as a passive adding special traits to Kerrigan (like spawning two Banelings when Kerrigan is hit) or special traits to zerg units or even to zerg structures.

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Personally, I like Kinetic Blast, which one-shots any enemy unit except for Battlecruisers (but those get around 70% damage though). Mend heals Kerrigan for 150 life and friendly biological units nearby get healed for 50 life, plus another 25 life regenerated over 15 sec. My favorite though is accessible near the final missions and helps so much … Apocalypse. With this AOE ability Kerrigan can wipe anything within a large radius including buildings.

That’s like having your own silo and nuke in the palm of your hands. The catch is it has a 3 sec casting time, and Kerrigan is under heavy attack during this cast time in some situations. Apocalypse Deals 300 damage to enemy units and 700 damage to enemy structures in a large area. It has a 300 sec cooldown and costs 100 energy. I wouldn’t be too worried about spending energy. In Heart of the Swarm, Kerrigan has only 100 energy, but the energy regeneration is very fast allowing you to cast different abilities within 2-5 seconds. There are certain situations where you can simply send Kerrigan to wipe a group or raid a base all by her own with some patience (cooldowns), and micro skills.

The Kerrigan Talent Tree feature is more simple and straightforward than the Mists of Pandaria talent tree. You can view the stats of each talent and when you are ready to choose one, simply click that talent and hit the [back] button. No need to click buttons to confirm you want that talent and there is no such thing as respec limitations. Simply choose another option.

All your talent choices will be active once you start your next mission. Whoever designed this Talent Tree, did an amazing job. I might actually try other talents when I run the entire single-player campaign to hunt for achievements.

Archives

In Wings of Liberty, the Archives is accessed by clicking the computer console in the back of the bridge room. The Archive UI is kinda too crammed in and compact for my taste. It looks great, make no mistake, but in terms of flexibility and comodity the missions list is too small and narrow forcing you to scroll down a lot to find your desired mission or cinematic.

In Heart of the Swarm, the Archive can be found at the bottom of the Leviathan bridge alongside other navigation UI options. Now when you click the Archive and the page opens up — wow! Blizzard uses a large chunk of the page height to display all the missions and cinematics. Much better: the right pane is wider and gives you an image preview of what the mission or cinematic contains. It helps you understand and/or remember what that mission was about. I can’t say the same for the Wings of Liberty’s Archive where I sometimes wondered where to find a specific mission or cinematic because the title didn’t help much.

Just a sign that the StarCraft II Team nailed every possible setback in the prior system, and polished the Heart of the Swarm UI thoroughly thinking about the player.

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Creative Team – Heart of the Swarm Storyline

I am speechless. Brian Kindregan, Chris Metzen and anyone else involved in the storyline — you guys blew away all my expectations, conspiracy theories and predictions. To set the record straight, my “Vengeance” trailer predictions were completely smashed into oblivion. Utterly wrong in all predictions.

As revealed in the final pages of StarCraft II: Flashpoint, Kerrigan is taken to a secret lab within the Umojan Protectorate. The StarCraft II: Kerrigan – Hope and Vengeance # 0 Free Comics launched a week before the expansion release date revealed a scene between Kerrigan and Valerian Mengsk in said lab.

Heart of the Swarm starts where the comics left off. Kerrigan is undergoing her last tests. Jim Raynor enters the lab and asks Kerrigan to forget her path of vengeance, and to not give up on their relationship. Shortly after, Terran Dominion battlecruisers show up on the sky and deploy pods which penetrate the hull to infiltrate the lab. What happens next is for you to find out.

I don’t think I wish to spoil the storyline here. At least not yet. Kerrigan has a powerful reason to seek out the rampant zerg broods and to get them back under her control. One of her two motivations is to fulfill her vengeance against Emperor Arcturus Mengsk.

I was pleased to see Zeratul, though briefly, with Kerrigan. I don’t think this is a spoiler because we have seen Zeratul and Kerrigan in the Vengeance Trailer. Zeratul doesn’t even defend himself when Kerrigan (human form) assaults him. As seen in our Protoss Campaign transcript, Tassadar showed Zeratul a vision of the future the Overmind foresaw. In this future, Kerrigan had been slain at planet Char. The hybrids and their master had set the universe ablaze, and only one distant world remained as the last bastion of what remained of the Protoss civilization. In those desperate final moments, Zeratul, Hierarch Artanis and High Executor Selendris fought to the bitter end. The Fallen One revealed only one could have stopped his plans: Kerrigan. In their arrogance, the Protoss thought her to be the real threat.

It is no surprise that Zeratul would want to swallow his pride and to seek Kerrigan. As with Wings of Liberty, Zeratul appeared briefly in Heart of the Swarm. His wish: to show Kerrigan her next path. A path she most focus on in order to fulfill her role in altering the Overmind’s prophecy.

At first, Kerrigan is reluctant in chasing this path suggested by Zeratul. She doesn’t believe in the prophecy and she doesn’t wish to be a toy in its schemes. Zeratul is very convincing anyhow. Chasing down the path laid by Zeratul will allow her to fulfill her vengeance against Emperor Arcturus Mengsk. That’s enough for Kerrigan. Thus, she embarks into deep space to seek what Zeratul suggested. A planet many fans have no doubt wished to one day visit, or at least to learn more lore of.

Somewhere in their minds, Fans are going to scream like 5-age girls in excitement when this mission pops in their Heart of the Swarm single-player campaign.

I did never ever expect to see any of this lore happening. Blizzard Entertainment surprised me, and the reason Kerrigan must go there meshed so very well with the prophecy and how she might be able to beat the Hybrids’ master. I loved this twist.

There are two aspects of the lore in Heart of the Swarm I want to briefly mention without blowing Spoilers directly. Those who read StarCraft II: Flashpoint, concerning Narud and the Moebius Factor, that’s going to be wrapped up in Heart of the Swarm. I’m not going to say anything further. That’s for you to find out and unravel.

Another non-spoiler sort of spoilerish thing I want to share — did that make sense? — is another continuity nod. This one hails from a secret mission only found in the StarCraft 64 (Nintendo). Yup! It is canon, fanboys. You will see … you will see. Bet some fans are gonna do some homework to find out.

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Voice Over

I really have to thank Chris Metzen a million more times for bringing back Robert Clotworthy to voice Jim Raynor. This iconic character represents the potential hero within all of us. No matter how hard life is, and how injustice crushes us to a pulp. One draws strength from anything that’s important to us. We stand up, clear the dust, and We fight for our dreams — and dispense indiscriminate justice.

Robert Clotworthy is the heart of Jim Raynor. His voice. Robert isn’t replaceable. Robert is the soul of Jim Raynor, and the soul of all the millions of fans who love StarCraft. Thank you, Chris for listening to the fans.

Jim Raynor doesn’t have a lot of screen time in Heart of the Swarm, considering this is the Zerg campaign and Kerrigan is the main character and the driving force of this second episode. Yet, I feel Robert’s voice drew out the right tinges to set Kerrigan’s humanity and essence afloat. There’s care and love in his tone. Just because he sounds soft, doesn’t mean he isn’t the usual Jim Raynor. We get to see his dark humor and sarcasm the way only Robert can do it.

Real people out there have real-life difficulties and regrets in their lives. Those in the military — far away from home. Far away from family. Those who are unemployed like me. Those who have disabilities. Those who are socially or politically oppressed (name your applicable country here). I can mention many others who fit the bill. I fall into the unemployed and disabled categories (without the benefits of one at the moment). Add to that homeless. It’s been nigh two years.

It’s been a very mean and hard year and a half. Other person would be deeply frustrated and depressed. I gotta admit I have tasted some of that. Yet, gaming and daily updating a fansite keeps my mind soothed, and busy.

I live and experience sci-fi and fantasy worlds with characters that breath and shine hope and feelings that I have felt before, and feelings I have never experienced before, but my heart feels theirs as my own. I assimilate and evolve through living these experiences and emotions that story writers share with readers.

I played through Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm, and got deeply inspired by the iconic Jim Raynor character. He taught me that no matter how problems rain and pour down on you like acid, your heart and soul shall not be broken by nothing nor by anyone. That you shall always have hope that one day things will be better. You don’t need to be a religious person to learn that from Jim Raynor — from Robert Clotworthy — the soul of Jim Raynor. You are both a true hero. In our hearts. The players’ hearts. A hero to the real-life human beings behind the screen. Behind the keyboards. You teach us how to fight. A fight worth fighting for.

Back to the Voice Over topic, the entire expansion was mostly Tricia Helfer (Sarah Kerrigan). I will always have to bring it up, I can’t help it. I regret not hearing Glynnis Talken in her role as Kerrigan.I grew fond of Glynnis as much as I did Robert. Yet, I can’t deny Tricia Helfer has done an amazing job voicing Kerrigan, giving her certain tinges to the character that sound attractive and compelling.

There are scenes that demand that she is sweet and girly. Sometimes she has to cry and regret her actions or the fate of others she cares for. She got to be even manlier than Xena the Warrior Princess when she goes rage-mode during a fight. Tricia dominates all those shades of the emotional spectrum. I dig her.

Emperor Arcturus Mengsk (James Harper), Valerian Mengsk (Josh Keaton), Matt Horner (Brian Bloom) and Zeratul (Fred Tatasciore) do not appear often in Heart of the Swarm, but I admire their voices and personalities. I wouldn’t want any other actor replacing them ever. Hopefully, we see them in StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void more often.

The voices of the zerg support characters that accompany Kerrigan in the Leviathan bio-vessel and those in other zerg planets impressed me. Each has their unique personality and manner of speech. It’s not easy to talk like an alien zerg, or heck — it’s not easy to read a script that while it’s in english, the grammar is so messed up — bordering into non-sense, it would be hard to read and catch it on the first go. I imagine it took them hours of recording time and several attempts to get it right. Especially, Abathur and Dehaka who are the hardest ones, but Zagara and Izsha sound lovely, too. My respects. Great voices. Kudos to the VO Team.

Cinematics

Senior VP Art & Cinematic Development Nick Carpenter and his Team nailed Heart to the Swarm’s soul with these cinematics. There are sad moments. There are intense adrenaline-driven battles. There are romantic/nostalgic scenes between Jim Raynor and Kerrigan. Moments of blind rage suddenly shifting into regret and then into mercy. Those moments are captured in the cinematics and in-game cutscenes and transmitted into the fans’ brain and down their spine with a thrill. The Cinematics Team and the Voice Over Team captured all the real-life emotion spectrums of what is to be a human being.

The story and the visual animation and facial gestures boost the overall experience fans demand and expect from Blizzard Entertainment and its Cinematic Team. Though we always take it for granted, the Cinematic Team always surprise us with the “ohhhhh!!!’s”, “OMG!!!’s””, “Holy @#%!!!’s”, and “Wowww!!!’s”.

There are three Cinematics where Kerrigan uses her telekinetic and psionic powers to render her opponents into smithereens: The cinematic showing a mega-beat up Kerrigan gives Zeratul, the “Shifting Perspectives” cinematic, and the final cinematic are simply mind-blowing. Those three definitely need a BAFTA Award nomination. I really wish I could describe them in detail, but I’d be spoiling critical elements of the story.

The “Get it Together” Cinematic, where Jim and Kerrigan kiss. It’s such a powerful and special scene. The Terran Dominion Battlecruisers launch pods to infiltrate and raid the Umojan Protectorate lab in search of Kerrigan. She’s found, Jim Raynor comes to the rescue, but it turns out she took care of the invaders all by herself. This is not a damsel in distress. She takes care of business. In her anger, she mouths out she’s bringing payback to Emperor Mengsk, but Raynor comes from behind and grabs her by the arm pulling her and forcing her to turn around 180 degrees to face him. She looks into his eyes. Her rage is soothed, and she melts into his eyes. Raynor asks her to get it together. She softens up. That scene was kinda cute and sexy.

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Jim Raynor wants to escort her to the dropship, and opens up the gate like a gentleman to let her exit the room. This is a very human Kerrigan. One who is deeply in love. They kiss. I felt a thrill through my spine. One who acknowledges and respects all the sacrifices Jim Raynor went through to rescue her and to bring her back. There is humor and sexual innuendo to boot. That cinematic is definitely among my favorite ones in Heart of the Swarm.

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One cinematic that made me angered was the “Conscience” Cinematic, but that had nothing to do with the quality of the cinematics. The outcome of what happens at Planet Char is what bothers me. Such a waste. Yet, there is a shift of three mood-states happening within seconds apart that really touches the player’s heart to the core. First anger for what happens. Then, Kerrigan’s face turns from one of rage to one of regret. She looks fragile and human as she closes her eyes and her brows frown after what she did — displaying regret. Then a glow on her face shows her determination. One only realizes what just happened after hearing the radio transmission. Something one might never have imagined the Queen of Blades feeling ever again: Mercy. One can quickly feel portrayed in that scene. That reflects our daily life. That was a powerful scene. I loved it.

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To wrap up, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm is an awesome gameplay experience with new and exciting lore to match. If you haven’t upgraded to the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm (Standard Edition) yet, I encourage you to do so. The Collector’s Edition is still available while supplies last– by the way, and both are elegible for FREE Super Saver Shipping.

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Blizzplanet Review – World of Warcraft: Dawn of the Aspects (Part 1)

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Reviews, World of Warcraft News

world-of-warcraft-dawn-of-the-aspects-part-1-coverThe first thing to note about World of Warcraft: Dawn of the Aspects is its format. All Blizzard Entertainment novels to date have been printed as Mass Market Paperback (pre-2008), or Hardcover. They are also sold as eBooks, and rarely but we also see them as audio books.

Dawn of the Aspects, however, is presented to Blizzard fans as a 5-part digital book. The very first eBook spun from Blizzard Entertainment was Diablo: Demonsbane by Robert B. Marks (currently reprinted in the pages of Diablo Archive). Demonsbane originally saw low sales in 1999. The eBook market wasn’t that big then until Amazon launched Kindle, and later tablets boomed with the Apple iPad and other brands.

Most recently we have seen Blizzard VP of Creative Design Chris Metzen and Flint Dille delve into the tablet market with IDW Publishing’s Transformers: Autocracy, which originally shipped as a 12-part digital comics. I am a Metzen fanboy … of course, I read all 12-issues. A year after, the 12-part digital comics was printed as a hardcover. Will this be the case with Dawn of the Aspects? We’ll have to find out a year from now.

Their digital comics was so successful, they have teamed up to launch another 12-part Transformers: Monstrosity #1 (March 1, 2013).

Is going digital-only a smart strategy for Blizzard Entertainment to introduce Dawn of the Aspects and new stories?

The answer is complex to ponder and to analyze. I’ll go with the guts version. The lore fans out there love to read stories based on Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo. However, we don’t always have the time to read through 318 pages when we have real life matters, daily quests, valor points to earn, and raid schedules to fulfill.

So now we have Blizzard introducing yet another publishing format to how they present stories to the fans: A 5-part eBook. The tablet market is there, and lore fans most likely have a tablet, and those who don’t can still read this digital book on their internet browser. It takes less than 2 hours to read.

I just finished reading World of Warcraft: Dawn of the Aspects (Part 1). As I read the last page, I was left with this craving sensation that I have already experienced when reading a Marvel Comic Book. And what an amazing cliffhanger to end this first part of the story. I can’t wait for the second part to be available.

General Story

In a desperate bid to defeat Deathwing at the Maelstrom, the dragon aspects lost their powers. With the primordial guardians of Azeroth neutralized, it’s now the Age of Mortals. The future of Azeroth now lies on mortal hands.

What happened with the dragon aspects after the Fall of Deathwing, and why they aren’t present in Mists of Pandaria?

Richard A. Knaak addresses this enigma in World of Warcraft: Dawn of the Aspects (Part 1 of 5).

The blue dragonflight has disbanded and gone their separate ways to live as individuals.

The shrines of the Wyrmrest Temple have no purpose now. The dragonflights are in disarray. However, it’s the one last meeting place the dragon aspects choose to talk about the present affairs.

Chromie reports the timeways are in flux after the use of the Dragon Soul. Nozdormu interjects: “The timeways are no longer our concern! They are beyond my ability to control. From here on, the younger races and the younger races alone will deal with both them and whatever paths to the future they lead to.”

Merithra reports the nightmare stirs in the Rift of Aln (as seen in World of Warcraft: Stormrage.) Ysera says it’s a task only the druids may take care of.

Something this story clearly marks in our minds is that the Wyrmrest Accord is no more.

Nozdormu, Ysera and Alexstrasza don’t even acknowledge their former Aspect title. They are just like any other dragon. See no need to continue the accord.

Richard A. Knaak briefly mentions some events from Christie Golden’s novel World of Warcraft: Jaina. The theft of the Focusing Iris.

Khagdar has asked Kalec to join the Kirin Tor.

After the summit at the Wyrmrest Temple, the dragons convene to meet one more time a month from now to officially disassemble the Wyrmrest Accord.

Moments after the meeting, Kalec senses something, and begins digging beneath Galakrond’s skeleton. An octagonal-shaped magical relic triggers Kalec to see through Malygos’ eyes in a distant era before the Titans blessed the Dragon Aspects.

A time when they were mere proto-dragons roaming the skies, hunting food in the northern lands now known as Northrend.

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This first part of five, offers a pretty good tease of what one might expect throughout the story.

The author shifts often to the far past, and then back to the present as Kalec awakens from his visions.

Kalec witnesses the moment Malygos and Neltharion became blood brothers.

There is another continuity nod from the Tokyopop manga titled “Warcraft Legends”. Kalec finds the spirit of Buniq (a female Taunka). She was Akiak’s mate in Taunka’le Village. She had come to Galakrond’s Rest in the manga where she met her demise.

There is much more that will itch Warcraft lore fans’ curiosity and thirst for more. Undead proto-dragons that far back in the past of Azeroth?

The octagonal-shaped relic turned out to be part of another bigger object that resembled a human-like hand. Red Herring alert!!!

It’s not mentioned in this part what the hand belonged to, but lore fans might remember that early humans — the Azotha, had a legend of Tyr (WowWiki), who sacrificed his hand fighting against a great evil. Tyr replaced the lost hand with … a Silver Hand … as in the figure commemorated by the Order of the Silver Hand.

In Wrath of the Lich King, one of the quests sends you to each of the temples high in the peaks. It’s revealed that Tyr was one of the Watchers of Ulduar, along with Freya, Thorim, Mimiron and Hodir.

On June 2010, during the Ask the Devs # 1 Q&A, a fan asked: “Building off that- whatever happened to Tyr?”. Bornakk responded: “The watcher Tyr was not in Ulduar when adventurers finally freed the titan city from Yogg-Saron’s influence. If anyone knows where Tyr is now, he or she isn’t speaking up.”

It’s wild speculation at this time, but this novel might be the way Blizzard Entertainment reveals more info about this obscure character responsible for the guidance and protection of the early Azotha (Human tribe).

Going this far back in time, there is a pretty chance we might get to hear about the Titans, Yogg-Saron and the Watchers of Ulduar, the Nerubians and the Curse of Flesh? Only time will tell. Each part of this novel will be released in a monthly basis. So stay tuned for the next installment.

If I were you, I’d keep a close eye to this 5-part series. Read World of Warcraft: Dawn of the Aspects: Part I now. When ordering, choose the Kindle Cloud Reader to read over Firefox or other internet browser. Or download the Free Reading Apps for iPad/iPod/iPhone, BlackBerry, Mac, and Android.

Note: Recently, I asked Micky Neilson whether this story involves more details of the Titans, Yogg-Saron and Tyr. His response here. Was that a yes?!

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Spoilers over at the Scrolls of Lore forums.

Characters

Kalecgos
Alexstrasza
Ysera
Nozdormu
Neltharion
Coros
Chronormu (Chromie)
Afrasastrasz (commander of Wyrmrest’s defenses)
Merithra (Ysera’s daughter)
Jaracgos
Buniq (Taunka)
Magnataur
Tarys (Malygos hunting companion)
Jaina Proudmoore

diablo-iii-heroes-rise-darkness-falls-cover

Blizzplanet Review – Diablo III: Heroes Rise, Darkness Falls

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Reviews, Diablo 3 News

The Diablo III: Heroes Rise, Darkness Falls is a digital-only eBook — a rare format Blizzard Entertainment is currently pushing for the first time since year 2000. The first ever eBook from Blizzard was Diablo: Demonsbane by Robert B. Marks (Garwulf’s Corner). It was a time when the eBook format had just been born recently, and there wasn’t a big audience as nowadays with the boom of Kindle devices, iPad, Marvel Digital, and Comixology.

It reminds me a lot to how Chris Metzen and Flint Dille introduced Transformers: Autocracy to the fans of that universe. I was swayed into the 12-issue digital-only comic book not only because it was written by Chris who I am a loyal fanboy of, but through him I was able to re-experience one of my favorite childhood characters and sci-fi universes of the 80s when I was a teen.

A year after Transformers: Autocracy went live in the digital waves, IDW announced the Transformers: Autocracy (Hardcover).

It’s unknown if Blizzard Entertainment will go that route a year from now with Diablo III: Heroes Rise, Darkness Falls.

In the meantime, even if you don’t own a Kindle device you can still read this digital book straight from your internet browser via the Kindle Cloud. All you need is the Adobe Acrobat plug-in installed. Chances are you already have it installed. However, it’s a good idea to update it.

After you order the digital book, go to this URL: https://read.amazon.com to read it from your Firefox or Internet Explorer browser. You will see the eBook there. Or follow this instructions (view images).

The Diablo III: Heroes Rise, Darkness Falls contains fives stories previously seen in the official Diablo III website under the Game Guide page:

  • Hatred and Discipline (by Micky Neilson – Blizzard Publishing Lead)
  • Wayfarer (Cameron Dayton – Transmedia Consultant, Story Developer & Writer)
  • Unyielding (by Matt Burns – Blizzard Associate Publishing Developer)
  • Doubtwalker (by Matt Burns – Blizzard Associate Publishing Developer)
  • Firefly (by Michael Chu – Diablo III Quest Designer)

In the digital book, there are Black & White illustrations by John Polidora (Senior Illustrator/Concept Artist/Visual Development Artist at Blizzard Entertainment) placed at the first page of each story. The class sigil illustration is placed at the end of each story, too.

You will ask yourself: “Well, why would I pay $7.99 for something I can read straight from the Diablo III Website?”

You can set the Kindle Cloud to download what you purchased and to set an offline mode. In addition, there are two stories in this digital book never seen before, which expand the Diablo universe.

These two stories are:

  • Theatre Macabre: The Dark Exile
  • The Hunger

Theatre Macabre: The Dark Exile

Theatre Macabre: The Dark Exile is written by James Waugh (New York Times Best Selling Co-Author of World of Warcraft: Curse of the Worgen). The story hasn’t been read before in the official Diablo III website.

After reading this story, I was amazed at the lengthy dialogues between the characters. So much dialogue.

At first, I couldn’t wrap my mind around a theater theme and playwrights within the World of Sanctuary. Reminded me of Shakespeare and Dante’s Inferno for a sec. I was skeptic. Mea Culpa.

That didn’t last long though. The more I read, the more I wanted to keep going forward.

Behind all the theater stuff lies a story of the Dark Exile from a perspective we haven’t seen before. It was a mechanism to tell a grand story which reveals things not completely answered in Diablo II and Diablo II: Lord of Destruction.

Duriel and Andariel’s reasons to be in Sanctuary for example.

The story might also reveal who the Priests of Zakarum served, and what led to their corruption. Should be a must-read.

The Hunger

The Hunger is written by Erik Sabol (2009 Blizzard Global Writing Contest runner-up). It’s a new story we haven’t read in the official Diablo III website.

I have a mix of thoughts after reading this story. It’s about a woman who pays a wagon rider pretty well to take her cargo through the desert of Aranoch. I have to criticize we don’t know who the woman is nor her background or affiliation.

Each dialogue is short, and focuses more on fast-paced action. The story intrigued me. Out of the blue, the story ends – and I was left with this hunger to read more and figure out what really really happened in the story or what the point or goal was.

It’s a scary story, and definitely Rated M with gore and creepiness. For some reason, I was left with the feeling that we might see more about Rigley in the Diablo III expansion or elsewhere. Felt like a cliffhanger. Time will tell.

Final Thoughts

I’m game for more Diablo III themed stories. I got into reading Blizzard stories outside their video games after my very first IRC Chat interview with Richard A. Knaak back in 2003. It was a funny interview because I was asking him questions about Warcraft: Day of the Dragon (2001) without having read the book. Shortly after the interview I read the book. I couldn’t but start collecting all the books based on each Blizzard video game available at the time, and to religiously purchase every new publication from the pen of Blizzard Creative Team writers or the mainstream freelance writers whether they were books, manga, comic books or digital versions. Be it Warcraft, StarCraft or Diablo themed.

Reading the stories expands so much your knowledge of the video game, and gives a special depth to your gameplay experience. Ever since the Burning Crusade expansion, Blizzard Entertainment added another edge to storytelling with the help of Christie Golden.

Blizzard synchronizes these books and the in-game quests in ways that compliment and enhance your overall experience. In World of Warcraft: Rise of the Horde you would read about the Ata’mai Crystals, Velen and the Draenei, Oshu’gun in Nagrand — and you’d play the video game and go like — “Wow, I’m playing a quest about what I read in Christie’s novel!” — “Holy! I know this place, or that character!”

Every single novel and game expansion have been woven to tie-in, thereafter. I love that.

Now we have the first digital book ever since Diablo: Demonsbane, in an era where digital books are so mainstream. The question is … will Blizzard Creative Team be bold enough to bring these story elements into Diablo III or its upcoming expansion?

How do you translate these short anthology stories into in-game content? Especially, when Diablo III has been around a long time now.

I think Blizzard should consider adding new quests to Diablo III via patches. The venue is there. Every time I roam the lands of Sanctuary is a different experience. You’ll find random optional quests. For example, The Matriarch’s Bones or the Jar of Souls Event. These are random.

New Journals dropping from monsters or libraries hinting at events happened in Diablo III: Heroes Rise, Darkness Falls. Something reminiscent of the Ashbringer stories found throughout the world long before there was an actual Ashbringer in-game, serving as a hint of things to come in the Diablo III expansion.

That’s what I’d like to see in this new wave of digital book tie-ins.

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Blizzplanet Review – SteelSeries World of Warcraft MMO Wireless Gaming Mouse

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzplanet Reviews, World of Warcraft News

SteelSeries has launched a new World of Warcraft-themed mouse based on World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria. The SteelSeries World of Warcraft Wireless MMO Gaming Mouse has addressed two problems faced by many wireless mice out there: Latency and battery life.

This new mouse features a 2.4GHz wireless technology to increase performance. Plug the micro-USB into one of your ports to recharge your wireless mouse. No need to wait for a recharge anymore before using the wireless mouse, allowing for continuous and uninterrupted gameplay.

The software informs the user how much battery life is available, allows the change of CPI settings, polling rate and macros.

The performance is solid, the integration with WoW is the best you’re going to find, the quality of the mouse is superb and I’ve had great luck with SteelSeries mice. It’s also the best damn wireless mouse I have ever used.

  • Extended battery life, with wired option for emergency charging while gaming
  • 16 Hour Battery Life
  • Charging dock that showcases the mouse
  • Onboard memory for pre-pairing mouse & receiver
  • Illuminated laser etched logo
  • Pro grade 8200 CPI Laser Sensor, 150 IPS, 30 G acceleration

The World of Warcraft Wireless MMO Gaming Mouse by SteelSeries and Blizzard Entertainment features advanced 2.4GHz wireless technology, a beautifully crafted charging stand and the ability to go both wired or wireless for endless adventures. With a comfortable, ergonomic design, and unmatched software functionality, this mouse is a must-have weapon for all MMO players.

Built for players of all types–be they casual fan or dedicated raider, rookie or guild leader–the World of Warcraft Wireless MMO Gaming Mouse is designed to enhance your game play. Sophisticated software functionality lets you easily customize the mouse to suit your individual play style.

An Epic Pedestal for a Superior Weapon

The charging station is an epic pedestal that illuminates with the same brilliant blue that is features on the mouse. Emblazoned with illuminated runes, the charging base is also the wireless receiver and the home for your mouse when not in use to proudly display your mouse.

Wireless or Wired–Your Choice

Whether you prefer wired mice or simply ran low on battery life at a crucial moment, the mouse is capable of being connected via USB cable to continue gaming while simultaneously charging.

11 Programmable Buttons

Tested by World of Warcraft gamers and co-designed with Blizzard Entertainment, the new Wireless MMO Gaming Mouse has 11 programmable buttons, ergonomically positioned for comfortable gameplay.

The intuitive drag-and-drop interface of the SteelSeries software empowers users to program all 11 buttons with more than 130 preset game commands, and create custom macros and/or use the in-game macro scripting language.

Charge Your Battery While You Play

The SteelSeries World of Warcraft Wireless Mouse achieves an incredible 16 hours of intensive gameplay and even more during casual gaming. What’s more is that even if you should game beyond the life of the battery, simply plug the USB cable into the mouse and keep playing in wired mode while you charge the mouse.

Configure Your Settings in the Game

Plug in your mouse. Start your game. Configure all of your mouse settings from illumination to macros to button assignments directly from the World of Warcraft interface.

Illumination and Pulse

The World of Warcraft Wireless MMO Gaming Mouse offers illumination on both the mouse and charging stand featuring 4 levels of pulsation including Low, Medium, High and Off. So there’s sure to be a combination to suit every mood and occasion.

Whats in the Box?

Steelseries World of Warcraft Wireless MMO Gaming Mouse, charging station pedestal, and USB cable.

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Blizzplanet Review – StarCraft II: Flashpoint

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Reviews, StarCraft 2 News

During my visit to the New York Comic Con 2012, Simon & Schuster representatives hooked me up with a copy of StarCraft II: Flashpoint by New York Times Best Selling author Christie Golden.

I finished reading the book, and it’s very hard to contain myself, and not spoil things. I’ll do my best not to reveal the entirety of the plot, but at least enlighten you with an attempt to spark in you the interest to read this book.

StarCraft II: Flashpoint literally bridges the gap between StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm.

I’m almost convinced the expansion will start off with Sarah Kerrigan leaving the Umojan Protectorate to start her search for the Zerg.

The Umojan Protectorate is a non-Terran Dominion territory that many fans have probably wanted Blizzard to put into the spotlight in-game as it has in the Tokyopop StarCraft: Frontline manga. One can only hope.

Chapter One

The first chapter introduces readers quickly into the exact moment two seconds after Jim Raynor shot his handgun at Tychus Findlay.

The novel gets to portray what the game nor the StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty final cinematic could.

What was going on through Jim Raynor’s thoughts right after shooting his best friend. His reaction to seeing Sarah’s face as he carried her body outside the cave, as he looked into the horizon of Char’s surface.

Chapter Two

Valerian Mengsk meditates aboard the Bucephalus battlecruiser, orbiting planet Char. Ignorant of what’s happening down there. Whether Jim survived, whether the Xel’Naga artifact worked, or if Sarah had been reverted into human form or not, or if she survived the transformation.

I was glad to read Valerian remembering R.M Dahl and Professor Jacob Jefferson Ramsey (main characters of StarCraft: The Dark Templar trilogy).

I was surprised to read the idea the Xel’Naga artifact could change the Queen of Blades back to human form was actually an idea proposed behind-the-scenes by Jacob Ramsey. This piece of information was never mentioned in-game in Wings of Liberty.

However, it makes sense. Single-player lore fans no doubt wondered at some point how Valerian knew so much about the Xel’Naga artifact and what it could do to Kerrigan.

This is the perfect reasoning. Jacob Ramsey is not only the best archeologist in terms of ancient Protoss and Xel’Naga ruins and objects, but as read in StarCraft: The Dark Templar trilogy, his brain hosted the mind of a Protoss Preserver named Zamara; and learned her knowledge and that of countless Protoss’ memories throughout history.

Personally, I would have liked to see Jacob in-game in Wings of Liberty to provide the background and purpose of the Xel’Naga artifact. Nevertheless, StarCraft: Flashpoint does a great job filling readers in on what transpired behind-the-scenes in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty’s plot.

As Brian Kindreagan recently said: “We will always struggle with the fact that we get only a few lines of dialogue in this fast-paced, dynamic game to explain concepts that could fill 50 pages in a novel (such as the Overmind’s backstory, or the earlier discussion of free will). We’ll never be able to explain things in as much detail as I’d like, and will instead have to rely on the player to consider what we’ve shown and to interpret it. Narrative games are not films, and they are not novels.”

Not all stories mesh well in-game as it can in a novel. The novels have more room to flesh out things. Nobody wants to sit tight listening or watching cutscenes for 5 minutes. Gameplay comes first and foremost.

Chapter Three

Raynor’s dropship lands within the Bucephalus battlecruiser, Valerian’s flagship, to offer medical treatment to Sarah Kerrigan. Things get a little jumpy as Raynor doesn’t trust Valerian, and Valerian very well knows what Raynor is capable of for her safety.

However, what readers will find in chapter three is pure gold. You have never seen Prince Valerian Mengsk like this before. His true intentions throughout previous novels and throughout StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is revealed. Is he as treacherous as his father? Or is he a different person?

General Thoughts

I was hoping to see a sliver of the Queen of Blades somewhere in Sarah, but the author is blunt and straight to the liver. This is no longer the Queen of Blades. We truly face Sarah Kerrigan’s humanity — mind and soul.

I realize not everyone who plays StarCraft II, plays World of Warcraft or have read Christie Golden’s novels based on Warcraft. Many do. I have read all the Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo novels. Call me a lore buff.

I can tell you upfront. I love the twists, humor and the plot creativity of Christie Golden in StarCraft: Flashpoint. It feels much different than her work in the Warcraft universe, but she brings with her several years of experience writing Star Trek novels, and she got a deep and mature knowledge of the StarCraft universe, its characters, lingo and the locations throughout the Koprulu Sector.

I really hate to read novels that look more like poetry in motion than a novel — you know, describing something simple in so many fancy and sweetened words that it takes three pages to say it. That style doesn’t mesh well with sci-fi. Christie is fluid, and constantly pumping action from page to page. The story moves forward at a good pace.

Christie Golden added several continuity nods throughout StarCraft: Flashpoint. Some of these nods come in the shape of adult language or lingo often seen around Keith R.A. DeCandido stories such as StarCraft: Ghost–Nova, StarCraft: Ghost–Academy and StarCraft: Ghost–Spectres.

There are several flashbacks in this novel from the point of view of Jim Raynor — visiting the memories of the moment Sarah requested an evac, but Mengsk belayed the order and abandoned her to the Zerg. Lots of these flashbacks are based on factual continuity as sort of behind-the-scene stories players never got to see in the original StarCraft single-player missions.

Sarah at some point recalls when she first met Jim Raynor and Michael Liberty in Antiga Prime. The dialogue from the original StarCraft game is used word by word, which is a very nice touch. That scene where Jim and Sarah meet for the first time is very iconic when he realizes she is a telepath after she calls him a pig.

There are other flashbacks to year 2500, where the reader gets really close to Jim Raynor’s mind and heart witnessing the little things that made him truly love this woman.

I also liked to see some of the Hyperion characters found in-game make more than just cameos: Dr. Egon Stetmann and Chief Engineer Rory Swann.

The in-game cutscene showing the Cantina fight between Jim and Tychus is referenced. Some in-game funny moments such as Matt Horner’s embarrassment with his Deadman’s Port wife — this is the pirate space junkyard planet players are acquainted with.

The novel displays the accurate dialogues between Raynor and Valerian as seen in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty through flashback.

In another scene, Valerian is at the Hyperion cantina and he’s wondering about the jukebox wrapped above on the ceiling, and smirks at listening to the song “Suspicious Minds”.

I really love to read consistency, continuity, and nods to previous games and StarCraft novels. Christie Golden doesn’t ignore those small details. That’s something fans of the game will truly appreciate.

We even get to have a name for the engineering assistant folks standing around at the Cantina in-game including Bartender Cooper. The bartender’s name is mentioned in-game by one of the guys sitting by the tables in the Cantina when players click on him several times: “Man, old Cooper sure makes a mean Mai Tai.”

StarCraft: Flashpoint also reveals the first time Raynor met Matt Horner before Mengsk’s betrayal on Sarah.

There is also a nod to Chris Metzen’s story (Homecoming) in StarCraft: Frontline. Jim Raynor’s son and former wife are mentioned a few times.

There is one Raynor’s Raiders traitor who might not return as part of the Hyperion’s crew in StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, but I got a feeling we might see him at some point.

Christie Golden’s writing is non-stop action, with spiraling emotions, plenty of humor, and readers will find the many unpredictable turns very exquisite and satisfying.

Cherry on top — we learn more about Narud and the Moebius Foundation.

Get your hands on StarCraft II: Flashpoint to find out. It’s worthwhile.

I recommend reading it on a Saturday morning. Once you start reading, you will hardly have a chance to play or do domestic chores. You won’t be able to stop reading till the end with all the action and suspense.

I can hardly wait to play through the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm single-player.

StarCraft II: Flashpoint goes on sale on Tuesday, November 6th, 2012. If you haven’t yet, pre-order StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm. However, make sure to order it separately so both items ship individually.

Characters

Jim Raynor
Sarah Kerrigan
Tychus Findlay
Cam Fraser – Raynor’s Raiders marine
Matt Horner – captain of the Hyperion battlecruiser
Lisle – stayed behind to protect the Xel’Naga artifact.
Haynes – stayed behind to protect the Xel’Naga artifact.
Lily Preston – medic
Pilot Wil Merrick – Dropship Fanfare pilot
Rolfsen
Prince Valerian Mengsk
Everett Vaughn – captain of the Bucephalus battlecruiser
Emil Narud – scientist / leader of the Moebius Foundation
Emperor Arcturus Mengsk
Marcus Cade – Hyperion navigator
Dr. Frederick – Bucephalus doctor
Egon Stetmann – Hyperion lab scientist
Rory Swann – Hyperion Chief Engineer
Annabelle Thatcher – Hyperion engineering assistant
Earl – Hyperion engineering assistant
Milo Kachinsky
Bartender Cooper – Hyperion Cantina
Mira Han – Matt Horner’s wife at Deadman’s Port
Captain Roger Merriman – Herakles battleship
Scutter O’Banon – former leader of Deadman’ Rock
Ethan Stewart (mentioned) – former leader of Deadman’s Port, later Kerrigan’s zerg-infested consort in StarCraft: The Dark Templar trilogy
Phillip Randall (mentioned) – Scutter O’Bannon’s butler and assassin
Lieutenant Travis Rawlins – Bucephalus battlecruiser’s navigator
Scarlip – Deadman’s port thug
Yeats – Deadman’s Port doctor
Becker – Deadman’s Port doctor

Captain Sharyn Moore (flashback) – Captain of the Cormorant (old merchantman vessel) that transported Jim and Sarah to Orna III. Matt Horner’s former captain and ship.

Boots (mentioned) – Sarah’s pet for three weeks.

Dr. Orville Harris – chief scientist at the science facility of Orna III
Gary Crane – one of Mira Han subordinates at Deadman’s Port.
Liddy (flashback) – Jim Raynor’s former wife. Died of cancer. (StarCraft: Frontline Vol. 4 — Homecoming by Chris Metzen).

Dr. Phan – Ornan III
Dr. Elizabeth Martin – Ornan III
Dr. Chantal de Vries – one of the many doctors in the Space Station Prometheus who toured Dr. Stetmann.
Nancy Wyndham – doctor at the Space Station Prometheus
Joseph Reynolds – doctor at the Space Station Prometheus
Adrian Scott – doctor at the Space Station Prometheus
Elias Thompson – chief engineer of the Bucephalus.
Vrain, Osgood, Warren, Tseng and Mitchell – Narud security guards at Space Station Prometheus
Varley – White Star navigator
Maddie Wilson

Locations

Planet Char
Hyperion battlecruiser
Fanfare dropship
Bucephalus gorgon-class battlecruiser
Moebius Foundation
White Star – Emperor Arcturus Mengsk’s flagship battlecruiser
Deadman’s Port

G-2275 (mentioned) – gas giant, technological hub of the Confederacy. Raynor and Sarah were at its moon after the victory at Antiga Prime. They retrieved the plans to create upgraded Goliaths.

Orna III – science facility doing covert experiments on their citizens such as gene-splicing, brain modification, telepathic experimentation, disease testing.

Paradise – Deadman’s Rock town
Shilo (mentioned) – Jim Raynor’s homeworld
Kirkegaard Belt (known as Kick-You-Good Belt)
Space Station Prometheus – Moebius Foundation secret lab located within the Kirkegaard Belt
Umojan Protectorate

Valerian brought 25 battlecruisers to planet Char. Only fourteen survived the Zerg. Some of the battlecruiser names: Aenas, Amphitrite, Metis, Eos, Patroclus, and Meleager, Antigone, and Herakles.

Battlecruiser type mentioned: Minotaur-class and Behemoth-class.

References

Pearl of Pandaria review

Blizzplanet Review – World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Reviews, World of Warcraft News, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria

Blizzard Entertainment sent a copy of World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria for review. I just opened the box, and got thrilled with the format of this DC Comics graphic novel product.

Product Cover

I haven’t seen anything like this before from DC Comics. The dimensions of the book resemble that of an iPad, thus comfortable to hold. An iPad is 9.50″ x 7.31″. The World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria Graphic Novel’s dimensions are approximately 11.25 x 7.37″.

The front cover artwork of World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria seen above is a book jacket you can remove and frame up if you wish to. This is how the book looks like without the book jacket.

Introduction

The first chapter introduces the history of Liu Lang to set the background and starting point of this story for readers new to World of Warcraft and/or to the Mists of Pandaria expansion.

Liu Lang was the first Pandaren to leave Pandaria with the wanderlust of adventure. Originally, after the Sundering ten-thousand-years in the past the Pandaren thought the whole world had been destroyed, and because of the Mists none dared to explore thinking they wouldn’t find their way back home.

Liu Lang observed the dragon turtles would leave into the sea, but eventually returned to the shore they were born. Thus, with that wisdom, Liu Lang explored beyond the mists on top of Shen-zin Su.

The Pandaren laughed at Liu Lang and thought they would never see him again. Five years later, Liu Lang returned to Pandaria on a now grown turtle to share his adventures with fellow Pandaren. The turtle would return home every five years, and more Pandaren accompanied Liu Lang and as centuries went by the turtle became as big as an island.

Some of the lore in this graphic novel is exclusive and won’t be seen in the Mists of Pandaria expansion. However, the story of Liu Lang will be experienced by players who delve into the path of the Lorewalker. I recently shared my experiences in beta on where to find all the sites and achievements to reach exalted with the Lorewalker, and some videos that tell the lore of Liu Lang.

Micky Neilson

Micky Neilson joined Blizzard Entertainment in 1993. He’s got several video games story development experience under his belt, including: Warcraft III, The Lost Vikings II, World of Warcraft, StarCraft. He’s presently Lead Publishing at Blizzard with two graphic novels: WORLD OF WARCRAFT: CURSE OF THE WORGEN (co-written with James Waugh), WORLD OF WARCRAFT: ASHBRINGER (Number Two in New York Times Bestselling Graphic Novels List).

If you have read both graphic novels, you are in for a great story with PEARL OF PANDARIA. It’s written from the point of view of Li Li Stormstout, the niece of famous adventurer Chen Stormstout who we are acquainted with since his debut in the bonus orc campaign in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne (2003).

There’s definitely a message to be found in the context of the story aimed both at young children and [why not] adults. Sometimes we celebrate holidays, study history in school but do not live what we celebrate and commemorate.

Li Li is a dreamer and loves the stories of Liu Lang, but sees that her father and even the Elders of Shen-zin Su have forgotten what it is to leave the Wandering Isle and explore the world and enjoy every day of their lives in a continuous adventure.

She’s young, but not a coward. She refuses to live in a pedestal, and decides to leave the Wandering Isle to go in search of her uncle Chen Stormstout. I liked very much Micky’s approach and direction in this story.

According to Licensing Manager Kat Hunter, in the DC Comics website, this is an independent story outside the Mists of Pandaria expansion. While you might recognize some elements that appear in-game, the story takes place before the events Pandaren level 1-10 players will experience in the Wandering Isle’s starting location in-game.

One of the scenes when Li Li goes to Stormwind gives a glimpse into where in the timeline the story takes place, and it’s definitely not Mists of Pandaria-time, nor even Cataclysm-time. One guard is asking for volunteers to go to Northrend for the ultimate fight against the Lich King. Another scene reveals the fight against the Emerald Nightmare — which took place during World of Warcraft: Stormrage — hasn’t happened yet.

Li Li Stormstout is not an NPC in the Wandering Isle for example. You get to meet her as an NPC later on at level 86 in the Valley of the Four Winds alongside Chen Stormstout.

Sean “Cheeks” Galloway

Sean Galloway is the artist of the interior pages and front cover. Not everyone is used to comic books or animation, so it’s normal for people to like or dislike the artwork style.

Personally, when I saw the front cover a few weeks ago I had no idea who the artist was, but recognized the style right away. The artwork and the coloring resembles that in TV animated series and even Disney animated films. Knowing how Blizzard Entertainment works they will get the best in the industry. We have seen Simon Furman (The Transformers) behind the StarCraft comics series, Walter Simonson (Mighty Thor) behind the World of Warcraft comics series. All the awesome writers and artists in the Tokyopop Manga. You know the drill. Blizzard Creative Team is passionate about their projects and fans themselves of writers and artists that are involved in their personal geeky hobbies: Tabletop, fantasy stories, SciFi, etc.

I won’t lie. I have rarely watched american TV in the past 12 years since playing Blizzard games — kinda odd for someone who lives in New York City. Sean Galloway is a name that caught my attention though.

In the animation front, Sean Galloway is the founder of Table Taffy Studios and lead character designer for The Spectacular Spiderman animated TV series. Sean has been involved in Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms, Blood and Iron, Disney’s Tron Animated, Dreamworks’ Mastermind, G.I. Joe Renegades, and Scoobie Doo Mystery Inc.

As a comics penciler/artist he’s been involved in TEEN TITANS GO and the Teen Titans stories in WEDNESDAY COMICS. He’s also done video game and toy design. Some fans know him for his creator-owned properties: Bastion’s 7, Gumshoes 4 Hire and Little Big Heads.

In terms of World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, the artwork style sometimes might break what’s known as the “Warcraft Style” — which players are used to with Senior Art Director Samwise Didier, René Koiter, Glenn Rane, and other Sons of the Storm artists. However, considering the main character of this story is a little girl named Li Li, and the bulky shapes of the Pandaren — it made sense to go the TV animated series style which is welcomed by children, teens and adults in general, rather than one specific audience.

Some of us have been playing World of Warcraft since 2004-2006. Some might have by now a young kid at home which is ready to kick some indiscriminate justice at your side against the evils of Azeroth. World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria makes a perfect gift to a son/daughter, nephew/nice (etc.) as a background story prior to playing World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria.

The coloring techniques are amazing and quickly you get to dig Sean Galloway and his team’s style. There are many landmarks and locations captured in this 128-pages graphic novel, including Booty Bay, Ironforge, Kharanos, Azshara, Westfall, Golshire, The Dark Portal, Stormwind, Stonetalon Mountains, and Orgrimmar — to name a few.

Wish to ask Micky Neilson or Sean Galloway a question? Post a comment below using your Facebook/Yahoo login. We will talk with them on Wednesday during an interview.

Pre-Order World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria now. Release Date: September 26, 2012.

Chapters

  • Chapter One: The Song of Liu Lang
  • Chapter Two: Wanderlust
  • Chapter Three: Thunderbrew
  • Chapter Four: Kalimdor
  • Chapter Five: Journey’s End

Characters

Li Li Stormstout
Chen Stormstout
Strongbo
Zhahara Darksquall (Naga witch)
Blokk (Ogre)
Elder Po Stormstout (Li Li’s father, Chen’s brother)
Shisai Stormstout (Li Li’s eldest brother)
Xiu Li (Long-lost Elder Po’s wife)
Rahjak (Fel orc blademaster)
Grimbooze Thunderbrew
Dark Iron Coren Direbrew
King Magni Bronzebeard
Keeper Orremin
Rumblefitz (Goblin alchemist)
Fisherman Wanyo (pandaren)

Graphic Novel Credits

Written by: Micky Neilson (Blizzard Entertainment Publishing Lead)
Art and Cover: Sean “Cheeks” Galloway
Lettering: Saida Temofonte
Blizzard Special Thanks: Chris Metzen, Sam Didier, Cameron Dayton, Doug A. Gregory and Glenn Rane
Sean Galloway Special Thanks: Table Taffy Studio’s Derek Laufman, DJ Welch, Dario Brizuela, Caleb Sawyer, Hwang Nguyen and Ryan Odagawa.

Editors: Hank Kanalz& Sarah Gaydos
Design Director: Robbin Brosterman
Publication Design: Larry Berry
VP-Editor-in-Chief: Bob Harras
President: Diane Nelson
Co-Publishers: Dan DiDio & Jim Lee
Chief Creative Officer: Geoff Johns
Executive VP-Sales,Marketing and Business Development: John Rood
Senior VP – Business and Legal Affairs: Amy Genkins
Senior VP – Finance: Nairi Gardiner
VP-Publishing Operations: Jeff Boison
VP-Art Direction and Design: Mark Chiarello
VP-Marketing: John Cunningham
VP-Talent Relations and Services: Terri Cunningham
Senior VP-Manufacturing and Operations: Alison Gill
Senior VP-Digital: Hank Kanalz
VP-Business Affairs, Talent: Jack Mahan
VP-Manufacturing Administration: Nick Napolitano
VP-Book Sales: Sue Pohja
Senior VP-Publicity: Courtney Simmons
Senior VP-Sales: Bob Wayne

world-of-warcraft-jaina-tides-of-war-cover-final

Blizzplanet Review – World of Warcraft: Jaina Proudmoore, Tides of War

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Reviews, World of Warcraft News, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria

World of Warcraft: Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War takes place months after the Hour of Twilight and the defeat of Deathwing.

Prince Anduin continues his education in the Exodar with Velen and the draenei — in continuity with the Leader Short Stories: “Velen: Prophet’s Lesson” by Marc Hutcheson.

Kalecgos and the blue dragonflight continue to regret Malygos’ demise, the Nexus War and the Hour of Twilight which is their responsibility due to Arygos’ betrayal and the use of the Focusing Iris to give life to Chromatus — as seen in World of Warcraft: Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects.

Garrosh Hellscream recently set a plan in motion to invade Ashenvale — in the pages of World of Warcraft: Wolfheart by Richard A. Knaak. However, it backfired when the Alliance got word of it and reinforcements came in kind through Theramore marching toward Southern Barrens, Stonetalon Mountains and Ashenvale to respond to Garrosh’s atrocities.

Players have experienced this war in-game in the Cataclysm expansion’s low-level quests.

Garrosh has learned from his mistakes and came up with a master plan to now not only invade Ashenvale, but to take the entire Kalimdor continent for the Horde.

Christie Golden fully benefits from her years of hands-on experience playing World of Warcraft. She is played up to level 75, but still has plenty of material to work with. She used elements from each expansion to add to continuity. Garrosh uses elements from questlines seen in Terrokar Forest (Burning Crusade), Vash’jir (Cataclysm), Coldarra (Wrath of the Lich King) and fused them to mastermind Garrosh’s ultimate plan.

Tides of War is an epic battle between the Alliance and the Horde — rated M, with all the violence, blood and gore.

I was literally surprised by the large amount of characters that either take center stage in the story, or make a cameo. It shows Christie Golden and the Blizzard Creative Team worked really hard with each character that appears in the story and to keep track of continuity.

I’m still unsure about two characters who made a cameo, as they were supposed to be dead long ago, but in general I counted at least 84 characters. Some are established known NPCs who make a cameo, others were created by Christie Golden as they don’t even show up in WoWHead, and few are merely mentioned (i.e. Arthas and Admiral Daelin Proudmoore).

The story mainly focus on the point of view of Warchief Garrosh Hellscream, High-Chieftain Baine Bloodhoof, Lady Jaina Proudmoore, and Kalecgos the blue dragon. Supporting characters who get some relevant screen time in certain chapters are King Varian Wrynn and Thrall.

It’s no longer a spoiler to mention the focus of this book is to lay the groundwork for the destruction of Theramore — coming up in Patch 5.0.4 on August 28th.

This heinous crime is the trigger that starts the war that eventually causes the Alliance and the Horde naval fleets to get stranded within the Mists of Pandaria.

Thus, Tides of War novel serves as a prequel to the events of the upcoming World of Warcraft MMO expansion pack, which is expected to launch in September 25th.

Many changes are to come in the expansion, and I am not truly convinced some of these changes are currently seen in beta servers.

Not only Theramore, which will now become a crater, but even Dalaran might have some changes as well. Significant ones.

The events set in this novel will change Jaina Proudmoore in ways we have never expected, that will put her down the path of hatred and revenge her father Admiral Daelin Proudmoore and her former lover Prince Arthas walked. Will she come to her senses, or seek to return the atrocities of the Horde back at them in kind?

Whichever path she chooses, it will certainly change her forever.

I finished reading the novel. It shook me to the core at an emotion level no other Warcraft novel has at this magnitude. There will be countless loses of life — NPCs we have interacted with since 2004, and characters some players have grown fond with in past Warcraft novels.

I definitely recommend hardcore lore fans to pick up, and read World of Warcraft: Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War — available as hardcover, mass market paperback and eBook formats.

Got questions for Christie Golden? Blizzplanet’s Eldorian will have a live phone interview with Christie Golden on Wednesday, August 22. Share your questions for her here.

More comprehensive spoilers here.

Non-spoiler reviews and interviews by other fansites:

Diablo III Normal Difficulty Finished

Blizzplanet: Diablo III Normal Difficulty

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Reviews, Diablo 3 News

It’s been ages since the first time I beat Diablo II and Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. I can’t say I played religiously everyday, nor multiplayer. Still, I have fond times spending hours and days clearing every single cave, basement, and underground levels.

Some people rush through the quests to reach Diablo. I’m more a completionist, and I just can’t rush through. Takes longer, but satisfaction and victory thrill is felt tenfold.

It’s been over a decade, and we waited so long for this game to ship. After defeating Diablo III in Normal Difficulty, I can only say: It was worth the wait. Blizzard Entertainment’s creative team and the Diablo III team built something that feels like Diablo II, but improved so many areas of the game.

The storyline is awesome. I never saw many of these plots and characters coming. The story feels truly epic, be it quests, in-game lore books, or dialogues between the NPCs. I explored it all. From what I saw in the achievements, I barely missed a few in-game books.

I only found one flaw with the game, and that’s mostly because the Auction House is currently disabled until further notice. So hard to make space in your inventory and stash.

I’d say the cost for each stash 14 slots needs to decrease, and the cost of the tabs as well. The second tab costs 100,000. The third tab costs 200,000. That’s 300,000 — not counting the additional 10,000 per 14 slots.

At the time of finishing Diablo III, I only managed to get the second tab (100,000), and only have 50,000 gold (a quarter of what the third tab costs).

All my focus went into spending gold to buy 14 stash slots, and to buy the second stash tab, and all its slots. I was not able to invest in upgrading the Blacksmith. At all. Thus didn’t even use the Blacksmith’s recipes to build gear.

There’s a work around if you are running out of inventory space and stash space while you manage to get all three stash tabs. You have up to 10 character slots. Create two level 1 characters you won’t be using for a long while. Empty the stash onto both characters’ inventory — use them as bank characters so to speak. When the Auction House is launched, put all those items in those two bank characters for sale. Much better to use this method, than to trash stuff that might have potential value at the Auction House. Go, empty your inventory and stash to make space so you can keep farming Nightmare Difficulty items until the Auction House opens.

At level 32, I beat Diablo III Normal Difficulty wearing only what I looted from bosses and rare elites. Lot of yellow gear. No Blacksmith gear. I’m so glad I could experience the entire gameplay and storyline, and to be able to say indeed Darkness Falls, Heroes Rise. Mission accomplished. Yet so much work to do. Next step: Nightmare Difficulty.

Other than my suggestion to lower the stash costs, this game was worth the wait. Very polished, awesome scenarios, cool random events and game mechanics, and quests. Diablo III is everything Diablo II should have been, now in the flesh, made reality. I love this game, and truly hope to play it often in coop-mode. Big <3 to Jay Wilson, Christian Lichtner, Andrew Chambers, Kevin Martens, Jason Bender, Wyatt Cheng, and the remaining Diablo III Team.

I'm amazed by all the information found in-game about the story. Now I understand how important it is for fans to read Diablo III: Book of Cain and Diablo III: The Order. Reading those two books will prepare players to the video game’s storyline, and overall help them understand what’s going on, and who the characters and locations mentioned are.

Big kudos to Chris Metzen, Micky Neilson, James Waugh and the whole Creative Team for their truly epic story. As usual, there’s a cliffhanger. What’s next? As Jay Wilson mentioned throughout these past few years, there will be Diablo III expansions. Who do we fight now? There are some characters in the game whose whereabouts are still unaccounted for.

Update: Because of the ending, the repercussions are palpable, and yet unpredictable. Will the expansion be set several years in the future? Will Sanctuary have to fight in other worlds where the Burning Hells still have foothold? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I recommend reading Diablo: The Sin War Box Set (Kindle edition). To read the eBook on your PC/Mac computer or mobile device download the Kindle app.

As a mass market paperback, you can get it here:

Chronologically, Diablo: The Sin War is the earliest event in the Diablo story — about 3,000 years in the past. In this book, the Angiris Council voted against or in favor of humanity. The true origin of Sanctuary and the Worldstone are revealed too. Material that is widely used in the Diablo III quests, in-game books and NPC dialogues. Some important characters that play a role in the book trilogy: Trang’Oul, Rathma, Kalan, Lilith, Mephisto, Tyrael, Imperius, and Uldyssian.

Possible Expansion Characters – Spoilers

  • There are seven lieutenants of Azmodan. We only fight two: Ghom (Lord of Gluttony) and Cydaea (Maiden of Lust).
  • Missing Lieutenants of Belial
  • Adria
  • Zoltan Kulle
  • Inarius
  • Lilith
  • Malthael
Diablo III: The Order by Nate Kenyon

Blizzplanet Review – Diablo III: The Order

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Reviews, Diablo 3 News

I just finished reading our review copy of Diablo III: The Order by Nate Kenyon, courtesy of Simon & Schuster, Inc. and Gallery Books.

The short review: “I’m totally in love with Diablo III: The Order”. Ok, I have a couple of rants that a few trolls might also point out: Tyrael’s voice never talks to Cain (not even in dreams), and a pivotal moment could have had someone like Archangel Auriel (Hope), Trang’Oul or even a necromancer slipping in into the story to guide Deckard Cain in his most darkest time, but in general this book is a [must-have] to all Diablo III fans.

Curiously, there aren’t really Diablo III single player spoilers; except for maybe the epilogue which ties-in with one of the Acts. Even so, the epilogue happens probably 10-12 years before Diablo III.

While these might be spoilers, I think they might serve as key information to those wondering what the book is about. Don’t worry, these only comprehend about the first 50 pages of the book. You decide whether the topic interests you enough to buy the book, or not.

The prologue starts with Aderes Cain telling the story of Jered Cain and the Horadrim (as they hunt and imprison Diablo and his brothers) to a group of children, including her 11-year-old son: Deckard Cain.

This prologue serves as a foreshadowing or primer to understand Deckard Cain’s regrets for wasting so much of his younger life ignoring the stories and scripts about the Horadrim and the demons.

A young Deckard Cain who grew bored of the stories, angry for the loss of his father to disease, who wanted to pursue adventures and dreams away from Tristram — a place where nothing happened, and where he feared he would spend all his life working at a shop like his father. Typical attitude of a young rebel living in a farm, far away from cities.

After the prologue, sadly we jump forward in time to 1272 (59 years later). Deckard Cain should be around age 70.

It’s been ten years since the defeat of Baal and the destruction of the Worldstone (at the end of Diablo II: Lord of Destruction).

Deckard Cain journeys with the Paladin Akarat to the Vizjerei secret repository to search for scrolls that might give him knowledge about the End Days. Cain faces a demon who talks a mix of truths and lies, knowledge which Cain later uses to his advantage after the demon is swiftly defeated.

Deckard Cain travels to Caldeum to visit Gillian the Barmaid (check out her background at our colleague wikia site). She’s a well-known character from Diablo I (voiced by Glynnis Talken, alias Sarah Kerrigan). Adria left Leah to her care, and Cain wanted to keep tabs on the girl.

There’s a flashback (via Cain’s dreaming) of the events of Diablo I: mentioning Aidan, Gillian, King Leoric and Lachdanan.

Gillian sends Cain to bookseller Kulloom. Among the scripts found by Cain at the Vizjerei secret repository were Zakarum, Bartuc, and Horadrim texts. Kulloom hints at having heard of a Horadrim group. This revelation amazes Cain, who thought he was the last Horadrim, and sets to pursue any hints that may lead him to find them.

Nate Kenyon fleshes out the growing bond that unites Deckard Cain and a very young Leah. It’s touching how Leah changes dramatically her initial rebellious behavior to a caring one for the old man.

There are two main plots: the search for the Horadrim group in Kurast, and the one bound by prophecy.

A monk named Mikulov has read the prophecies of the patriarchs of Yvgorod. He has gathered scrolls from several locations around Sanctuary. Scrolls which have something in common: a time juncture that triggers the upcoming End of Days prophecy: The first day of the month of Ratham, the month of the dead.

On the side of the demons, Belial has powerful servants in Sanctuary with the gift of vision and prophecy. Several paths lead to different futures. Different outcomes. However, it’s intriguing none of them foresaw Mikulov in any of the visions — a monk who has visions of the future, too. He’s a wild card. Unexpected. Mysterious. Undetected in visions of the large tapestry of destiny. Intriguing.

After learning so much about Mikulov, and what he’s capable of doing, after playing Diablo III beta — I’m inclined to create a Monk character as my first Diablo III retail character. Mikulov rocks! It seems it won’t be the last we will see of him. I’m inclined to think we’ll see him in future novels. As Richard A. Knaak’s Zayl the Necromancer, many fans will truly get fond of of Mikulov the Yvgorod monk as one of the heroes of Sanctuary.

The author uses the moments Deckard Cain goes to sleep to give readers a quick intro to the lore of the previous three Diablo games (Diablo I, Diablo II and Diablo II: Lord of Destruction) via flashbacks tormenting Deckard Cain in his dreams. He sleeps often throughout a span of seven days.

Belial, the Lord of Lies is omnipresent throughout the story without making much of a screen time. There are spies everywhere. Anything or anyone can be the eyes or ears of Belial in subtle ways.

This book sets a pivotal point for readers to understand the Deckard Cain we will see in Diablo III. The book, of course, delves more into his weaknesses, and his personal regrets than the game itself.

Deckard Cain is a man that carries a heavy burden upon his shoulders. He blames himself for the sins of the past. As a young boy, he refused the Horadrim teachings shared down by his mother. He felt them to be mere unfounded stories.

He blames himself for the death of everyone in Tristram, and thinks Aidan wouldn’t have died if he had focused his young years to learn more from the Horadrim scrolls concerning Diablo and the other Prime Evils. However, how much of his self-doubt is his? How much are [lies]?

Diablo III: The Order is a tragic story of great proportions. I have never seen Deckard Cain so powerless, desolated, lonely, desperate, hopeless. Nate Kenyon delivered as a writer in this book revealing to fans (on-your-face) several facets of Deckard Cain we never knew of him, while capturing that essence of him we have grown fond with over a decade in the previous games.

Deckard Cain has reached rock bottom at a delicate juncture. And the sad part is Cain is out of time. The story locomotions toward a spiraling countdown. Each chapter, and each step taken, each day passed leading toward the first day of the month of Ratham.

A day Belial has designated for the death of the 8-year-old Leah, and the rising of the death — an army of the Mage Clans who died in a lost city of Kehjistan.

We’ll learn something new about Deckard Cain’s past. It seeps in slowly throughout the story. In stages.

Three powerful things will be used for the final showdown against Belial’s servants: hope (as their strength), courage, and a Diablo II item long-thought to be lost.

It’s safe to read the book before finishing the Diablo III single player. No spoilers there, except for a hint at the epilogue — at the end of the book, which ties-in directly with one of the Acts.

The book will change everyone’s perception of Deckard Cain. We’ll now see his most intimate thoughts and memories. His weaknesses, and his strengths through the mind-eye of the author: Nate Kenyon.

Is Deckard Cain a failure? A coward? Or a Heroe? Fans will see him like never before on both sides of the spectrum. For a first work in the Diablo universe, Nate Kenyon is welcome among the hall of legends alongside Richard A. Knaak. Hope to see more Diablo novels from both authors. Dark and gritty enough for old Diablo book readers, and informative to new readers who missed previous Diablo video games.

Order Diablo III: The Order (Hardcover) now. Kindle edition can be downloaded here. Don’t have Kindle? Did you know you can read Kindle eBooks on your PC/Mac internet browser? Download the Kindle Reading app.

Share questions for Nate Kenyon at our following forum thread. (One copy of the book will be giveaway)

Description

For more than ten years, Diablo has been one of PC gaming’s iconic and blockbuster franchises, with millions of players experiencing to this day all the adventure and terror in the world of Sanctuary. Now, DIABLO III: THE ORDER (Gallery Books, May 15, 2012; $26.00) will tie-in with the long-awaited release of Blizzard Entertainment’s all-new game, Diablo III. This original novel reveals the untold story of Deckard Cain, one of Diablo’s most popular characters.

Now a much older man, Deckard Cain is on a mission to find the remnants of a rumored Horadric cell, and must call upon all of his knowledge and wit to teach and inspire those around him even as they face danger and death at every turn. Can he lead the return of a ragtag group of Horadrim and their ideals to Sanctuary … or will they die out with Cain himself?

About the Author

Nate Kenyon is the author of StarCraft: Ghost–SPECTRES. He is a Bram Stoker Award finalist and he has had stories published in Shroud Magazine, Permuted Press’s Monstrous Anthology, Horror World, Dead Lines, The Harrow, and Legends of the Mountain State 2, and has several others forthcoming. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association and International Thriller Writers.

Nate Kenyon (Left) and Blizzplanet's Medievaldragon (Right) at New York Comic Con 2011

Characters

  • Deckard Cain
  • Aderes Cain (Deckard’s mother)
  • Gillian (cameo: Diablo II character, Caldeum barmaid, adoptive mother of Leah)
  • Leah (Age 8 )
  • Kulloom (Caldeum bookseller)
  • Belial, Lord of Lies
  • Hyland
  • James (Caldeum blacksmith)
  • Mikulov (Ivgorod Monk)
  • Cyrus (owner of the Red Circle Inn in Lower Kurast)
  • Lord Brand
  • Garreth Rau (scholar, one of the finest bookmakers in Sanctuary, leader of the Horadrim cell)
  • Captain Hanos Jeronnan (cameo – Diablo: Legacy of Blood)
  • Egil (Horadrim member)
  • Lund (Horadrim member)
  • Farris (Horadrim member)
  • Cullen (Horadrim member)
  • Thomas (Horadrim member)
  • Jordan (Horadrim member)
  • Anuk Maahnor (Bartuc’s captain)

Flashback or Mentioned

  • Farnham (lost his daughter to The Butcher)
  • Pepin
  • King Leoric
  • Aidan
  • Lachdanan
  • Albrecht
  • The Butcher
  • Wirt
  • Griswold
  • Asheara (Diablo II character, Caldeum’s Iron Wolves mercenary leader)
  • Trang’Oul
  • Ratham (founder of the priests of Rathma)
  • Bartuc
  • Horazon
  • Amelia (Deckard Cain’s wife, died 35 years earlier)
  • Thomas Abbey (Captain, Khanduras Royal Guard)
  • Archangel Tyrael
  • Kara (Necromancer) — looking back, while this character is only mentioned by Captain Hanos Jeronnan, and never appears in the story, she’s a canon-character from Richard A. Knaak’s Legacy of Blood along with her companion: Norrec. The book doesn’t mention her last name: Kara Nightshadow.
  • Norrec

Locations

  • Tristram (flashbacks)
  • Vizjerei Secret Repository (Bartuc followers’ runes and a closed portal to the Burning Hells)
  • Borderlands
  • Flating Sky Monastery (Ivgorod)
  • Kingsport (mentioned)
  • Lower Kurast
  • Gea Kul
  • Captain’s Table (Gea Kul Inn by Jeronnan)
  • The Black Tower (near the sea, Gea Kul)
  • Al Cut

Bestiary

  • Thresher
  • Sand Wasp
  • Unburied
  • Overseer
  • Fallen One
  • Feeder
  • Scavenger
  • Skeletons
  • Demons
  • Khazra (Goatmen)

Prologue: Memory

  • Prologue: Tristram, 1213

Part One: Gathering Shadows

  • Chapter 1: Ruins of the Vizjerei Secret Repository, The Borderlands, 1272
  • Chapter 2: The Hidden Chamber
  • Chapter 3: The City of Caldeum
  • Chapter 4: Gillian’s Residence, Caldeum
  • Chapter 5: The Black Tower
  • Chapter 6: The Bookseller’s Tale
  • Chapter 7: The Burning
  • Chapter 8: One for the Madhouse

Part Two: Darkness Descending

  • Chapter 9: The Cavern in the Hills
  • Chapter 10: Out of Caldeum
  • Chapter 11: Dreams of Tristram
  • Chapter 12: The Walled Town
  • Chapter 13: Lord Brand’s Manor
  • Chapter 14: A Stranger Comes
  • Chapter 15: The Graveyard
  • Chapter 16: The Hidden Room
  • Chapter 17: The Road to Kurast
  • Chapter 18: Tristram’s End
  • Chapter 19: The Red Circle
  • Chapter 20: The Docks
  • Chapter 21: The Feeder
  • Chapter 22: The Blood of Al Cut

Part Three: The Lord of Lies

  • Chapter 23: The Road to Gea Kul
  • Chapter 24: The Horadric Chambers
  • Chapter 25: The Camp
  • Chapter 26: The First Ones
  • Chapter 27: Lund’s Bow
  • Chapter 28: The Possession
  • Chapter 29: The Warning
  • Chapter 30: Blood Ritual
  • Chapter 31: A Plan Emerges
  • Chapter 32: The Tunnels
  • Chapter 33: Al Cut
  • Chapter 34: The Courtyard
  • Chapter 35: The Ritual Chamber
  • Chapter 36: The Walking Dead of Al Cut
  • Chapter 37: Gea Kul, Resurrected
  • Chapter 38: The Road Ahead

Epilogue

  • The Lord of Lies
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Blizzplanet Review: SteelSeries Diablo III Gaming Headset

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Reviews, Diablo 3 News

I have now about 5-6 months experience with the SteelSeries Diablo III Gaming Headset.

I can say “this is the best headset I have ever had”. The first time I unpacked this review copy, I was awed by its design and the box design.

The design is just a complimentary feature for Diablo III fans. This SteelSeries Diablo III Gaming Headset is actually a customized SteelSeries Siberia v2.

It has a 50mm speaker unit surrounded by leather, with XL-sized ear cups which cancel out noise. I have a hard time listening to people talking to me while playing video games because the ear cup does an amazing job at what it was designed to do — giving you that much of an immersion into the video games music, special effects and ambient sounds.

I play Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, World of Warcraft, Diablo III beta, Crysis, and other video games with the Diablo III Headset.

I feel this SteelSeries Diablo III Gaming Headset gives me an extra edge while playing FPS games. The sound is so amazingly crisp and clear, I can hear people walking nearby — allowing me to prepare an ambush. I can more or less determine where other players are by listening the direction in which their shooting sounds come from.

Without the headset I can’t hear nearby movement nor determine the direction where people is shooting from as I do while using the Diablo III headset.

For those using FRAPS, you can record videos using FRAPS while the Diablo III Headset is plugged into the computer, and the sounds can be heard in the uploaded videos.

Bang for your Buck

Alright. The SteelSeries Diablo III Gaming Headset is pricy: $117.78 (approximately). However, every single buck is worth it.

Ever spent $2.99 for a cheapo noname-brand headset from those 99-cents Stores? (guilty)

Ever got one of those $19.99+ Logitech headphones? (guilty)

How long have those lasted? A few months. Let me tell you what’s likely what caused 98% of your headphone’s malfunction. It’s the poor cabling protection.

The cabling is usually thin. As you handle it back and forth the cable bends, and the connection is lost between the jack and the ear cup receiver.

The Diablo III Headset (Siberia v2 D3H) is a diamond for anyone who wants the best sound quality, but the most important thing about this headset is its lifetime.

Cheap headsets usually malfunction within a few months. The secret of the Diablo III Headset (Siberia v2 D3H) is that it shares the same cable material as the Diablo III Mouse. The double-braided nylon cord prevents the internal cable from bending — the natural cause of the death of most other headsets.

The USB jack connector is gold-plated. The only benefits for gold-plated USB connectors is a better contact and that they do not oxidize or corrode, which of course extends the lifetime of the product another notch.

There’s a small box in the cabling that allows the user to adjust the volume of the headset’s sound, and it also has a slide-button to enable or mute the microphone.

The noise cancelling pull-out microphone is located on the left ear cup. You can pull out to use it, or hide it back in when not using it. Ideal for Skype and in-game chat via ventrilo.

Another wonderful feature of this Diablo III Gaming Headset is the length of the cable. The headset has a 1 meter (3 feet) cable, but a 2-meter (6.5 feet) extension cable comes along in the box to attach the headset’s USB connection. In total, you have a cable length of 3 meters (9.5 feet).

I am able to walk around the room to the small refrigerator and back without removing the headset. If you are listening to music, that’s great to be able to multi-task away from the computer.

Illumination Settings

The Diablo III-themed illumination around the back of the ear cups can be programmable.

The illumination intensity has the off, low, medium and high options.

Pulsation can be customized to steady, slow, medium, fast or trigger.

It’s Diablo-III themed, thus the illumination only has a solid red as a color option. No biggies.

Sound Settings

The SteelSeries Engine driver icon sits accessible at all times in the bottom-right of the Windows Vista/7 quick launcher area. Drivers can be found at Steelseries.com/support/downloads

The Diablo III Headset software has an equalizer UI to change the intensity and depth of the sounds. You can create profiles for each game, and assign a specific profile to be triggered by the launch of a game/exe by browsing the game location in your computer.

Box Design

The box has the golden Diablo III logo with a runic-like-embossed texture. The Blizzard logo and SteelSeries logo. Headset specifications and description.

The box is made of strong cardboard, and it’s designed to be opened easily.

The front of the box can actually be opened like a book. The frontal flap is kept closed with a tiny magnet hidden somewhere within the cardboard.

In the interior you can see Tyrael and Imperious artwork, as seen in the Diablo III: Book of Cain.

The text is localized in english, french, german and spanish:

And the Heavens shall tremble. Enhance your senses and prepare to safeguard the mortal realm from the rising powers of the Burning Hells. Hear the world of Sanctuary the way it was intended.

Co-designed with Blizzard Entertainment, the official Diablo III Headset brings players an immersive audio experience through its optimized soundscape, clear microphone communication and an illuminated, Diablo III-themed design. hear your fate. Prepare for victory.

  • Customizable Soundscape: Multiple Diablo III-themed options.

  • Plug-and-Play: In-line controls with USB connection.

  • Long Lasting Comfort: Lightweight suspension design

Cons

I only have one cons. Just one. I am not able to record sound in the Windows Moview Maker’s Narration timeline while the Diablo III Headset is plugged into the USB, and it is not even displayed in the sound source options. I can only see my internal sound card.

Not a big deal if you aren’t into video making. All you need to do is remove the Diablo III headset.

Conclusion

I’m waiting for the price to go down to get a second headset for two family members who would no doubt love this as a gift.

You really need to get the SteelSeries Diablo III Gaming Headset. Best sound quality, best cabling material, great length allows you to walk around the room. Microphone, mic mute and sound adjustment buttons. Long lifetime. Diablo III-themed equalizer UI (via SteelSeries Engine) and product design. It’s awesome. Go. Get. It.

Note: Blizzplanet is giving away one Diablo III Gaming Headset. Check out our Diablo Dialogue web show hosted by The Bearded Gamer to learn how to participate to win one.

Choose a country for faster shipping:

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Blizzplanet Review: Diablo III: Book of Cain

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Diablo 3 News, Featured Stories

Materials | Review | Press Letter | Content List | Credits | Gallery

Diablo III: Book of Cain is the official Diablo universe lore source book written by Flint Dille (The Transformers) with the collaborative assistance of Chris Metzen, Micky Neilson and Matt Burns from the Blizzard Entertainment Creative Team.

Blizzplanet got a copy of Diablo III: Book of Cain, courtesy of Insight Editions and its publicity manager, Carlie Demelo. Special thanks to her for the giveaway copies for our visitors.

I’ll begin the review of Diablo III: Book of Cain. Take a seat, and buckle up.

Materials

Insight Editions took very special care of the publishing process, production and appearance aspect of Diablo III: Book of Cain.

When you hold this book on your hand, you will notice the excellent care to details over its materials. The cover has the Diablo skull and all the stylish ornamental embroidery. All the outer-edge of the skull and the ornamental images are embossed. Embossing is made by letterpress machines which raise the level of the image using pressure and heat. The eyes and mouth are debossed causing a recession or hole appearance. You can feel the lines and holes with your fingers making the Diablo skull design sort of 3D, both visually and tactile. The cover treatment is a matte finish with both embossing and debossing.

The red rectangle with the Diablo III: Book of Cain logo is actually not part of the cover itself. It’s a separate removable paper, or belly band, wrapped around the cover flaps. The belly band is loose on the front cover, but it’s firmly held on the back cover.

What’s holding the belly band tight there? An envelope glued on the interior of the back cover, with a sticker in the shape of a candle seal. The candle seal resembles the image shown in page 145, which I’m guessing is the symbol of the Great Families of Xiansai (I might be wrong).

“What’s in this envelope?” — you ask. Within the envelope is a folded poster of the Sanctuary Map. The map itself is a die cut with irregular edges along its border — obviously a real-life old scroll replica.

When you see the side of the book where all the pages are, and pass your finger through its thickness, you will feel a sandy texture on your fingertips. It looks like rugged cardboard to give it a old paper feel of ancient scrolls.

Taking a single page between my fingers, I could see what gave that texture. The edge of each single page has been cut in irregular shapes giving it a feathered appearance. If you slide your finger along the edge of the page you won’t feel the straight line cut of normal pages, it’s a rugged surface. I’m told this is known as deckled edges.

Each page has a yellow-orange 2D texture to resemble papyrus or ancient scroll paper.

Insight Editions wanted this book to delicately resemble a real world replica of the in-game Book of Cain item. I’m completely astonished with the material and printing processes of Diablo III: Book of Cain. This is a book leaking design excellence, as you would always expect from a Blizzard licensed product.

Quick Look Inside

Usually, books have a page with the name of the publisher, the writer and all the credits, the publishing year and copyright notices, and even a introduction message or dedicatory. Blizzard licensed books, in specific, usually have a glossary and/or reference list telling you all the books where determined topics originate from in continuity in the last pages.

Insight Edition went in a different direction.

The first page says: “Take heed, and bear witness to the truths that lie within. For they are the last legacy of the Horadrim.”

There’s no credit page, or copyright notices nor a content list in the initial pages.

You will see the title … Diablo III: Book of Cain in the initial pages; where the only thing written is: “text by Flint Dille” and “Insight Editions”.

After that page comes the letter addressed to Leah by Deckard Cain which she is meant to read after his death. This is the page Insight Editions recently shared in public during the 12 Days of Diablo III: Book of Cain. That was only page one of three. The letter offers more details.

At the end of the book you will see another letter to Leah. Finally, the last page contains the copyright notices and credits.

Materials | Review | Press Letter | Content List | Credits | Content List | Gallery

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World of Warcraft: The Shattering Review

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, World of Warcraft News

World of Warcraft: The Shattering by Christie Golden was in the Top 25 New York Times Bestselling Hardcover Fiction List for around five consecutive weeks.

It’s no wonder. The novel is a World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion tie-in. A prequel.

In this novel, Deathwing has not yet emerged from Deepholm. However, most of the story setting seen in the expansion is mentioned in the novel. Thus, the novel reveals how things came to be the way they are in-game.

For example, the main topic of the novel revolves around Thrall. What led him to vanquish his title as Warchief. The elements are in distress, and at times don’t listen to the call of the Shamans.

The earthquakes, storms, tsunami, and fires keep increasing as weeks go by with no definite source to what’s causing the worldwide problem.

Thrall decides to embark into a long journey to learn more about his shamanic and spiritualist ancestry in order to learn what’s going on in Azeroth, and in learning, be able to help the elements.

Not much of a spoiler because most of players already experienced the pre-Cataclysm world event and its phases.

Remember that scene when Thrall goes to Nagrand to learn at the Throne of the Elements? We see all the story prior to Thrall arriving there unravel.

Grandmother Geyah wasn’t able to teach her grandson Thrall, err Go’el, but her right-hand: Aggra, obeys her wish to take the task.

Thrall learned shamanism from Drek’Thar long ago, as seen in the novel Warcraft: Lord of the Clans. However, Drek’Thar didn’t have the necessary tools to do the rituals and tests Thrall required.

The ritual should have been done surrounded by a community of Shamans while Thrall enters a deep trance to face his trials before the element spirits.

The relationship between Aggra and Thrall is a tempest during his training. It’s revealed why she is so angry at him. However, I can say Chris Metzen kept his word that Thrall would be falling in love, as stated a few BlizzCon ago.

It wasn’t Garona as he joked, but now we know he wasn’t able to talk about Aggra yet without spoiling certain things about Cataclysm. Christie Golden is a legend when it comes to bringing forth the emotive feelings in her writing style. You won’t want to miss this interesting hate/love interaction between Thrall and Aggra.

The Shattering is not just about Thrall, however. For the first time in a novel, Prince Anduin Wrynn takes most of the spotlight. We have seen Anduin and his mindset in the World of Warcraft comic book under the hands of Walter Simonson, but Christie Golden had the opportunity to really polish and dye-finish what Walter clay molded.

A comic book has a bit over 20 pages, while a novel has 352 pages.

There’s a broader approach with the nearly mother-like relationship between Lady Jaina Proudmoore and Anduin throughout the novel. Anduin also grows gradually in maturity. At the end of the novel, the child Anduin we know ends up more like an adult teenager understanding and executing the concept of politics, and diplomacy as he would once he becomes King. We see Anduin falling in … love?, for the first time.

King Varian Wrynn decided to let Anduin stay in Ironforge for a while, hoping he would be trained to be a glorious warrior the way he was trained as a child himself. His primary reason for this decision was to keep his boy away from him, while he deals with his Lo’gosh personality and inner-demons.

In the pre-Cataclysm world event, we helped a courier that was under attack by the Twilight Hammer to take from him a tablet from Ulduar. This is further explored when one of the tablets reach Ironforge.

King Magni wishes to lead the tablet ritual himself hoping to commune with the earth to understand what’s so wrong that the elements are in disarray, and to help. Things go wrong. So wrong.

King Magni Bronzebeard transforms into pure diamond before the astonished eyes of Anduin, High Priest Rohan, Belgrun and Magellas.

This later leads to a coup in Ironforge when Moira Bronzebeard comes to claim her heritage as Empress of Ironforge, leader of two kingdoms.

In this novel, we see how the Council of Three Hammers is formed, which is composed of Moira (Dark Iron Representative), Muradin (Bronzebeard Representative) and Falstad (Wildhammer Representative). This is what triggered the whole Red Shirt Guy thing during BlizzCon 2010. He read The Shattering a few days prior to BlizzCon, and noticed Kurdran Wildhammer was in Ironforge’s Throne Room instead of Falstad.

Another aspect of the pre-Cataclysm world event is seen with Garrosh taking the mantle of Warchief when Thrall assigns him to watch over the Horde while he goes to Nagrand to learn how to help Azeroth’s elemental spirits.

Christie fleshed out the whole Garrosh vs Cairne Bloodhoof relationship from the moment Cairne arrives to Borean Tundra to take home the Horde after the defeat of the Lich King.

Cairne saw things that alerted him of how dangerous it was to let Garrosh loose with too much power.

Things get really bad when Thrall decides to appoint Garrosh as Warchief. However, a misunderstanding caused Cairne to call upon an orcish duel to strip Garrosh from his position. Garrosh in turn bluffs to force Cairne to retreat his challenge by asking the duel to be the old way: to the death.

Everyone wishing to learn how Cairne died would love to read it through the mind-eye of Christie Golden.

We see a very unusual alliance surfacing when Baine Bloodhoof seeks help to retake Thunder Bluff. One that really makes no sense unless we play the low level quests in Dustwallow Marsh.

Overall, World of Warcraft: The Shattering is one heck of a rollercoaster ride jam-packed with action on both sides: The Alliance and the Horde. Lot of emotional moments. Intrigue. Conspiracy. Betrayal. Love. Anger. Revenge. Uncertainty.

Most, if not all the characters, are characters that already exist in-game. That’s a nice touch.

It’s a must-have in your collection of Warcraft novels, and it does add to your knowlege of the game lore and quests by revealing to you how the status quo in the Cataclysm expansion came to be.

Once you read World of Warcraft: The Shattering, your feeling toward the Cataclysm will be widen up several notches, and you will hope the upcoming World of Warcraft: Thrall, Twilight of the Dragons is released soon enough to keep reading.

Christie Golden is a known World of Warcraft gamer, and she has helped build the lore and content that developers pour into the game.

Review: World of Warcraft: Shadow Wing Vol. 1, Dragons of Outland

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Games News, Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, BlizzPlanet Articles, World of Warcraft News

TOKYOPOP Editor Troy Lewter sent my way an early copy of WORLD OF WARCRAFT: SHADOW WING, in terms you can remember from an early interview of mine with Richard A. Knaak, it is the first volume of a trilogy titled DRAGONS OF OUTLAND, in which we learn the lore that led toward Malygos’s return to his senses from his milennia insanity and the Nexus War against the Kirin Tor and the Wyrmrest Accord.

The manga will be at a bookstore near you on June 1, 2010; but if you need a little jumpstart to get your engines going, I have written a lengthy article that mentions a few key moments of this story, without necessarily spoiling it too much. Just enough for you to get a grasp of what the first installment of this manga trilogy is about.

Without further ado, and minding a few spoilers here and there, feast my lore-hungered boys. Tip: Jorad Mace, Tyrigosa, the Nether Dragons, Deathwing and an original second war Death Knight on the loose in Outland.

If you loved the stories within Warcraft Legends, be prepared to get bewitched by World of Warcraft: Shadow Wing.

This manga trilogy is based on the two characters from the pages of WarCraft: The Sunwell Trilogy. The very same manga that spawned the likes of Kalecgos, and Anveena (known in-game at the Sunwell Plateau dungeon), Trag Highmountain (known in-game at the Argent Tournament Grounds in Icecrown) and Dar’Khan Darthir (found in-game at Deatholme in the Ghostlands, Quel’Thalas).

Like all of these characters who first were born in the TOKYOPOP manga, and appeared in-game time later during the Burning Crusade expansion, both protagonists of WORLD OF WARCRAFT: SHADOW WING were born in THE SUNWELL TRILOGY and became quest NPCs in the Burning Crusade.

You can find both, Jorad Mace and Tyrigosa, at the Celestial Ridge in the region known as Netherstorm in Outland. To refresh your memory, Tyri (or Tyrigosa the blue dragon) gives you the quest to kill Veraku — the leader of the Nether Drakes in Netherstorm.

Her quests: A Promising Start, Securing the Celestial Ridge, and Troublesome Distractions. Ok, you got the idea. This manga gives you a prologue to their adventures in Outland, before those quests. How they got into Outland, and how they happen to learn about the Nether Drakes. That’s all in WORLD OF WARCRAFT: SHADOW WING.

The story by Richard A. Knaak is very fluid and packed with action in all fronts between the Burning Legion and the Alliance forces at the Dark Portal’s Stair of Destiny in Hellfire Peninsula, dragon against dragon, Gronn versus dragon, Ragnok’s forces against our heroes, and much more.

All brought to awesome detail by artist Jae-Hwan Kim: face expressions, body details, background details. The inker and texture makes this entire manga be a yummy sight. I’m not sure if the artist inked it, or Marco Paolilli, but it looks astounding. Jae-Hwam Kim’s art style and Richard A. Knaak’s writing are a perfect match for World of Warcraft: Shadow Wing. No wonder this manga took so long in the making.

Storywise, Jorad Mace comes to Outland with the Alliance forces to fend off the Burning Legion’s advancement into the Stair of Destiny in Hellfire Peninsula under the vigilance of Lord Irulon Trueblade of the Argent Crusade.

Jorad Mace continues his quest to make himself worthy and redeem his past transgressions against the former Silver Hand. The Light abandoned him long ago before the events of Warcraft: The Sunwell Trilogy, and he seeks to be worth of the return of the Light into his being.

On a separate quest, Tyrigossa has come into Outland hunting down a disturbance too familiar for her taste. She can’t pinpoint what it is, or how it relates to her hunches but she has come to seek it. It turns out to be the Nether Dragons. Are they friend or foe? Sadly both. Zzeraku sees her as a foe, but Valoku wishes to befriend the blue dragon.

“Wait hold it there, Medievaldragon — that name rings a bell.” — hah, I read your mind, eh? Yes, the same Zzeraku that became a prisoner of Lady Sinestra at Grim Batol in the novel World of Warcraft: Night of the Dragon by Richard A. Knaak. Except, we get to see the recent past before he was captured by her. Remember Dragons of Outlands was delayed for a few years before the release of the former.

We get to see an image of Deathwing as shown in the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm concept art when Tyrigosa senses the familiar magical signature in one of the black dragon skeletons found in the Nether Dragons’ lair in Blade’s Edge Mountains.

We see the interaction of Jorad Mace and Tyrigosa with the Draenei Broken tribe of Hellfire Peninsula as allies. The first encounter between the Alliance and the draenei of the Temple of Telhamat, and the introduction of Ragnok Bloodreaver — one of the original Death Knights created by Gul’dan, still in his decaying human host.

That bears some explaining for those who missed Warcraft II. During the final throes of the Second War, Warchief Orgrimm Doomhammer ordered the Horde to slay the Shadow Council. Only Gul’dan survived because he was catatonic after his mind-melding (so-to-speak) with Medivh at the moment of his death.

Gul’dan pleaded Orgrimm for his life, and offered an army of dead risen human knights holding magics to counter the Alliance’s mages. What Gul’dan didn’t tell Orgrimm was that these human corpses would be risen as hosts for the spirits of the slain Shadow Council — thus creating the original Death Knights, of which Teron Gorefiend was the first, and Ragnok Bloodreaver one of them.

It is wildly rumored by lore fans that this Ragnok might be the same mentioned in the novel World of Warcraft: Beyond the Dark Portal by Aaron Rosenberg and Christie Golden. So far, I can’t confirm if that’s true yet.

Ragnok Bloodreaver wishes to become the new master of Outland, and plans to conquer Azeroth as well. Obviously, he is not aligned with Illidan nor the Dragonmaw Clan. He seeks to destroy Illidan and all his forces in the Black Temple with the use of the Nether Dragons, employing the services of Kadavan, a mercenary Ethereal who uses his magical technology to hunt down and capture the behemoths. Ragnok is even assaulting the Dragonmaw Clan to steal the Nether Drakes controlled by them.

Ragnok has his own cadre of Fel Orcs, probably stolen from Hellfire Citadel’s surroundings and some of the Dragonmaw are threatened to be killed by the Death Knight if they disobey or fail his orders, following him unquestionably.

Comparing both MAGE and SHADOW WING, I feel more inclined for the latter. It’s well executed with a lot of action, mystery and drama. The pacing resembles much what some of us are accustomed with comic books from panel to panel interweaving plot after plot from different points of view.

I can’t wait for volume two to come out. Expect World of Warcraft: Shadow Wing Volume 2: The Nexus Point on November 2010. And the third part somewhere in 2011.

Don’t go thinking “Meh, this is a wannabe non-canon story” because you are wrong. Most of what Knaak writes is outlined to him by Blizzard Creative Team, and he fleshes out, then the developers add the story and characters into being in the MMO. It’s canon. The TOKYOPOP editor Troy Lewter, who sent me a copy of this manga a month before it goes into bookstores (on June 1) wrote an afterword located near the final pages of this manga.

There Paul Morrissey and Troy Lewter thank the people behind this story, including Richard A. Knaak, Jae-Hwan Kim, and the Blizzard Entertainment’s Creative Development Team: Jason Bischoff, Joshua Horst, James Waugh, Micky Neilson, Evelyn Fredericksen, Samwise Didier, Tommy Newcomer, Cameron Dayton and the thundergod, bourbon cowboy, father of Warcraft lore hmself — Chris Metzen. Did I miss any title? (chuckles) Ok. All-seeing and loved VP of Creative Design too, but that be the lesser of his titles before his loyal fanboys — myself included. He’s up there along with the legends: Stan Lee, H.P. Lovecraft, J. R. R. Tolkien, Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, and many others loved by fans of Fantasy and Sci-fi genres. Ok. Enough boot-licking. Koff.

Get your copy of WORLD OF WARCRAFT: SHADOW WING. You won’t regret collecting the trilogy. It looks very promising, and dare I say rival previous WarCraft manga in lore and awe.

This is the missing story that gaps World of Warcraft: Night of the Dragon and the Nexus War. From this trilogy comes the truth behind Malygos’ cure and decision to start an all-out war against the Kirin Tor and the Wrymrest Accord.

And from the picture of Deathwing as seen in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm’s concept art, dare I say we will learn more than we could possibly guess as a tie-in with the upcoming expansion? You bet.

Check out the preview images of WORLD OF WARCRAFT: SHADOW WING.

Don’t forget to participate in our Blizzplanet giveaway of this manga and the giveaway at Wow.incgamers

EXTRAS

The first volume of the manga takes us to Hellfire Peninsula, Dragonmaw areas in Shadowmoon Valley, and Blade’s Edge Mountains.

Lord Irulon Trueblade – is one of the characters who led the incursion into Outland to fend off the demons from accessing Azeroth during the Burning Crusade in this manga. You can find him in the Howling Fjord at Valgarde currently in Wrath of the Lich King.

Lord Trueblade oversaw Jorad Mace’s progress to redemption, but initially gave him more humbling tasks to do such as helping with the construction of their outpost.

Amaan the Wise – from the Temple of Telhamat in Hellfire Peninsula appears in the manga with a convoy of Draenei to introduce his people to Lord Duron, Commander of the Alliance Forces at the Stair of Destiny in the Dark Portal, Hellfire Peninsula.

The Broken – (Krokul in draenei old tongue)

Warrith – leader of the Broken in Hellfire Peninsula, and father of Valwar.

There is reference to how Gruul and the Gronn killed the black dragons at Blade’s Edge Mountains as revealed in World of Warcraft: Beyond the Dark Portal.

Some of the creatures we see in the manga are:

Gronn
Wrathbringer
Shivan (six-armed demoness)
Felguard
Nether Rays

World of WarCraft: Shaman Preview

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Games News, Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, BlizzPlanet Articles, World of Warcraft News

After reading World of Warcraft: Mage (read my review, I discovered an interview held by Tokyopop editors with Paul Benjamin in the last pages.

The interview is about his upcoming manga titled World of Warcraft: Shaman.

I am going to post that interview in this article, but before that I just want to kick the Beehive to shake lore fans and fill them with interest. Check it out on October 2010 folks, because that’s when you will learn more about that mysterious character revealed in the pages of White Wolf’s World of Warcraft RPG: Dark FactionsHigh Shaman Muln Earthfury, leader of the Earthen Ring.

Description

Earthquakes. Fires. Floods. Tornados. The elements of Azeroth are out of control, unleashing devastating natural disasters that threaten to tear Azeroth asunder.

All hope rests with the shaman, who are able to commune with the elements. Muln Earthfury, the shaman leader of the secretive Earthen Ring, attempts to pacify the elements — but his pleas fall on deaf ears. The elements are unresponsive, full of confusion and chaos. The Earthen Ring is riddled with doubt. Have the shaman lost their ability to corral and guide the elements?

Mysteriously, Shotoa arrives. This Tauren shaman doesn’t just merely tend to the elements — he forces them to do his bidding. Shotoa promises to lead the Earthen Ring into a new era of Shamanism … As the world crumbles around them, Muln and the Earthen Ring must decide if Shotoa is a hero or a heretic …

Written by Paul Benjamin (StarCraft: Frontline) and drawn by Roccio Zucchi (World of Warcraft: Death Knight), WORLD OF WARCRAFT: SHAMAN ties into the upcoming World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion in stunning ways!

Available October 2010.

Interview

Is it safe to assume that you’ve played a fair amount of WARCRAFT? Do you have a favorite class to play?

Benjamin: My main is a pally retadin. That’s a paladin built to do lots of damage for any noobs reading this (Hi, Mom!). I tend to do a fair amount of solo play because if I play with a group I’m on for too long and wouldn’t make any of my Warcraft writing deadlines! The pally is great for soloing because I can heal myself and do plenty of damage. That said, I do have a lot of fun playing with guildies or doing random heroics when I’ve got the time. ANd, of course, since writing SHAMAN I’ve really been digging my new shammy character as well.

Give the fans the inside scoop on WORLD OF WARCRAFT: SHAMAN. What’s the story about? Is it true that it will tie into the upcoming CATACLYSM expansion?

Benjamin: SHAMAN is the tale of a group many players have seen around Azeroth and beyond: the Earthen Ring. The main characters are Muln, the tauren High Shaman of the Earthen Ring, and his orc apprentice, Kettara Bloodthirst. The focus is on them and the elder council of the Earthen Ring, so I’ve gotten to write dranei and trolls as well as a few very important (and well known) orcs from Orgrimmar. The secrets of CATACLYSM are quite closely guarded at the time of this writting, but there’s a lot of connection between this book and the upcoming expansion. I can tell you that the elements are in upheaval adn that’s wreaking chaos with the powers of Muln and the Earthen Ring.

SHAMAN is a story about tradition versus change and choosing which one is more important. It’s also full of shaman calling down lightning, summoning elementals and manifesting totems to help them smack down any monsters stupid enough to threaten the shaman way of life. And it’s all beautifully illustrated by DEATH KNIGHT artist Roccio Zucchi, so I imagine fans will be as excited to read the book as I have been to see those pages coming in as she works!

World of Warcraft: Mage Review

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Games News, Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, BlizzPlanet Articles, World of Warcraft News

Richard A. Knaak receives a lot of good feedback, which translates in the success and sale of World of Warcraft and Diablo novels, and some bad feedback from the minority.

WarCraft: MageI don’t mean to offend those with bad feedback, I have read and understand their concerns, but sales would be low otherwise if everyone or the majority thought likewise.

The way I see it, there is room for every type of writer, and each has their own technique and style. There’s room for everyone. And Richard A. Knaak has a tall condo, not just a room.

The artwork by Ryo Kawakami is not very detailed when it comes to backgrounds, like Jae-Hwan Kim or my favorite, Hector Sevilla; but Troy Lewter — the editor — does mention in the back of the manga that they were on a deadline, and the artist was pretty swift in making things happen within that deadline. So, let’s be forgiving, and see other work of Ryo.

I either like a style or dislike it. I like the artwork in World of Warcraft: Mage. Some people may think otherwise.

There’s a difference between manga and comic books, and while I am new to the manga world, I welcome the style.

I have always said I am not really into manga, but there are many styles and I do dig my first incursion into reading manga: Starcraft: Frontline, Warcraft Legends, and World of Warcraft: Death Knight are pretty cool art-wise.

I am more a comic book reader having a large collection of all kind of X-men titles, and some Avengers and West Coast Avengers. I also check out the latest previews of all kind of Marvel Comics titles (not just X-men) at Newsarama.

There’s a lot of new artists with great styles, but from my early incursions into comic books back in 1996, I like Joe Madureira, Ian Churchill, Chris Bachalo, Alex Ross, and others. Their styles are very different from one another.

If anything, I welcome different styles, and open-minded to taste other people’s work — in both fields actually: writers and artists.

I do hate some artists’s styles more than others, nevertheless, but rarely. Coughs-José Ladrönn. Sorry dude, you ruined it for me in CABLE.

Decade-old-rant aside, I read an advance review copy of World of WarCraft: Mage, thanks to Troy Lewter [TOKYOPOP editor].

The very-short description of the book released last April 2, and its front cover could barely offer fans any grasp at info to form a guess.

Reading the manga, I am surprised at how Knaak weaved the story behind the Nexus War’s assault on Dalaran.

We see how the Azure Ley Dragon Cyanigosa, dragonkin and drakonids got access into the Violet Hold, bypassing and weakening Dalaran’s outer magical-shield.

It all came from within. From the cover, you might think Rhonin and this mysterious kid Aodhan work together all along from beginning to end of the story, but that’s clearly not true for most of the first half of the manga.

Aodhan is a reckless kid who tries hard to demonstrate his abilities, who wishes to prove worthy to his father and to himself by one day becoming part of Dalaran’s defenses.

He is taught by Master Simeon, a Dalaran mage trainer, who keeps Aodhan pressed to the limit because he considers the kid needs to learn to be patient and focused before leveling up in rank even when he surpasses any other student in skill for those at the same level. The kid simply rushes recklessly without measuring the possible consequences.

There is a bit of lore thrown in into the mix about the Book of Argaleus the Crafter who lived centuries ago. Myth says he learned the spell language written on this special book from Malygos. Among the marks on the book can be seen the All-seeing Eye of the Kirin Tor.

The opening of rifts within the Violet Hold was not the first attempt. It had been breached before, with help of Aothan and his uncle Crevan. This explains why some of the cells in the Violet Hold prison are empty. Some of the lesser beings such as a fire revenant, ogre magi, and a void terror (like Immol’thar in Dire Maul west) were locked within, and freed to cause a distraction from the true target that would destroy Dalaran.

We get to see Archmage Modera, Rhonin and Archmage Aethas Sunreaver in action fending off the Azure Ley dragons from bypassing the outer shield of Dalaran, but no real background or lore about these three Kirin Tor council members.

The story focuses on Aodhan the mage apprentice, his attunement to magic which promises to see him one day as a powerful mage.

Richard A. Knaak shifts his story-telling back and forth between the present to the past to explore the origins of Aodhan, his family, and his motives to become a great mage.

However, we learn the true meaning of being a mage is not about controlling magic, but to humbly learn to wield magic for the benefit of everyone, not oneself.

World of Warcraft: Mage contains an interview about World of Warcraft: Shaman — revealed to be written by Paul Benjamin and art by Roccio Zucchi.

It also contains a preview of WORLD OF WARCRAFT: SHADOW WING, VOL. 1: THE DRAGONS OF OUTLAND. The same exclusive preview TOKYOPOP and Blizzard granted Blizzplanet a few weeks ago.

Check out our recently-released exclusive preview of World of Warcraft: Mage.

Don’t forget to participate on our giveaway of World of Warcraft: Mage while it lasts.

World of Warcraft: Mage hits bookstores on June 1, 2010. Pre-order it here.

StarCraft: Heaven’s Devils Preview Video

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Games News, Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, BlizzPlanet Articles, StarCraft 2 News

Starcraft: Heaven’s Devils by William C. Dietz will be on sale April 6, 2010 — but I got an early copy some time ago to show you a preview. This is the first StarCraft novel published as a Hardcover. The artwork in the front cover shows Jim Raynor on his Marine suit. You can see the visor matches that of the Jim Raynor Noobz given away at last BlizzCon 2009’s swag bag.

The book comes with a detachable dustjacket which contains the front cover’s artwork. All the latest Warcraft hardcovers from Gallery Books (a division of Simon & Schuster) and even DC Comics’ Starcraft Hardcover come with a dustjacket design. The one thing I love about that is that it gives you the option to frame the dustjacket as your own piece of art — pretty good for those who wish to collect them, and hang the frames on the Office or bedroom’s wall. Those wondering, the artwork on the dustjacket was drawn by Glenn Rane. The dustjacket was designed by Alan Dingman.

When you open the book, you can see the flaps of the dustjacket wrapped around the Hardcover. On the left flap is a short excerpt of the novel, and on the other side is the photo of William C. Dietz and his bios. The first and last page have the Heaven’s Devils insignia

In the StarCraft: Heaven’s Devils‘s interior you can find four full-color artworks by the Starcraft II Art Team. The first artwork shows the Heaven’s Devils squad led by Jim Raynor. This is the photo that you will be able to view in-game in the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single-player at the Joe Ray’s Bar in Mar Sara, after Tychus Findlay enters the Bar. The photo can be found at the interactive bulletin board.

The second image is the Fight for Freedom poster featuring Jim Raynor in his Marine suit, which has the Raynor’s Raiders insignia on the right shoulder. We saw both posters at the computer room during our visit to the Blizzard’s studios in Irvine.

The third artwork describes a scene within the novel’s story where Kydd, Harnack and Jim Raynor flee a local police car aboard Jim Raynor’s Vulture hovercraft. The final artwork shows Jim Raynor on his Marine suit and Tychus Findlay back in the old days.

The four artwork samples were illustrated by Wei Wang, Steve Hui, and Luke Mancini from Blizzard Entertainment.

One thing that caught my eye and that truly makes me love this novel is its StarCraft Timeline in the back. It spans 13 pages in length, not only telling you what happened since the 16th Century, but also showing you book references. Every single StarCraft book since 2001 is referenced in the StarCraft Timeline, in case you wish to buy that book from a local or online bookstore.

Order online here:

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Starcraft Hardcover Vol. 1 Preview

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Games News, Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, BlizzPlanet Articles, StarCraft 2 News

DC Comics recently sent me a copy of the Starcraft Hardcover Vol. 1 which compiles issue # 1-7. This product will be available on sale this upcoming April 13, 2010 for those who missed the comic book ongoing series.

Although the ongoing series has been canceled with issue # 7, Wildstorm recently announced they will change format to Graphic Novel. There is no ETA yet when, but we will keep you updated when anything new gets announced.

In the meantime, here you have a video of the unpacking of the Starcraft Hardcover, and what’s inside as a sneak peek for those who might be interested in purchasing the trade paperback in hardcover format. The street price is $19.99, but some bookstores online have it priced for $13.49.

Order online here:

JINX WoW St. Valentine’s Kwee Q. Peedlefeet T-Shirt

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Games News, Blizzard Product Reviews, BlizzPlanet Articles, Store, World of Warcraft JINX T-Shirts, World of Warcraft News

J!NX has a new San Valentine’s Day or “Love is in the Air” T-shirt on sale! It is the Kwee Q. Peedlefeet T-Shirt for World of Warcraft players. Cute gift for a girlfriend, and friends.

Use the code: ZOMBIELOVE at check out to get a 20% discount on any purchase greater than $40 or more. Valid until 02/14/2010. Not valid with any other offer.

Starcraft # 7 Review

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Games News, Blizzard Product Reviews, Blizzard Products News, BlizzPlanet Articles, StarCraft 2 News

As reported a few weeks ago, Wildstorm and DC Comics announced the subscriptions of the Starcraft and World of Warcraft comic books were cancelled. This in response to a new agreement between Wildstorm and Blizzard Entertainment to make a move into the Graphic Novel format.

While you no longer get your monthly fix, this new format allows better storytelling with more pages, less rushed plots with cliffhangers in mind at the end of each issue and a more streamlined story. The other benefit is these graphic novels come out as hardcover.

Subscribers of the Starcraft comic book received this week their last shipment with issue # 7.

It ended with the death of one of the War Pigs, and a few twists in the story.

The interaction between character’s dialogues looked good-good as you can always expect from Simon Furman (TRANSFORMERS). The artwork by MIke S. Miller was among the best I have seen in the short-lived series. The coloring by Carrie Strachan makes Mike’s artwork justice. Lot of pastel colors and interesting hues.

A few months ago, I asked Chris Metzen during our single-player hands-on interview if the War Pigs would appear in Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty. While they aren’t planned for the first episode, he didn’t rule them out of upcoming episodes.
It was a tricky question, mind you, scratching into spoiler. My theory was that while the War Pigs were hired by the Terran Dominion to kill Jim Raynor, somehow we would see what happened with General Duke. In the throes of Zerg threatening their lives against a wall, the War Pigs would join Jim Raynor if he came to the rescue.

It’s been six months since the interview with Chris Metzen. While my prediction was not accurate, the result was the same.

The War Pigs end up smooch-smooch with the man they were hired to kill. The part I got wrong was that Raynor didn’t rescue them from the Zerg. Basically they were all in a predicament, and out of survival instinct they worked together.

That, and it turned out that the leader of the War Pigs — Cole Hickson — was formerly a friend of Jim Raynor before he was resocialized. They had saved each other at different times during the Guild Wars, years ago. The twist was he was resocialized with an experimental procedure, and he was implanted a memory that would be triggered upon meeting Jim Raynor: Kill Jim Raynor.

Cole pullled a gun on Jim Raynor, point blank, and fought his programming eventually losing consciousness.

That’s how issue # 6 ended. Issue # 7 kicks off with a flashback where we learn more about the War Pig member Romy Pyrius.

The short story takes us back to year 2483 in New Gettysburg, Tarsonis. Romy Pyrus, the War Pig medic, was formerly a pharmaceutical entrepeneur who sold controlled drugs in the streets of Tarsonis. By night, he was a mercenary taking jobs from the Confederates to assassinate V.I.P. people that stepped on their nerves.

During one of those mercenary gigs, Pyrus compromised the mission with a side drug gig. His whole team was captured and used as guinea pigs. Pyrus sold his team for his freedom, and continued his drug dealings.

It’s pretty nice to see some continuity between the Starcraft: Ghost pocket book, the Starcraft: Ghost Academy manga and the Starcraft comic book even with these smaller details. The drugs mentioned are Hab, Turk, Snoke and Bog.

In the present, 2502 at Urona Sigma, Jim Raynor and the War Pigs face oblivion watching into the horizon how the Protoss Carriers incinerate the world like they did with Mar Sara. It’s armageddon time for all of them with no way out. Jim Raynor extends his arms and simply awaits the end of the world as wave after wave of giant lasers incinerate the surface around them.

While the dialogue between the War Pigs and Jim Raynor is full of sarcasm and fun moments, I can’t but feel a bit disappointed. There was no Protoss coming down to rescue Jim Raynor. No telepathic contact. No beaming up aboard a Protoss Carrier. No. That’s not how Jim Raynor saved his arse from this one.

The only reason he survives is because Commander Lars Trakken had a score to settle with Cole Hickson, and no Protoss incineration would strip him from the pleasure of telling in Cole’s face all he endured after he stole his life years ago; and to pull the trigger on him. So, to make a story short Trakken bought Raynor and the War Pigs the ticket out of Urona Sigma before becoming War Pigs umm B.B.Q. (pun intended). A too convenient mechanic plot, but oh well.

At the end, Raynor and the War Pigs part ways. Looks like the upcoming Starcraft Graphic Novel will focus on some dispensing indiscriminate justice on the man that hired them to do the deed: Tamsen Cauley. Will the War Pigs survive? Will they join Jim Raynor and his Raynor’s Raiders? We might have to wait for the Graphic Novel to find out.

Will the War Pigs show up as mercenaries in Starcraft II: Hear of the Swarm or Legacy of the Void? That can probably be a safe bet considering Metzen’s interview.