Hearthstone Beta – Crazy Game

Written by Andy Go on . Posted in Blizzard Games News, BlizzPlanet Articles, General News, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

I had some free time in the afternoon, so I did a quick match in Hearthstone Beta… and whoa.. I didn’t expect things to get this crazy.

2315

If you can’t see properly, Click on the picture. If not:  Here

Yes that’s 23 Attack / 15 Defense on a creature. I still won though, he had only 3 health left and his creature couldn’t attack my hero. Had one taunt creature, he had to force himself to attack it, then on my turn just used Arcane Shot & Steady Shot to get the win!

 

Pandygo crashes on Blizzplanet

Written by Andy Go on . Posted in BlizzPlanet Articles, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Starcraft 2, Uncategorized, World of Warcraft News

Greetings everyone, my name is Andy “Pandy” Go, I am very happy and thrilled that I am now part of the Blizzplanet Team. I have always been a loyal fan to Blizzplanet ever since the website started back in 2003. I have always been a huge Blizzard fan from Starcraft to Diablo to Warcaft and now Hearthstone.

I hope to provide you all the in-depth information and latest news of all Blizzard Games, and mainly Hearthstone.

starcraft
What it means to be a true blizzard fan..

WOW_BLOODSWORN

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.

Red Shirt Guy

Greetings from The Red Shirt Guy

Written by Ian Bates on . Posted in BlizzCon, Blizzcon 2010, BlizzCon 2011, BlizzPlanet Articles, General News, Lore, Uncategorized, World of Warcraft News

Hello, my name is Ian Bates, more commonly known as the Red Shirt Guy, and I am happy to say I am now Blizzplanet’s newest contributor! In the coming days, weeks, months etc I hope to provide a variety of, perhaps not news but “flavor” articles for the site. You can expect lots of speculative ideas on future content, as I love imagining expansions, zones, where the game could go. I’m also planning on doing an article about the current “faction bias” issue that has reemerged with patch 5.3.

I hope you will enjoy these future articles and that they will help make Blizzplanet a fun read for all fans of Blizzard’s products.

Red Shirt Guy

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Blizzplanet Interview: Cory Stockton Discusses Patch 5.4 Siege of Orgrimmar

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzplanet Interviews, Interviews, Patch 5.4 - Siege of Orgrimmar, World of Warcraft News

Blizzplanet and several fansites had the opportunity to interview the World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria developers. In our case, I interviewed lead content designer Cory Stockton to talk about the Siege of Orgrimmar, and the Timeless Isle.

Some of the questions came from members of the Scrolls of Lore forums, including The RedShirtGuy (known as Insane Guy of Doom).

Note: Uploading video # 1 of 2 in about an hour from now.

Interview – Part 1

I added subtitle captions directly into the YouTube video. Click the (cc) icon in the embeded video to enable it. Transcript can be found below after the video. There are potential spoilers in the video (gameplay and a couple quests in the Timeless Isle), thus watch at your own discretion. Otherwise, the transcript is available.

Hi everyone! I am Tomas Hernandez also known as Medievaldragon from Blizzplanet.com

Today I have the honor to interview Cory Stockton, the lead content designer for World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria

Hi Cory, welcome to Blizzplanet!

Cory: Hi, How are you doing?

 

Fine. My first question will likely make you sweat a little bit.

I’m beginning with two questions submited by the Red Shirt Guy. Uh-oh! (laughs)

Cory: Great!

 

So here we go. In Patch 5.2 there was a ton of build up for the Throne of Thunder outside the raid dungeon itself. There was a server effort going from Stage 1 to Stage 5. What was the reason behind this direction of not building up toward the Siege of Orgrimmar in Patch 5.4?

Cory: We’ve been planning Throne of Thunder and Lie Shen and that concept for a long time and we really felt like there was a ton of value in explaining the background story behind the mogu.

The mogu were one of the key enemies that we’ve created for Pandaria. We just felt like there is a ton to exploit there a lot of great opportunity to do unique boss fights that really fit with the kit that we were shooting for.

And I think in general it all played in to the concept that of what Garrosh was trying to do with the Horde, with him trying to gain control — essentially he was trying to gain control of the mogu as well, to use them. He didn’t succeed, obviously, but I think — be able to explain these concepts behind that was all valuable stuff to us. We really feel like it was one of the greatest raids that we’ve made along with — you know — the island and everything that went along with it.

We learned a ton … from the questing and the style of stuff that we did there — but we really felt like that was, at that time, that was the direction we really thought like that was the right way to go.

I don’t think we have any regrets about choosing to focus on the Thunder King.

 

Why aren’t the worgen nor the draenei involved in the Siege of Orgrimmar? Both have involved in the Siege of Orgrimmar? Both have their own reasons to drop the hammer on Garrosh.

Cory: I mean, in theory, everyone have their own reasons why they want to take out Garrosh. If he’s able to complete the plans that he is, as you has seen, what he is building up to do … Basically, Garrosh could destroy all of Azeroth if he’s got the power that he’s trying to get.

So I think that’s generally what we’re trying to get across. Obviously, some people have more personal vendettas against him (what he is doing), but in general all the races of Azeroth really should feel like he’s a giant threat that they need to take him out.

And, hopefully, we made that clear through the patch cycle leading up to this.

 

Is the Mogu Rune of Fate going to work on Siege of Orgrimmar, or will players use a new type of token for free loot roll? Actually, I found Mogu Runes of Fate in the Timeless Isle in the PTR.

Cory: I believe the current plan is to keep Mogu Runes of Fate. I don’t think that’s changing. We can confirm that, but I’m pretty sure that’s not changing them that’s why you are seeing them drop on the Timeless Isle.

Last minute changes: Mogu Runes of Fate can be found on the Timeless Isle, but Warforged Seals will be the new currency for bonus rolls in Siege of Orgrimmar. As with previous tiers, Lesser Charms of Good Fortune will be used to obtain Warforged Seals from the weekly quest NPC. For players still running Throne of Thunder for loot in patch 5.4, we’ve added several new ways to obtain Mogu Runes of Fate for bonus rolls, including throughout the Timeless Isle.

 

Are we going to see new recipe loot for professions in Siege of Orgrimmar? Like a new shield from Blacksmiths, new inscriptions — or something like that?

Cory: Yea, there is new recipes all across the patch and lots of different areas. There are stuff that drops from the raid.

There’s stuff that you can find as outdoor world drops. There’s things that you can buy. There’s a pretty massive selection of new stuff that is coming in 5.4; and spread across a lot of places, but yea, you’ll definitely get some out of the raid.

 

Currently in the PTR, Vereesa and Aethas Sunreaver seem to have placeholder armor. Are they getting a new model or new armor for the Siege of Orgrimmar?

Cory: At this point, I do not think, most of the art that is in for patch 5.4 is in at this point. I don’t think we’ll be seeing any — there might be some late updates that are coming but mostly what you see now should be what the final art is going to be.

 

What’s the reasoning for the developers to go with Gamon as part of Siege of Orgrimmar, and not have Alliance NPCs for Alliance players, specificly like Admiral Taylor vs Nazgrim, or Varian and players versus Garrosh.

Cory: I mean, I don’t think we’ve a specific reason necessarily other than the fact that we thought that character really fit as far as like what we were trying to get across for players for what they are doing.

I don’t think we have any sort of agenda that we’re trying to say, we are trying to say, you know, we’re building something specificly for Horde, or specificly for Alliance. We try to make sure that our content is appealing
to both factions.

Obviously, we’re raiding Orgrimmar here so there’s going to be some stuff that’s more unique to that, but in general — you know — we try to take these things into account to make sure that we’ve things that players from both factions can enjoy and feel that they fit into the game for them.

 

Each raid usually has a brand-new boss mechanics. Something new that you consider exciting in this patch?

Cory: There’s way too many brand-new raid mechanics to even pick. One unique fight – I mean there are a massive amount of bosses in this raid and a ton of new artwork.

Gameplay-wise, we are doing a lot of new stuff here but that’s going to be for players to figure out when they get in there and actually fight the fights.

 

Are there any drastic permanent changes to happen to Orgrimmar after the Siege — considering Theramore is a crater? Or even a new Horde capital to replace Orgrimmar?

Cory: You are not going to see anything dramaticly right away. We might end up doing some changes to Orgrimmar over time.

As things move forward and the story develops. There’s still a lot of things to be figured out when 5.4 comes out, and the story plays out for players.

I think then we’ll have a better sense of what we want to do; but there isn’t going to be any dramatic changes to Orgrimmar right away.

 

There is no particular daily quest hubs in the Timeless Isle. Some are found through exploration. What purpose the development team has for the Timeless Isle from its early concept to its current state?

Cory: The reason why you’re seeing that is because our big concept there is “discovery.” And allowing players to discover and find things on their own on the Timeless Isle that’s why there’s so many rares, there’s unique treasure chests, there’s tons of stuff all over the island for players to find and we very intentionally did not direct players to these things by daily quests and stuff like that, because we wanted to really explore the option of doing things that are much more exploration for the players.

It feels like a sense of discovery we do have a few simple quests there to kinda introduce people to the island, and guide them around and encourage them to check out the new places. But those are just single one time quests. We don’t have a daily quest chain. That’s very much specificly on purpose to try this new kind of style out.

 

Should fans bother exploring under the water?

Cory: There is some stuff … I mean, the majority of the content is on the island proper, but there are definitely things to be found off the shore around the island.

 

I found some stuff underneath the water, near boats. So it was cool.

Cory: Yea, I know. There are definitely some stuff in the water; but we know that water doesn’t always provides the best gameplay experience for WoW.

But in some cases, we just love the fact that it changes the environment up a little bit, and it let us ### that we can’t do elsewhere like for example the sunken ships

 

Is the Timeless Isle content aimed as an intro to patch 5.5? Or even the next expansion?

Cory: No. I mean, the Timeless Isle is really its own unique piece of content. Obviously, we’re offering the raid for our raiding players while in the Timeless Isle is single-player all the way up to raid content.

There’s tons of things you can solo in the island; but there’s also things that require a group, that require all the way up to like huge world bosses that require tons and tons of people. So really that’s kind of like we see it as the plate of content. We’ve got stuff for our raiding more hardcore of players, and then we’ve got stuff for solo players as well.

 

I really like what I have seen so far. There’s an exciting, and random way to gear up alt level 90 characters in the Timeless Isle. What motivated you to include these gear in randomly spawned chests rather than using Justice Points or other currency?

Cory: I think it just goes on with our idea where we are trying to try new things on the island and really get a vibe for something that doesn’t feel so grindy, necessarily and can feel like — “oh man, I just found this, this is a super-exciting moment. I found a chest, I don’t know what’s in it. I’m going to open it. It could have something awesome.”

Versus the idea of kind of like looong … sloooww … slug — that you know will end, and it’s a great item for you to get, but the process of going to do that might not be as fun.

 

It was kinda fun, because I was killing some frogs; and suddenly, I saw this chest and I clicked it and “Wow! I have an account-bound gear to send to my alt.” I was like: “Oh, my gah!”

Cory: Yea. It’s a cool feeling. We want to make sure that people get a chance to find — I think WoW over the years has developed to place that is not as much of that sense of awesome discovery, and I know I keep repeating that, but It’s like we’ve lost some of that. There’s always something in the map that tells you where to go.

There’s always a quest that tells you what to do.

It’s not really a cave anymore that you can go and actually think that you are gonna find something cool in there, that is hidden. And I think that’s really the key; and the point of the Timeless Isle is for people to get out there and just explore it. Find out what’s there.

Check it out, and you never know what you are going to find.

 

Interview – Part 2

The second part of the interview deals with Flexible Raid, Connected Realms, PvP and Pet Battles Tournament. Nice description of Pet Battles. Every week random rotation of bosses.

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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).

WoWScrnShot_062013_143049

WoWScrnShot_062013_143108

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).

WoWScrnShot_062013_143818

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 Vol. 5

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

world-of-warcraft-dawn-of-the-aspects-part-1-coverThe conclusion of the World of Warcraft: Dawn of the Aspects: Part V e-novella by New York TImes best selling author Richard A. Knaak has reached its conclusion and it is available today.

Book Description

The final installment in an all-new World of Warcraft e-novella series from New York Times bestselling author Richard A. Knaak!

The age of dragons is over. Uncertainty plagues Azeroths 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 heor any of his kindstill 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 foror did they earn it with blood? Kalecgoss discoveries will change everything he knows about the events that lead to the…dawn of the Aspects.

2013 Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Blizzard Entertainment and World of Warcraft are trademarks or registered trademarks of Blizzard Entertainment, Inc., in the US and/or other countries.

Review

Kalec’s mind continues his involuntary journey into the far past of Azeroth in the body of Malygos the proto-dragon.

The relic belonging to Watcher Tyr has forced him to relive Malygos’ experiences and those of the former Aspects against Galakrond.

A time before the Titans blessed them to become Dragon Aspects and guardians of the world of Azeroth.

Jaina finally infiltrates the Nexus, bypassing the ward defenses of Watcher Tyr’s relic. However, she finds a unconscious Kalec undergoing the slow process of a unnatural metamorphosis.

In the past, Galakrond has nearly exterminated the proto-dragon population, and as he feeds he continues to transform and grow to unimaginable size.

This story fleshes out how these proto-dragons came closer together fighting for survival even though they were not exactly family. Friendships are born and take deep root.

Their individual abilities working in concert against Galakrond, inspired by Watcher Tyr’s strategies.

Considering the main characters are the proto-dragons we know and love at a primal stage with a reduced intelligence and limited grasp of a language, I’m impressed Richard A. Knaak managed to write this story.

There is more action in this story than dialogue. Both are balanced by the continuous point of view of Kalec glueing together the action and the conversations for a fluid story.

Toward the end, we learn how Galakrond died in Dragonblight, and the reader is surprised by how intrepid the feat of defeating such a behemoth came to fruition.

Readers will briefly glimpse into the arrival of two Watchers of Ulduar, and what seemed to be the Titans, moments before the blessing that transformed the 5 proto-dragons into the Dragon Aspects.

Tyr, the Watcher

The final pages of the e-novella hint we haven’t seen the last of Tyr in the present era.

Tyr looked like a character who has no second thoughts on leaving his brethren in order to fulfill his purpose as protector of Azeroth. This character truly inspires. I see so many parallels with Archangel Tyrael who said: “You cannot judge me. I am justice itself! We were meant for more than this! To protect the innocent! But if our precious laws bind you all to inaction … then I will no longer stand as your brother.”

Tyr is legendary. Epic. I’m totally sold on this character, and seeing his role in Norse mythology, and his role in the inspiration for the Order of the Silver Hand, I am certain Chris Metzen and the creative team has something epic in store for players in a future expansion with Tyr playing an important role.

One doesn’t need to be a telepath to understand Blizzard’s “To be Continued” signals.

We have read about Galakrond throughout all 5 parts of the story, but some aspects of the plot were left unresolved. As per the author, this was intentional. Blizzard Entertainment has plans for the future of the World of Warcraft universe.

The new 5-part e-novella format is really good. I kept looking at the calendar awaiting the next release date to get my crave fix. A trait I used to have back in the day when waiting for the next monthly comic book. At Blizzard Creative Team: Keep’em coming!

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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

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Blizzplanet – The Art of Blizzard Entertainment – Nick Carpenter Interview

Written by Medievaldragon on . Posted in Blizzard Products News, Blizzplanet Interviews, Diablo 3 News, Interviews, StarCraft 2 News, World of Warcraft News

DJTyrant attended the Gallery Nucleus exhibition event featuring the Insight Editions Art of Blizzard Entertainment book launch. On behalf of Blizzplanet, DJTyrant interviewed Nick Carpenter (VP of Art and Cinematic Development) to discuss details of the development of this book from early concept stage to publishing.

Nick Carpenter also talks about the design of the Crown of Glory — given to employees who have reached their 20th anniversary working at Blizzard Entertainment

Order The Art of Blizzard Entertainment. (Select Super Saver Shipping at checkout)

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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