I’m a bit surprised they put so much content in the preview – a few entire articles are up there. I get that they want to attract new subscribers and convince them that it’s “worth it”, but that could be done with less than 46 pages in my opinion.
I’m going to give a quick review and discuss how it’s changed from the previous issue. There will be spoilers, so if you haven’t read yours yet, this is your warning to avert your eyes.
TLDR: Still beautiful as ever, with more up to date content than the previous issue, and some added Cataclysm tidbits. The interviews are definitely worth a read. If you love WOW collectibles, lore, or game-related art, and have some disposable income, this is a magazine for you.
As revealed in a preview to subscribers (and hence to the entire WOW community, via sites like MMOChampion and WOW.com), the cover for this issue stars two dragons – Deathwing and Alexstraza.
What we didn’t see in the preview was the fact that the image actually has two fold-out flaps as well. The back flap shows a lovely drawing of Alextraza in her human form, her eyes blazing with rage.
The front flap reveals what appears to be Deathwing in human form. I did a double-take when I saw this – he looks very impressive. His human form has the same welded-on metal plates, red eyes, and the appearance of practically exploding from the inside. I really hope we get to see this human form in-game.
The cover is also available as a center-fold. I wish I had more wall-space in the office – I would totally start hanging these up.
The magazine itself is just as glossy and gorgeous as the previous issue (with the same propensity for silver ink).
The quest design team interview was definitely my favorite article. It was fantastic to get a glimpse inside Blizzard’s inner sanctum. The team was very open and unassuming – for a few moments I felt like I understood what it was like to be one of them. It is just a job, and they are just people.
I was really surprised to learn that some zones are the responsibility of one quest designer. That seems to me to be a huge responsibility. Yes, they bounce ideas off of each other, but they still hold the fate of players questing in that area entirely in their hands. No wonder some zones feel so drastically different than others. Every designer gives a slightly different flair to the quests they do. Sometimes they copy from each other and tweak to fit their zone and storyline. Other times they innovate and do really unique quests.
They talked a little bit about the tool they use to do quest design, and showed a few screenshots of it (I would love to see it in action – maybe they’ll demo it someday like they did the raid encounter designer?).
Throughout the interview you were able to see that the team really takes pride in their work, and are willing to admit when they made mistakes (such as the Alchemist quest in Zul’drak). It sounds like they’ve learned a lot over the years, and I’m very excited to see what they come up with in Cataclysm. They did slip a few hints at new quests: riding on the back of a Kodo shooting Quilboar, the battle for Greymane, rescuing Gilneans from drowning, etc.
They discussed how phasing came in to being – more of an accident that occurred during TBC development. Cataclysm will include terrain phasing, which will enable new events – like a piece of Gilneas falling into the ocean.
There were a couple of lore pieces in this issue – one on Dragons, and another on the Titans. They were both well written, and provide a fantastic cliff-notes version of some of the history of Azeroth. This is important stuff to know coming into Cataclysm – it seems like they’ll both be heavily featured.
I did find it intriguing that when they discussed Ysera and Alextraza, there was no mention of the events from the Stormrage novel. Is it because the articles were written before the book was published, or were they purposely trying to leave out spoilers?
A tiny note in the section on Deathwing sparked some of my curiosity. The article mentioned how Deathwing disguised himself as Lord Prestor in order to influence the Alliance. He managed to win the hand of Calia Menethil – King Terenas’s daughter, and Arthas’s sister (before disappearing after the Dragon Soul was destroyed). These events took place out-of-game, in the novel Day of the Dragon (yes, another Richard Knack one). The curious thing is… what ever happened to Calia? She wasn’t mentioned at all in the Wrath expansion (aside from a coin in the Dalaran fountain), and Christie Golden didn’t include her at all in her Arthas novel. I checked Wowwiki, and it doesn’t sound like anyone really knows what happened to her. There are random guesses and speculation – did Arthas kill her, did she end up a prisoner in the Undercity, is she hiding her identity as a SI:7 agent, or is Blizzard just trying to ignore that she ever existed? I love mysteries.
Another featured article was about visiting zones and doing quests before they’re changed forever in Cataclysm. I plan on visiting each of the locations they mentioned and taking some screenshots for posterity. Locations mentioned were: Ogrimmar, The Barrens, Auberdine, the Plaguelands, Thousand Needles, Azshara, and Stranglethorn Vale. It wasn’t comprehensive, but it did provide a good starting point for those interested in experience Azeroth as it is today. Some of the most entertaining quests lines that we’ve grown to love may disappear.
There was a brief mention of everyone’s favorite elite gnoll – Hogger. They didn’t say he was going away, but I’m assuming that since he’s mentioned in this section that it is a very definite possibility. Hogger raiding has died down since Blizzard changed it so that players under level 10 can’t join a raid, but it still would be sad to see him go. Get out there and massacre the bloody pig while you still can!
The article after that was more Cataclysm info – a few shots of zones that have changed, such as Tanaris (which is now beachfront property), Thousand Needles, Stormwind, and the Blasted Lands. I have a feeling that these screenshots will all be featured in Blizzard’s “Screenshot of the Day” at some point, as the Blasted Lands one already has.
The fan art section was fantastic – it’s one thing to see the fan art in an online gallery, but to see it printed in glossy, brightly colored ink brings it to a whole new level.
The other articles were decent as well. Nothing revolutionary, but they provided a brief few moments of entertainment for me. There were guides to classic raids, Icecrown, Warsong Gulch, PUGs and more. Short interviews with addon developers, and the Figureprints CEO were quite fascinating.
The content of this issue was far more current than in the first issue. It’s still print, so you’re not going to get cutting edge news, but nothing seems inaccurate or entirely out of date.
Overall I really enjoyed this volume. At $10 per issue it is a bit pricey, but the experience of reading it and perusing its artwork is probably worth more than a $10 vanity pet.
Does anyone else subscribe to the magazine? What do you think of it? If you don’t have it, is there anything in particular you want to know about it?