What can World of Warcraft do to solve the narrative disconnect between zones and raids?
Shadowlands patch 9.2 has been out for a few weeks now, and the Jailer faces his final defeat, yet the campaign in Zereth Mortis continues for the next few weeks, even though the reason we went there is ostensibly taken care of. Even if the Zereth Mortis campaign was already over, it feels weird to still be in the zone with the raid completed — and in fact, it’s arguable that once Zovaal gained access to the Sepulcher of the First Ones there was no reason for players to do anything else but try to stop him there.
This of course isn’t a new issue, and it’s pretty easy to see where the fault lies: the story told by the zone is only tangential to the story told by the raid. This disconnect has existed for some time, but in a place like the Shadowlands or Tanaan Jungle where events don’t directly touch on Azeroth it’s hard to see what the motivation is for our characters to help out beyond the desire to keep busy and get some cosmetic rewards.
Korthia was probably worse in this regards than Zereth Mortis because the entire zone became an afterthought narratively after we were able to beat the Jailer to the Primus’ sigil; while questgivers still lingered there, there wasn’t really a reason for them to do so as the Sanctum of Domination raid was in a different area of the Maw altogether. The patch 9.1 campaign seems to acknowledge this as the remainder of the quest chain was spent solving the issues that were remaining from the events of patch 9.0, none of which took place in Korthia.
Linking the stories together
Better integration of the raid narrative with a new zone narrative is a quandary for the development team, but it’s one they’ve been able to do successfully before. In Legion, the Nighthold raid didn’t open up until after the quest chain introduced in patch 7.1 was completed. Of course, this wasn’t hard to pull off because there were other raids already open so the desire for a new raid wasn’t the same as when a raid is delivered with a major patch. Still, announcing at the start of the expansion that there will be a consistent staggering between the release of a patch and the opening of its raid would set the proper expectations and allow for any zones or questlines to be fleshed out and explored before going into the raid as a capstone to the experience.
Another possibility is to take inspiration from the patch zone that has shaped player experience more than other zone: the Timeless Isle. Its sandbox approach to activities is still prevalent in many max level and patch zones, but what hasn’t been done is follow its lead on the narrative front. With the Timeless Isle, the only quest chain it was a part of was for Wrathion’s Legendary Cloak, and that was dealt with pretty quickly — in plenty of time to defeat Garrosh and then watch Wrathion throw a tantrum. The World Bosses were there, but they were the standard loot piñatas that had no effect on the story. In fact, the biggest impact was due to the quest items we gathered up for Kairoz, setting the stage for Warlords of Draenor. Building a max level zone that looks forward to the next chapter rather than focusing on a raid that’s already being beaten could be a way to avoid the narrative disconnect.
What do you think? Do you like these ideas, or do you want the development team to go in a different direction, such as putting the campaign before the patch release? Or does the story difference between the zone and the raid not bother you?
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