Choosing the Arthas Option

One of the larger, underlying themes in Wrath of the Lich King is the retelling of the tale of Arthas through the various questlines of Northrend. While this was lampshaded by Arthas himself in the trailer, it seems that the point didn't hit home until now.

Blessing of Kings has a post about a questline where you torture someone to gain vital information, and many commenters as well as the poster himself were disgusted by that. And while that may be seen as a Take That on current U.S. politics, it also remains within the original theme. You're not supposed to choose.

To understand what's going on, we need to go back to where it started, the human campaign in Warcraft 3. I throughly enjoyed it because of such moments as Stratholme. Particularly because the viewpoints of all of the protagonists were understandable. Arthas was correct in that denying the Scourge a whole city's worth of troops was the right tactical decision, and that Uther's moral grandstanding prevented him from minimizing the losses. Medivh was correct in that the whole invasion put the humans in an unwinnable situation. Uther saw that Arthas was mostly motivated by ambition, vengeance and greed. He was not defending the citizens of Lordaeron out of compassion, he took it as a personal insult that the Scourge was stealing his subjects and undermining his upcoming rule.

Finally, there was Jaina, who stayed open-minded, realized the truth in Medivh's words and made the strategically right decision of cutting the losses and protecting the survivors of Lordaeron out of compassion.

IMHO, the problem here is that people don't like to be reminded that the quest structure in WoW is strictly linear. It's not a sandbox game where you "write your own story" and play out your character. You can't choose to be like Jaina, Uther or Medivh. It's a theme park where you see what the designers want you to see and do what the designers want you to do. Having your character picking the Arthas option on every step of the way is a conscious decision on their part. I expect the player characters to be be portrayed in the end as corrupt, hypocritical, selfish and evil as Arthas himself by the time you're smashing down the doors of Icecrown Citadel. That whatever happens, the world is going to still have a Lich King, even if that particular Lich King would not be Arthas/Ner'zhul. And then.. the player characters look down from the edge of oblivion at the last possible moment and step back.

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