Last night I finished every quest in Vashj’ir. This got me just the other side of 83. I wanted to see the zone through to the end because I had no choice really. The way that the zone is set up, each element is introduced when you complete the preceding element. So I followed dutifully along, being led by the nose as it were. Until I got to the final quest, what I assume is meant to be the high-light of the whole questing experience. This is the quest that gives you the 20,000 leagues under the sea achievement, I forget what it’s called. So here come some spoilers;

You are told to get into a submarine and help in the final big battle. So I got in the submarine and off I went. We went into the Abyss. And we went round. And round. And round some more. Just for something different we went round again. This was starting to last longer than most of my sexual experiences, which admitedly aren’t very long, but long enough to get you wondering what the fuck is going on. So then we had some battles. By battles I mean that I stood there in the submarine, things were fired, gnomes said whee! Then some guards were told to bring more ammunition quick. I thought that maybe I was supposed to bring some ammunition too instead of just standing there like a deadweight loony. So I ran up the spiralling stairs and tried to find some ammo. No ammo. So I jumped down and we went around the abyss again. I shit you not but by this stage I had been standing in that fucking submarine for well over 5 minutes. I went into windows mode and fired up wowhead to have a look at the quest that I was on, just to see if I had missed something really obvious that I was supposed to be doing. Nope, nothing. So that was it, I was supposed to be doing nothing. Well, this is fun.

A very long time ago when I was in high school, we had a D&D group that was made up of mostly the adult friends of my best friends older brother. My friend was the DM, (referee), and one day we hit on the awesome idea that he and I would swap roles – I would take over the role of the DM halfway through the gaming night without telling the other players beforehand. I thought up and designed this great storyline, involving slavers and the players being captured, and lots of exciting stuff. It was all brilliant. Except I made one mistake: I didn’t give the players any choice. They had to be captured. I didn’t even allow them to try and fight. You are captured, I informed them. They weren’t happy with this. At least let us think that we could fight our way out of it. But don’t you see, I tried to explain, the capturing is the boring bit – we need to get through this to get to the good bits. But it was I who was wrong. It is the journey which is the game, not the arrival at the “good bits”. And if players are not empowered, if players do not have any choice, then it is all but smoke and mirrors, however pretty they might be.

Eventually we got off the submarine and went out to face the Naga, who were very tough and were wiping our noses in the sea floor until the shaman just killed them all in a very bored kind of way. Oh gee, why didn’t you do that at the start? Moron. Another fight with the naga. Hey shaman, are you going to kill them all for us again? No, we have to fight them huh? Ok, here I am fighting for no reason, oh you killed them all again, gee thanks. This is exciting. I wonder if you’ll kill them all every time. Yes, you will. Do I even need to be here? Oh, here is King Neptune or somebody. He is going to kill all the naga. No, the naga have a krakan which kills him. Oh, the kraken takes the super tough shaman but none of us. The shaman has been killed into little pieces. I jump into the Abyss because there is nothing else left to do. It is the only “choice” that I have had. Oh look, I get an achievement. Not really sure what I “achieved” here, but whatever. Oh, here is the entrance to the 5 man instance.

And that 5 man instance was the first time in the entire zone that I needed any input or help from any other player. And then I can just use the LFG tool, if I like waiting 40 minutes as a lowly DPS. This is not an MMO anymore. This is the most expensive single player game in the history of the world, the universe, and everything. I went back to the cavern where I had boarded the submarine. And who did I see standing there? The shaman that had been killed to little bits by the krakan. Hmm …

Afterwards I went back to the zone to gather some ore. It is completely lifeless, dead. Devoid of anything of note. Mobs swim around but there is nothing for you to do. There is nothing to interact with. I have played along the rail-roaded scene and the train has passed on. Yet I am already level 83. There are only a few more zones. I have heard that Uldum amounts to you following an Indiana Jones like person around the place while he does everything. That sounds pretty fucking crap. Everyone says that Twilight Highlands is awesome. OK, I’ll go there. But I’m left with the feeling that there is a lot of smoke and whistles to this expansion but underneath it is a house of cards. There is nothing there. Nothing that resembles a choice anyway. I hope that I am proven to be wrong.