Time and again, guildies have gawked at the new direction questing has taken in Cataclysm. We’re bombarded with in-game cinematic scenes from all sides. They introduce us to the quest topic at hand as we enter a zone, cut in to our play time to give more impact to major plot points during a chain and culminate the stories before we leave a zone. Some players balk at the loss of control, but most have cheered the introduction of a cinematic experience as a step in the right direction for questing.
Millions of players have already completed Mount Hyjal, which means they’ve all been taken through the epitome of Cataclysm’s cinematic arc. Players enter the zone on the back of an emerald drake with the idea that a quick tour is in order. This tour quickly turns into a nightmare. The hold has been destroyed, reduced to cinders. As the dragon swoops and dives around the zone his jaw drops as he approaches none other than Deathwing. With Ragnaros beneath him. The sight, for avatars and players alike, is simply astounding.
Blizzard’s cinematic crew uses every trick in the book to rope us in. We’re set up to expect a boring “Off to the left…and to the right you’ll see…” flight as we head to join Malfurion’s forces against Ragnaros. Only we don’t quite make it that far. We’re quickly thrown into view of the biggest-hookah-smoking-dragon ever. Visually, the world in the immediate vicinity is nothing but fire, lava and cinders, as suggested by the quest title. The sound is forebodingly still at first, then it shifts to the sound of flames and bubbling lava. Few will forget the intro, and outro, cinematic delivered in Mount Hyjal. There’s too much action, too much lore, too much organization, production and direction present to leave your cerebral cortex unchanged.
Click through to see how it all goes sour.
Yet, the cinematic experiences we digest later are…inconsistent; so horribly diverse in production quality as to fall into the uncanny valley and ruin the framing for the tale at hand. I’ve come across at least a dozen short cinematics in Cataclysm and few, if any, have lived up to Mount Hyjal’s sequence. Most tend to be little more than non-interactive quest boxes. Reciting the idea of the quest text in a long-winded discussion between NPCs. There are no voice overs (sadly, something Deathwing and Ragnaros lacked as well), no epic soundtrack or stunning vistas. Heck, even the later Dragon vs. Dragon (nerfed that name for spoiling’s sake) battle in Grim Batol is without voiceover treatment or custom music. If there’s a cinematic that I have seen so far that deserved full attention, it’s that one.
I do appreciate the cinematic scenes that we do have. Not all of them need, or even deserve, full production. Yet, I can’t help but think many of them were unfinished, or simply rushed. There was even a cutscene where the camera wasn’t panned on the NPCs that were speaking for C’thun’s sake!
A sorely missed opportunity. Hopefully the content patches have top-notch production for all of their cinematics.