In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, the ancient and powerful Dragon Aspect known as Deathwing returned to and laid waste to the world of Azeroth. He, once known as Neltharion, was created by god-like Titans along with four other Dragon Aspects to watch over the land of Kalimdor. But the roaming terrors of the universe, the Old Gods, made Deathwing go mad.
Now you, in patch 4.3, get to finally face and fight Deathwing. He, it, is the most powerful thing in World of Warcraft, so killing Deathwing will be far more complicated - and dramatic - than an upfront head-to-head. Just imagining the loot from such a monumental encounter is enough to stimulate millions of saliva glands around the world.
While the Deathwing fight - the culmination of the Deathwing raids - may be the focus, it is by no means the only attraction of Patch 4.3. These patches are closer to mini-expansions than they are bug-squashing updates. Patch 4.3 also brings the intriguing new ability to Transmogrify your armour and weaponry to resemble other pieces of armour or weaponry. You could have a Tier 10 set of armour look like a Tier 1 set of armour. You could even have High Warlord armour look like Tier 1 armour. How will that play out?
Patch 4.3 also brings a Raid Finder that essentially creates an easy mode for raids. This puts random people together and helps them see raid content so often reserved for organised guilds. Patch 4.3 adds an 80-slot bank called Void Storage that charges for each item you wish it to hold. The idea is to store armour sets or keepsakes rather than potions or items you need frequent access to. Those are the big-ticket changes in 4.3, but there are a myriad class alterations and world updates to look out for besides. Oh, and a new Legendary set of daggers for the most devoted rogues.
To find out more about World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Patch 4.3, we arranged an interview with lead game designer Tom Chilton.
Can you tell us more about the final stage of the battle with Deathwing?
Tom Chilton: Well, the final stage takes place in The Maelstrom, actually. It's a very long encounter. You start of at Wyrmrest Temple defeating various minions of Deathwing. There are basically six bosses that lead up to the Deathwing encounter itself.
Once you get to the Deathwing encounter it takes place, at first, at Wyrmrest Temple, where Thrall uses the Demon Soul to essentially take a shot at Deathwing and wound him. At that point you get onto a gunship and you para-drop from the gunship onto Deathwing and you fight Deathwing on his back, essentially peeling off his armour plates trying to expose him and make him weaker.
Once you've weakened him enough to where you've got him essentially wrestled to the ground - he's flying towards The Maelstrom, trying to get away, a lot like he did much earlier when he escaped and tried to gather his strength once again. You wrestle him down and then you fight the final, corrupted version of him, where all the horrible corruption that has affected Deathwing is all coming out, and it all comes to an end there in The Maelstrom.
Are there separate wings to the Deathwing instance?
Tom Chilton: It takes place in a variety of different areas within Wyrmrest Temple. Some are outside of Wyrmrest Temple, some are at the top of Wyrmrest Temple, and some of them are even in the instances like the Eye of Eternity.
Will famous NPCs help us fight?
Tom Chilton: Correct. There are a lot of the different major NPCs in Warcraft lore helping out. Obviously Thrall plays a huge part in this. He also plays a huge part in the dungeon encounters that lead into the raid. You're also interacting with Alexstrasza and a lot of the different Aspects.
Will there be a mount reward for slaying Deathwing?
Tom Chilton: Yes, there will definitely be a mount reward for defeating Deathwing. We're not spoiling what it will be just yet.
One of the instances will be in the Caverns of Time - will we be going back to Deathwing's past?
Tom Chilton: Actually you go into the future first. You have to deal with Nozdormu first, and convince him to send you back to the Well of Eternity, the battle there. The way you do that is you go into the future and see what becomes of the world if the Hour of Twilight happens. If Deathwing has his way and the Twilight's Hammer have their way, you're in the future taking part in what happens if the world comes to an end.
It's a very grim vision of the future where you convince Nozdormu that something needs to be done to keep that from happening, at which point he sends you back into one of the three other dungeon instances. The next one is the Well of Eternity and you fight bosses like Azshara and Mannoroth, and you are helping Thrall retrieve the Demon Soul at that point.
Do you have to go through the new instances to get to Deathwing?
Tom Chilton: You don't have to. You can go directly into the raids if you choose. But a lot of the story stuff that sets it up takes place in the dungeons. That was the case with Icecrown [Citadel], and we found that the vast majority of players still went through the dungeons even though they were capable of raiding the Icecrown raid.
Will there be new Legendary items in Patch 4.3?
Tom Chilton: We do plan to have a set of Legendary daggers, so all the rogues out there can rejoice. That's currently our only firm plan for Legendary items. There will almost certainly be a Legendary quest line associated with the daggers. There's still a possibility of doing armour pieces that are Legendary in terms of their item level and colour, but we haven't yet determined whether or not we're going to do that.
Transmogrification has been discussed on your website. Why is it we can't transmogrify Legendary weapons?
Tom Chilton: We decided against it because we wanted to protect the identity of Legendary items, because if you see something that looks like a Legendary, you instantly know that it is a Legendary. We try as much as possible to keep them feeling special and very unusual; it's still that not all that many players in the game have them.
Can effects on items be swapped around?
Tom Chilton: The item effects are associated with the item that you're using for looks.
You're adding the option to buy back armour sets that have disappeared from the game - can we also buy back patched-out items like the Corrutped Ashbringer?
Tom Chilton: We are going to have a variety of different items that used to be available but aren't available any more, but it's not going to be all-inclusive. I don't believe that one [the Corrupted Ashbringer] is going to be available, although it's always a possibility for the future. We also have plans to try to make some of the older PVP armour sets available, although not necessarily through the Darkmoon Faire.
Can you transmogrify a PVE set with a PVP set?
Tom Chilton: Yeah.
Patch 4.3 brings the Raid Finder. Will this lock us to raids for a week or can we clear their content more than once a week?
Tom Chilton: That's definitely the intent, yeah. We do not expect there to be an enforced lock-out when you use the Raid Finder. The item level is not going to be as high as if you do it in the normal or heroic difficulty. You'll still be able to get epic items that are still really high level.
"We also introduce the epic gems in this patch, and they'll be available only through the normal and heroic difficulty of the Deathwing raids."
Tom Chilton, lead game designer, World of Warcraft
Are you happy with the current raiding difficulty?
Tom Chilton: In large part, that's why we're adding the lower difficulty level of the Raid Finder. There's a huge distribution of player organisation and skill in the game and it's very difficult to cram that in to two difficulty modes without someone being unhappy - either the hardcore players or the casual players or the middle-of-the-road organised guilds. We feel like we need this third difficulty.
We plan to tune the content with the Raid Finder with the assumption that it is 25 random people being put together. If you're an ordinary player that just wants to see the content and have some fun and get some good items from doing it - even if they're not as good as the items in normal or heroic - then you'll be able to do it that way.
You won't get as many prestige rewards. You won't have the full extent of the achievements or titles or mounts and stuff like that.
Are there going to be new recipes?
Tom Chilton: There certainly are quite a few new profession recipes. We also introduce the epic gems in this patch, and they'll be available only through the normal and heroic difficulty of the Deathwing raids.
When is patch 4.3 coming?
Tom Chilton: We should be on the Public Test Realm soon, within a couple of weeks.