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Cataclysm Catharsis: a comparative look at Goblin and Worgen starting zones
by Greg Mengel

Since the dawn of time, man has asked himself many fundamental questions. Do humans define morality, or has the universe been ingrained with an underlying 'ultimate good?' Is it possible to bend or break the fabric of space and time- in a DeLorean? Could it be, that in a cosmos filled with billions of billions of planets, stretching myriad millions of light-years in all directions, soaring far beyond the scope of human imagination, that an omnipotent, celestial creator founded our miniscule, fragile race in his own image, out of a desire to manifest in each and every one of us the chemical reaction known as love?

There is perhaps one question, one great enigma, that towers loftily above all the rest, puzzling scientists, philosophers, and theologists for centuries without end...

Which is more awesome: a tiny, green, hyper-capitalistic New Jersey hobbit, or a furry, perpetually shirtless, ferocious half-man with a mind like a human, but a form like a wolf [1]?

That argument will be decided, once and for all, on this cold January day, thanks to computers, over twenty (wasted?) hours of game time, and the starting zones of the worgen and goblins as found in the World of Warcraft. It'll be a good, old fashioned time.

Let's begin.

The Goblins

First, let's take a look at the goblins. Cue theme music.

You start your character at the height of his career, mere hours from his or her promotion to the coveted position of Trade Prince. Titles that describe you may include Sultan of Silver, Rex of Rupees, Luchadore of Labour Union Beatdowns.

If money is power, then hail to the king, baby. Your economic reach in the Bilgewater Cartel makes the Trump Empire look like a neighbourhood lemonade stand. On your island home of Kezan, there isn't a goblin alive with your celebrity, charisma or sway. Trade Prince Gallywix may think he's got more of the stuff than you, but he's a fossilised has-been. You're the future of this company, and every goblin knows it. There couldn't possibly be a single being alive who could crash your sweet, sweet gravy train, surely?

... except maybe Deathwing.

When that dragon shows up, he changes things, breathing life into the volcano perched threateningly above your island paradise with a blaze. Mere minutes before your promotion to Trade Prince, you lose everything you've ever held dear - that is, your fortune - paid in exchange for safe passage from incineration on Trade Prince Gallywix's private yacht. You experience all that a goblin prays he'll never experience, and set off from your smoldering island a penniless slave.

Luckily for you, the Alliance blasts a hole in Gallywix's pleasure schooner, determined to prevent any witnesses from seeing them flatten a horde armada and steal it's precious, special cargo. Though many goblins die, you somehow manage to stay alive, thanks to a pair of goblin jumper cables and a doctor with astronomical resuscitation fees.

Waking up somewhere on the fabled Lost Isles, you quickly realise that every living thing on that island hates goblins. Raptors, pygmies, naga; they're all racists bent on destroying your kind. With sword/staff/boomstick in hand, you undertake an action few goblins resort to: you put on your war pants and fight.

Without explaining the entire remaining plot, I'll simply say that your character proves his worth as the hero of the Bilgewater Cartel repeatedly on those tropical deathtraps. First, you safeguard your people from raptors, monkeys, and cannibal pygmy-zombies by killing their giant fire-tortoise god, shooting it with a bazooka in the face. Then, you find strong allies for your goblinfolk in the Horde. Finally, you rescue the secret that was captured by the Alliance: a captive Warchief by the name of Thrall.

You may have heard of him.

Everything you do in the goblin starting zone is exciting, fun, and just damned epic. It's quirky and ridiculous, but in a good way. Quests like driving your hot rod around Kezan to pick up your entourage, or putting down zombified goblin compatriots by hovering over them with flaming jet boots, are unforgettable.

The goblin starting zone is, without a doubt, the best starting zone in the game. It is also, without a doubt, better than the starting zone for worgen.

...but what about those worgen, say you? Did Blizzard leave them any love? Why choose a wolf-man if the goblins clearly have a better starting zone?

It's because the worgen don't climax early [2]. Read on and I'll explain.

The Worgen

Cue theme music two.

The starting zone for Gilneas is less cheery than the goblins'. Your people, a proud nation of human isolationists led by the stoic King Greymane, grew fed up with fighting far-off battles during the second war. Withdrawing from their pact with Stormwind and Lordaeron, they built a wall around their gothic Victorian kingdom and abandoned the Alliance, successfully turning inward, as orcs, humans and even Arthas and the undead Scourge wrought myriad suffering outside their massive gates.

Imagine Switzerland, only instead of chocolate and watches, think top hats, elitist Oxford accents and rustic 18th century suits.

Safe though they were from forces outside, King Greymane and the citizens of Gilneas never bothered to check for monsters under their own bed. Unbeknownst to them, feral worgen summoned by the Scourge wizard Arugal in nearby Shadowfang Keep somehow infiltrated their 'impenetrable' Greymane Wall and roamed free inside Gilneas. Slowly but surely the rogue monsters spread their unholy infection to unsuspecting woodsman until their numbers swelled.

Suddenly, after years of peace, a veritable army of transformed Gilnean worgen assault the city of Gilneas itself during a dark night storm. Cornered and horribly outnumbered, the human Gilneans - led by their prince, Liam Greymane - fight bitterly against the encroaching worgen on rainy street corners, knowing full well that they wage a war not only for their city, but for their unafflicted human souls.

In comes your character, a young Gilnean eager to defend your homeland from the nightmare now assailing it. You aid Prince Liam in a vicious counterattack, beating back the worgen with the ferocity of the beasts themselves. By enlisting the help of Crowley, an imprisoned rebel with underground ties outside of the city, you bait the worgen into a trap, luring them into the range of rebel cannons and slaughtering them in great droves outside the city cathedral.

Unfortunately, you are bitten in the process, and your body gives way to the horrible change just as the battle reaches its hottest.

Suddenly you feel different... Your ears seem flea-ridden, a well thrown ball or stick is all it takes to throw your attention span wildly off course, and try as you might, you just can't stop thinking about bacon. You, my friend, have become a worgen.

Now that you've become both man and his best friend, you're ready to continue protecting your city, family, and friends. Unfortunately for you, Lord Godfrey, a Gilnean noble who visits you in your cage once you've transformed, is a big-time worgen racist. The man does not like wolf-men. He and Professor Lupin don't go out for drinks. So when the Cataclysm sends a wall-shattering earthquake ripping through the Greymane Wall, he vehemently disapproves of King Greymane's decision to dope your hulking, furry frame up with a miraculous keep-your-mind-human-though-your-body-is-worgen wonder drug and send you charging to the front so that you can try your fangs out on an enemy famished for fresh Gilnean blood: the undead Forsaken.

Led by the Dark Ranger Sylvanas herself the undead storm Gilneas, taking the city and putting its remaining citizens to the sword. Alive but on the run, King Greymane and the surviving Gilneans rally outside the city, using trickerous guerrilla tactics to keep the Dark Lady well at bay. Meanwhile, the Cataclysm wreaks even more havoc on your homeland - unleashing torrential floods that cause the nearby ocean to overflow well over the razor keen coral reefs which harass outside forces attempting to reach Gilneas by sea.

With their passage ublocked, night elf druids arrive in secret, bringing word that the undead in the area have found an invaluable relic: the Scythe of Elune. Kill a few guards, deliver the Scythe to the night elves, partake in an ancient night elf ritual, and bam! Your worgen can now control his feral tendencies. Also, it turns out both Crowley and your brave and fearless King Greymane are themselves worgen. It's one big, furry family.

I'll skim over what happens next. First, Godfrey plots to kill everyone alive who's somewhat likable. You foil his plan, cursing his sudden but inevitable betrayal. Then, you retake the city in an epic battle, sadly losing your fearless captain Liam Greyman in the process. While playing ninja and listening to a secret conversation, you discover Sylvanas wants to unleash a plague to wipe out every Gilnean left alive after the battle. A somber Greymane decides to retreat to lesser territory that's not about to be ravaged with glow-in-the-dark-neon liquid plague, and your remaining Gilneans push past orcish and undead forces to night elf ships, which whisk you safely to Darnassus.

The end.

.........................or is it?

After playing both races, this is why I ended up enjoying the worgen more than the goblins. While the goblins have the best starting zone in Warcraft, their story climaxes at level 13. You fight off the Alliance, you save Thrall, you slap around Gallywix, and you are proclaimed the most amazing goblin ever to grace the employee records of your people. It climaxes too early for me to care about leveling up to 85. Why should I? Besides perhaps slaying Deathwing, this character has done all that he needs to do - his story is over.

The worgen, meanwhile, are nowhere near finished with their saga. These people - the survivors of Gilneas - have a definite score to settle. The undead take their lands, conscript their fallen brethren into undeath, ravage their farms and homes with plague, and set up camp. They don't leave. I can't imagine a worse situation for a citizen of Gilneas. I can tell you right now, if undead forces suddenly raided Denver, Colorado, eating my loved ones before my eyes, infecting them with vapourous insta-cancer, and resurrecting them as bitter, love-hating zombies, I'd be grabbing my boomstick and preparing for a long war.

The worgen story is not over. It's far from climaxing. And it's ten times more interesting than a goblin story that ends at chapter one.

So if you're looking at starting zones alone? The goblins win more 'awesome points', hands down. But if you're reading the entire novel? The worgen have a better - or at least a longer - story to tell.

Greg out.


[1] The latter being reminiscent of dear Uncle Steve, the unshowered, unshaved PTSD victim who concludes that every bad occasion, from 9/11 to spilling paint in the garage, is the result of "that ass-backwards leadership in Vietnam."

[2] That is, in fact, what she said.

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- Greg Mengel

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