Throughout WoW's history, we've been introduced to many characters, including many foes, including an Old God, a servant of the Old Gods, and powerful dragons rivaling the most powerful heroes in Azeroth. Players have been able to go up and defeat these foes, and while they have had no real impact on the story, it gave players a satisfaction that they defeated something evil, something dangerous and way more powerful than themselves.
Before the Burning Crusade, Blizzard started adding their lore heroes into the game, making them be able to be killed. Kel'thuzad was the first in line. Appearing in the final content update before the expansion, Kel'thuzad was only reached by a select few guilds, and killed by even less. The story allowed for him to revive, since turning in his philactery led to the Scarlet Crusade priest's insanity, and upon thanking you he'd mumble off talking about "taking good care of it", hinting he'd use it for ill purposes and revive the Lich once more.
Then, the Burning Crusade launched, introducing Outland and the villains within, including the "Final 3" - Lady Vashj, Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider, and Illidan Stormrage. These 3 are very well known in the lore, unlike the old world content for the most part.
Months passed, and soon after Lady Vashj was defeated, giving confirmation that she would indeed die in her designated instance, Serpentshrine Cavern. No hints were given that she survived the player's assault, confirming that the Naga Leader was truly killed by players.
Prince Kael'thas shared her fate a month or two later, yet upon turning in proof of having defeated him, he taunts A'dal and everyone in Shattrath, mentioning that the players didn't give him a finishing blow and he is alive, planning his revenge with his Masters. This was a good move from Blizzard, letting players face off against a lore hero, defeat him, yet still make it so he will be back later as part of the story.
Finally, Illidan Stormrage didn't last long against the might of the hardcore raiders, and while he wasn't killed by them, few players will really know how things ended between him and his pursuers, and how he finally met his end. No hints were given that Illidan would return, so it's safe to assume he probably will not.
Now, the newest expansion was announced, and the Lich King, Arthas, the main nemesis of the known world is confirmed to be the final boss of it. It remains to be seen if Kel'thuzad will come back, and if Anub'arak will die to the hands of players once more, but it's important to ask the question, Should Arthas die?
Arthas has been arguably the most influential character the Warcraft storyline has seen, from being the noble prince of Lordaeron that wanted to save his people and discovered the undead scourge, to obtaining Frostmourne and betraying his comrades for revenge in Northrend, becoming the first Death Knight for the scourge, killing his own father and thus dooming the Eastern Kingdoms, influencing Illidan's transformation into a full-fledged demon, and finally travelling back to Northrend to become the Lich King, he's had a huge hand in how the world has turned out.
Allowing players to truly defeat him and kill him would mean they would be able to surpass the Lich King and many Warcraft heroes in power since nobody could stop the undead onslaught until this expansion came. Killing the Lich King would probably give ultimate satisfaction of being incredibly powerful, but at the same time, any new content would be rendered strangely trivial.
Opening the Maelstrom, or the Emerald Dream would net some strange looks from players, since it's clear that Arthas and probably Illidan were harder than anything they could introduce next. Sure, there's more stats, more levels, and monsters with more hitpoints out there, but the true menaces of the world will have been defeated already. It's happened to other MMORPG's already, take a look at Final Fantasy XI - newest expansions take players who have defeated Gods and Supreme Beings into new lands, and while they have new story, the sense of accomplishment, and being called "Traveler" just doesn't sit well with most as they go back to doing menial grinding tasks and quests anyone could do.
All in all, here's hoping Blizzard works this expansion in well and gives a way of letting the Lich King live on in some form even after he's inevitably assaulted by gear-hungry raiders. We know he will be a major NPC for Death Knights, so let's trust they have a few surprises for us when it comes to handling this important character in the Warcraft series.
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