World of Warcraft is a massive game with so many items, quests and non-playable characters (NPCs) that it’s no surprise that Blizzard often turn to popular culture for inspiration. From a special bag named after Paris Hilton to an entire questline in the ancient Egyptian-inspired Uldum based on The Raiders of the Lost Ark, the influences are clear across the board. Although there are hundreds of references to films, television shows, music and other videogames scattered throughout the worlds of Azeroth, Outland and Draenor, here is a short list of my top 10 pop-culture references in World of Warcraft.
10. Troggzor The Earthinator
Deep in the cavernous, luminescent elemental plane of earth, Troggzor devastates the land. Troggzor is, of course, a reference to Trogdor the burninator, a character that first appeared in an episode of Strong Bad from pioneers of online comedy content Homestar Runner. Although Trogdor was already popular in its own right, the inclusion of the Trogdor song in Guitar Hero 2 resulted in soaring popularity all over the web. Troggzor himself is a giant trogg, a species of creature made purely from stone, who must be killed in the quest aptly named, ‘Troggzor the Earthinator’. Although this reference is little more than an NPC name, seeing Troggzor for the first time when questing through Deepholm always makes me smile.
9. ‘The Perfect Horns’ Quest in Winterspring
Whilst questing in Winterspring you may find yourself directed to a cave inhabited by hostile yetis. After collecting some of their pelts and accepting the quest to obtain Icewhomp’s pristine horns, your character will promptly be knocked out and your screen fades to black. In a reference to Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, your character will awake suspended upside-down in the same cave that you were just hunting yetis in, referencing the scene at the beginning of the movie where Luke is captured by the wampa on Hoth and suspended in a cave. What’s interesting is that this is an active reference, rather than a passive NPC or item name. Your character plays a part in re-enacting the scene. Unfortunately, you aren’t given a lightsaber to take a swing at yetis.
8. The Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron
World of Warcraft’s Old God mythology in general is just one huge reference to the cosmic mythos of writer H.P. Lovecraft, but this item in particular epitomises the sinister and mysterious nature of the Old Gods. The item, craftable through the archaeology profession, is an unopenable box that simply allows Yogg-Saron to whisper into your mind following each unsuccessful attempt. Quotes such as, “at the bottom of the ocean, even light must die” and, “In the sleeping city of Ny’alotha walk only mad things” are commonplace when in the company of the malevolent Old God. Yogg-Saron himself is a reference to Yog-Sothoth, a recurring character in Lovecraft’s stories who sees all, hears all. Desiring chaos on the world of Azeroth, the Old Gods are responsible for historical events such as The Sundering, the corruption of Neltharion and the creation of the Sha.
7. ‘Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here’
What I love about this reference, while it can’t really be considered popular culture due to its age, is its simplicity. On the western edge of Deadwind Pass you can find a small signpost that, when hovered over, simply reads, ‘Abandon hope, all ye who enter here’. This line is a reference to The Divine Comedy, a poignant epic poem by Italian poet Dante Alighieri. These words are the same that appear at the gates of hell in Dante’s poem. What makes this so effective is the sheer desolation and barren landscape of Deadwind Pass. Aside from Karazhan, a decrepit wizard’s dwelling that transcends time and space, there is nothing to be found in the pass. The jagged grey cliffs meld into one another as you venture into the high-level pass, leaving all hope at the signpost.
6. Clarissa and Mr. D in Stonetalon Mountains
Whilst questing in Stonetalon Mountains as a Horde character, you might run into a small girl called Clarissa and her broken robot she calls Mr. D. She gives you a quest called, ‘Dream of a Better Tomorrow’ which has you collect mechanised elements in order to fix Mr. D. These characters and the name of the quest are references to the video game Bioshock, with Clarissa acting as a Little Sister and Mr. D a Big Daddy, this is further reinforced due to the fact that Little Sisters consistently call their Big Daddy ‘Mr. B’ in Bioshock. The name of the quest itself is a reference to the Individualistic philosophy of Andrew Ryan’s dream for the fictional city of Rapture, the quest text also containing the phrase, ‘would you kindly?’ a key part of Bioshock‘s plot.
5. The Battle For Mount Hyjal
One of my favourite references in WoW is a reference… no…. a complete reenactment from Warcraft III. The entire Battle for Mount Hyjal raid from The Burning Crusade expansion is an exact re-imagining of the final mission from Warcraft III. This time however, instead of being the omniscient hand that commands the troops from above, you are heroes on the ground, defending each encampment from the Burning Legion as you retreat further up the mountain. Everything is near identical to the Warcraft III mission, from the shape of the map to the final showdown with Archimonde. This raid shows that Blizzard could take more pivotal moments from past Warcraft games, turn them into raids/instances and do them well. Much like the Culling of Stratholme and Well of Eternity instances, the importance of these events in the world of Azeroth is what makes them so interesting to revisit.
4. Tribute to Robin Williams
After the untimely death of beloved actor Robin Williams last year, Blizzard vowed to add a tribute as he was known to be a lover of WoW. If you venture slightly into the ocean from the South-East corner of Nagrand, on Draenor, you will come to a small, mountain-like island. Going onto the island and slightly up the hill will reveal a number of different references to Williams’ work. Most notably there is a magic lamp beneath a tree, interacting with the lamp will cause a genie, named Robin, to pop out with a text box that reads, ‘itty bitty living space’. This, of course, is a reference to Disney’s Aladdin, in which Williams voiced the Genie. Also on the island is a large, cracked open egg (a reference to Mork’s spaceship from Mork & Mindy), a cracked open wooden cage and a tiny elekk with a murloc riding it (possible reference to Jumanji). Blizzard went above and beyond with their tribute to a brilliant actor.
3. “Good News, Everyone!”
One of my favourite bosses in Icecrown Citadel, second only to the Lich King himself, Professor Putricide is the cheery ‘head of plague development’ at the Lich King’s sanctum. Throughout your adventures into the plagueworks quarter of ICC (and the fight against Putricide himself) he has a number of soundbites such as, “good news everyone, I’ve perfected a plague that will wipe out all life on Azeroth!” and, “good news everyone, the slime is flowing again!” These lines are a reference to everyone’s favourite Professor from Futurama; Professor Farnsworth and always serve to lighten the mood in an otherwise dark and atmospheric raid.
2. Blood Gulch
Whilst on your travels throughout the Twilight Highlands, you may stumble upon Bloodgulch, a village home to the Dragonmaw clan of orcs. The name alone wouldn’t really be considered a reference to anything by itself, but it does sound fairly standard for the name of an orc village. What makes this a clear-cut reference is the inclusion of an NPC named Griff. If you think about the popular web series, Red vs Blue, Private Dexter Grif is a member of the red team. The Dragonmaw clan align themselves with the Horde, who are almost universally depicted as the red team. Griff’s armour is also red (although it probably should have been made orange). I only feel regret knowing that the alliance did not receive a blue team counterpart in Thundermar, an npc called Church could have had the player shoot Dragonmaw out of the sky, since he’s not going to be hitting them any time soon…
1. Slayer of the Lifeless
Hold on tight, this one’s about to get meta. In the Season 10 South Park episode, ‘Make Love Not Warcraft’ Stan, Kenny, Kyle and Cartman attempt to stop a lone player who is going around World of Warcraft killing everyone’s characters, leaving them unable to enjoy the game. Their efforts are, at first, in vain and it’s only after Stan’s dad delivers them the mystical Sword of a Thousand Truths that they are able to defeat the player. Originally the model of the sword used in the show was that of an item called The Hungering Cold, a sword which dropped from the boss Kel’Thuzzad in the original Naxxramas raid. Once Wrath of the Lich King was released and Naxxramas was reintroduced as a level 80 raid, the model was used once again for an item drop, this time named Slayer of the Lifeless after the now-famous line from the episode, “how do you kill that which has no life?” The item’s description, ‘Foretold by Salzman’ is a reference to the Blizzard accountant who was responsible for looking after the sword in the South Park episode. This reference is #1 for me, purely because this South Park episode was my first introduction to WoW and it what made me want to play the game in the first place.
There you have it, my top 10 pop-culture references in World of Warcraft. What are some of your favourites?