Friday, January 31, 2014

Yogg-Saron, The fiend of a Thousand Faces

In all the years I have been playing games, I think there are only a handful of boss fights that I will always remember. Yogg-Saron is one of those fights that will stay with me till the end of time. World of Warcraft has had many expansions each filled with unique boss encounters but I believe Yogg-Saron is one of Blizzard’s greatest achievements.

Yogg-Saron in the WoW universe is one the ancient creature known as the Old Gods. Vanilla WoW players may remember C’Thun one of the old raid bosses found in Ahn’Qiraj which was the first Old Gods encounter. Yogg-Saron, like the other Old Gods was imprisoned underground by the Titans and stripped of its powers. Ulduar was the prison constructed for Yogg-Saron and six watchers were assigned to stand watch for the eternal imprisonment. Four of the watchers, Hodir, Thorim, Mimiron and Freya were boss encounters found in Ulduar who were corrupted by Yogg-Saron to serve him. After defeating the four watchers you can request their help during the Yogg-Saron fight.

The primary mechanic that persist through all three phases of the Yogg-Saron fight is your Sanity. You start the encounter with 100 sanity and when the counter drops to 0 you become Insane. While Insane, the player is controlled by Yogg-Saron, increases their damage by 100% and health is increased by 300%. Basically one person going Insane can be the reason why an entire raid of 25 people end up failing the encounter. So how does a person lose sanity?  Well certain mechanics during Phase 2 and Phase 3 will reduce a player’s sanity.

Phase 1 starts off with Sara (Yogg-Saron’s avatar) in the center of a saronite pool. When players enter the room, green gas clouds begin to appear around Sara and  move in a circular motion around her for the duration of Phase 1. Creatures known as Guardians of Yogg-Saron begin to spawn at fixed intervals, at an increasing rate. The only way to move on to Phase 2 is to deal enough damage to Sara but the only way to deal damage to Sara is to kill a Guardian near her so that the explosion from the Guardian’s death will damage her. If a player stands within the range of a cloud, another Guardian will spawn which can hinder the raid if too many are spawned and not enough damage out put is available. The raid needs to kill about eight guardians near Sara to push the phase. Sara will cast three different debuffs to raid members that will give them increase in damage or healing but also make them more vulnerable to damage. The Guardians of Yogg-Saron will also cast an attack that will hit everyone in the raid and reduce healing received. Raid members have to make sure they interrupt as many of those spells as possible to minimize damage.

Phase 2 will begin with Sara turning into her true form, a val’kyr and Yogg-Saron will emerge from the pool of saronite. Now Sara will begin to cast a new set of debuffs on random players. Psychosis is a straight damage and sanity reduction. She also summons slow moving beams which deal lethal damage to players. Malady of the Mind is another debuff that deals some damage, reduces sanity and will jump to another player when it expires if someone is within a close distance. It also fears the player which moves the player in a random direction. All other players must move away from the player afflicted with Malady of the Mind or it will continue to spread to other raid members. The last ability she can cast is Brain Link. Brain Link will link two players together and both players must be within a certain distance of each other or they take damage and lose sanity every second. Just based off Sara’s ability we can see that the encounter relies heavily on pay attention to your surroundings and knowing when to spread out and when to group together.

During Phase 2 Yogg-Saron will summon three types of tentacles. The largest tentacle will cast a debuff that reduces damage the raid will do and stacks up to 4 times. The medium sized tentacles will spawn various curses and poisons on the raid which must be dispelled by healers or anyone who has the ability to remove the debuffs. The smallest tentacles will grab a nearby player preventing them from moving. The raid will have to kill the tentacle to release the player.

To push into phase 3, players will need  deal enough damage to Yogg-Saron’s brain. Throughout phase 2, portals will spawn around Yogg-Saron that will teleport a player into one of three rooms. These rooms will have floating skulls that will drain sanity when facing them and will have mobs that need to be dealt with before getting access to the brain  room. When they reach they brain, they only have a small amount of time to actually damage the brain before Yogg-Saron drops their entire sanity to zero. Players have to leave the brain room and teleport back into the main room with all the tentacles and Sara before he casts his sanity wipe. The portals open every minute or so and the raid must coordinate who goes through which portal since only one person can take each portal.

At the start of Phase 3 Yogg-Saron will now have 30% of his full life. He will begin summoning Immortal Guardians that deal more damage at full health. However they cannot be killed unless Thorim is helping with the encounter. Yogg-Saron will begin casting Lunatic Gaze every so often which reduces sanity of any player that is facing him. He will also begin to empower the Immortal Guardians which allows them to regenerate their health. If you only bring three or less watchers with you then he will also silence the entire party for four seconds. Phase 3 is all about managing the Immortal Guardians and damaging on Yogg-Saron before he enrages and wipes the raid.

Each watcher that you bring down with you to the fight will make the entire fight much easier. Mimiron increases the raid’s movement speed by 20% and reduces the attack speed and casting speed for all tentacles. Hodir will reduce all damage taken by 20% and has a chance of casting a protective ice block around a player when they are about to die. Thorim increases the raid’s health by 20% and will kill any Immortal Guardians at low health. Freya will increase all healing received and will generate Sanity Wells which will regenerate Sanity for any players standing in them.

Since all the watchers seem to provide very useful buffs, why would a raid want to leave them out? Well bringing only one or none of the watchers will grant the raid better rewards. If the raid is able to accomplish killing Yogg-Saron with zero keepers then they were rewarded with an exclusive mount, Mimiron’s Head. I think its one of the best looking mounts in game and reminds me of Dr. Robotntik’s ship.

Alone in the Darkness (Yogg-Saron with zero keepers) is one of the best fights in any game. The amount of coordination and skill required to even complete this encounter with gear only available at that time is impressive. It requires all 25 players to be performing at their best to even stand a chance at obtaining Mimiron’s Head.  I wanted to end this post with all the voice work of Yogg-Saron that you hear through out the fight and at different parts of Northrend. Blizzard did a wonderful job in finding the creepiest sounding voice for Yogg-Saron. I hope other developers will take a page from Blizzard’s boss fights and try to make unique and interesting encounters full of different mechanics.

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