Ice floe, nowhere to go

8th May 2009 – 10.53 am

With penguins on icebergs greeting travellers by sea Northrend is clearly a cold continent. Although there are some regions of relative warmth, where hot springs break the surface or mountains provide shelter from prevailing weather conditions, others are covered by permafrost and ice. Lake Wintergrasp is such a frozen place, where the bodies of water contain perpetual chunks of ice floating on the surface. Whilst these floes can cause a few moments of panic when hitting your head trying to surface after mining ore underwater, I had considered them to be nothing more than cosmetic enhancements to the aesthetics of the zone. In a battle for control of the zone I find out there is more to their presence than a place to stand whilst fishing.

In trying to defend Wintergrasp fortress from the onslaught of the Horde the southern towers can be a vital target. The destruction of any tower lowers the morale of the enemy, weakening them a little, and should all three be demolished the enemy is shaken sufficiently that they will rout ten minutes earlier than an invigorated enemy. Whilst the fortress itself obviously needs to be defended there is a clear benefit in sending small vehicular forces to attempt the destruction of the southern towers. And if a strategic advantage is not enough motivation there is also a daily quest to participate in the destruction of a tower, offering gold, Stone Keeper's Shards and bonus honour on success.

So it is that I jump in to the gunnery position of a siege engine as it trundles out of the Sunken Ring workshop heading to destroy the southern towers. A secondary task is to reclaim the workshops in the south of the zone, for better access to reinforcements for tower assault. Rather than head over the bridge the driver alters course away from the road, with a confident shout of 'Short-cut!' over the noise of the siege engine. Although the route will take us away from the already-destroyed Firewatch Tower and thus shorten travelling time my experience in riding through the region mining leads me to believe there is no short-cut between the eastern and western bridges, with water entirely dividing the north and south zones of the region between them. But fortune favours the bold and I am prepared to find out if there is a short-cut for future efficiency.

'Preparing to submerge, cap'n!', I call back, after it becomes clear that there is no dry path to the southern buildings away from the built roads. Even though the vehicle will take damage from being underwater, with a good head of steam we should be able to make it to the other shore with enough structural integrity to do some damage at our destination. And all would have been well except for the floes mentioned earlier. When trying to pilot the siege engine out of the river the ice floes all along the shore prevent us from breaking the surface, causing the vehicle to seize in short order and leaving us swimming for dry land. It's not a problem, as we assault the workshop quickly and get a new siege engine to destroy the towers, and it is good to know there is no short-cut for vehicles.

It is interesting to be shown how an apparently cosmetic feature of the landscape is actually a considered and potentially vital design decision to bottleneck vehicular routes by forcing them to cross at the bridges instead of allowing fully open ground battles. Whilst Wintergrasp fortress can be assaulted from all sides there are clear paths that can be used to defend the southern towers, again giving an advantage to the attackers and helping to allow the control of Wintergrasp, and thus the Vault of Archavon, to be balanced between Alliance and Horde as equally as possible.

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