|Differentiation Analysis: Two-Handed Swords|
We've arranged the models here a tad differently than our previous charts for differentiation, following some reader feedback and placing each model horizontally by the expansion in which the original model for the skin was released. A perfect example here is Zin'rokh, Destroyer of Worlds, which players can reacquire via Archaeology. Though the item you'll need to acquire for transmogrification is from Cataclysm, the origin of the model is actually from Vanilla. So watch for that subtle variance going forward on our differentiation charts, as it helps give a better flavor for just how much new content has been developed with each expansion.
We're still ranking them vertically by how often the model is recycled for entirely different weapons. The goal of our entire analysis is to determine just how much visual parity there is among weaponry in the World of Warcraft, and where the niches lie that players can leverage as a means to visually differentiate themselves from the rest of the existing player base.
Since this is a review of design language and form, the recycled models with varying differences in color and texture have been removed. The grayscale map key at the end of the article will enable you to link the images you see here with an actual root model on WoWhead. From there you can determine which skin of the model you prefer and where you will need to go hunting in order to attain it.
What would the differentiation chart have us believe?
- "Those responsible have been sacked." Twelve (12) truly unique models introduced in Vanilla, increased to thirteen (13) during the Burning Crusade, reduced to eight (8) in Wrath of the Lich King and current max-level players in Cataclysm are really only offered three (3). Two of the five "truly unique" models depicted here are actually for players under level 30. Then there's the general emptiness throughout the chart compared with our previous weapon reviews. There's just not a lot here to talk about. Rather than fuel any conspiracy theories, we're just going to assume those on the Blizzard Art Team responsible for Two-Handed Swords have been sacked.
- The party will be in the "new" Vanilla. With the Burning Crusade content now considered part of Vanilla in many circles, we're going to lump it together here as well as part of our conclusion that the best shopping will be in the "new" Vanilla content. Surely based on what we see here, there will be more choices and variety available. But the question remains, how will those "truly unique" models actually hold up when we compare them, qualitatively?
- Cataclysm needs to catch up. As we saw with our One-Handed Swords analysis, here we find another significant downward trend in overall numbers on the high end through patch 4.2 in Cataclysm. Perhaps a surge of unique models will arrive with patch 4.3. Bit of a bummer to see, really, and not very encouraging.
|Visual Positioning: Two-Handed Swords|
If you're new to Disenchanting Azeroth, here's a brief introduction to the methodology you see used here. We refer to this as a visual positioning matrix (click for larger image). We use this tool as a means to provide a visual landscape to the subject matter we're trying to break down. For this case, we're again positioning every Epic, Rare and Uncommon Two-Handed Sword currently attainable in-game.
The vertical axis here is a continuum of Introverted forms (singular geometry, quiet) to Extroverted forms (intersecting geometry, loud). Things are visually quiet the further South you go, and conversely they get flamboyant if you head North.
The horizontal axis here is a continuum of Static forms (rectilinear, sharp transitions) to Fluid forms (organic, smooth transitions). Things appear stoic and angular to the West, and as you head East they start to feel more smooth and organic.
The goal here isn't to determine the exact placement of each individual item, rather to identify deltas between them as a means to flush out some conclusions.
What conclusions can we draw here?
- Players are forced into an aesthetic. Unfortunately with two-handed swords, the problem is visually glaring us in the face. The majority of what's available for transmogrification is going to have a static, rectilinear base. There are a number of models with fluid elements and transitions, but a number of them are so similar they're simply cannibalizing each others' appeal. The argument to this from a developer's standpoint could be that with two-handed swords what matters most is size. Not to sound cliche, but from the reveal we see here size isn't the only thing that matters. As professionals, we see this sort of visual landscape all the time where the majority of what is available is lumped into a few major areas of the matrix, with lots of white space that nobody is claiming. So if you've had a gut feeling that Two-Handed Swords have more or less always looked similar, with very few standouts, this should feel like a little validation.
- It's going to take hard work. With very few opportunities to stand out actually available among Two-Handed Swords, a measure of effort to obtain each visually desirable model will likely be what separates players from the masses. For example, one of our editor's picks below is the Twinblade of the Phoenix, a random drop from Kael'thas in Tempest Keep. This item is not likely to be widespread because not only is Kael not soloable by the majority of players seeking the weapon, but small teams of raiders inexperienced with the fight are also going to have difficulty defeating him due to the fight mechanics. The more effort and expertise required to acquire the model, the less competition you will have when honing your personal aesthetic in 4.3.
|Visual Positioning: "Truly Unique" Models|
Green ellipses identify a Two-Handed Sword that is far enough from the fringes of parity that it can maintain a unique visual identity. Wear one of these, and you're more likely to stand out among your peers.
It's unfortunately elbow-to-elbow in this landscape. But what an opportunity for the Blizzard Art Team to explore some new territory going forward. There is plenty of room to create highly relevant, highly differentiated models if they push for more organic and fluid designs. That being said, for now wielders of Two-Handed Swords are going to have to navigate a challenging landscape.
We hope you've enjoyed our review of Two-Handed Swords. If your goal is to truly stand out among your peers with transmogrification in 4.3, we encourage you to draw from these charts. We've included our editor's picks based on our analysis below to serve as kickstarters for those looking to get a leg up on their peers. And for those looking for a map key to the first chart illustrated in this article and links to all items reviewed here, scroll down for them below our editor's picks. Thanks again for reading, and stay tuned for more content here at Disenchanting Azeroth.
Bye for now!
The items to follow are in no particular order.
1. Twinblade of the Phoenix, potential drop from Kael'thas in Tempest Keep. If we were to overlay both One-Handed and Two-Handed Swords, the Twinblade would likely have its own little niche carved out among all swords in-game. This is the sort of weapon that will define your personal aesthetic, something that you can build an entire outfit around. One of the most subtle and elegant weapons we've reviewed yet, it maintains a balance of quiet, linear elements and fluid, organic details. The twin blades are a key difference maker, but likely will not be spotted until up close.
2. Sword of Justice, a potential random drop from the Tribunal Chest after the event in Halls of Stone. If dual wielding is possible, here is your chance to go four blades wide. The fact that this weapon is not adorned with spikes, horns and other extroverted elements is actually a good thing and is what sets it apart from its peers. Its simplicity is what will enable it to boldly stand out.
3. Zin'rokh, Destroyer of Worlds, acquirable via Archaeology. We found the exercise of researching and comparing both Zin'rokh and another sword initially removed from the game, Jin'rokh, The Great Apocalypse - a model seemingly still attainable via the Vengeful Gladiator's Greatsword, to be quite a hassle in terms of figuring out what was still obtainable and what wasn't. Is it Zin? Or is it Jin? Was it ZA? Or was it ZG? Does it point up? Or does it point down? We walked away still questioning if we had it right, and looking back on it we're still scratching our heads wondering why Blizzard couldn't have made it more straight-forward. That being said, the clear winner in terms of our editor's picks was Zin'rokh which is clearly still attainable via Archaeology. If we were to position it among One-Handed Swords, it unfortunately would fall into the red mass of parity due to its design being so similar to a number of items currently available. This is where size of the Two-Handed model and a bit of allure to the weapon, itself, will set it apart and give players the opportunity to really get the most out of owning this weapon.
4. Cataclysm's Edge, potential drop from Archimonde in the Caverns of Time, the Battle for Mount Hyjal. A popular item back in the Burning Crusade not only for its model, but for its high contrast in colors as well, this design could easily have been resurrected as a Cataclysm drop and it would have blended quite well. Fortunately it remains protected deep within the Caverns of Time. Frustration levels with drop rates are likely to grow in discussion as this will once again become one of the most sought-after Two-Handed Swords available.
5. The Untamed Blade, potential drop from Razergore the Untamed in Blackwing Lair . This weapon is a classic, one that even prior to the announcement of Transmogrification players were still anxious to pick it up just to have it. A fine balance of extroverted details while maintaining a balance between fluid and linear elements. If the volume dial had been turned down in any aspect of its design, it would have likely been lost in the sea of sameness. But as of now, it maintains its unique niche just on the fringes of potential parity.
6. Reckoning, potential drop from Fjola Lightbane in the Trial of the Crusader. With so few unique options available in the Two-Handed Sword landscape, we're opting for Reckoning as one of our editor's picks because there's simply nothing quite like it at its size. You run into similar forms in the One-Handed Sword and Dagger territory, but with the size of a Two-Hander you can maintain your distance. An elegant blend of intersecting elements and fluid transitions, we don't expect it to be the most popular, but if your goal is to stand out and not chase the same Two-Handers everyone else is targeting, head for this item as an alternative.
7. Apolyon, the Soul-Render, potential drop after defeating Kil'jaeden in Sunwell Plateau. Not a "truly unique" model by our evaluation, the Soul-Render does, however carve out a nice little niche in terms of its design. Wrought from the same family as Muramasa, we expect this sword to be a popular target for Transmogrification for a number of the same reasons as its smaller, One-Handed cousin. An easy pick for our team.
8. Lionheart Executioner, technically still craftable by Blacksmiths who obtained the pattern prior to Cataclysm. There are actually three stages to this weapon that provide a great example of how we conduct our visual positioning analysis (see below). A number of players will argue that this weapon is no longer attainable due to Blizzard removing the recipe. But for those players that do have the pattern, it's worth taking a look at the process to acquire the necessary materials. The only model that stands to be similar to it are the other versions of it, and really you can go with any of the three and be effective.
We've been asked by a few of our readers how we go about evaluating each of the models as part of our visual positioning exercise. The progression of the Lionheart weapon is a great way to illustrate how we go about this. The three stages of the weapon are represented here vertically top to bottom, from stage 3 to stage 1, with the Lionheart Executioner on top. It's easy to see how the form becomes more extroverted by stage 3 with all of the angular elements protruding from the blade. So stage one is clearly less extroverted as a result. Stage one, however, is more fluid in its form than stage two and three because its long, curving blade is not interrupted by intersecting triangles breaking up the path the eye travels upon. This is more of a micro sample of what we encounter, but nonetheless it's a good example of how developers can also tune an item to push it one way or another in our landscape. One could actually argue, based on this representation here, that stage one is the way to go for Transmogrification, and we wouldn't have any issue with that. Really all three are good candidates.
9. Dreadlord's Blade, a potential drop from the Culling of Stratholme. Referred to by some as the viking ship of weapons, this Two-Handed Sword is starting down the same path the Tempest of Chaos charted, towards more of a post-apocalyptic aesthetic. It's unlikely that this weapon is on most players' shopping lists a this time, so add it to yours and give yourself some flexibility for 4.3 because it's carved out its own identity and is guaranteed to be an eye catcher.
10. Sin'dorei Warblade, a quest reward from The Traitor's Destruction. Another weapon likely to be overlooked by most players, this Warblade is one of the few Two-Handed Swords that truly has its own place in the landscape. A number of players are also likely to have sold this quest reward long ago, making it potentially even more rare. A fine blend of fluid, organic elements maintained within a long, linear base. This is another weapon you could build a truly unique identity around.
And for those of you with the Corrupted Ashbringer, here is where your prize lands in our visual positioning analysis (click for larger image). Nothing to worry about, for the most part the Blizzard Art Team has kept their distance. You will undoubtedly be the envy of many, especially considering the constrained landscape of options your peers will need to navigate. And again, if anyone gives you any flack about its unique value, send them our way.
|Visual Positioning: Corrupted Ashbringer|
73. The Tranquilizer
61. Edge of Agony
60. Sword of Justice
59. Mourning Malice
51. Arete's Command
43. Cataclysm's Edge
42. Quantum Blade
39. Lionheart Blade
28. Massacre Sword
26. Emil's Brand
25. Training Sword
13. Blade of Hanna