Shayzani over at 2fps made a nice post about trying out the new instance Halls of Reflection on the public test realm (warning: slightly spoilerish). One thing that struck me about said post was the off-hand way in which he poked fun at Arthas and how he's apparently supposed to present a massive threat in that instance but doesn't really.
This made me think about the presentation of Arthas in general, and it made me realise: I'm not really very excited about the prospect of taking down Arthas in Icecrown Citadel. I mean, I'll be excited about getting a new raid instance that doesn't consist of a single room with some painful NPC dialogue in it, but as far as taking down the Lich King goes... eh.
To give some sense of perspective, I never played any of the previous Warcraft games, so all I know about Arthas comes from what I got to see in WoW itself and what I read on sites like WoWWiki after being intrigued by this or that and wanting to find out more.
When I first saw the WOTLK trailer I thought that it was pretty damn cool. Different, but cool. Clearly Blizzard wanted to make sure that everyone who bought this expansion knew who Arthas was, unlike it was the case with Illidan in BC. I remember a screenshot from Nagrand chat back then which showed someone asking who Illidan was and someone else replying with "some giant bat thing". Hell, I had no idea who Illidan was at the start of that expansion, what with my background and having only played WoW for about three months at the time. To me BC was just about going to some new place and killing lots of demons.
Once WOTLK was out and everyone started the journey to eighty, it quickly became apparent that Blizzard was really serious about Arthas being more accessible and visible to the "commons" than Illidan ever was. I first ran into him while doing a quest in Howling Fjord to kill King Ymiron's wife and to prevent her from reviving him. Just as you kill the queen however, Arthas pops up and basically goes: "Ha-ha! You may have killed Angerboda but you won't kill Ymiron (not yet anyway), I have other plans for him!" At the time I was pretty impressed by that.
However, Arthas kept showing up all over. There was the Wrathgate (which was pretty damn snazzy I'll have to admit, though the Forsaken traitors completely stole the show), the Drakuru quest chain, various quests in Icecrown and many more. By the time I first saw him turn Svala the vyrkul woman into a val'kyr in Utgard Pinnacle, the initial amazement had definitely worn off, and I was seriously starting to wonder whether the Lich King didn't have anything better to do than to constantly point and laugh at random adventurers.
This wasn't helped by his overall behaviour, as Blizzard seemed to have decided to make him into more and more of a cackling cartoon villain with every appearance: lots of talk and no action. I thought that the worst example of this was Betrayal, where Arthas has you at his mercy inside a freaking necropolis, but decides to let you go because your wreaking havoc on the place was "amusing". Rrright. I know he's not exactly sane at this point, but that shouldn't be equalled with stupid.
Along came the Argent Tournament and things managed to get worse yet again. Here we have the Black Knight, who's supposed to be one of the Lich King's most powerful servants, and he's a complete joke. Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate a good pop culture reference as much as the next person, but connecting something like that with Arthas is not the best way to make him appear genuinely threatening.
And then his appearance in Trial of the Crusader. Oh my. I think the first time he showed up I just rolled my eyes. Once again he does nothing much but make a pompous speech, with his voice having changed yet again, which led to many jokes about how sitting on the frozen throne all day must have made him seriously ill. Plus the whole thing gives Tirion Fordring and the other leaders another opportunity to look completely inane by just standing there and watching passively while the Lich King himself struts around the premises. It's pretty frustrating really.
I'm very fond of Azerothian Super Villains - it takes the slightly silly sides of BC's big bads (like Illidan's apparent habit of sitting around being emo on the roof of the Black Temple) and exaggerates them to the point of ridiculousness. Somehow I can't imagine anyone ever writing something similar about Arthas though - he's already too much of a parody as he is.