The Battle for Azeroth That Could Have Been

If you follow my blog regularly, you’ll recall I have been harshly critical of the direction of World of Warcraft’s Battle for Azeroth expansion. Actually, that’s not quite true. Harsh criticism would require more passion for the subject than I have. My relationship with Blizzard has officially hit “I’m not angry; I’m just disappointed.”

The druid class hall in World of WarcraftThe faction war is beyond played out. It’s tired, it’s predictable, it’s stagnant, and it’s downright depressing.

But it didn’t have to be this way. Blizzard had a fantastic expansion concept sitting right under their noses.

I’m not sure I’m quite ready to enthrone Legion as one of the high watermarks of Warcraft story-telling alongside Mists, Wrath, and Reign of Chaos, but there are some things it did very right.

One of them was introducing the idea of the World Soul, one of the most powerful Warcraft plot revelations in years and an all around awesome fantasy concept. The realization that Azeroth herself is an entity puts a whole new spin on all the events of the franchise to date — it explains why so much crazy stuff happens to this one planet — and it makes all that our characters have fought for feel so much more meaningful.

I’ll never forget setting foot on Argus for the first time and seeing Azeroth hanging in the sky. I thought of all the adventures I’ve had in this universe over the years, and it gave such a sense of purpose to the events that followed.

The view of Azeroth from Argus in World of WarcraftLegion ended with Azeroth’s World Soul suffering a mortal blow. Azeroth itself is literally dying. It needs champions to defend it. And that is where the story should have gone.

Imagine an expansion that is less about conquering new lands or hunting down villains and more about healing the land. About coming together — human and Orc, Elf and Troll, Alliance and Horde — to restore that which is beautiful and right in the world. To heal Azeroth’s wounds, physical and cultural.

That’s not to say there couldn’t still be drama and conflict. Undoubtedly the minions of the Old Gods would rise up to strike the killing blow in Azeroth’s weakest hour. Perhaps remnants of the Legion might seek revenge as well. Azeroth’s enemies would be many, the threats constant.

But that’s where us adventurers would come in. We would fight, as we murder hobos are wont to do, but not so much against something as for something. To preserve Azeroth, to see another dawn. To save the world, in the truest sense possible.

That’s the Battle for Azeroth that I want to see. Not a fight to control Azeroth, but a battle for Azeroth.

That would have been something fresh in the mythos of Warcraft. Perhaps more importantly, it would have provided a much needed note of optimism at a time when the real world is becoming ever more divided and ever more hopeless.

Silithus: The Wound in World of WarcraftBut instead we got this tired, cynical story of the Alliance and Horde once again falling on each other like the rabid dogs they apparently are.

What a waste.

3 thoughts on “The Battle for Azeroth That Could Have Been

  1. Playing devils advocate for a sec. What if somewhere beyond 8.1 what you described really happens. We all shake off some outside influence compelling us to destroy each other and everything, and see the true villain, and finally work together. I am sure Blizzard would be front and center telling us, we told you to have faith. I do agree, the old red v blue is long past overplayed, but I wonder if there is something out there that they are keeping hush hush, hoping that we will ride it out. If that does not come to pass, then yeah, I will be right there with you on being very disappointed, and certainly I will be shaking my head if they carry the end of this into the next, i.e. Garrosh 2.0

    • I definitely think that is a possibility, and if it does play out that way, BfA may yet win me over. However, right now they’re only doubling down more on faction conflict, and frankly a WoW expansion patch cycle probably isn’t big enough to pivot the story away from that in a satisfying way. They’ve painted themselves into a corner for Sylvanas; there’s no longer any hope of any kind of redemption arc or peaceful resolution with her. She needs a reckoning before the story can move forward.

  2. I agree whole-heartedly with this. I’m so disappointed with the story-direction taken and it highlights starkly the limitations of Blizzard’s story telling compared to say Secret World or SWTOR. There’s not even an illusion of choice here. We should be the Champion of Azeroth not railroaded into faction war at such a crucial time for the entire planet! My characters all wanted to take a stand with Magni against the petty squabbles of Sylvanus (and to a lesser extent Anduin). A parallel, alternative track of the main story where we defuse or push aside the warring factions in the name of Azeroth might have been interesting. But that’s never going to happen. Even if, as commented above, the story does eventually pivot to Old God stuff the expansion will have been mostly wasted by that time on a faction conflict that has never seemed so out of place and futile. Exactly as you wrote, looking down on Azeroth from Argus was a truly powerful moment and I cannot get on board with this faction war as a result. I’m playing the expansion only because of family/friends who want me to game with them, but I’m very disengaged this time around, a night and day difference from the last expansion.

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