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.

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New Articles: Dedicated Communities, Group Content, and Identifying Dead Games

It’s time again for a round-up of my latest articles published at MMO Bro.

A picturesque scene of Christmas lights in Tom Clancy's The DivisionFirst, I look at the MMOs with the most dedicated communities, then shift gears to comparing the pros and cons of various types of group content.

Finally, I ask the question, “When is a game truly dead?” It’s a much more complicated matter than you might expect. And unexpectedly topical given that WildStar’s demise was announced shortly after I finished writing it.