WoW: All Good Things…?

For the last several years, the thought of my not playing Warcraft — not simply taking breaks, but permanently leaving the game — had never really occurred to me. The Warcraft universe has been an important part of my life since before I learned to read. The thought of that ever changing was simply absurd.

My rogue shows off her fancy new hat in World of WarcraftBut now I’m starting to wonder. Maybe a time might be coming soon where I should move on. I look at the upcoming expansion, and I can’t say I feel the urge to play it. Instead, I’m wondering if it might be better to quit while I’m ahead.

That’s not to say that I’m rage quitting because I hate the direction of Battle for Azeroth. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I do hate the direction of Battle for Azeroth. It’s asinine on every possible level.

But I’ve hated the direction of WoW before. Remember Warlords of Draenor? Yeah. Hating Blizzard’s decisions is old hat to me by now. It’s just part of the experience. If it was simply a matter of hating BfA, there would be no story here.

No, this thought has actually been in my mind since before BfA was announced. Battle for Azeroth has simply accelerated my timetable.

See, I got to thinking — really thinking — about where WoW was going to go in the very long term. As much as it sounds nice in theory to be able to continue enjoying a story you love indefinitely, it doesn’t necessarily work that way. No king rules forever (my son), and no story can maintain quality forever. Eventually, things will get stale.

The Petrified Forest on Argus in World of WarcraftSo I started wondering if it might not be a good idea to let go of WoW at some future date when the story had reached what I felt to be a satisfying end point.

At the time, I was picturing this as something a few years off. But then came Battle for Azeroth, and if rehashing the faction conflict yet again isn’t a red flag that Blizzard is running out of ideas, I don’t know what is.

Fueling the fire is the fact that I have had a pretty good time with Legion. It’s not perfect, and it’s definitely not everything I ever wanted in an expansion, but taken all in all, it’s been a pretty good ride, and as endings go, you could do far worse. For all the mishandling of their story in recent years, the Burning Legion has always been the ultimate threat at the heart of the Warcraft universe. Their defeat seems like a natural end point.

When I embarked on my mad “Mustering of Azeroth” scheme to play every class story, I never intended it as a farewell tour, but it does work brilliantly as such. By the time I finish, I’ll have played every class, every spec, and most of the races. I’ll have seen just about everything the game has to offer and had a grand time doing it.

And really, there isn’t that much left in the story I care about. Most threads have been resolved. Nearly all the big questions have been answered. I’m pretty satisfied with everything at this point.

My warlock shrouded in darkness by the Inky Black Potion in World of WarcraftI mean, N’Zoth is still interesting, but it’s not an arc I have a lot of emotional investment in. He’s too much a behind the scenes player. Similarly, I’ve wanted to see Nyalotha for years, but at this point I doubt it could live up to expectations, especially with the standard TSW set for Lovecraftian weirdness. I don’t think WoW even has the technological ability to make Nyalotha as bizarre and frightening as I’m imagining it.

I like the new Void lore, but again, I don’t feel the strong urge to explore it further. Seems like all our big questions have been answered.

Ultimately, it may come down to Azshara. She’s the one unresolved plot thread I’m still heavily invested in. When the idea of leaving WoW behind first occurred to me, my general thought was to wait for an Azshara expansion and then move on once it was done.

But now we know Azshara will be in Battle for Azeroth, and my future as a WoW player may hinge on how she is handled. If it’s true that she’s been relegated to being merely a first tier filler boss, that may just be the final nail in the coffin. If this is some fakeout where Azshara turns out to be the final boss and BfA is an Azshara expansion in disguise, maybe I’ll play it after all, but then it becomes likely I’ll move on after that.

It’s not as if the gameplay is keeping me around. It’s gotten better over the years, but I still find WoW to be at best adequate as a game. Some of the classes are pretty fun, but they’re held back by overly easy enemies and a fundamentally simplistic and restrictive model of combat.

A statue of Azshara in the Tomb of Sargeras raid in World of WarcraftI am excited by the new allied races, but at the same time, what do I need more alts for? I’ve leveled through the old world so many times, and BfA seems to be returning to an endgame model where alts are largely pointless.

The thing that would most hold me back right now is my attachment to my characters. As I’ve said before, I’ve played my rogue for a really long time now. She’s become a kind of mascot, my go-to online identity. Letting go of her will not be easy.

It’s a shame that WoW is so laser-focused on endgame to the expense of all else. It would be nice if I could just go around repeating stories with my characters indefinitely as I can in TSW, but it just doesn’t work that way. Story quests aren’t repeatable, and I’ll never get groups for endgame dungeons or raids once Legion is done.

If you’ve already done the current content and don’t buy the new expansion, there’s no point to playing at all. At best I could role-play, but that’s never quite been my thing, and I would still have to cope with the new story direction, unless I somehow find a group of RPers who ignore everything after Legion.

The subscription-based business model also contributes to making WoW an all-or-nothing affair. You can just pick it up for half an hour if the mood strikes you. You commit fully, or not at all.

I don’t know what I’m ultimately going to do. I do know myself; I have far too much franchise loyalty for my own good, and Warcraft has always been a part of my life. It’s hard to imagine ever leaving it behind for good.

My rogue on her class mount in World of WarcraftBut I have to say right now I feel as though I’ve gotten all I want out of WoW. I’m content. I don’t need anymore.

And Blizzard should be far more worried by that than by all my burning hatred towards the decisions of Battle for Azeroth.

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World Spectrum: One Heart

As I have previously noted, it is my habit to write a story in my father’s honour as a birthday gift, because he is a horribly difficult person to find a gift for.

This year’s story had me writing in the setting of the World Spectrum for the first time in years. It’s just a brief little vignette, but it was interesting to revisit this universe. I had to try to turn back the clock on my writing style to how I wrote then — a fascinating challenge.

Fair warning: This story takes place early in the first book, so if you haven’t read it, it might not make a lot of sense.

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One Heart

© 2017 by Tyler F.M. Edwards

They were coming for him.

Merrik cowered beneath a half-collapsed roof in what had once been a townhome, hearing the heavy footfalls. He heard a muttered curse in a language he didn’t understand, and it confirmed his worst fears. It was a Tor soldier.

Outside, the city of Heart burned. The footsteps of the great war machines called Automatons rumbled through the air like distant thunder, underscored by the screams of their victims.

Just a few weeks ago, Merrik could never have imagined such a nightmare. He and his thirteen year-old daughter, Nolly, had lived a peaceful life in Heart. Times had been difficult following the loss of Nolly’s mother, but they’d had each other, and they had endured.

Then the Tors had invaded.

Merrik had never given much thought to Eastenhold’s belligerent neighbors in Tor Som; the last hostilities had ended years before, and Heart was far from the contested border. But the Tors had come in overwhelming force, and city after city had fallen to them until even Eastenhold’s capitol had come under siege.

The defense of Heart had gone badly from the outset, but then the true madness had come. The Automatons had gone mad, Tor and Eastenholder machines alike killing everyone and destroying everything in their path.

In the mad flight for safety, Merrik had been separated from Nolly. He could still hear her calling out to him, but the panicked crowds had pushed him farther and farther away, and by the time he had been able to double back, she had been nowhere to be found. He had spent a panicked day and night searching for her through the corpse-strewn streets, but he had found no trace of her.

His mind filled with images of her lying dead in an alley somewhere, her bright brown eyes dull, her round face slack and bloated.

The despair was choking.

Now Merrik cowered in the ruins, his whole body shaking in terror, his lungs aching from the smoke that hung over the whole city.

He could hear the Tor soldier ascending the stairs. Perhaps it would be for the best to die here, Merrik thought. He didn’t want to live without Nolly. He only hoped the Tor would grant him a swift death. He had heard stories…

But a strange thing happened then. He began to feel a tickle at the back of his thoughts. It grew to whispered voices, and then he felt his consciousness expand across the city, connecting to the thoughts and feelings of countless other individuals.

He found himself lost in a sea of minds. A mother hiding her children in a basement.  A blacksmith hefting his hammer, intending to use it against the Automatons. A wounded man, dying in a ditch. A secretary cowering under her desk as Automatons tore the building down around her. All of Heart, united as one.

Then, he felt a note of recognition within the chaos, and he seized on one single mind, the only one that mattered.

Nolly.

Father! she thought.

I’m here, Nolly, he responded.

He wanted to ask her if she was okay, but he found he didn’t need to. He could feel everything she did. She was tired, hungry, and frightened, but otherwise unharmed.

He sagged with relief.

What is this? What is happening? he sent to her.

I don’t know, she thought. But Father, look!

He found himself looking through his daughter’s eyes. She peered through a broken window in what had once been a restaurant. She beheld a host of people, soldier and civilian, Tor and Eastenholder, marching through the broken streets of Heart, growing larger by the moment. They marched toward the Automatons, not away, and they did so unafraid.

At their head stood a small, round-faced woman with brown hair – unmistakably a fellow Eastenholder. She moved with the grace of a predatory cat, and the mere sight of her was reassuring in some indefinable way.

Merrik reached across whatever strange link bound the people of Heart together and touched her mind as well. Her thoughts burned hot as a bonfire, full of passion and bravery, and it made his heart soar.

There was a scraping of wooden beams, and Merrik came back to himself as the rubble concealing him was torn away.

A Tor man stood before him, tall and fair with a hauberk of gleaming mail and a uniform of crimson wool. He raised a bloody short sword for a killing thrust, and Merrik saw his death approach.

Father, no! Nolly screamed into his mind, her heart in her throat.

It’s okay, Nolly, he sent. I love you.

He poured all the warmth of his love into the link, all the light and wondrous potential he saw her in her, all the ways she reminded him of her mother, all the ways she had brought joy to his days over the last thirteen years.

He braced for the blow that would end his life, but at that moment, the link expanded again, and he looked down at himself through the eyes of the Tor soldier.

At first, he felt a searing, caustic hatred toward the Eastenholder parasites. But almost immediately this faded as the Tor man – Yohar – beheld the love that passed between Merrik and his daughter.

Yohar knew such feelings well.

In his mind, Merrik saw a boy – not more than five or six – with golden hair and blue eyes. The same golden hair and blue eyes as Yohar, as his father.

Along with the images came a great warmth of love. The same love Merrik felt for Nolly.

Yohar lowered his sword.

A long moment of silence followed, and then the Tor man sheathed his blade and instead extended his hand, helping Merrik to his feet. Their eyes met, blue to brown, and an understanding passed between them. They were not friends, but no longer could they be enemies.

Merrik’s mind skimmed across the surface of the ocean of thoughts he now found himself in, from Yohar, to the woman who even now led her impromptu army against the rebelling Automatons, to all the other strangers whom he now knew as well as he knew himself.

He let all those things pass over and through him, and he settled his attention again on the one mind that most mattered to him, on his daughter’s.

Stay where you are, Nolly, he thought, smiling for the first time since this nightmare had begun. I’m coming to find you.

He gazed at Yohar, who nodded. And I’ll have help.