WoW: End It All

The first Warcraft game came out in 1994, when I was four years old (though I think I may have been five by the time I got around to playing it). Over the next twenty years and more, the story that began there has continued, through games, books, comics, audio dramas, and even a movie. I’ve been there (nearly) every step of the way.

Antorus, the Burning Throne in World of Warcraft: LegionAnd by and large, that story was the story of the Burning Legion. Even when the demons and their fel magic were not the central theme, it all tied back to them one way or another.

Now, with the release of Antorus, the Burning Throne, the story of the Burning Legion has at last come to an end, and I can’t escape the feeling that this is also the end of Warcraft… or at least Warcraft as we know it.

Yes, recent plot revelations make the Void arguably the greater threat, but it just doesn’t carry the same weight of history the Legion does. Over the years, if I ever pictured a final conclusion to the story of Warcraft, I pictured a final glorious confrontation with Sargeras and his Burning Crusade.

And now it’s here.

I say all this to give you an idea of just how much of my life this story has been, and how surreal it is to finally see its end. In so much as an entertainment product can be, the release of Antorus is a Major Event in my life.

Fair warning: This post will contain copious spoilers for Antorus and all that follows.

Rise, my broken world:

Argus the Unmaker in World of Warcraft: LegionThere’s a lot I like about Antorus, and I don’t want to send the impression that my view of it is entirely or even mostly negative, but if I’m being honest, it did leave me a bit disappointed.

One problem is that over the course of Legion we’ve already fought and killed pretty much everyone who was anyone within the Burning Legion. So most of Antorus is just taken up by fighting no-name demons who feel like filler. Varimathras is really the only big name here, and without his original voice actor, he just doesn’t feel the same.

Things do get a lot more interesting in the later parts of the raid, where the story shifts focus to the Titans. But the trouble there is that it’s a good story… but about 90% of it happens off camera.

For instance, there’s no explanation of how the Titans’ souls wound up in Antorus. Last we heard, they were on Azeroth.

Now, the Legion has been running roughshod over Azeroth for months now, so it’s not exactly far-fetched that they could have grabbed the Titans’ souls somewhere along the line. But it just seems like that’s a story that would have been worth telling.

I’m especially curious what happened to Wrathion, since he was (implied to be) the current host for Aman’thul’s spirit. Did they kill him?

The Argus encounter in World of Warcraft: LegionI also don’t understand how the Titans suddenly resurrected themselves, or how they were able to defeat Sargeras. Last time he fought them, he was able to kill them all himself, and that’s when they were at full power.

It just feels unfinished.

It’s also a bit of a shame to see the Titans so scaled down. They’re living planets, and they’re supposed to have the size to match. I realize there’s no possible way that could have been made to work in a game like this, but it just doesn’t feel right to be fighting Aggramar and have him be “only” forty feet tall.

On the plus side, I love the idea of using a twisted version of Titan architecture for the deeper parts of Antorus. Because of course Sargeras isn’t a demon; he’s a Titan. His inner sanctum would reflect that. It’s not something I ever would have thought of myself, but it makes perfect sense.

Also, the final fight against Argus the Unmaker is glorious. One of the absolute most mind-bending, crazy, over the top boss fights I’ve ever seen in a video game. Even on Raid Finder difficulty, it’s incredibly intense, and it does feel like a worthy end to the epic saga of the Burning Legion.

Taken all in all… I honestly still don’t know how to feel about Antorus, and the Legion’s end. There’s good, there’s bad, and there’s a mountain of expectation and history to overcome. It’s hard to process.

Your crusade is over:

Azeroth and Argus in World of Warcraft: LegionWhat I actually liked a lot more than Antorus was the quest that immediately follows, wherein you deliver Illidan’s last words to his brother and Tyrande. It’s very a personal, touching moment, and it’s the sort of things video games could really use more of.

Both of them seem rather unfairly harsh to Illidan, but then they always have been. Being misunderstood is kind of his thing.

I am very glad Illidan finally got the heroic end he deserves.

On the other hand, the quests in Silithus are crushingly depressing. Not even in an enjoyable “beautifully tragic” sort of way, like the Crusader Bridenbrad storyline. Just in a “I don’t even care anymore” sort of way. Even Khadgar seems to have been broken by it all.

And yes, it does seem clear that Horde players are going to be forced to be evil whether we like it or not once again. At least with Garrosh, it was clear from the start that there was dissent within the ranks. Now everyone seems perfectly fine with being cartoonishly villainous.

Also, did they seriously replace Saurfang’s voice actor? That level of heresy is simply unforgivable.

This only increases my growing conviction that it may be time to move on from WoW after Legion. The story is not going anywhere I like, and flawed though it may have been, I don’t see how they can ever top Antorus.

We just fought and defeated a living planet. There is nowhere to go from here but down.


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.