Now that we know the outcome of the whole expansion (kinda), it’s time to review the whole story of Battle for Azeroth. I will need to follow the lore steps since expansion launch, and pin down the problem with storytelling which did not allow it to shine.
The expansion launch has put forward two major problems: Sargeras’ final act has put the planet on the verge of dying, and at the same time launched an arms race between factions like we’ve never seen before.
Both problems were addressed at once. Magni granted us the necklace to accumulate power and heal the planet wounds, and search for a cure. Factions launched their campaigns with a relative success, wiping out two enemy capitals from their home continents, and sought the help of new allies to proceed and to survive the war. So far, so good.
Then followed a classic leveling step, where Blizzard always excelled. Both naval nations’ lifestyles were presented perfectly. Although Zandalari fleet was a given thing, and they addressed dinos more than shipwrights. Seriously, in Kul Tiras we saw where wood, iron and cannons come from, how ships are blessed by sea priests, how the nation is supplied with food, where they get the sailor crews. Zandalar, on the other hand, just has its shiny fleet up and ready, and its people just survive in the jungle among predators and try to tame them :) No agriculture, no industry, no nothing. But oh well.
Subzone problems were engaging and fun to play through, the local enemies were cool and dangerous, and both continents had an excellent major villain which united the zone stories in a climax and triggered the whole set of events – G’huun and Lady Ashvane. Not a stain at this part.
As I said before, Arathi looked more like a friendly contest, while Darkshore is a brutal retaliation for the most heartbreaking moment of the expansion – Teldrassil. Nevertheless, Arathi makes all sense considering war strategy – it is in dangerous vicinity from Ironforge stronghold, so its importance is clear without any special lead-in.
Darkshore had to be and was quite emotional, supported by the most moving music piece of the whole expansion. An excellent lead-in quest, shivers from ‘Blight it all!’ line, and an opportunity to punish the worst and the most villainous Horde’s troops (only goblins and undead there). The ones who not only follow orders, but execute them happily.
Right, so lorewise both were good. Continuity from the pre-patch events and adding up the idea that the war is happening all over the world. Btw, Alliance won both warfronts if you missed it before.
War Campaign and Battle for Dazar’Alor
War is going on, and factions start testing the might of their adversary on enemy continents. The Alliance proved themselves more capable in strategy, cooking up and executing a plan of direct attack to the new Horde capital. The devastating strike left the Zandalari fleet and empire in ruins, so the war might as well be considered lost by the Horde. All perfectly logical so far.
The aftermath should have disturbed the Horde at large: the war was effectively lost, there was no decent plan to go on, and yet the peace ideas are rejected with anger. Here comes:
And this is where the lore goes to the drain. Sylvanas wanted to destroy both fleets with Azshara’s hands (more souls to the Jailer), so she promised her Xal’atath. Azshara wanted Xal’atath to slay imprisoned N’Zoth and be finally free from the Old God, so she agreed to use the Tidestone.
But why! Why did Azshara not pursue Nathanos holding Xal’atath, be it her primary goal? Why did she play with us instead and allow us to reach as far as the Circle of Stars and free N’Zoth, knowing that he will be WAY harder to get rid of? And even if he made her do so, why not drown the shipwreck with all the survivors and collect the Heart of Azeroth from our dead bodies? If she had Xal’atath, why didn’t she use it?
All questions, no answers.
The resolution of the war campaign was quite nice. The arc of Saurfang was well-written, and his mak’gora reached its goal. Bloodshed is over, the tyrant is overthrown, and nations could finally lick their wounds and address the most prominent matter: the Old God N’Zoth.
Visions of N’Zoth and Ny’alotha
The finale will see N’Zoth trying to use the titan machines to corrupt Azeroth, and us using the maxed out Heart of Azeroth and titan machines to finish him.
What Was Wrong with Storytelling?
And the answer is: the whole Sylvanas arc.
There is nothing wrong with dancing to the flute of an evil leader – the Horde did that up through 5.3. in Pandaria. There is nothing wrong with being tricked by shemers and do their bidding – we had multiple quests about it, all those madmen that made us bring in a monstrosity.
Problem is: this arc justifies and binds the WHOLE EXPANSION. But we were left out of brackets!
It is important that we understand the Blizzard’s sentiment to keep the Shadowlands’ intrigue intact. Yet the signs of Sylvanas being evil and not making it as a faction leader to the next expansion were all too obvious. There was no intrigue in there.
And thus we deserved multiple glances at the enemy camp – I mean the real enemy, Sylvanas. By all means we should have seen her act, not just stand in Orgrimmar’s throne room and hop out in cinematics just to cook up another idiotic plan and threaten the ‘traitors’.
By all means we should have seen her making a deal with Ashvane and Azshara. By all means we should have seen her actions explained. Not as far as revealing Shadowlands and Jailer of course, but that her real plan was to ‘kill all humans’ just had to be there. Each and every BfA chapter should have seen her commenting on the stuff and revealing her real thoughts – at least to Nathanos, at least via in-game machinima cinematics.
And so. We were simply flushed down the toilet of the expansion and traveled through the pipes like a piece of poop :) We had no idea, no clue, and traveled all the way through the sewers with no pro-active position, goal or philosophy. Neither Alliance players, neither supporters of Saurfang and Horde honor, neither Sylvanas’ loyalists had any idea what’s our final goal in BfA.
What is worse, neither did any of the faction leaders. Mark you, it’s okay being led and told what to do: no one minds when Khadgar sets us strategic goals in Draenor or during Legion invasion. But ALL the vital NPCs in BfA were also stripped from an opportunity to be pro-active players. We’re all in the same boat: we’re shit floating down the tubes. And only Sylvanas actually knew what was happening.
I repeat myself: being cheated by a deceitful character is ok. But, um, it’s our character that must be cheated, not the player. We would follow the same path eagerly if we knew Sylvanas’ motives, saying, ‘Oh, you tricky banshee! Wait till our characters and leaders learn it and get to you!’
But that did not happen. At the cost of 3-4 machinima cinematics and dialogues, we’ve been flushed down the sewers and spent there 2 years.
Like a piece of shit :)
P.S. Sewers were beautiful and fun though.
3 thoughts on “Battle for Azeroth Expansion Lore Review: Where Blizzard Failed”
I saw a quote yesterday where Arthas say something like Ice Crown was a setback and he would never let the scourge rule. I’m sure you know the exact wording. But it got me thinking.
Has the story been written out as a timeline for years, and are instances like we’ve seen with the Sylvannis arc just major plot points to further the end goal.
Blizzard sometimes frustratingly fails to adhere to a simple concept of storytelling – show, don’t tell. The biggest point of agreement I have with this post is the Sylvanas stuff – we’re told she made this bargain, but the details of it are left so threadbare there’s nothing to latch onto. Sylvanas fans desperately wanting her to be nuanced and interesting have to invent theories about what “really” happened when the truth is that Blizzard just took the lazy out. Sylvanas haters get to point to this and say she’s always been poorly written and lazily characterized, and her fans are stuck in a rut of denying what the story is beating us over the head with because Blizzard leaves it vague enough to allow that.
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Blizzard can polish a turd like no other, but all the shine doesn’t stop the stink. Sigh. They really need writers that can plot better, or perhaps ‘just’ keep the VIPs from ‘fixing’ the story.
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