WoW: A Fresh Batch of Cinematics

So, even if I’m benched out this expansion for a number of reasons, both objective and subjective, I’m still going to track its lore closely, maybe up to watching story walkthrough on YouTube – as I’m eager to learn how the sinking ship will fare in the next couple of years storywise. Upon the second part of pre-patch there’s a small introduction story, and a whole batch of trailer and in-game cinematics became available.

*spoiler alert: if you plan to see the cinematics in game, approach with care.

Fisrt of all, I still don’t understand why Blizzard is still a gaming company :) For what it’s worth, they should have abandoned games at all, taken the legacy from all their franchises and rendered it into cinematic animated series – which would keep them afloat for a couple of decades. The quality of the art team is beyond match as always.

The launch cinematic was nothing too complex, just introducing major Dragonflight attractions: dragons, dragon riding, no enmity among factions, the major villain (so far), and Tuskarr, of course. I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I’m watching some Disney trailer though, and while I have nothing against Disney movies… they’re not Warcraft at all. That was frankly a disturbing thing: as if devs are dragging all those pixar/dreamworks camera moves, facial expressions and all trademarks into their game. Remember the Pandaria trailer? It was silly and funny, but it radiated 100% Warcraft vibes, was epic, and made you groan with wonder and desire to explore the new land. Here? I would like to see how this dwarf and troll would make their journey across the uncharted land, bicker and make best friends with each other, but I don’t see how this is the new WoW chapter at all.

The second couple of cinematics was about factions setting an expedition to Dragon Isles in faction capitals, with Ebonhorn and Wrathion presiding the meetings and specifically mentioning a no-fighting policy. And my beef here is: inclusivity.

Mind you, I don’t have any objections to Reliquary / Explorer’s League representatives per se, I’m totally fine with whichever gender, sexual orientation, race, skin color they are, and I’m totally fine if they lead the expeditions and be the major characters. It’s just cinematics, apart from the context, looks like they took these people out of the blue as token ones, a Blizzard statement and atonement for the past rather than bringing new interesting characters into the fold.

If they had a pre-story, an introduction in the game prior to cinematics – good. Otherwise, there should have been well-known leaders of exploration factions which would introduce these characters properly, set them an assignment to lead the expeditions – in short, give some story explanation and introduction who these people even are. Out of cinematic, they’re just… there, for inclusive reasons, and nothing else so far. What I say is: bring forward bright characters, not just tokens, and you’ll be surprised how normal and loved up to a personal fanbase they would look and feel to literally any player – and that’s the ultimate goal, right? Of course, this concern is based only on a scarce cinematic, maybe they will shine in the story.

A positive example of this matter would be Flynn from BfA: their expedition with Shaw to Zandalar tomb reeked of chemistry, and I was surprised they didn’t make out when it ended (well, they developed it in the novel). But! Flynn as a character was introduced first, and by the expedition time he was already very well shaped on his own and quite familiar to us. He was not a token character at all, but the one important for the expansion story, a character with its own perks and quirks, not just a no-name they introduced simply for providing Shaw a love interest out of the blue just because they decided to enhance him as a gay character.

The Liberation of Raszageth – well, at least they made a villain that clearly utters her motives at the very beginning, not being vague throughout the expansion and still being vague upon defeat. Dragonflight intro looks much like Cataclysm, it’s not a big stretch: a crazy unconventional, enhanced dragon, eradication of the world, rogue elementals on the loose, Aspect-centered good guys – does it remind you of something? While this is not a bad thing per se, my concern is Blizzard’s statement and current lore philosophy: we wanted to make a simpler, down-to-earth story. And knowing how Blizzard drives its pendulum to extremities, I’m wary that this might mean: primitive.

See, based on everything I’ve seen in the scarce new lore so far, all reeks of fanservice and nothing else. And I can’t shake off the feeling that all the cinematics look… well, secondhand. It’s like they’re utilizing the very same methods and moves, the very same facial expressions and all, but I’ve seen this a thousand times before – and I don’t see and feel the most important thing: vision and visionaries. That’s why we’re stepping into this “new chapter” with utmost wariness.

The question is: when the fresh theme park excitement wanes, where would it leave us story- and characterwise? As I see it, they would go crazy on fixing things, and responding to feedback, and bringing in inclusivity, and doing tons of fanservice, and lots of wow-effect in cutscenes, but without a strong core, a general idea and a good writer, it would all feel just hollow: a lot of flash and smoke and no fire.

I would be more than happy to be mistaken, but one of my major concerns about the expansion and modern WoW in general remains true: I see the familiar and cool things which are supposed to animate us, and I feel nothing inspiring about them, and a gaping hole where the heart and the essence of the game should be. Let’s see how it turns out, but so far the lore looks like an empty shell to me – where devs diligently copied the skin, but not the essence of Warcraft, they lack (or sacked) the prior visionaries and have none to replace them or offer a new vision.

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