The War of the Thorns is in its second week, and the gamer portion of the internet is having a drama meltdown because of it. If you’ve played World of Warcraft (and if you haven’t, you are probably already dead, so stop reading this) then you know that every two or three years Blizzard, the creators of the Warcraft gaming franchise, release a world-changing patch called an expansion that the company hopes will reinvigorate its flagship game, World of Warcraft. Long time readers of this blog will know all the Real Life back story because, for several years, I couldn’t stop talking about it.
For those dead people (undead?) still reading, I will mention, briefly, a little lore and history. Warcraft is a series of Real Time Strategy games. All versions of Warcraft prior to World of Warcraft were RTS games, a completely different animal from a Massively Multiplayer Online game like World of Warcraft. Maps in an RTS are built for complex battles fought on the ground using large armies. Maps in an MMO are used in world-building, an essential ingredient for any kind of real-world feel in online gaming. In Warcraft there were essentially two teams, Orcs and Humans. As the game evolved over Warcrafts One, Two and Three (and their associated expansions) the Orc and Human teams were fleshed out with races that could assist the Orcs or the Humans (or both at the same time) This introduced Dwarves and Elves for the humans and Trolls and Ogres for the Orcs. Gnomes and Goblins were addons that either appeared as part of Dwarvish construction for Gnomes, or Goblin mercenaries who could be hired from specialized structures in the later maps. With Warcraft three your two teams are expanded to four teams, with Night Elves appearing for the first time in the woods of Kalimdor and the Undead faction being introduced with the corruption of the Human prince Arthas, inheritor of the throne of Lordaeron, the Human faction dominating the game Warcraft II.
The important thing to take from the above is that, Night Elves lived in the woods of Kalimdor, the second continent created for the RTS game Warcraft II. Humans lived on the first continent, Eastern Kingdoms, and there were several cities for Humans and Dwarves mentioned there or located there through the first two games. The Elves that were part of the Human faction prior to Warcraft III also had cities in the Eastern Kingdom, unlike the Night Elves. Orcs were from another world briefly explored in expansions for both Warcraft One and Two, as were Ogres. Trolls had no origin prior to World of Warcraft, they were simply part of the map obstacles for teams, and part of the support group for the Orcs, a smattering of races which came to be known as the Horde. The Human team took the name of the Alliance, and that brings us to the creation of World of Warcraft as a game and a map.
When Blizzard took on the task of creating a real world map for Azeroth, the world that most of World of Warcraft takes place on, they had to create origin points for all the races to start from, so that low-level players could have time to learn the mechanics of gameplay before being dumped out in the hostile world of Player vs. Player competition. This is where most of the places that are near and dear to any hardcore players heart were created. Stormwind, destroyed in Warcraft I, lived again as the home for Humans. Ironforge, the mythical home of the Dwarves took form, as did Gnomeregan, Thunder Bluff for the Tauren, also introduced in Warcraft III. And finally Teldrassil was introduced as a home for the Night Elves. The Night Elves who called no place home other than the woods that they love, and the real reason I took everyone down this long, winding path in the first place.
Gnomeregan is a sore point for anyone who plays Gnomes. Gnomeregan is a five-man dungeon, not really a home. At least they have a home to be excluded from, that warrants a dungeon instance. Trolls had no home at first, simply being pointed North to Orgrimmar the same as low-level Orcs experience in game. Pointed North to a city in which they occupied a slum adjacent to the Orcs, but not really as well respected as Orcs. Trolls later claimed their home back from Zalazane, but that isn’t the point of this winding trip down memory lane. The point is that Teldrassil, the home for Night Elves, was never part of Warcraft until World of Warcraft, and even then it was a seriously flawed creation of Fandral Staghelm and the druids that he lead at the beginning of World of Warcraft, who harnessed dark magic to make the tree what it is today. What it was until this week.
The Daughter has been telling me for months now they burn Teldrassil. I didn’t believe it until I saw it, but the animated short released yesterday duplicates the final sequence in Tuesday, June 31st’s expansion patch for the War of the Thorns currently underway as an introduction to the new expansion due out August 14th, Battle for Azeroth.
So, yeah. They burn Teldrassil. I’m not exactly appalled or outraged by this sequence of events. As others who are even more lore-wise than me (yes, those people do exist. They don’t have lives, but they do exist) have pointed out, this is not even the first time that a major city has been destroyed in World of Warcraft or that this strategy of roping in the player base by shaking up the maps and relationships we’ve come to accept as a given is even that groundbreaking or necessarily effective.
The book that corresponds with the release of this expansion, Before the Storm, was penned by one of the better authors for Warcraft lore, Christie Golden. I would prefer to have read the book before the expansion comes out, but like all things financial for me these days, some things have to wait for the bills to be paid so that the lights will stay on here. Hopefully I’ll get a copy for my birthday in two weeks. So I haven’t read the book. Most players have not and probably should read it before being too outspoken about transpiring events. As a druid player (not to mention Paladin and every other class for both factions) the ability to opt out of participation in the slaughter at Teldrassil would have been nice. Druids would not agree to attack their Shan’do. There were, however, Druids working for Sylvanas in Darkshore. Just slightly South of Lor’danel where the final battle takes place, there are druids of the claw attacking in a circular formation. So Druids were present in the battle, despite rumors to the contrary.
I wonder what game these players shocked by Sylvanas’ actions have been playing? They certainly haven’t leveled toons through the early game areas for the Undead in the current version of World of Warcraft, a storyline that has been in place since after Cataclysm reworked the area following the Wrath of the Lich King expansion and the killing of Varimathras. Anyone who thinks that Sylvanas doesn’t want to be the next Lich King doesn’t understand the undead, hasn’t played undead characters, hasn’t been paying attention to the characterizations in game. Her disavowal of knowledge of Varimathras’ plague plans at the Wrathgate was just her engaging in covering her own ass. She set about making more plague and using it in South Shore in the very next expansion. She has been experimenting with the Val’kyr, using them to resurrect fresh undead. It’s right there in the Undead storyline right now, go play it.
However, frontal assault is totally out of character for Sylvanas and her Rogues. She is a master strategizer, well-versed in the underhanded ways of the Rogue class (Rogues that should be using bows the way she does but currently cannot) This one size fits all storytelling is at the heart of my dissatisfaction with Broken Isles, the last expansion of World of Warcraft. The Broken Isles had Rogues leading armies as heroes, not to mention Mages willing to follow Warlocks into battle as if Warlocks hadn’t been demonstrated to suck the souls out of their friends when the expediency of the moment calls for it. Most of the stories since Wrath and Cataclysm have been underthought and not fleshed out very well (what the hell happened to Wrathion?) I was hoping that Christie Golden being brought on to help with plotting and storytelling would make for better stories being told in relation to the MMO as we move forward in time. Maybe she just hasn’t had time to make the kinds of deep changes that really are warranted in the game experience. I guess we will find out eventually.
In any case, good riddance to Fandral’s creation, Teldrassil. This druid never had any love for the place and only regrets not being able to save more than a hundred out of the nearly 1000 people supposedly taking refuge there. I look forward to making my new home on the top of the mountain next to Nordrassil. Hope does spring eternal, Sylvanas. You cannot kill hope unless you destroy all life. Keep walking the path of the Lich King. I know you as only one of your own can.