Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Whatlords of Nothing

(That's the closest title I could come to something remotely clever, shut up.)



I've been silent about the Warlords of Draenor expansion because I didn't know what to make of it.

After it was revealed at Blizzcon in 2013, I wrote a post (WHYlords of Draenor) detailing why I was feeling so unsure about the upcoming expansion, and now that I've played through the entirety of it, I want to address all those concerns before I step into the Legion expansion.

People have already debated the Pros and Cons of Draenor to death - mostly because we've all had a lot of time to do it.
I'll just address my personal concerns and not go into topics that have been covered incredibly thoroughly.

My personal Pros:
  • The leveling experience was the best they've ever done (XP gains, the cinematics, the voice acting).
  • Treasures were a fun addition.
  • There were some good sides to the garrisons feature.
  • The artwork was fantastic, as per the Blizzard norm.

My personal Cons:

It was a lore detour
Even though Mists of Pandaria originally felt to some players like it was an unnecessary detour, as we progressed further into the story of the expansion, we discovered that everything tied up to matters that were very important and close to home and all ended up being a part of the overall story of World of Warcraft.
We beat up the remnants of an Old God, freed many peoples of its influence, ended up with factions in turmoil and Wrathion telling us that we needed to rebuild the final Titan and prepare for the incoming return of the Legion.
These matters, along with a handful of previously unanswered still on the table, were on the table and it was up to the writers to decide which story thread was going to be picked up next.
Instead we addressed none of these concerns, extended the Garrosh storyline, and came back with a replacement Gul'dan.
Nothing else has progressed in the overall story of World of Warcraft during Warlords of Draenor.
Which in retrospect feels like we've all collectively wasted our time.
That does not feel good.
It feels like we've lost our focus and went into a tangent that was unnecessary - kinda like a bad season of a TV series.

Warlords lore went nowhere
I was expecting interesting lore reveals but what we got is a series of "what ifs" and stories that weren't really that interesting or compelling.
People were labeling this as "the Draenei expansion" but they didn't have much to do besides being the people that lived in that land, and I've found them to be as interesting as the usual 2nd or 3rd race we encounter in an expansion and have a few quest lines with but end up not being incredibly important (like the Jinyu or the Hozen).
Surprisingly, the Arrakoa storyline was the most interesting and compelling thing we've played in the expansion and that story itself didn't even connect with our fight against the Iron Horde!

What we've learned is null and void
You might say that we did discover new information about the races' past and how they lived on Draenor, and that some devs mentioned that we could take mostly everything as canon.
But we can't.
We cannot add all this knowledge into the collective story of our timeline and take it for granted because this all happened in an alternate timeline.
At any point in the future, if we bring in some facts taken from our experience in Warlords, anyone at Blizzard can pull out the "It happened in an alternate timeline" card as a reason to explain or retcon some details to make their job easier or for whatever reason.
It's convenient for them as it gives them some room to develop any story they want, but it's inconvenient for the players.
"You remember all the stuff that happened when you were there? Well forget about all of that because it never really happened."

Missed timey wimey potential
This is a very minor point, but people were excited about the potential time-travel stories and awkward/funny moments that stem from this expansion.
Among the more popular ones: Thrall meeting his parents, Maraad meeting himself, Garrosh meeting his father.
Now while some of these encounters happened, barely anything at all was done with that and no character development (even internal development) resulted from this.

Nothing happened in our timeline while we were gone
Some players suspected/dreaded that events might've happened in our timeline because the Best of the Best were in Draenor and any of the aforementioned potential threats that could crash down on us could take this very advantageous moment to make their move.
But no, nothing happened.
Much like in a movie where a group of bad guys will attack the hero by walking towards him in single file, our enemies waited in the wings for us to return from our expedition.
Vol'jin's Horde was also something that could've been explored.
It was mentioned multiple times that the new Warchief would have the difficult task of mending relations and strengthening the Horde and turning it into something that fits the current needs of the Horde post-Cataclysm and post-Garrosh.
But we had no development on that front either and Vol'jin turned out to simply be the Warchief that held the seat to pass it to the next one.
Which is a shame because they wrote a novel to give him a solid backstory.

No tension + no threat = no engagement
What was the best moment of Warlords of Draenor?
The introduction scenario.
We fight the Iron Horde head-on, zig-zag our way through Tanaan, see all the Warlords, escape their forces, gather allies, destroy the Dark Portal while the Iron Horde is literally cutting us down and swarming onto us, and then make a wild dash to the docks, steal one of their boats and land in our starting area.
That was tense, that had energy.
And then we set up our base.
And the rest of the expansion happened.
The real tension and sense of foreboding could've come from the threat of keeping us trapped in the alternate universe, keeping the pressure on us and making sure we couldn't go back, or the Iron Horde finding new ways to invade other worlds or try again to get to our own timeline.
That Black Gate Gul'dan opened would have been an interesting plot point if we had known about it before going into Hellfire Citadel.
It would have been a motivation for us players to press on without delay and sabotage Gul'dan's plans.
But there wasn't any clear and present threat to us once we built our garrisons and the expansion just became a series of things we did while being there.

WHYlords of Draenor?
So what was the point of Warlords of Draenor?
What did it contribute to the overall story of Warcraft?
We got an alternate timeline Gul'dan in our original timeline.
That's it - that was the point of this expansion: it was to get Gul'dan back so he could get the Legion back on to Azeroth.

I gathered through various interviews and posts that something went wrong when they developed content patches for Warlords.
I don't know exactly what, but we know that Grom Hellscream was meant to be the last boss of the expansion and the WoW team changed their minds about that and had to change the content they had been working on.
I would guesstimate that Gul'dan's presence was meant to be felt throughout the expansion, but not come at the forefront as we've seen in patch 6.2, and in the end after beating Hellscream we discover that Gul'dan managed to find a way to travel to our timeline.

The difference here is the level of subtlety this story element is told.
What happened is that this twisting of events made the Iron Horde and Hellscream incredibly weak and useless as threats, instead of the mighty adversaries that we were meant to battle in a final confrontation while Gul'dan skulked in the shadows.
And what we got was a weird situation where we became friends with Grom and Gul'dan is the Big Bad Evil that gets away and we'll end up finally killing in the following expansion (*cough* Like Garrosh *cough*).

So I understand that things might've gone wrong in the development process, but the end result that we got certainly transpired that, and that didn't feel good - it felt awkward.
We went from "Let's stop Garrosh" to "Let's stop the Iron Horde" to "Fight the Burning Legion".

And in an alternate timeline situation, what ends up mattering is how the original timeline is affected.
With the rules that we have here, the only thing that matters for our timeline is the sum total result of what goes in the alternate timeline and comes back from that alternate timeline.
We went in - we came back.
Our forces went in - the ones that didn't fall in battle came back.
Maraad went in - he didn't come back.
We met allies in Draenor, trained them, made an army with them - they aren't coming back with us.
Yrel and the gang - they aren't coming back with us.
Gul'dan - made it back to our timeline.

So Garrosh finally died, we lost Maraad and Admiral Taylor, and gained a Gul'dan.
That's what mattered in the end.
That's the result of Warlords of Draenor.

The future is bright green
Legion looks promising, mostly because it deals with threats in our timeline.
The situation is serious and dire, and during the Legion invasion event we understand that this invasion means business, and in the Broken Shore event we see that the threat of the Legion is scarier and more lethal than it's ever been.
I just hope that the WoW team isn't front-loading all the drama, tension and threat, only to remove it when we travel through the Broken Isles, but I am crossing my fingers for an interesting and engaging expansion.

I want Legion to make me forget that Warlords of Draenor was an expansion that existed for practically nothing.

No comments:

Post a Comment