For Azeroth: How Blizzard Saved World of Warcraft

For Azeroth: How Blizzard Saved World of Warcraft



The death throes of a game are always sad; they come swiftly, and without warning, leaving fans wondering what happened to the good ole days. On the rare occasion though, the game gets resuscitated in the ambulance, given a couple of new organs and a second chance at being great. Right now, I really believe that Blizzard’s World of Warcraft is running on its second life, having just released one of the greatest expansions of the last few years.

I’m the kind of player who hasn’t been in Azeroth since the beginning. I started playing two weeks before Cataclysm, and all I heard was the nostalgia about Burning Crusade and the heartbreak of having to leave Wrath of the Lich King behind. As Cata went on, the anger bubbled; fans were expecting more from Blizzard, having just exited the most popular expansion at the time. You would think an epic battle upon a dragon, resulting in a Cataclysmic battle with that dragon in the middle of the savage ocean would be enough… but for many it simply wasn’t. Then came the Mists of Pandaria, giving us a new continent to explore, and a new race to dive into. Before the expansion even released, many were upset about cute, cuddly panda bears being a part of their faction. One of the coolest features of Pandaria was the addition of a farm, giving people a new thing to sell on the auction house, and a new area in which to gank the ever-loving shit out of people. Half Hill was a tiny war zone, a Rogue’s paradise, and that was always an interesting part of the game to delve in. But while Pandaria was a rather beautiful expansion, with some of the coolest transmogrification gear in the game, it was also kind of a flop.

The anger didn’t stop bubbling.

Pandaria fell away to Warlords of Draenor, taking us to an alternate timeline where the Outlands were still in one piece. Garrisons gave a fresh breath to the game but once again, as in previous expansions, it just simply took too damn long for Blizzard to release raids and new content to keep players engaged. As that expansion went on, the garrison became less of a great resource and more of a time-suck, as players with alts spent most of their time online just managing their garrison. Alternate timelines can be cool… but this one did not work. I really believe this is where a lot of people mentally checked out. This led to the invasion of the Legion. If we’re being really, truly honest here, Warlords was simply to set up Legion, which makes Warlords that much more hated. It was a waste of an expansion and time. Legion was also unfortunately a disappointment for most; people were led to believe it was going to be Burning Crusade 2.0, but it was just… another expansion. People did quests. People did dailies. People trolled trade chat. Nothing really changed, even with the implementation of Legion invasions, the Demon Hunter class and the very cool Illidan/Argus storyline. Class halls were a unique addition and a lot less to maintain than a garrison, but maintain them once again became a tedious chore after a while.

I gave up. I left World of Warcraft 2 years ago, barely into Legion. It didn’t appeal to me, the initial raid was not what I was hoping for, and the magic of the game was lost. The anger of being let down finally hit, and I walked away from Azeroth with absolutely no intention of returning. I had been duped.

This summer I saw the trailer for Battle for Azeroth. If Blizzard is good at anything at all, without question it’s their cinematic trailers. Even those for Overwatch and Starcraft are of box office quality, and I’d happily pay a stupid amount of money to see a Blizzard-produced Warcraft film.

After seeing the trailer though, I wondered what was the point; the two factions hate each other (duh) and are at war again (duh), so who is going to be the big bad boss? Are you going to kill off Sylvanas? Are you going to kill off Anduin? I didn’t really pay much attention to the game, even with the stunning trailer. Then one day I heard some of the lore coming up. That Blizzard wants to get back to their roots… forget the Legion, Draenor and all the things that have come before. This is war, and you need to choose a side. I truly believe the “us vs them” marketing blitz that Blizzard went hardcore with helped bring many of the players back. If you tell me that I can get a taste of that sweet, sweet vanilla WoW that I missed out on, but with amazing graphics and a damn good storyline, well of course I’ll reconsider breaking up with the game.

We’re back. My friends and I, with the encouragement of my WoW-loyalist brother, came back to Azeroth about two months before the launch of BFA. Many times while figuring out the world again, seeing what was coming, and grinding that last bit of Legion rep we all kept kind of wondering: will this be worth it? Having been let down for a few years now, we all had a bad taste in our mouths and an unhealthy dose of skepticism running through our veins. I believe that Blizzard realized that their game, while still having millions of subscribers, was one foot in the grave. Someone was about to phone the ambulance for them again, and maybe this time the defibrillator wouldn’t work. The last 4 expansions, at the very least, left players disappointed and this was the time to throw a Hail Mary or drift away with a tainted legacy.

Blizzard did the right thing. They saved Azeroth before players were even able to, and certainly before players even knew what was really going on. To be honest, we still don’t know the full story of each side, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t developing in a wonderful matter… but more on that later.

They flipped the table and then set everything on fire, sending players into a frenzy of ‘what the hell just happened?’

First, we saw Jaina in her perfect Warbringers short film, how she was so hated for having caused the deaths of so, so many people. The daughter of the sea was cast out by her own people, set adrift to survive or die. By the end of the video though, Jaina was literally all out of fucks to give, and is here to wreak havoc. And rock a cool anchor necklace, of course.

Having Sylvanas light Darnassus on fire in her stunning Warbringers video was undoubtedly the catalyst for what has led to the vicious divide between the Horde and Alliance. Sure, we were enemies before… but Sylvanas set the damn world tree on fire. She means war. She isn’t here to mess around and if we’re being honest, her ethical and moral standards are barely there, hanging on by a teeny, tiny string. There is some outside lore that might come into play in regard to her choices, and I’m hoping they ring true, but I won’t spoil them here in this article. All I will say for my girl (as I have loved Sylvanas forever) is that maybe she knows what she is doing… and furthermore… maybe Vol’jin knew what HE was doing when he chose her as warchief.

Next up we got a glimpse into the mind of Saurfang, a troubled orc who has been through more battles than his weary heart can handle. He questioned Sylvanas at the burning of the World Tree, and didn’t kill Malfurion, even after Sylvanas ordered him to. His morals are intact, and his memory clear: he completely and utterly disagrees with Sylvanas and is ready to go AWOL. On the night before the attack on Lordareon, Saurfang is talked back into caring about the Horde itself, not just the Warchief. We are family, one tribe, ohana and all that jazz. The release of this short film was perfectly timed, and only appropriate after seeing what Sylvanas has asked of him. This, coupled with the awesome Horde-side scenario at the start of BFA, gives Saurfang one hell of a story to grow into… or away from.

Finally we see the Warbringers video for Azshara. Let’s be honest, I think we can all agree that she is batshit crazy with power and spent one too many years near the Well of Eternity. Seeing her turned into the Naga goddess that she is gives her lengthy and epic story even more depth. It seemed like a no-brainer though… she wasn’t out to save her people, they had no idea she could really care less for them, she was out to save herself. If you were able to be saved by a God and become all-powerful, would you take it? Needless to say, this short film is Blizzard’s way of saying that the Lady of the ocean will finally be back in the main storyline.

Meeting the Zandalari has been a jaw-dropping experience, and Princess Talajani has quickly become one of my favorite characters. The temple/city of Dazar’Alor is overwhelming at first, but continues the colossal feel of BFA. With a very heavy Aztecan influence, the island chain of Zandalar always feels like there’s just something else to discover behind the mountain. You can also play with and ride dinosaurs and who doesn’t love that!? The island chain of Kul Tiras is so pirate-y, I feel that it’s only a matter of time before we find Captain Hook, Jack Sparrow and Blackbeard starting a tavern brawl. There’s a stark contrast between the different zones there, and it feels like one moment you’re in the Shire and the next moment you’re trapped in the Blair Witch Project. As a true Horde, it’s the first time I’ve been tempted to level an Alliance, only to experience the quest lines through Kul Tiras. I can’t though… the line has been drawn. There’s no going across, unless it’s to take down the enemy.

And that’s what is at the core of BFA, an unyielding hatred of the other faction; and it feels so good. Blizzard has turned every single one of us into a war puppet and I, for one, am happy to let them guide my strings. Before BFA, both Horde and Alliance kind of tolerated each other out in the world, it was old hat to see the enemy and carry on with your quest. We had other things to fight and defeat, but now none of that matters. If I see a 120 out in the wild and their name is red, I turn into a crazy lady. I hate PVP, I’m bad at it, but I’ll be damned if I don’t want to Ice Lance every Alliance between here and forever. Blizzard stoked those fires, and now they get to sit back and watch the chaos from afar.

I hope they’re cackling with joy… because I know that I am. I hope they’re in awe of the terrain on which we fight… because I undoubtedly am. I hope they sit at work with no focus whatsoever because it’s reset day and who else is going to kill C’thuun but them… because I am. I hope that they realize that by starting this war they’ve given so many of us that drive again, to survive and to fight to the death for Azeroth.

About author

Shannon Beaty

Certified ginger holding down the fort in Cincinnati, Ohio. The banker day job pays the bills, but the nerdy night job keeps the blood pumping. Lover of cats, baseball, anything Blizzard spits out and yellow question marks.