Where’s the hope?

There is a Battle for Azeroth spoiler in this post. Don’t read if you don’t want to know. You have been warned.

At the end of last week Blizz put out a short video of the Burning of Teldrassil (see it courtesy of MMO-C here). This event is one of the central lore features of Battle for Azeroth. Regular readers of this blog know I am not big on lore in World of Warcraft, I am familiar with a few of the basics but that is about it. Thus, for example, I was not especially upset at the time-travel premise of WoD, nor did I really give a hoot in hell about the space travel aspect of Argus. To me, lore in this game is nothing more than an afterthought to explain game mechanics. That is, the devs come up with game mechanisms and then someone makes up some lore to “justify” it. This is why the lore is so disjointed and complex — it has to keep changing as the game’s technology changes, and there appears to be no real “script continuity” person assigned to ensure there are no jarring disconnects. When the community complains about various jumps in lore, Blizz’s answer is generally something like, “mumble mumble mumble Old Gods mumble mumble treachery mumble mumble magical reasons…. and Khadgar or Jaina or Big Ugly Horde Guy! See, it makes perfect sense!”

So you would think, with me not caring a fig one way or another about story lines, that I would pretty much shrug off the burning of Teldrassil. Well, I would have thought so, too, but for some reason I am very disturbed about it. In fact, more than disturbed — it’s like a gut punch that makes you just want to lay there and not get up again.

I am not sure why. I suppose for one thing, Teldrassil is where I started WoW, with my very first night elf hunter. I ran around happily in Shadow Glen, learning how to move and shoot, figuring out that shiny glowy things meant “click on me” and what the various punctuation above an NPC’s head meant. I first died in a cave there, multiple times, learning two things: how to rez and scoot a few feet over and over until I got far enough away from the mob to hearth, and that I hate caves. As the quest lines took me out of the protected Shadow Glen and closer to Darnassus, I remember encountering the majestic elves patrolling the road on beautiful white tigers — I was in awe of their grace and power, and in the back of my brain I was thinking “I have got to get me one of those riding tigers!”

When I finally got to Darnassus, I thought there could be no grander city in the game, that this must be the biggest and best WoW would offer. But of course eventually I found Stormwind, and all of Eastern Kingdom, and many other grand cities, and I came to understand that Darnassus was really just a little backwater provincial center, one that no one really visited very often or even paid much attention to. Still, I loved it and would frequently take my night elf there before logging off, to sleep in the inn and remember where I came from. For years, I did that every couple of weeks. In Legion, I even found myself going back and visiting Shadow Glen every so often. For some reason, whenever the grind got too grindy and end game got too suffocating, going back to where I started my adventure helped me to center myself.

But I haven’t been there since the BfA announcement about Teldrassil. Knowing that this tiny oasis of peace will be destroyed in the next expansion seems too much to bear.

But the other, bigger, reason I am distraught at the idea of burning Teldrassil is that when Blizz destroys things, they never allow them to be fixed or healed. (The park in Stromwind is the only exception I can think of, and this was due only to extreme and constant player pressure, I am sure.) Once something is destroyed or made ugly, it will remain that way. Blizz is like a kid who builds a sand castle only to gleefully destroy it, then loses interest.

I don’t think WoW should be all rainbows and puppies, but there is a dark strain that runs through it, one that over the years — at least for me — just wears me down with its depressing sameness and shuttering of hope. Only the bad guys ever win in this game, and the most we ever get for our constant state of war is a sort of cease fire with one group or another, only to be replaced with yet another war we are doomed to not win. It would be nice, for a change, if we could actually beat, say, the Legion, have a victory parade, and get some R&R. But we don’t, the Legion just magically goes away without any admission that we won, and now we go back to fighting each other — Alliance and Horde — as if none of that other stuff ever happened and we learned nothing.

I will never again be able to find cool respite in Teldrassil, just as no one can ever again ignore the ugly scars of Deathwing or the criminal destruction of the Vale in Pandaria. Blizz does not build except to destroy, and in their world there can be no healing or reconstruction. I might accept the burning of Teldrassil if I were convinced that, like a real forest after a fire, we would eventually see new growth and rebirth. But I doubt we will — Blizz will move on to the next expansion, and Teldrassil will be forever destroyed and ugly. Sure, they may have some stupid cutscene towards the end of the expansion — maybe after a final boss in a final raid tier — with flowers and sunshine and soothing voices foretelling of the rebirth of Teldrassil — but we will never actually see it in game.

It’s not Teldrassil’s roots they are destroying, it’s mine. And it’s wrong. It doesn’t make me  mad enough to fight the horde to the death, it just makes me hopeless. Beat down. Blizz has really gone too far this time.

8 thoughts on “Where’s the hope?

  1. [Contains further spoilers]

    To be fair to Blizzard it is World of Warcraft, so they have to find new ways of continuing the confrontations and keep us involved in them.

    There are plenty of real-world examples of a common enemy being defeated and former allies falling on each other, sadly.

    BfA isn’t released yet but the story already feels old due to amount of spoilers and speculation around main characters’ motives, and I’m trying to avoid them where possible.

    I hope the narrative they come up with is a lot less forced than the one we saw in Stormheim to keep the Alliance v Horde rivalry going. That is just dire.

    Perhaps they felt they needed a James Bond-esque opening, something huge and impactful to kick the xpac off? It’s certainly working and plenty of us are talking about it.

    Legion has ended up feeling like the “Phantom Menace” for me; I don’t feel like we were ever in any real danger once the intro scenario had been completed on the Broken Shore in front of ToS and the obligatory key character deaths had occurred. I was hoping for a valiant last stand at some point, especially when we saw the vision of Stormwind’s throne room burning during the Kilrogg encounter in WoD. That promised/threatened so much but never delivered. (Which sums up WoD I guess.)

    The cynic in me thinks they couldn’t justify bumping another character off so they went for the world tree instead: it certainly makes a striking much-shared image (and launched a thousand memes) to promote the xpac, and so far the motives (for me at least) are a mystery.

    Here’s hoping that the “why” justifies the “what” this time and it’s not just disaster movie big spectacle for the sake of it.

    1. You are right that conflict is the bread and butter of MMOs, and WoW would be pretty boring if all we ever did was kill hostile plants and mana sabers. I think my depression stems more from the idea that there is never any closure to the campaigns we take on, and all the damage to the world is permanent, resulting in a hopeless cycle of fighting for a fuzzy cause in a world that is being permanently destroyed. Not only do we never get that “valiant last stand” you mention, but Azeroth is in a perpetual downward spiral of destruction and ugliness that apparently its citizens are powerless to reverse.

      Even in a computer game, people need to feel they have some control over their world, and they need a reason to be hopeful. Blizz has not given us this in any credible way for a very long time.

  2. Did the Cata revamp make you feel the same way at all? I haven’t had the sense of nostalgia you describe since then. I think the only thing that really still tugs at my heartstrings is seeing the area where I tamed my first wolf- I’ve still got that pet, 13+ years later. But other than that, the cata zone revamp pretty much severed my “I remember when” heartstrings.

    1. It did. But I thought certainly Blizz would not allow all that destruction to remain permanent, that the lands would eventually heal over the scars. But then the destruction — even in the Alliance capital city — remained unhealed for years. And when the destruction of the Vale became the new normal for that area, I began to see that Blizz cares nothing for construction, only for destruction. This is why the burning of the world tree is such a gut blow — Blizz’s track record is that beauty and order are transient, only ugliness, anarchy, and hopeless are permanent.

      I suppose some people might think such a world view reflects reality, but that is not my world view, and I certainly do not wish it forced on me in a computer game.

  3. Ahhhh, I too got my start there. My Nightelf Priest has his roots in those very lands. Even though he is now on the other side, that’s where I got my start. But I also started a Priest long ago in Silvermoon, so I had Marathal, and Darkmarathal. And what comes to mind reading what you wrote was this video from way back when.

    And watching that really made me think, yeah!! I gotta get in there and beat the Lich King. Look what he did. He has to pay for this.

    And I did. I worked my way up, got in a raiding guild, did it all. And then came Cataclysm where they just ran kicking down all the sandcastles and ruining it all, and I was ok, because they lead us to believe that we would need to work to rebuild it….
    and we never did. And then they did it to Pandaria, and in the end we planted a tree, and years later? I wears you down. Destruction with no rebuilding over and over. It’s gotten old.

    1. That is an awesome video! I had not seen it before. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, that is the kind of feeling Blizz should be trying to impart to us! But instead, as you say, “it wears you down, destruction with no rebuilding over and over. It’s gotten old……….”

      1. You know. It just came to me. What if the final 3 months of the expansion was broken up into a few patches where we fixed the damage. Sure, you would have those that unsub until the next anyway, but an opportunity for those still here to rebuild, to improve defenses. I don’t know of any movie where something attack’s and destroys, where everyone sits back and just lives in the destruction without doing something.

      2. I love that idea. Sadly, it has approximately zero chance of occurring, but it would be perfect as end of expansion “content”. As you say, there would be plenty who would unsubscribe but they probably will unsubscribe anyway, and the people left could have a real projec to work on. Send it to @WarcraftDevs, or @Watcher or someone — at least you can say you tried.

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