Gearing up for hate

We are less than two weeks away from the official launch of Battle for Azeroth. Yay. Legion in retrospect was a very decent expansion, but I will not be sorry to see it in the rear view mirror.

I have spent the past few days trying to get my alts prepared for leveling in BFA. I don’t expect I will be playing them for several weeks, but still I would like them to be ready to go when I decide to. Part of that involves just rearranging their action bars to account for the 8.0 changes for each, along with a cursory visit to the target dummies to get an introduction to how each will play.

The other part is gearing them up as much as possible. As usual at the end of expansions, Blizz has given us some fast tracks to doing so. We can now buy whatever “good” legendaries we think we will need for early leveling in BFA, a nice perk. It would have been nicer if the BOA token you can buy could be turned in for a specific legendary, but no of course Blizz is absolutely besotted with the whole idea of gear by lottery, so it was apparently impossible for them to allow such a thing without the roof coming off over Blizzard Headquarters. Still, something I suppose is better than nothing.

The gear catch-up piece I like best, though, are the world quests in Darkshore. They are not nearly as creative or fun as the world invasions Blizz gave us at the end of Warlords of Draenor, but they are still quite nice for increasing the ilevel of alts that have been neglected during Legion. My poor undergeared warlock, for example, got a weapon that was far better than her artifact because she had never really done anything to get decent level relics for it. It seemed a little strange to immediately switch out the one piece of gear that had been the centerpiece of an entire expansion, but change is upon us. I could have done the same with my rogue, but Blizz is not doing a very good job with Darkshore loot patterns, and it may be days or never that my rogue gets the required main hand and off hand pieces that will replace the artifact. I understand why they made two-piece combos into one for purposes of the whole artifact chase, but at this point it is kind of annoying for classes that really need two pieces again. Good planning, it seems to me, would dictate that on days when weapons are rewards for the world quests, there would be one main hand and one off hand drop for classes that use these.

A week ago, after the first installment of the lead-in scenario, I was encouraged by the fact that once you had completed it on one character, you could skip it on alts and immediately unlock the Darkshore world quests. At last, I thought, Blizz understands the tedium of doing the exact same quest lines over and over again in a short span of time. Maybe they actually learned from the whole Argus thing they foisted on us in Legion.

Alas, no. One of the perks you get from completing the second week’s scenario quests is that the Dalaran portal to Darnassus actually takes you directly to Darkshore. I assumed, based on last week, that doing it on one character would gain you this perk for all others on the account. Nope. In truth, the quests do not take long to complete — they are actually trivial — but it is annoying to have to do the same half dozen quests on every alt in order to slightly speed up the process of getting to Darkshore for the world quests and loot giveaways each day.

SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED ABOUT THE OUTCOME OF THE SECOND WEEK SCENARIO. 

There has been a good deal of criticism of what we saw in week 2. Starting with the artwork — I am not a fan of anime, and I thought that a major event like the burning of the tree deserved something beyond what I perceive to be a cheap comic book treatment. Still, even if I thought it was the wrong genre, I have to admit it was rendered quite well.

The other part that is getting so much criticism — some of it quite emotional — is that we finally see the whole tree burning occurs not because of a great injustice done to the horde, but rather because Sylvanus was annoyed when told she could not destroy hope, so she decided to set fire to the tree and all its remaining inhabitants including children. This is textbook terrorism.

I do not play Horde, but certainly this is a gut blow to players who do. I have always thought the Horde faction was more subtle and nuanced than the Alliance one, but this event gives the lie to that. Not only did Sylvanus reveal herself to be petty and evil, but apparently the entire Horde is so sheeplike that they refuse to condemn her and instead blindly follow her into a protracted faction war. (And honestly, though I may have missed it, I still do not understand why the Horde is pillaging and plundering Darkshore and Darnassus anyway… Just because they suddenly discovered Azerite?)

This is nowhere close to the “gray moral areas” Mr. Game Director Hazzikostas has been fond of hinting about recently regarding BFA, so I can only conclude there is much more to the story, and it will be revealed as the expansion unfolds. Still, it seems pretty unfair to start out the war with something so clearly and unambiguously evil. I do hope the “gray morality” alluded to does not devolve into the Alliance taking retribution on Lordaeron, and at the end of BFA everyone kisses and makes up and admits “both sides” were wrong. That would be a serious cop-out in my opinion. Besides, didn’t we just finish two years of faction cooperation to defeat a common enemy? And now we immediately go back to beating the crap out of each other?

Beyond these events, though, I have reservations about the whole BFA premise. Whatever the reasons — and they seem very artificial and contrived — I wonder if it is a good idea to foment factional hatred at this point in our real world history? There is a resurgence of tribal politics in many parts of the world, and it is driving a world view of hatred for “the other”. This hatred is being manifested not only in gross incivility in social discourse but also in acts of violence.

I know WoW is only a game, but I really do worry that the hatred many feel in real life will spill over into personal vitriol in the game. Look at the bile that has been spewed only recently over the formation of certain special-interest communities. There was real fear and hatred there. Imagine what might happen when it is now not only okay but expected — and encouraged — to hate the other faction in WoW. If we are supposed to hate the Horde or the Alliance, well then it must be fine to hate any other group we want…

I suppose I am giving in to hyperbole here, and I know the entire premise of WoW is conflict. But could we not have used just resource competition as an excuse for renewal of the Horde-Alliance war? That has been the cause of many a real world war. Why did Blizz feel it necessary to start the conflict with Sylvanus’s heinous act, committed merely for the sake of ego and arrogance?

Here’s hoping, as BFA begins, we can all remember we are fellow players in this game, and that in spite of real world politics and fictional game events we can still be excellent to each other.

13 thoughts on “Gearing up for hate

  1. SPOILERS

    It is well worth seeing the recent events unfolding from both factions’ point of view. I’ve always had characters in both camps, and it does help to get a better understanding of each expansion’s story without having to buy books, etc. (Just roll a Horde DH to get to 110 quickly, I think you’ll find it well worth the effort for BfA.)

    The premise for war is a limited resource, Azerite, and the frustration at having to grind out gathering it for a whole xpac has driven Sylvanas to a preemptive strike against the Alliance. This latest act is a spontaneous escalation which should not sit well with many members of the Horde leadership.

    As a wonderful quote on Reddit put it “Blizzard’s storytelling is about as subtle as a Warrior in Execute phase”. All the neutrals and peacemakers have conveniently buggered off, Vol’jin put Sylvanas in charge before he went, and a young and vulnerable Anduin is now ready to be manipulated by the “I told you so” duo of Genn and Jaina.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Although the story build up is rushed and contrived, at least we have a meaningful faction struggle again; it was getting pointless even having two factions. And just in time for War Mode to be introduced too, what a coincidence! (Joking aside as someone who has been on a PvP server through Legion to stay with my raiding guild that transferred there I’m chuffed to bits to nope the hell out of it, great QoL improvement for me).

    I just feel sorry for the Horde Druids. Talk about conflicted!

    Me? I’m just going down to the Stonefire Tavern for a nice pint of Theramore Pale Ale and wait for all this to blow over.

    1. Love the Reddit quote. As I have written many times, I am not much interested in WoW lore — it is almost all contrived after the fact in order to justify certain design features. But I am interested in the esthetics of the game, and much of the relaxation I get from it derives from the beautifully-rendered cities and zones. So when Blizz destroys that beauty in the name of “the story”, then it affects me very much. Worse, the Blizz destruction cycle seems to be only one way — rarely are the places I used to love ever restored to even a semblance of their former beauty. Blizz seems to me to be the kid who builds extravagant sand castles only to rejoice in kicking them down — the joy for them is in the destruction, not in the building.

      Gratz on finally being able to enjoy both your realm and your guild again!

  2. As I was doing the first round of the Darkshore quests last week, I finally exclaimed in guild chat just how pissed I was at the Horde. I was surprisingly affected by their march on the World Tree and what I knew to be its fate. Yes, I’m something of a tree-hugger in real life and surely that plays a part in my feelings. Yet world trees have long held a special place in fantasy lore beyond WoW and their destruction has been seen as uniquely sinister and evil. There is no grey. There is none here.

    So many WoW players have long thought Sylvanus the cat’s meow. I’ve always thought she was a bad ass, but have never overly really liked or disliked her. Now, I am hoping that she’s ripped to pieces and the land of her grave is salted.

    I’d been hoping that as the game matures in the real world that the faction conflict would be less and less. Honestly, from a purely “let’s push people to play WoW more” standpoint, I’m surprised that cross-faction chat and even grouping hasn’t happened. At this point, the division feels purely forced.

    And your thoughts along real-world divisions growing ever more strident in both makeup and action have crossed my mind as well in many forms of recreation, not just WoW. Sadley, people exist whose mental tinder is so dry and brittle that it doesn’t take much to set it aflame. Why provide a match that isn’t necessary?

    1. I completely forgot to mention another thing that has really been bothering me about the quests related to the burning of the world tree that went live on Tuesday. Namely, what is up with Tyrande — a priest! — weilding a bow when confronting Saurfang?!? While I firmly believe that there are hunters and there are support classes, believing the high-priestess of Elune is trading up in class is a bit of a stretch even for me! 🙂

    2. I really expect there to be at least one more bombshell in the BFA story line, something contrived to show some Alliance leader is irredeemably evil and will perpetrate something unspeakable on the Horde. Then the end of BFA will show Anduin and maybe Saurfang prevailing in wisdom and mutual tolerance. Just my guess, I have no inside info, but it is simplistic enough to fit Blizz’s limited story telling abilities.

      I still do not understand Blizz’s need to whip up real factional hatred, though. Is sharp competition, even so sharp as to lead to war, not enough? As many in the real world have seen, for centuries now, it is not always easy or even possible to put those forces back in the bottle once deliberately unleashed.

    3. I got around to finishing the quest line on the rest of my Alliance hunters. I made sure that each of them flew to see Malfurion on Invincible just to stick a little mud in the eyes of Sylvanus.

  3. “I know WoW is only a game, but I really do worry that the hatred many feel in real life will spill over into personal vitriol in the game. Look at the bile that has been spewed only recently over the formation of certain special-interest communities. There was real fear and hatred there. Imagine what might happen when it is now not only okay but expected — and encouraged — to hate the other faction in WoW. If we are supposed to hate the Horde or the Alliance, well then it must be fine to hate any other group we want…”

    This I realy worry too. It’s such a dark, horrific time. I imagine we will all be in for a big surprise about the motivations for all of it, but still. I think the cinematic – the point where Sylvanas forces Summermoon to watch the burning Teldrassil was…I still just get this horrible feeling inside when watching it. I can’t even describe it.

    I just realized something as I was typing: If WoW was a movie, I would not watch it right now. I’m not sure what to do with that right now!

    1. Yes, I think you are right when you say we are all in for a surprise when the story unfolds more. But I am not sure about the wisdom of starting off an expansion with a heinous act that leaves such a bitter taste for players. I know for me it already means I am approaching BFA reluctantly, as something to be gotten through rather than something to be excited about.

      1. I hear what you are saying. I feel that way too. I even cancelled my subscription today. Which is a ridiculous move, I know. (I am not a omg I unsub, u suck!1!1!” kind of woman at all!) I will renew it again I am sure. But I feel so torn. Probably just a step I must go through.

        No matter what happens, if they do pull a “GOTCHA!” on us, it will feel horrible either way. Because of how it went down. And because their intention was to trick us into getting fired up on false facts. (Sorry this could have been written way better, but tricky English words are tricky)

        Me too 😦 All hype has gone away. Even with the new cinematic, which seem to have made some people happy, I feel nothing. It’s also so sloppy right now. How can Tyrande and Malfurion just stand in Stormwind without a way to even interact with them!? Come on.

        Big shame.

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