With World of Warcraft’s Burning of Teldrassil wrapping up, the seven-year-old MMO has come full circle, from the destruction of its world’s second-largest city back to its genesis. But, in the years since its release, the game’s designers have repeatedly failed to deliver a gripping narrative. So, what exactly makes a story compelling?
WoW players are used to bad news, but this latest bit of news from Blizzard Entertainment about the burning of Teldrassil is a dramatic departure from the norm. Not only was it the second time in as many years that Blizzard has destroyed a major zone, but this time the story is a complete sham.
The World of Warcraft: Legion expansion’s plot was deemed to be the best in the game’s history by fans, who loved the twists and turns of the storyline. However, I have to admit that the ending of the expansion’s story arc was quite disappointing. In the expansion’s final chapter, a flashback to the Burning of Teldrassil, the Horde and Alliance fight over the fate of the night elf homeland. It was a big moment in the history of the game, and it was supposed to be a memorable conclusion.
Warning: This article includes spoilers for the current World of Warcraft storyline for anybody who hasn’t completed the covenant campaign yet. This post should be avoided if you haven’t completed the campaign and don’t want to read spoilers. These spoilers are a waste of time. It does, however, include spoilers. They’re also dumb. You shouldn’t care, but there are spoilers if you do. However, you shouldn’t be concerned about the spoilers. Because this is ridiculous.
So, while we’re all being smacked in the face with WoW’s Sylvanas redemption arc, which is being justified post-hoc by “oh, no, Frostmourne split her soul and so on and so forth” (a plot point not established until after the story started trying to bend over backwards to redeem her, but let’s just move on from that or we’ll be here all day), there’s still a major problem. There’s the fact that Sylvanas burned down Teldrassil and slaughtered many Night Elves in a genocidal attack on those who weren’t attacking her. Many Night Elf players had hoped for a conclusion to this storyline, which has been hanging in the balance since Battle for Azeroth.
This storyline seems to have been tied up in the post-campaign tasks with some NPC conversation in which Tyrande behaves as though she simply has to get over it. No, really.
So, here’s a short summary. Sylvanas chooses to blast and burn Teldrassil to the ground in Battle for Azeroth, which was communicated through in-game missions in a terrifying quest that saw players attempting (and ultimately failing) to escape Darnassus as the tree burnt. This was an unprovoked and unjustifiable assault. Some people argue whether Sylvanas planned this or acted on the spur of the moment after seeing a dying random Night Elf, but the truth is that it doesn’t matter since a spur-of-the-moment war crime is the same as a prepared one.
Tyrande Whisperwind was enraged by the attempted extermination of her people after this incident. As a result of her anger for the destruction of Teldrassil, she took on the might of the Night Warrior, a vengeful force sanctioned by Elune. Tyrande’s destiny was almost completely left open while other events unfolded, and that was the conclusion of the storyline in BFA.
Tyrande followed Sylvanas into the eponymous Shadowlands with the intention of murdering her. Following that, the storyline did not contain any contact between Tyrande and Sylvanas, but it did include a cinematic in which Elune finally speaks and essentially says, “Yeah, I let all those people die, but I did it for a very good reason, and Tyrande has to get over this.”
As many people pointed out at the time, this is obviously stupid in and of itself. The inference is that Elune could have done anything about what happened to Teldrassil but decided not to in order to send a lot of souls to Ardenweald, whether or not it was deliberate. However, this does not necessarily imply that the storyline “Tyrande seeks vengeance against Sylvanas for attempted genocide” is complete; rather, the Night Warrior plotline is complete. It’s conceivable that you might explain this as an unusual but reasonable method to silence the ticking clock until a suitable resolution is reached.
However, Tyrande and Shandris Feathermoon’s additional dialogue introduced after the campaign shatters this theory. Tyrande says to her friends that although she didn’t understand why Elune let this to happen at first, she now understands, and it’s not really her position to judge why Elune did what she did.
Here’s a short reminder for those of you who can’t read more than a couple of paragraphs: Elune remained silent. Elune was unable to prevent Sylvanas from acting. Sylvanas is the one who took action. Sylvanas, the real person who is unquestionably guilty, is not mentioned at all. Tyrande says it’s time to stop concentrating on the past (attempted genocide) and start focusing on the future, and she mentions her name zero times.
To put it another way, Tyrande was angry over the genocide, but the authors are now claiming that what she was truly furious about was her deity’s failure to intervene to stop it. But now she understands why Elune didn’t interfere, therefore everything is OK. It’s all great; now is the moment to let go of your rage. What does a little attempted genocide among friends matter?
A tragic tale in which players attempted and failed to save people from burning to death in the ruins after one of the Alliance’s main capital cities was wiped off the map (literally), has finally been settled by the leader of that city stating that it’s time to move on from that. Tyrande seems to have closed up this narrative arc by declaring that internalizing rage is poisonous and that she no longer needs that negative energy.
She could have hung a “EAT PRAY LOVE” sign on the wall as a signal of her progress, but there isn’t one left to put it on. Because Darnassus was destroyed by fire. But we can’t concentrate on it because it may imply holding Sylvanas responsible for her acts in some manner, or acknowledging the Alliance’s genuine grievance, or… you know, anything to bring this narrative arc to a close.
Again, a storyline that began when Sylvanas attempted genocide and Tyrande became enraged concluded with no contact between Tyrande and Sylvanas, with Tyrande’s whole Night Warrior narrative amounting to a plot cul-de-sac with no bearing on her sworn enemy’s development. Sylvanas would have to be informed about everything that was going on in order for him to be aware of it. Tyrande’s aim now is to move on and let go of her anger, which she knows is unhealthy.
You run out of snark to say about this writing at some point, and you can only create the same effect by presenting the writing on its own, without additional explanation.
World of Warcraft, with a decade of existence and a massive presence in the MMORPG market, is one of the few games that never changes. Each week, Eliot Lefebvre explores the massive MMO, how it connects with the wider world of online gaming, and what’s new in the realms of Azeroth and Draenor in a new episode of WoW Factor.
Last night, World of Warcraft players finally got their long-awaited big change to the Burning of Teldrassil questline. I’ve seen many people in the last two days who believe that the big change is a huge step toward fixing the Burning storyline. I don’t agree.. Read more about wow history and let us know what you think.
This article broadly covered the following related topics:
- elegy wow
- elegy warcraft
- world of warcraft lore
- wow short stories
- wow history