Watch The Battle For Azeroth Cinematic above and read my thoughts and impressions below.
Blizzcon 2017 was this past weekend and with it came all manner of teasers and announcements for upcoming Blizzard properties. Among them the announcement for the latest expansion for Blizzard’s flagship title, World of Warcraft.
In the previous World of Warcraft expansion, Legion, players fought and defeated one of the oldest and most formidable villains of its long history, The Dark Titan Sargeras. With this story neatly resolved I was curious to see where the story will go in the game’s future. I’m an old fan of Warcraft, going back to Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness.
The Battle For Azeroth Begins Again
As it happens, that’s where they are going so to speak. With their greatest common foe defeated the tenuous peace between the Alliance and Horde is at an end and open war rages across Azeroth once again. Blizzard’s cinematic team chose to introduce this new story in one of the most epic ways possible, a massive siege of the former Capital of Lorderon, now known as The Undercity.
Banshee Queen and Warchief of the Horde, Sylvanas Windrunner begins the cinematic with a narration, highlighting the follies of peace between the two factions and the inevitability of the conflict between them. From her point of view, we see the combined armies of the Alliance arrayed before the ruined city in tens of thousands and dotted with towering siege engines the likes of which we’ve never seen before.
High King Anduin leads the Siege with Ghen Greymane at his side. Anduin stands tall and imposing in ornate armor, clearly inspired by King Liane’s armor from the Warcraft Movie, and wielding his late father’s sword. The Alliance troops advance with disciplined precision, Human footmen stand shield to shield with Dwarven gunners firing between them. Night Elf archers fire volley after volley into the tired and battle weary Horde defenders. Alliance victory seems certain.
The Banshee Queen
Sylvanas looks upon her brave soldiers, defiant even in the face of this onslaught, and leaps into action. Literally. She vaults from the walls and lands atop a siege tower, slaughtering everyone inside and detonating its munitions. As the explosion catches the eye of the retreating Horde she does something we haven’t seen since Warcraft 3, Sylvanas goes full banshee. In her ghostly form, she rips through the remaining soldiers in the tower, sapping them of their life energy, and as the last one falls she shrieks a great war cry that echoes across the battlefield, “For the Horde!”
Sylvanas’s appointment as Warchief was a surprise at the beginning of Legion and her presence and impact in the position have been sorely lacking. To see her in action like this is a gleeful relief. This is Sylvanas as Warchief, stirring her people into action by leading the way in battle. The Horde is in sore need of good leadership in Thrall’s absence. Garrosh’s rule was a disaster and, sadly, Vol’jin’s tenure was eclipsed by the events of Warlords of Draenor.
Sylvanas’s piercing cry rallies the Horde into a charge through the Alliance lines. Hulking Tauren and Savage Orc warriors press and break the shield wall as Troll and Forsaken provide support. They press deep into the Alliance army, coming straight for Anduin and Greymane.
Conspicuously absent from this battle are the Blood Elves.Their Home City of Silvermoon would be next if The Undercity falls. But though the battle there is no sign of them. Also absent are the Goblins but really, who cares about them?
The Boy King
The Horde push leaves the alliance forces wounded and the King unguarded. Anduin Defends himself as best he can and narrowly defeats a charging Troll, losing his helmet in the process. Anduin stands and survey’s the battlefield, seeing death all around him. Sorrow and regret fill his eyes as he gazes down at his father’s sword, a warrior’s sword, a gladiator’s sword. Resolve hardens his gaze as he sets the sword down and lifts his hand to the heavens in a desperate plea. Light cascades from the heavens, blinding the Horde advance as its aura covers the battlefield in a great dome with Anduin at its center. One by one Alliance soldiers rise and stand tall, ready to do battle once more.
This scene finally highlights Anduin coming into his own. Anduin is not a warrior like his father Varian. He is a Priest, he communes with the Holy Light and wields it to give comfort to his friends, restore his allies, and deter his foes. His expression in this moment is heartbreaking. Anduin is a man of peace, a diplomat, an optimist. He sees the best in everyone, From a Black Dragon whelp to Former Warchief Garrosh. He wants a world at peace but for now, he must wage war and it saddens his soul.
Anduin sets his doubts aside and lifts his Father’s sword again calling to his men in a commanding tenor. “Stand as One, For the Alliance!” Sylvanas smiles across the Battlefield, relishing the conflict to come and charges, Horde at her back.
What a powerful cinematic! What a change in tone. A beautiful character piece on Sylvanas and Anduin. Through all of Warcraft the Human Kingdoms, and eventually The Alliance, have been defensive powers. Always under assault by The Horde, The Undead, Demons and so on. Now, at long last, The Alliance is a conquerer, fighting to reclaim the Kingdom of Lorderon from the Forsaken and the Horde.
On the other side, the Horde has almost always been a conquering power. From the original game, the Orcs and the Horde have fought to take land and territory for their own. Even the sympathetic Orcs of Warcraft 3 had to fight to colonize Durotar. Garrosh’s Horde brought all of Kalimdor to heel and claimed the continent for the Horde. He even sought to bring Panderia and the Sha under his domain. Rarely does the horde sit on its laurels.
The Alliance became a powerhouse at the end of Mists of Panderia. Its Kingdoms are united like never before and despite the losses on Alternate Draenor and The Broken Shore, its Military is unmatched. By comparison, the horde was broken and wounded at the end of Mists of Panderia. Garrosh’s rule was disastrous and resulted in a civil war that pit his hardline Orcs against the rest of the Horde. Zul’jin did his best to heal those wounds but the process was left unfinished when he perished at The Broken Shore. The horde vanguard was shattered causing them to retreat and resulted in King Varian’s sacrifice. The animosity from this failure still lingers.
Cycle of Hatred
There are scores of grievances, old and new, that would spur an invasion like this and I can hardly wait to see what they may be. This is the first of many blogs about the reveals at Blizzcon. I’ll be writing more in the coming day so I hope you come back as I write more.
What were your thoughts on the cinematic and the implications for the future of Warcraft? Let me know and we’ll start a conversation.
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