Story Time With Uncle Wizzbang!

October 27, 2009 § Leave a comment

And now, story-time with rich Uncle Wizzbang!

Will Blizzard screw up their own lore again? A lot of us are wondering this, especially in response to the new Worgen lore. And frankly, our fears are justified. You see, once upon a time there were two races, the Eredar and the Draenei.

The Eredar were an evil race of giant, demonic beings who joined the Burning Legion because…well…it seemed like fun to them. They were evil to the core and wholeheartedly signed on to serve Sargeras in his quest to tear the universe apart. They were the leaders and masterminds behind the various invasions, especially the Third War (shown in WarCraft III), after their master was defeated. The Draenei on the other hand were a strange, gray race of outcasts native to Draenor (aka: Outland), some of whom who had escaped through the Dark Portal to Azeroth. We were first introduced to them in the WarCraft III expansion, The Frozen Throne, and by the time we met them in “vanilla WoW”, some of them had gone insane, while others had set up a tiny enclave in the Swamp of Sorrows and were just doing their best to survive on what was to them a hostile, alien world. The Eredar and the Draenei were two completely different races with two very distinct histories and two very different appearances. That is what the WarCraft III manuals say, it’s what the WoW pen-and-paper RPG manuals said, and it’s what the “vanilla WoW” quests all said.

Then came the Burning Legion expansion – Blizzard decided to give the Horde a “pretty” new race, the Blood Elves, but couldn’t seem to figure out what to give the Alliance. There was an April Fool’s Day joke claiming the new race for the Alliance would be the Wisps, and we all had a good laugh, then turned to Blizzard and said “No, really. Who’s it going to be?” Well, soon enough the announcement came — it would be the Draenei! “Oh, neat!” we all said. “You mean the weird gray guys from the Swamp of Sorrows?” “No,” Blizzard responded. “Better! Check out the website!” So we looked at the page they’d set up and right away noticed something was…off. “Uh, Blizzard?” we said. “Why are there pictures of Eredar all over the Draenei page?” “Oh, see,” explained Blizzard, “the Eredar are actually corrupt versions of the Draenei who were seduced by Sargeras! In fact, the Draenei were themselves aliens who settled on Draenor (now called Outland) when they were trying to flee their corrupt relatives. The ones you meet in the Swamp of Sorrows have been mutated by the magical energies which were unleashed during the war on Draenor. And the real Draenei worship the Holy Light!” We all looked at each other, laughed nervously, and said “Ha ha, good one, Blizzard! But no, really. What’s with the Eredar?” “What do you mean?” Blizzard responded. “Well, the manuals say that they were a single evil race that was always evil and that Sargeras recruited them because of that. The Draenei are completely different.” Bizzard got real quiet right about then. “Uh, what?” We blinked. “The…the manuals. The ones you published. For WC3 and the expansion to WC3, and WoW, and all the pen-and-paper WoW roleplaying games?” Blizzard stammered for a moment, said “Hey! Look over there!” and then ran away.

In time Blizzard reluctantly admitted their mistake — they’d screwed up their own lore and had to heavily retcon the entire history of Draenor, the Draenei and Garona Half-Orcen (who hasn’t been seen or heard of since). Then they “politely asked” us to stop talking about it. Oh, but that wasn’t the end of it. The Burning Crusade expansion was full of intriguing quest-lines that dead-ended, characters who were clearly intended to serve an important function but who were apparently forgotten shortly after launch, and promises of revelations that never came. Can anyone say Alleria and Turalyon, and their son in Honor Hold? How about the conversation in the inn in the “Caverns of Time: Old Hillsbrad” event? That smith out on a ledge in Terokkar, David Wayne, who seems to match a promise from the old Ashbringer event in the Scarlet Monastery’s Cathedral? And don’t get me started with all the dead-end quest-lines from “vanilla WoW” that promised information linked to Ashbringer! Or the entrances to Mount Hyjal that never opened! *twitch*

So how does this relate to the expansion?

Well, overall I’ve been impressed with the way Blizzard has handled introducing the Goblins as a Horde race (for the second time). How do they explain having Horde-allied Goblins AND neutral Goblins? Politics. Remember, once upon a time (in WarCraft II) the Goblins were affiliated with the Horde – they only became neutral after the Horde’s loss in that war. And the Goblins who side with the Horde in Cataclysm will be affiliated with a completely different cartel than the neutral ones, and therefore have no real reason to remain neutral, especially after they’re betrayed by the Trade Prince and wind-up in the middle of an Alliance/Horde skirmish. It makes sense, it involves pre-existing lore, and it doesn’t involve a wave of the magic Orwellian “retcon” wand.

It’s the details of the Worgen lore that many of us feel conflicted about. That might be because even in vanilla WoW there were a variety of odd inconsistencies. See, almost everything we’ve seen in the Lore implies that the Worgen are their own race, beings from another world summoned to this one – there are a pair of quest-chains in Ashenvale and Duskwood that explicitly portray them as alien beings summoned by the Scythe of Elune to Azeroth. In the context of these quests, they absolutely aren’t cursed humans or cursed members of any other race. And then there’s Pyrewood, a village you might not be familiar with if you haven’t played one of the Forsaken or the Blood Elves. The humans in Pyrewood, as part of his campaign against the Scourge, were cursed by Arugal into becoming Worgen at night so they could defend themselves and their land. As humans they are friendly to Alliance players and hostile to the Horde; but at night they’ll kill everyone. We’re curious to see what will come of this “cursed” aspect of Worgen existence. The curse apparently can’t be transferred by bites because otherwise player characters (or non-Pyrewood NPCs) would find theoretically themselves similarly “cursed” when they fight the Worgen (though Blizzard could just be ignoring that aspect).

But Blizzard also brought Arugal and the Worgen back in a new and improved form for the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Now one could argue that this iteration of the Worgen is different, subject to different rules than the other two types introduced in “vanilla WoW”; those who have played through the quests in Grizzly Peaks will know to what I’m referring. The problem is that these Worgen seem even less suitable as player characters, and certainly don’t seem related to the Worgen which will be inhabiting Gilneas next year. The only argument i can think of for their relevance to the playable Worgen issue is that they establish a greater variability, thereby giving Blizzard more wiggle room — not unlike the way the Death Knights in WCII bear no relation to the Death Knights in WCIII which bear no apparent relation to the playable Death Knights introduced in WotLK.

So we have a variety of possible approaches to the Worgen as a player race and to the fact that they’re actually the human citizens of Gilneas – all of which need to explain that the Sons of Arugal Worgen in Silverpine WEREN’T originally human, and that the people of Pyrewood are only nocturnally Worgen, and that somehow (as the Blizzard Cataclysm info has indicated) the cursing of the people of Gilneas was a result of some magic spell gone wild (which somehow got beyond the gates of the isolationist kingdom but nowhere else) and had absolutely nothing to do with any sort of cult.

So will Worgen be the new Draenei? Good gravy, I hope not. If they are, not only will it cause excessive fuming and ranting on the forums, but it’ll become another arrow in the quiver of people who have long suspected that Blizzard doesn’t care about Alliance people.

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