WoW Factor: Where do we go after WoW Legion?

So at the risk of being dinged for spoiling the current World of Warcraft expansion, let me say this: Azeroth is not going to be destroyed or completely overtaken by the Burning Legion. That’s a given. The threat certainly feels real, and I hope more than anything that when our victory comes it feels like a natural outgrowth of the story rather than an arbitrary “well, the story says you win right now so the Burning Legion just got dumb,” but it’s pretty much a given that we’re going to win out in the end. The basic premise of the game doesn’t work otherwise.

The question, of course, is where we go next.

A lot of people have been speculating whether Legion is meant to be the final expansion for the game for precisely that reason, and while I think that’s obviously wrong on the face of it (it’d be silly to turn down that money, after all), the point stands that from a narrative perspective, this is it. This is the big confrontation that has been built up since Warcraft III, and if you have no doubt that there will be a next expansion, it still raises the question of “where does it go?”

Let’s explore the possibilities.

Look, a convenient unexplored continent!

Here in this land, which we will call... this land.The thing about Azeroth is that it’s not like Vana’diel or Hydaelyn. Those worlds have a pretty well-known basic layout, and it’s easy to say that the world stops at a certain point. We know where landmasses are, they’ve been well-established. Azeroth, by contrast, is a world that has great landmasses arranged at any point where they would be logically convenient, so there’s always space for another continent to show up.

Not that there isn’t some logic to it anyhow; the southern parts of every extant continent that stretches toward the south (Pandaria, the Eastern Kingdoms, and Kalimdor) strongly hint that the southern tip of the world we currently know is the equator. There’s still probably plenty of world out there to be explored with fair justification, although some of it should rightly include landmasses the size of Kalimdor or the Eastern Kingdoms, so creative work would have to be done to justify this heretofore unheard-of landmass.

What would work about this, of course, would be a chance to explore some part of Azeroth that isn’t directly related to the Burning Legion, possibly even spots where that invasion happened and was defeated through other means. Or perhaps the remnants of the Legion invasion have taken root elsewhere, meaning that we need to go deal with that while also encountering political groups that the Alliance and the Horde may not have realized were out there before.

The down side, of course, is that it’s hard for a new space to seem as if it’s not being handwaved into existence. General speculation currently centers around the idea that all of the unexplored area of Azeroth is just empty ocean, which is certainly possible, but it’s also just as plausible that no one actually knows what’s back there. There are lots of little spaces that we know are out there but haven’t seen in some time or ever (such as Zandalar proper), but that creates the risk of just slamming several places together to fill in the gaps. It seems like the route to go, but I think it’s far from a sure thing.

Beyond the sea, somewhere.

Heading back to Draenor after all

By contrast, we have little-to-no idea what Draenor looks like. Sure, Warlords of Draenor was a mess and a half, but the end of that expansion leaves us with plenty of opportunity to go back… especially since this time the whole place has no reason to expect it’s ever going to be ripped to pieces. We can explore this place, we have NPCs there who might welcome the return, and we have… um.

The biggest problem here, obviously, is that there is no particular reason to go back here at this point. All of the expansions have involved a certain amount of things rather unceremoniously being dropped in the laps of Azeroth’s inhabitants, from invading demons to invading undead to a whole lot of pandas showing up. Even if, say, the Ogres on Draenor vomited an invasion force up, they’d probably be going to Shattrath or something… and the Horde and Alliance have no particular reason to care about that. It’s alt-Draenor’s problem, not ours.

But the plus side is that unlike the previous example, it’s a matter wherein we know full well that the land is out there, and it was even something that had been promised early on as something we’d see in the game. It’d also have the advantage of making the whole excursion to Draenor seem less pointless after all; we weren’t just going to handle things and then never go back, we went to start by solving a problem and then we returned later to take care of other business.

For that matter, we could just as well have another drifting remnant of Draenor in Outland that was heretofore unknown. Yes, that requires a bit more of an arbitrary expansion, but it’s not like people have been making expeditions to find everything that’s drifting along out there. Who knows what might be floating in the void, perhaps even devoid of inhabitants…

Yeah, let's keep going, Azeroth is boring.

The world-hopping never stops

Of course, there’s nothing to say that we have to stop going from world to world once we’re done with Argus.

Here’s the funny thing: while we’ve always had access to some degree of world-jumping stuff in WoW, it’s rarely been under our own control. The Dark Portal just opened to Azeroth, which was not under the control of either world’s resident; Garrosh managed to use it to jump back in time to an alternate Draenor, but that also wasn’t really under his control. The Burning Legion has a lot of control, but it’s disinclined to let Azeroth’s residents use it. In fact, the end of the Demon Hunter class campaign is the first time I can think of when the power is really left in player hands by the time the story ends, even though there’s not much else to be done with it right now.

The obvious thing to do at this point is to start crusading against the Burning Legion once we’re done with this invasion, but that seems like a pretty long-term and major goal that’s going to require some guidance. It’s also just as possible that something is out there that’s just as attractive to the Horde and the Alliance, and we start hopping to another zone not as defenders, but as immigrants. Perhaps even conquerors, depending on what we find there.

Of course, at that point you have to take care to keep the game feeling like WoW instead of some ersatz Spelljammer sequel or a Planescape campaign. Which it’d be all right with regardless, but one assumes the designers would like to actually still feature Azeroth and all.

So what do you think? Or do you have completely different speculation? Feedback is welcome down in the comments or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. Next time around… I think I’m going to see where we’re at with 7.2 and what’s there worth speculating about. Speculation is fun; what can I say?

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.
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52 Comments on "WoW Factor: Where do we go after WoW Legion?"

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Pedge Jameson

When the Muppets got boring they retconned that Gonzo was from outer space instead of some….well they never retconned him. So add another planet???

Sykes
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Sykes

The old gods are next, I think. Ashara’s due for revenge for having the Tidestone denied to her. It would be a great excuse to launch the somewhat already developed assets intended for the expansion of Vashjir.
We woke up an old god in the Emerald Dream when we defeated the Nightmare. What would N’zoth do once it’s awake?
On top of that, Bolvar seems increasingly corrupted by his position as Lich King.
There’s plenty of unexplored threads in Azeroth itself, and given what we now understand of the Void, bigger enemies out there than the Legion that have been closer to home this whole time.

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Danny Smith

I think the story of Azeroth is reaching the point anything that’s not drastically different is just going to be more of the same. Which isn’t really a bad thing for MMOs in general but with when that same is “no no THIS is the world ending big bad and this time they will do something instead of be loot tier pinatas we swear!” it is wearing real thin and the more it happens the more insincere it feels.
Legion was the “when in user number freefall break glass” fan service expansion, but it wasn’t shat out since there was in game stuff suggesting it was the intended follow up to mists and dreanor was a filler expansion to cover Legions long dev time. But it was still a bandaid pulling people in with things they cried for for years.

So what do they do when thats all spent? Clearly they have some plan as they are pulling a tier shift retcon with these void lords that totally won’t be just ani titans for the writers corruption fetish but the legion is going to lose, that’s what enemies for wow expansions do, its why the warlords were damp squibs. So with only old gods left to brush off the table its new territory and do they just add a random new world ending loot pinata each expansion pulled out their ass?

That’s not a healthy longterm plan for any series.

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Dread Quixadhal

If it were MY game, I’d allow us to defeat the Legion, but at the cost of turning Azeroth into a desolate wasteland. The next expansion would be about how to survive and restore the world. It would be a great excuse to chop down all those stupidly high numbers, since magic would be gutted and weakened, and everyone would be sickly and weak in general from the toxic environment.

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J. J. Sándor

Kill the Titans and take their place, maybe. That would open the whole new area of possibilities for future expansions. The entire universe.
Maybe that would be the right time for “Warcraft 40K”. ;)

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agemyth 😩

You mean “StarCraft”? :P

They just need to go land on Azeroth and give the Horde some space tech.

hurbster
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hurbster

Heresy.

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Dyer Oac

Kind of off topic, started listening to some of the podcasts. Elliot your voice sounds so familiar , did you raid with Molotov on an ocean server years ago?

ceder
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ceder

My theory:

This actually -is- it. We -don’t- win. Legion ends up destroying Azeroth and itself and Argus.

What happens next is we are told we have been saved by some time stasis. We are then asked to go back in time very far back in time to right wrongs etc. We can to our former timeline just before the Obliteration of the time line if need but the next expansion would be our going to the time of the high elves or earlier. This lets them yet again throw classes and abilities into all manner of changes etc as well.

Then after that expansion we’ve altered time to the point that the legion(and us) don’t succeed in destroying everything and we then are open to encountering new(or old) enemies due to changing the course of events etc etc.

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Tim Parisi

I would actually like to see Draenor and /or Outland expanded. Although that was supposed to be their entire world, it’s really just one continent, sMiller than Kalimdor and the eastern kingdoms. What if you just started sailing from any coastline? What’s beyond those oceans?

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Utakata

Or more Azeroth drama. Where Gallywix for example is made Warchief this time due to some death of Sylvanas, and he immediately starts banning the Gadgetzan Press from his throne room…

Bree: “Uta, pigtails! Snip, snip!”

…oh..err..something like that. :(

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Utakata

“Also, inane Uta.”

…yeah. :(

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Byórðæįr

So technically the build up has been building up far longer than that. I would totally dig having a spell jammer mount in wow… though most of the air ships in wow have ballons except the exodar type legion ships and few dwarf ships and mounts… should be interesting to see if we end up with captured exodar ships to get to argus or another gate or redirecting the dark portal…

Then again if you read through the death knights artifact history they could have any number of conquered worlds to play with. I seem to remember a image some where of world blown apart so who knows it should be interesting to see where they take things. Since we finally got a nice transmog system in so we can run dungeons for gear that may or may not look cool and simply mog over any pieces with stuff we like better grin.