WoW Factor: World of Warcraft’s burning of Teldrassil plot wrap-up is terrible

This went over great.

Fair warning: This post contains spoilers for the current World of Warcraft plotline for anyone who has not finished up the latest parts of the covenant campaign. If you have not finished the campaign and do not want to read spoilers, you should avoid this post. These spoilers are stupid. But it does contain spoilers. And they are stupid. You shouldn’t care, but if you do care, there are spoilers. But you should not care about those spoilers. Because this is stupid.

So as we are all getting rammed in the face with WoW’s redemption arc for Sylvanas, 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 is still a rather big issue. Specifically, there’s the fact that Sylvanas did burn down Teldrassil and killed countless Night Elves in a genocidal assault on people who were not attacking her. Many Night Elf players were hopeful for some sort of resolution to this plotline, which has been dangling since Battle for Azeroth.

It appears that in the post-campaign quests, this plot has been wrapped up with some NPC dialogue in which Tyrande acts like she just needs to get over it. No, really.

So, quick recap. In Battle for Azeroth, Sylvanas decides to bombard and burn Teldrassil to the ground, which was conveyed via in-game quests in a rather harrowing quest which had players trying (and inevitably failing) to evacuate Darnassus as the tree burned. This attack was unprompted and unjustified. Some people debate whether or not Sylvanas had always planned this or she made this decision due to the response of a dying random Night Elf, with the actual answer being that it doesn’t matter because a spur-of-the-moment war crime is exactly the same as a premeditated one.

Following this event, Tyrande Whisperwind was pretty angry about the attempted genocide of her people. This led to her taking on the power of the Night Warrior, a force of vengeance blessed by Elune, as she was enraged by the loss of Teldrassil. That was the end of the plot in BFA, with Tyrande’s fate almost entirely left open as other events took place.

In Shadowlands, Tyrande pursued Sylvanas into the eponymous Shadowlands, intent on killing her. Subsequently, the plot has not actually involved any interaction between Tyrande and Sylvanas, but it did eventually include this cinematic wherein Elune finally speaks and basically says, “Yeah, I let all those people die, but I did it for a really good reason, and Tyrande needs to get over this.”

Obviously, this in and of itself is pretty dumb, as people pointed out at the time. Whether or not it was intentional, the implication is that Elune could have done something about what happened to Teldrassil but chose not to in order to send a bunch of souls to Ardenweald. But this does not necessarily mean that the plotline of “Tyrande wants revenge against Sylvanas for attempted genocide” is over, just the Night Warrior plotline. It’s possible that you could justify this as an odd but understandable way of removing that particular ticking clock ahead of a proper resolution.

However, that falls apart with the new dialogue added post-campaign to Tyrande and Shandris Feathermoon. Talking amongst themselves, Tyrande states that while she couldn’t understand why Elune let this happen, now she does and it’s not really her place to decide why Elune did things.

For those of you who can’t read up a couple of paragraphs, here’s a quick reminder: Elune didn’t do anything. Elune failed to stop Sylvanas from doing something. Sylvanas is the person who did something. Sylvanas, the actual person who very definitely is responsible, is not under discussion here at all. Zero times is her name mentioned as Tyrande says that it’s time to stop focusing on the past (attempted genocide) and start focusing on the future.

In other words, to paraphrase: Yeah, Tyrande was upset about that genocide, but the writers are now stating that what she was really mad about wasn’t the genocide but rather her deity not intervening to fix it. But now she knows why Elune didn’t intervene, so it’s all cool. It’s all super cool, time to stop being so angry about it. What’s a little attempted genocide between friends?

A harrowing story in which one of the major capital cities of the Alliance was wiped off the map (very literally) and players tried and failed to rescue people from burning to death in the wreckage has now been resolved by the head of that city saying that it’s time to move on from focusing on that. This story arc has apparently wrapped up by Tyrande saying that internalizing anger is toxic and she doesn’t need that negative energy any more.

You could see her hanging up an “EAT PRAY LOVE” sign on the wall as some kind of symbol of her moving on, but there’s no wall left to hang it on. Because Darnassus burned down. But we can’t focus on that because that might involve making Sylvanas culpable for her actions in some way or acknowledge a legitimate grievance by the Alliance or… you know, anything to actually resolve this particular story arc.

Again: A plot that started because Sylvanas literally tried to commit genocide and Tyrande got mad about it ended with no interaction between Tyrande and Sylvanas, with Tyrande’s whole Night Warrior plotline amounting to a plot cul-de-sac that had no effect whatsoever on her sworn enemy’s arc. Sylvanas would literally have to be told about that all happening to know about it. And now Tyrande’s goal is to move on and just let go of all that anger because it’s not healthy.

At a certain point, you run out of snark to have about this writing and you just can make the same impact by presenting the writing on its own without further elaboration.

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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