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

    
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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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johnwillo

I can kind of, maybe, barely accept how the high priestess of Elune might take her god’s inaction harder than the death of most of the people that she leads. I cannot accept absolving Sylvanus of anything. Half her soul and her empathy may have been gone, but her intellect remained. And that intellect chose to commit a massive atrocity.

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Ken from Chicago

Upon reflection, there was a very easy and very logical way to resolve this plot, restore Teldrassil and redeem Sylvannas.

BEHOLD:

Sometimes the (totally original) answers just showers down upon you. 🤔😱👍🤣

wow shower 01.jpg
wow shower 02.jpg
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Bryan Correll

Alternate theory based on the same images: the story was written while eating a giant mushroom found growing in a shower.

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PanagiotisLial1

The real question that comes, is do they have a professional writter? or one of the devs asks around the other for ideas and then weaves them together?

MariedeGournay
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MariedeGournay

I’m still pissed they seamed to have retconned the entirety of Warcraft 3’s story into being the Jailer’s incompetent pawns (Lich King, dreadlords, Burning Legion) fighting against each other.

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Cluedo86

As someone who has long abandoned playing WoW, I still enjoyed keeping up with the lore from time to time. I don’t know what’s going on, but the writing has fallen off a cliff since at least MOP. Shadowlands has destroyed two of my favorite WoW characters of all time, and two of the only strong female characters in the franchise: Sylvanas and Tyrande.

Sylvanas’s arc has been an incoherent train wreck since Legion. I honestly believe the devs intended to pull a Garrosh 2.0 until the players unleashed their fury. Her “redemption” is so half-assed, nonsensical, inconsistent, and pathetic. Okay, so she wants to overthrow a corrupt and broken and unjust after-life system…by sending thousands of innocent souls to the Maw unjustly? Sylvanas, above any other character, is not one to be a pawn for ANYONE. She wouldn’t be a pawn for Arthas, for the Dreadlords, or for the Burning Legion. Why in the hell would she so readily subordinate herself to someone like the Jailor? I get that she can be depressed and jaded, but she is NOT stupid. She would never, ever, ever become a pawn for the Jailor, and yet here we are. If she really wanted to overthrow the Shadowlands, why not TALK to the other leaders and work together to do so? They all would have joined her cause? Instead, the writers made her carry out this convoluted, half-assed conspiracy that has no meaningful payoff. So irritating.

And Tyrande’s storyline. Dear god, Blizzard. The least you could have done is made Tyrande be Garrosh 2.0 so at least the Alliance could experience what’s it’s like to have a faction leader go crazy and need to be put down in a final raid. So Night Warrior Tyrande is on the warpath. She is consumed by rage and revenge. She murders Nathanos. She has an admittedly kick-ass battle with Sylvanas and then…her godess FINALLY makes an appearance for the first time in the game’s history and tells Tyrande that she needs to get over it? And TYRANDE GOES FOR IT?! Oh, so “now” she understands that mindless rage isn’t the answer? WTF!!!

Such lazy, amateur writing. Blizzard is dead. I’m sad about it, but here we are. If the sex scandal doesn’t destroy the company, it’s subpar development team will.

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Khrome

You did make me realize how i felt about Garrosh. Not great writing by any stretch, but at the time, i was thinking “how could Thrall leave him in charge instead of Vol’jin!” and how *Garrosh* was a bad guy…

Meanwhile, with the entire Sylvanas thing, i was thinking about the *writers* doing a bad job instead.

I guess Garrosh was not as badly written as i thought at first.

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MaynardKeenanX

Wows story through the years are Iike watching the entire season of DragonbaII Z ….every episode gets graduaIIy more and more insane

Jokerchyld
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Jokerchyld

LMAO at trying to explain WoW story. At this point its an expansion mechanic to give context to the gameplay.

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Bannex

100%!!!

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Zelgadis Greywolf

Elune did something. Elune saved Malfurion that got almost killed by Saurfang. If we try to go a bit deeper with it – after being attacked it would be devastating to nelfs to loose their leader, at the same time someone pretty powerful fighting for them. I assume Malfurion’s death would sadly lower the morale of nelfs. Elune is not a Greek goddess and she never had intervene in mortal affairs. She always watches, gently pushes and intervenes in very subtle way. She know she is not there to decide FATE of races and places of Azeroth unless it threatens entire planet (and burning of Telldrasill is not threatening anything). Also it is not Implied that Elune could had done something. She only moved souls to Shadowlands instead of letting them turn into wisps and wander around Azeroth. As Nelfs usually don’t got to Shadowlands at all, they all usually turn into wisps. About Tyrande, she is past 5 stages of grief, where anger is one of them. it doesn’t mean she doesn’t want sylvanas to die and pay for their crimes. The only thing she notices now is that she needs to move past anger, that focusing on revenge made her abandon her people and that focusing on the future of nelfs is more important than whenever Sylvanas will pay as their nation is divided and broken, without leaders and souls of her people are suffering in the maw.

(Edited by mod to remove personal attacks. Please review the commenting code.)

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Bereman99

I assume Malfurion’s death would sadly lower the morale of nelfs.

Yeah, I’m sure the death of one leader would have led to a greater dip in morale than the deaths of hundreds (at least) of Night Elves and the loss of their home.

A “leader” that was absent for most the last 10,000 years.

I’m sure they are just so, so glad that Elune stepped in to help Malfurion over their family and friends and loved ones.

That all being said…

You’ve managed to miss the point – regardless of whether Elune can or cannot have done something, this entire arc is a mess of shoddy writing, and a lot of that comes down to trying to have Elune be both what you suggest – a goddess who nudges rather than taking direction action – as well the contradiction to that, as funneling the souls to her sister, as she supposedly tried to do, is taking a more direct action.

And then the whole thing is just treated the same way they “resolved” the conflict between the factions in Mists – that the leaders need to learn to move and rebuild rather than focusing on vengeance.

Which at this point is their go-to for story arcs. Someone or some group does something bad, the victims start to respond and typically retaliate, some third party comes in and admonishes both sides to try and get them to play nice. Problem is, that works when you are talking small scale stuff, or things where it was the actions of past generations that have already ostensibly paid for their crimes, or died off.

They are trying to apply that same story type to the near genocide of an entire race and the burning of their home that was done (if the novelization is to be believed) because Sylvanas got pissy because that one Nelf kind of taunted her about not being able to kill hope. And now Tyrande is supposed to move on and focus on renewal?

It’s a story that’s trying to be 4 different things at once, none of them very well, with all the nuance of a brick to the face, in a story that would actually need nuance to be told well.

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hellodeliciousfriend

Someone or some group does something bad, the victims start to respond and typically retaliate, some third party comes in and admonishes both sides to try and get them to play nice.

With the lawsuit allegations about their corporate culture, it doesn’t exactly shock me that they think this is how wrongdoing should be handled. It’s one of those things that in retrospect makes you realize that the signs have been there for a long time.

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Utakata

You know…when it is claimed the author is wrong (he could be) who has written extensively about for quite a few years now and has had 2 columns on this subject (over here and on Blizzard Watch); from some internet person (who could be right) whom I’ve never seen before till today and who appears to have no discerning credentials on the subject that anyone here is aware of…I’m going to wager my bets that the author is more likely to be accurate here. At least objectively as well as in the informed opinion. Since I’ve played WoW since Vanilla in the anecdote, I don’t think Mr. Eliot is off the mark here. /shrug

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Zelgadis Greywolf

Just remarks about Elune are already just wrong as nowhere in the game she had intervened like that and nowhere in the current game it is implied that she could have or planned to stop burning of Telldrasill.

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Utakata

Yet, that’s not what the clip imbedded seem to imply. And in the narrative seems to be one of shirking consequence…at least how many here seem to be taking it veteran and non-veteran alike. So you’ll have a tough sell here to convince folks otherwise. Although, one would think that should of been responsibilities of the writers to convey such if that’s not what they where saying, lol.

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Cluedo86

Totally disagreed. Nothing in the story indicates anything credible to show that Tyrande meaningfully moved past the 5 stages of grief. Remember, there are 5 stages, right? How did she just magically move from anger to acceptance? Nothing meaningful happened to make that plausible.

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Amelia Bee

I used to work for Blizzard, and I can tell you why the quality of the writing, quests, most everything else keeps getting worse. It’s cuz they only hire those coveted jobs internally, and they don’t fill those positions based on talent or experience, no. It’s purely based on nepotism. The entire company is run by underqualified people just because they’re buddies with the boss. Or cuz the boss wants to bed them, but that’s old news.

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Zelgadis Greywolf

That is not true lol blizzard employees are not responsible for how story is handled for long time, if you would actually work for wow team or blizzard overall you would know they hire authors of WoW books to write the story, they only give them vagues ideas and major plot points, but writers are handling them.

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Bereman99

Most of the story as it appears in the game has been handled by writers within the team of devs over the years, such as Metzen or Danuser. They work on the big lore and story, and smaller quest moments are handled by other writers within the team. Only recently has, with the addition of Christie Golden, have they had a case where a writer of WoW books is also working on the WoW story within the game…

Also worth noting is that she actually hasn’t had a full book published since working as a full-time Blizz employee (as a Senior Writer) yet, with the first of those set to come out in February 2022, titled “Sylvanas.”

So no, they have not had the WoW story written by authors instead of the Blizzard employees. Some have contributed elements to it, but the story itself is absolutely being done by Blizzard employees.

Maybe fact check before you post? Might sound ignorant, otherwise.

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Zelgadis Greywolf

Knaak and Golden are responsible for story at least since Legion, Metzen hasn’t touched in-game lore for years and you can argue he is also responsible for some really stupid stories as for WIII and vanilla fans story is just going worse and worse since TBC launch (lol even WotLK had some questionable writing )

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Bereman99

Like I said, might want to fact check before you post.

Knaak hasn’t written anything WoW related since 2013 – before Warlords of Draenor – and was always a writer of stuff outside of the game. Some of his characters that he created for his books were added to WoW, but that’s about the extent of his influence on the story.

Golden is a Senior Writer and has been with the team since 2017, but she has so far her cited contributions have mostly been involved in writing dialog and scripts for various cinematics within the game, with the assistance of Terran Gregory, who is the In-game Cinematic Project Director. She does this while also working on novella’s, short stories, or the comic about the Windrunner sisters.

If there’s any one main person that is currently responsible for the overall direction of the story right now, it’s Steve Danuser – The Lead Narrative Designer.

There is likely some collaboration in how it’s all put together amongst the writers there, with Danuser essentially steering the ship, but the assertion that it’s all being created by Knaak and Golden is – quite simply put – wrong.

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Christopher Allcock

I kinda feel sorry for Golden at this point, she’s done more to FIX the narrative for Warcraft than anyone else currently, yet as Bere points out, the playerbase seem to be misunderstanding her role in the team – she has zero control of what the content writers actually do in the game.

If anything she, like most script writers actually HAVE a plan on how she thinks the story goes/characters react, the issue is in the actual design process, the leads just cherry pick what they want, and go off in their own way, but then ‘the writer’ gets the flack for it. (See Rhianna Pratchett’s comments on the work she did on Prince of Persia 2008 and the Tomb Raider series – VERY little work she did actually made it to the final product).

Golden’s work is mostly taking the convoluted mess of World of Warcraft and attempt to make sense of it in her own works (which she has creative control in) IF she had actual creative control over the game – the MMORPG would actually BE a RPG with narrative, not just scraps of ‘plot twists’ at the end of a grind.

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FrDino

Anne Stickney, former Wow Insider/Blizzard Watch writer is now listed as a Associate Narrative Designer for WoW. So not all new jobs are internal. Granted Anne is best know for “Elune is a Naaru” theory. So your mileage may vary.

Off topic a bit. I think in the age of the internet to many writers in all media are to worried about the story being spoiled because audience often figured out the clues to early about what will happen next. So the answer the writers go with is to give NO CLUES! Which rather than having a well set up story that people enjoy. Rather you get “Internet shocked” headline for 5 minutes about this random and complete unforeshadowed thing that happened before the internet moves on and writers are left with a burning tree and now idea what to do with it.

Remember Pixar’s rules for writing #7
Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

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Cluedo86

Let’s not mansplain another person’s job to them, okay? Amelia worked at Blizzard. I think she knows how things go. Blizzard does employ writers too.

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Cluedo86

That’s disappointing. Sounds like blatant sexism and racism mixed with nepotism. WoW was never going to be Oscar material, but it does have a very rich world with an interest cast of characters. Blizz could do a lot with the lore and story, but they choose not to do so.

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FrDino

Who is even on the story team for Warcraft anymore? Someone is writing this, I agree with Eliot frustration. But I think fairness also should ask who are the creatives behind this? What terrible process is used to make this story? If for no other reason to document it and never do it again.

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Zelgadis Greywolf

Story is not that bad if you actually know how Elune worked through ages, what she actually did (you need to know what happens to nelf when they die…) And if you add stages of grief to it and remember that anger and focusing on revenge made Tyrande abandon her people as Shandris pointed out – for most or the time nelfs didn’t even know where Tyrande is as she was blinded by chasing Sylvanas. So blinded she even didn’t care about Azshara. And her people needed a leader, needed to move forward. Doesn’t mean sylvanas shouldn’t pay but at the same time Tyrande is an awful leader for nelfs as not even their future is important for her – only vengeance. So her moving past that is natural way of how grief works, and it doesn’t mean she won’t advocate for death sentence for Sylvanas. Only her rage is gone.

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Bruno Brito

Story is not that bad if you actually know how Elune worked through ages

I know and it is absolutely bad.

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Cluedo86

Also, how does Elune “work?” That’s another example of Blizzard’s poor writing these days. They don’t give us enough context. They don’t show us enough. Nothing in the WoW games has SHOWN us how Elune works or what she is like, really. All we’ve known about Elune is from Tyrande’s relationship with her, and brief mentions here or there from Aspects or Malfurion. Writing is about SHOWING, not telling (and Blizzard doesn’t even manage to do any telling half of the time).

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Cluedo86

Totally disagree. Story is AWFUL. The issue isn’t with Elune per se, although it does seem cheap that her first appearance in the game is so brief and not even in her own body. The issue people have is with the incoherence, inconsistencies, lazy retcons to fit the current expansion, and absolutely insane plot points.

Whether or not Tyrande’s anger is justified is beside the point, though it’s an interesting question. That’s why her arc has POTENTIAL. The issue is that how does Tyrande go from enraged psycho hellbent on murder and revenge to calm wisdom and understanding in the space of 10 seconds? Just because Elune speaks with her sister? Hello?! Tyrande is Elune’s most favored priestess and champion, so they’ve been in communication for a long time. If Tyrande could harness such rage after all those eons with Elune, what makes you think Elune could make her any less angry, especially in the span of 5 seconds? It’s absurd. There is nothing reasonable in the plot to suggest Tyrande should be rid of her anger.

I don’t MIND an outcome in which Tyrande learns to control her anger and accept her grief, but we need the PLOT to get us there. It didn’t. I also wouldn’t mind an ending in which Tyrand is consumed with rage and becomes Garrosh 2.0 (the Alliance need some controversy, frankly). What we don’t need is half-assed writing that breaks Tyrande’s arc before it had the chance to blossom.

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Khrome

No one is writing the story. The cutscenes and story beats are made purely to accomodate the content the game designers lay out.

There’s zero communication between the teams, and story is subservient to the mechanical design.