All right. If you need to be told this from the header, this post and this cinematic is into El Spoilero territory. These are spoilers right here. The ultimate fate of Anduin Wrynn is a pretty big spoiler for what happens in World of Warcraft’s latest patch, and if you want to go into this blind, we don’t want to inadvertently spoil you here. So we are keeping all spoilers out of this introduction and confining them until after you have seen the video itself.
Also please keep in mind that the video in question is unlisted even though it is on the official channel, which means that it is impossible to just stumble across this. You are making the specific choice here to be spoiled. Of course, the storytelling here is basically on par with what it’s been all through Shadowlands, so you can judge for yourself if these spoilers are even something you care about. Join us after the video for commentary, as you would.
So now you have watched that. Let’s pick at it a little bit.
Over the course of this cinematic we discover that Arthas was apparently wedged into Anduin during this whole experience. Arthas isn’t actually engaged in any fashion; he’s just a glowing speck of light that Sylvanas gets to unload a little soliloquy at before it dissipates. The number of comments on the video that hearken back to earlier statements that the developers would only use Arthas in a way fitting his legacy along with noting that Arthas is now 35 anima are… significant.
Did we know that Arthas was there? Does this actually change anything about the story? Is anything somehow improved by the late-hour addition of Arthas in spirit form being an influence on Anduin’s unwilling servitude? Not so much, no.
Of course, this is also a cinematic in which two blue glowing spirits of the afterlife somehow show up to encourage Anduin despite the fact that we are literally in the afterlife and these two characters have not shown up in any capacity up to this point; they work differently than any other afterlife spirit that we’ve seen in the expansion so far, and they are otherwise unexplained. So are they supposed to be diegetic or metaphorical? On this question, as with so many others, the narrative is silent.
The narrative is also silent on why the entire focus of the second half is about Sylvanas saying goodbye to Arthas whilst neither Jaina nor Uther have a word to say about it, and Sylvanas has nothing to say about Anduin having been transformed because of her own actions. But let’s not split hairs. Or at least, let’s not split hairs any further than they have already been split.
There is, of course, something else that has come up with this particular cinematic that needs to be examined based on feedback. Is this in some way ripping off Final Fantasy XIV, specifically with the ultimate fate of Nidhogg in Heavensward? Certainly this has come up with comments, with more than a few people in the comments of Anduin’s cinematic noting the parallels.
However… no, that’s not really a parallel. There are comparisons to be made, but I don’t think it’s fair to really write this off as a ripoff of the FFXIV cinematic. And no, it’s not just because the death of Nidhogg works better as a scene and has more narrative buildup for the elements involved.
The big point of comparison is pretty obvious: In both you have a tormented person at the center being possessed by something malicious, spirits of the dead show up to help free them, and the person in question is ultimately freed from their possession. However, the details of both are wildly different. To start with, the framing of the scene is that Estinien cannot free himself of Nidhogg’s influence; indeed, he is specifically asking for the player character to kill him because he sees no other alternative to free him.
Anduin, by contrast, is entirely an internal shift rather than an external one. None of the characters around him is responsible for freeing him from the Jailer’s influence, but it is rather a matter of simply surging with determination and deciding that he’s no longer going to be the Jailer’s pawn. The implication seems to be that he could have done this at any point he wanted it enough, which has its own issues but doesn’t offer parallels with FFXIV’s storytelling.
Equally important is the fact that in Heavensward, Nidhogg served as the main antagonist and the central point of conflict. Ridding Estinien of the influence of Nidhogg also meant the final defeat of the villain we’d been fighting against for most of the expansion up to that point. Ridding Anduin of Arthas’ influence is mostly a footnote, a portion in the larger conflict but in no way a matter of dispatching the central antagonist for Shadowlands up to this point.
The desire to look for parallels between the two is understandable, especially as a lot of people have noted that it’s not coincidental how WoW’s narrative team talked up this patch being the ending of a story started back during Warcraft III, which is… at best a laughable statement and at worst a form of fan-based gaslighting. This isn’t paying off narrative threads from the game’s history, something that FFXIV’s most recent expansion actually did. So it’s understandable that one might look for lines to be drawn between the two.
But at the end of the day the simple fact is that no, this doesn’t read like a ripoff of anything else. Anduin’s ultimate fate is not particularly well-done as a cinematic and has a lot of major problems with its place in the overall story. But they are problems of their own, not problems introduced by trying to copy someone else’s homework, so to speak.
Last but not least, I would like to note once again that Anduin – the heavily armored man in a sword wielding the Light – is supposedly a priest, not a paladin. This fact only gets funnier.