WoW! Thoughts! — On Escalation, WoW’s Limitations, and Civil War

Thoughts on how Blizzard's inability to properly portray the Horde civil war is splitting the playerbase.


Patch 5.3 has been out two weeks, and while it brought some interesting changes, it has only served to highlight the major flaw with World of Warcraft.   While WoW is an MMO with Western RPG influences, the fact that the Horde civil war is now front and center displays how WoW‘s quest structure fails to offer players any choice.   Regardless of how players feel about Garrosh or Vol’jin or the Horde, players are forced to aid the revolution instead of choosing their allegiance.

As Warchief, Garrosh has been depicted as excessively aggressive and tyrannical.  He’s been resorting to extreme tactics like bombing Theramore, weaponizing the Sha, and stealing Mogu and Titan technology all in the name of evicting the Alliance from Kalimdor.  These actions are offensive (both martially and morally), but they were executed in the interest of the Horde.  In the World of Warcraft, Garrosh has become the foremost practitioner of the craft of war.

Throughout the game, as players we’ve committed numerous acts that could be regarded as atrocities in the interest of our faction.  From assaulting opposing cities to most recently eradicating the Zandalari from the Isle of Thunder, we’ve engaged in acts that could cause us to be regarded as villains (and by the other faction, we are!).  This is not to say that our wrongs absolve Garrosh, but rather that a member of the Horde (and in particular Orcish members) could make an argument for siding with Garrosh in this civil war.   But that argument amounts to nothing when players are forced to ride with Vol’jin as he assaults/liberates Razor Hill.

However, once players openly declare war on the Warchief, little changes.  While there are violent encounters between the Kor’kron and Orgrimmar NPC’s (what did Gamon ever do to Garrosh?), city life between the banks and auction houses continues as normal.  There’s a discrepancy in that players run around the Barrens attacking Hellscream-loyalists, only to return to the Warchief’s doorstep and encounter no resistance.  A hotheaded, militant Garrosh would definitely greet any returning players with hostility, and while he functions as an NPC for low-level quests (characters who are unaffected by the current plot), Garrosh serves no purpose for level 90 characters except to be attacked or defended as a PVP objective.

Not that it would have been easy, but Blizzard missed an opportunity to force players to relocate to Thunder Bluff for the duration of the expansion.  Ultimately, between the Ethereals in the Shrine of Two Moons, and the Auctioneers in Thunder Bluff, there is no reason for Horde players to visit Orgrimmar unless out of habit.  Especially after Vol’jin describes how dangerous and fortified Orgrimmar has become (when Thrall departs for the city, Vol’jin responds as though he is heading to his death), it is disappointing that players barely get to experience an openly hostile Orgrimmar.  (A similar opportunity has been missed with respect to the Horde presence in Dalaran post-5.1.)

While Horde members may complain that the sense of Civil War does not go far enough, Alliance players can also claim that they have received a lackluster experience.  As High King Varian Wrynn is preparing the fleet to storm Orgrimmar, Alliance players have been sent ahead to work with Vol’jin in secret.  While Horde players get to ride alongside Vol’jin as he rushes Razor Hill, Alliance players get to sneak around and perform surveillance as a cat.  Though some Alliance players may enjoy interacting with the enemy and witnessing them from  a different perspective, many others are again frustrated that the Alliance is taking a back-seat to a Horde focused narrative.  To further develop Horde content that these Alliance players would never see for such a short window as one or two patches, might not only waste Blizzard’s time, but cause more resentment from the neglected player-base.

 Patch 5.3 is a perfectly serviceable patch for what it needs to do.  It sets up the coming Orgrimmar raid in 5.4 and returns players to Kalimdor after stranding them in Pandaria for almost nine months.   It’s a much needed change of scenery, and all the questing in the Barrens and Durotar serves to give us familiar locales that are updated and fresh.  However, to imagine what Blizzard could have done in the face of what they did is disappointing.  Escalation sets the stage for the Seige of Orgrimmar, but it could have done so much more; and the fact that Blizzard did what they did suggests that they are prioritizing resources for the raid itself.

Also, it indicates that they know they are caught between two groups who each want more of the focus on themselves.  The Horde and Alliance are in direct competition for Blizzard’s attention, and all this patch is doing is highlighting the rifts in what should otherwise be a unified group.  Blizzard is in no danger of creating a civil war amongst WoW players, but they do have a fine line to tread.

WoW! Blurbs!

The Armored Bloodwing is now available!  Look for Alliance players to complain that bats are a Horde mount.

Blizzard is going to San Diego Comic-Con!  Everyone in Forsaken cosplay is going to be mistaken for Walking Dead fans.

Development on ‘Titan’ has been reset and the game has been pushed back.  I blame the Old Gods.

Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz

Senior Producer

Host of WoW! Talk! and The Tauren & The Goblin. Sometimes known as the Video Games Public Defender. Wants to play more Destiny and Marvel Heroes but WoW is all-consuming. Decent F2P Hearthstone player. Sad that he lost the Wii that had Wrecking Crew on it. Would be happy if the only game ever made was M.U.L.E. Gragtharr on Skywall-US. Garresque on Ravencrest-US.

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