WoW! Thoughts! — On Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde

Thoughts on how the story in Shadows of the Horde gratuitously gives Vol'jin extra motivation for rebelling.


I’m only about three patches late, but I recently had the opportunity to read Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde.  When the book was released, many (correctly) interpreted the focus on Vol’jin as a sign that he would be the next Warchief.  The book recounts Vol’jin’s time healing after Garrosh’s failed assassination attempt in the Dagger in the Dark scenario, and his subsequent battles with the Zandalari.  Those events make for an interesting story, although it is unclear if it was one that needed to be told.

Playing straight through the game, Vol’jin’s characterization is fairly explicit: concerned about Garrosh’s aggressive policies and borderline-tyranny, Vol’jin has long opposed the Warchief.  Their encounter in The Shattering is shared by Vol’jin himself as a vision to all new troll players in the Echo Isles.  Thus, it is of little surprise that Vol’jin would arrive in Pandaria to monitor Garrosh’s actions in patch 5.1.  This is when Garrosh tasks Vol’jin with the mission to investigate the Saurok caves, one that culminates with Vol’jin clinging to life after being stabbed by an orc assassin.  Vol’jin tells the player the let Garrosh think he’s dead while he recuperates, and effectively begins Horde Civil War with his comments at the end of the scenario, “You an’ me, we move to take [Garrosh] out when da time is right. Others are like me. You gotta find ‘em. Swear da blood oath wit me.”

Vol’jin next appears briefly in an unconscious state with Chen Stormstout tending to him during the Dominance Offensive quests.  Vol’jin’s full return to glory comes in patch 5.3, when he, along with Chen and Thrall, fend off a Kor’kron assault on Sen’jin Village and then reclaim Razor Hill, setting the stage for patch 5.4’s Seige of Orgrimmar.  Witnessing Vol’jin’s distrust of Garrosh come to fruition grants complete understanding of Vol’jin’s motivations for leading the Darkspear Revolution.  Shadows of the Horde manages to convolute that motivation and give Vol’jin an adventure that feels unneccessary.

As Vol’jin heals in the Shado-pan Monastery, he suffers an identity crisis.  Having turned his back on the Zandalari and their attempts to reclaim the troll empires in patch 4.1, he instead affirmed his allegiance to the Horde, who have now turned their back on him.  In trying to decide his future, Vol’jin helps the Shado-pan defend against a Zandalari assault in Zouchin Village.  After several confrontations with the Zandalari, he is coerced into allying with them, and is offered a position of leadership within their ranks.  Surprisingly, Vol’jin considers the offer.  While it’s easy for the reader to trust that the Zandalari are the bad guys and should not be negotiated with, Vol’jin’s crisis extends so deeply that a position of honor amongst his people is a worthy proposition.  Ultimately, he declines the offer, and in doing so comes to the realization that he needs to protect the Horde, which means that Garrosh must be removed from power.  Thus, Vol’jin’s motivations for the Darkspear Rebellion are  established.

While this is a compelling tale – especially the parts where Vol’jin mulls over the Zandalari offer – it ultimately feels gratuitous.  Garrosh gave Vol’jin all the motivation he would need when Rakgor Bloodrazor slashed the troll’s throat.  To think that Vol’jin was so affected by the betrayal that he would actually consider abandoning the Horde for the Zandalari seems excessive.  It demonstrates just how lost Vol’jin was at the time – stuck amongst the unfamiliar Shado-Pan, without any ties to his troll heritage or his Horde “family”, Vol’jin is like a ship amongst the waves without an anchor to keep him steady (to borrow a recurring metaphor from the book).  The depths of Vol’jin’s confusion is surprising, but feels like a late addition to the narrative.  Vol’jin shows no signs on his wavering loyalties in-game, and while he is hidden from players during this time, he is writing them letters about the current events such as Garrosh’s quest for the Divine Bell and Lor’themar’s souring relationship with the Warchief.  These letters show no sign of Vol’jin’s internal struggle.

These letters also make it hard to pin down when exactly the Zandalari invasion of Zouchin and the events of the novel occur.  Vol’jin is brought out of his coma while still in Binan Village, when he sends players to Sen’jin Village to overthrow the Kor’kron occuptation.  At this point, Chen takes Vol’jin to the monastery.  In the book, when Vol’jin awakens in the monastery, his last memories are of passing out in the Saurok cavern alone, and he needs to work through his emotions to come to the conclusion that he should rebel against Garrosh – the same conclusion he seemingly had at the end of the scenario.

The Zandalari then occupy Zouchin Village and invade the Vale of Eternal Blossoms to the point that they are able to camp outside Mogu’shan Palace.  This is surprising because this does not draw the attention of the Horde or the Alliance stationed at the nearby Shrines.  Furthermore, the Zandalari take Vol’jin to the Isle of Thunder prior to the Horde or Alliance arrival on its shores, which is to say, prior to patch 5.2.  While the patches themselves lack a firm date, at best we can guess that the events of the novel take place just after and during the culmination of patch 5.1.  What makes this odd is that with players busy on the Isle of Thunder in patch 5.2, Vol’jin is free to have whatever adventures he would want, so long as they kept him on a divergent path from the player.  Instead, Vol’jin is brought right to Isle of Thunder only to establish that he was there first (Taran Zhu’s involvement as a member of the 33 also suggests that the novel climaxes before patch 5.2, as he is active on the Isle of Thunder with the player, while Vol’jin remains in hiding.).

While Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde provides insight into Vol’jin’s motivations for patch 5.3 and beyond, it is not a critical read.  Enough information is contained within the game to make the novel feel repetitive if not outright contradictory at points.  Regardless, if you are a fan of the lore and would like to learn more about the Zandalari and the Shado-Pan, it is an overall enjoyable read.

A few other thoughts on the novel, unrelated to Vol’jin’s exploits:

– Chen and Yalia Sagewhisper have a relationship.  While it’s nice to see Chen begin to settle down, it’s a little disappointing there is no sign of this in-game.  Although Chen and Yalia are mere yards apart on the North side of the Celestial Court, there is no indication that they have ever met.  Even simply positioning them in the same group instead of leaving Chen and Li Li on their own would have been a pleasant acknowledgement of the book.  Given that this is how we’ll last see them in-game for quite some time, it is a shame we can’t wish them farewell together.

– Vol’jin plays a dice game called jihui.  Given concerns about concession etiquette in Hearthstone, I found this passage revealing:

“For a player to lose to a foe who had more pieces on the board was not a great loss. To yield to a superior position, regardless of the pieces in play, was not considered a loss without honor. While the game’s aim was to eliminate all of these opposition pieces, to play to that point was considered ill-mannered and even barbaric. Usually one player found himself out-maneuvered and surrendered, though some relied on chance to shift their fortunes and go on to victory.”

Jihui is not Hearthstone, and Blizzard has plenty of other games that encourage acknowledging a loss early, but this certainly sounds like it applies to all of them.  It would appear that Blizzard approves of conceding when defeat is imminent.

WoW! Blurbs!

The new female human models were revealed.  Interesting that these and the orc male models are so far along…  Someone at Blizzard must be making Thrall-Jaina videos.

New mount and pet datamined.  Speculation is that these will be the Collector’s Edition rewards for Warlords.  Nice of Blizzard to rub the whole “no flight till patch 6.1” issue in our face by giving us another flying mount.

PvP gear for the upcoming season will be ilvl 550.  So Blizzard is just giving us stuff its going to nerf in the next real patch, with the item squish.  Nice.

Loot coins and bonus rolls will continue in Warlords of Draenor.  Hopefully they will still use Lesser Charms of Great Forture, because I have a TON of those.

The Starcraft Acarde is now free-to-play.  If you can’t beat the f2p games that are eating away at your cash cow, then you might as well join them.

Hearthstone is now in open beta.  I wonder if anyone is holding out to play the game until it is officially launched.

Blizzard finally caved and made a fan-fiction forum called the Seat of Knowledge.  Someone at Blizzard must be looking for Thrall-Jaina stories.

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.

The Latest from Mash