WoW! Thoughts! — On the Warlords of Draenor Cinematic

Thoughts on the Warlords cinematic and the unjustified complaints of Horde-bias.

Blizzard released the cinematic for Warlords of Draenor recently with much ballyhoo. For an expansion that has seemed to be the spiritual successor to The Burning Crusade, with a (sort of) return to Draenor, the cinematic managed to reach back further into the lore and recalled the Warcraft III Orc ending as opposed to the first expansion intro movie.

Gul’dan and the Stranger teased Garrosh promising that Grommash and the Warsong Clan would appear at Gul’dan’s blood-drinking ritual. For anyone who has played through the beta, they would have an idea about how that might go. The Warlords of Draenor cinematic depicts that ritual in a surprising fashion.


First, the orcs look amazing. To watch Blizzard’s cinematics develop over the years has been astounding. We get full on facial close ups of Grom, Garrosh, and Gul’dan, and Blizzard’s proficiency with these models allows them to use slight facial movements to depict emotion. The orc in the Mists of Pandaria cinematic had this level of depth, but it’s more impressive with Garrosh and Grommash because they are so distinctive and so well known. My only complaint is that Grom’s brow is so furrowed – from some angles he resembles a South American shrunken head.

The cinematic starts with Gul’dan offering Grom the infamous demon blood, only for Grom to decline, which is not surprising since the expansion was introduced with the concept of “What if Grommash didn’t drink the blood?” ­– but what happens next IS surprising. Mannoroth appears. He mocks Grommash’s rejection with the great line, “And did you bring these mongrels here just to watch you die?”, which is a reference to Mannoroth’s last appearance in World of Warcraft as part of a vision in Outland when Thrall shows Garrosh just how his father lifted the blood haze by killing the pitlord. The events that are playing out now are because Garrosh literally watched Grom die, and Mannoroth unknowingly (?) calling that out is amusing.

Before Mannoroth can do anything the Iron Horde cavalry appears, led by a hooded Garrosh. I don’t get why he keeps covering up… In Gul’dan and the Stranger and here we all know exactly who he is – there is no mystery in masking his identity for the audience. Yet, when he does remove his hood and reveal his full visage, his appearance is impressive. Mannoroth is knocked back and briefly shackled, but not incapacitated. Grom releases an Iron Star at Mannoroth that blows up at the demon’s feet and sets up the epic visual of Grom flying through the flames to slam Gorehowl into the pit lord’s skull.


Mannoroth’s body then begins to explode, and in a direct call back to the Warcraft III cinematic, Grommash is about to get obliterated by the blast, but this time Garrosh is there to knock him out of the way. I’m not entirely sure how that works, but I guess just being down on the ground instead of standing to take the blast full on in the face is probably what saves him. It’s also not clear what wounds kill Grom in the Warcraft III ending.


There’s an odd sort of math to be calculated. Thrall tries to fight Mannoroth and gets knocked out in the original fight, leaving Grom to beat Mannoroth on his own (which he does), but the unconscious Thrall awakens too late to save Hellscream. Garrosh, by assembling the Iron Horde army, not only ensures that Gul’dan is dispatched in the first volley, but does not directly engage in any combat so he can save his father after Mannoroth is downed. We saw Garrosh directly stun Thrall in their confrontation in the Underhold, and it is no wonder. Garrosh has now proved himself better than Thrall twice. One is left to wonder the outcome if they had been able to complete their Mak’gora before Wrath of the Lich King, but that might be a scenario for another time-bending expansion…

Garrosh intercepts Gul’dan who is still aghast at the proceedings. Gul’dan says this was not their destiny, to which Garrosh wickedly replies, “Times change.” The implication is stunning – Gul’dan, Mannoroth, and the Legion have been the main adversaries in Warcraft lore for so long, but here are Garrosh and Grommash directly usurping that power. Gul’dan is still vile and cunning, but his status as the worst of the orcs seems to be in jeopardy, as he was defeated and captured by the Hellscreams.


Garrosh then claims Gorehowl from Mannoroth’s skull, which makes one wonder how he feels about that. Gorehowl was his axe for so long, yet he willingly abandoned it in Pandaria. Rather than reclaim it (or seemingly any sort of leadership), he throws it to his father. With Garrosh serving as the final boss of Mists of Pandaria, and Grommash alleged to be the final boss for Warlords, this is almost a literal passing of the torch.  Garrosh is throwing the mantle of expansion-big-bad to Grom.


On a side note, Mannoroth’s tusks seem to have survived the explosion. Garrosh should look into having them refashioned into his familiar shoulderpads.

The cinematic culminates with the orcs constructing the gigantic Dark Portal, and then the release date is revealed. Overall, this is one of Blizzard’s better cinematics, as it tells a compelling story (Grom and Garrosh against Gul’dan and Mannoroth) and establishes the threat to be faced in Warlords. There have still been complaints that the cinematic did not feature any alliance characters such as Draenai who live on the planet, or the perennially ignored gnomes, but there was never any reason to suspect that they would be featured.

 The Burning Crusade movie was the last movie to feature generic battle footage, and it still managed to mix that with the narrative of Illidan’s history. Since then, each cinematic has depicted the threat to be faced in that expansion, except for Mists of Pandaria which did not have a clear villain at launch. Arthas, Deathwing, and now Grom are featured prominently on the box art. Gnomes did not exist on Draenor at this time, and any Draenai depicted would have immediately been slaughtered in establishing Grommash as the enemy.

The argument stands that the cinematic is very orc-centric, but this was the direction Blizzard chose to go for their 20th anniversary of Orcs and Humans, and so it has to be. The problem is that while Grom is a character from Horde history, he is not part of the Azeroth Horde at this point. The Grom depicted is the leader of the Iron Horde. By depicting Grom as such a badass (THAT EPIC FIRE JUMP INTO MANNOROTH’S FACE) Blizzard is highlighting the threat that the Alliance and the Horde must face. This is not intended to glorify the old Horde, or display additional Horde lore – this is the story of our enemy.

At Blizzcon, Metzen referred to the Alliance as Captain America and talked about giving them a worthy enemy. This is that enemy. The problem is that the enemy looks exactly like (and was taken from the history of) the Horde, so it’s easy to conflate the Iron Horde with Horde lore. This cinematic would have been the same if the Horde was not a playable faction in World of Warcraft. No one looks back at the Wrath of the Lich King cinematic, with Terenas praising Arthas, as being Alliance focused even though it only features an orc if you count whatever is left of Ner’zhul in the Lich King. This cinematic is similar. If anything, once we destroy the Iron Horde, one can only hope that Blizzard gives us a non-orc enemy going forward.

Overall, this was a great cinematic that did a spectacular job of setting up Warlords of Draenor. Now, we only need to wait through the next three months.

WoW! Blurbs!

Blizzard’s been dealing with hackers DDOS’ing all weekend.  The hackers have also attacked other services and even called in a bomb threat on a Sony exec’s plane, so now the FBI is involved.  Sometimes its a good thing when stupidity knows no bounds.

The new short story Hellscream is up on the official site.  It segues from Garrosh and Kairoz arriving on Draenor to Garrosh meeting Grom and starting the Iron Horde.  It very much felt like the quickest way to get from Point A to Point B, and that was slightly disappointing, but its still a good read and mandatory for anyone interested in the lore.

The Robin Williams NPC has been data-mined.  He’s a genie AND a lady AND a man!!!



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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