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Having finally completed Highmountain (with the exception of Avianna, I’ll come back at 110) I find myself wanting to spend a moment talking about Lore. No, not the Community Manager, but the stuff that seems to make up so much of the content of each new Zone. We asked for more story, and to now be critical of that will immediately seem a little churlish. However, I have a point to make, and it matters to more people than perhaps you might first realise.

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Without giving away all of the plot for the Highmountain zone, your job on arrival is to heal a shattered land. Uniting the various Clans is not an easy task, but in the end you will so what is necessary to secure the Pillar of Creation. On the way, in the process of making Mayla Hightotem High Chieftain, a piece of plot is revealed that made me laugh out loud. In my mind this ‘revelation’ directly contradicts what I thought was established as ‘canon’ back in Cataclysm, and finally made me realise that we’ve stopped living in a world I can now accurately recall from memory. Of course, once we diverged from the timeline in Warlords it was probably inevitable this would happen: Warcraft has effectively gained the status of a set of comic books, all drawn from the same ‘basic’ principles but adapted as and when it is deemed appropriate.

In my mind, and the timeline I was working from, having this new character revealed meant that other characters actions were suddenly pointless. More importantly than that however, an NPC who had existed when I played in Beta had been subsequently removed. His presence suggested a far different outcome to the situation I experienced than I have now seen, and the fact he is absent until later means I may well have inadvertently spoilt myself for the eventual Expansion’s Big Bad completely by accident. I won’t know if that’s the case for a while, of course, but for now I’ve stopped worrying about the sanctity of the Expansion’s plot. Frankly it is all irrelevant, what matters more is if I enjoy the version of events that I’m presented with. Now I’m comfortable with Comic Book Warcraft?

A lot of the shortcomings in storytelling simply don’t matter.

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I’m undoubtedly spoilt at this point by carrying the literary baggage of all these previous expansions with me, and if I’m honest remembering the minutiae of each one’s become a right royal pain. It is for exactly this reason that the Warcraft Chronicle was released, which helped smooth the passage of the Movie in the minds of the more hardcore Lore purists, by effectively rewriting key sections of the foundations of Azeroth. What this hardback tome does is produce a foundation on which all the new forms of Warcraft ‘lore’ can build on going forward, and if this means the game canon is incorrect? Well, it is quite easy to just go back and quietly re-write those places, a patch at a time. I’d be quietly confident that the assertion ‘we don’t alter Legacy content’ will begin to change as we move forward, and that the consistence of the ‘new’ Universe will begin to supersede the old. For people like me? I’ll assume its my memory playing tricks, or bad use of tenses. Inevitably, it’s a form of evolution that most won’t even notice, as is often the case when history is rewritten in the Real World.

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For Warcraft however, it might not just be the Lore that begins to be replaced: looking at the level of graphical detail in the Broken Isles, and the type of structures that have been upgraded in the places I’ve visited, there’s a more obvious potential change in the works. I can see the Old World’s Elven Ruins being updated to Legion standards, for instance. I wonder how long it will be before trees join ground foliage as being more high definition and responsive. As long as the storylines don’t change (that much) I doubt people will be that upset if everything got a graphical do-over, especially if the plan is to spend more time using the Old World as New Expansion backdrops. As there’s not been a terrible backlash to the retconning, why not go the full way and simply upgrade everything?

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There are those, I know, who stopped caring about Azeroth when it jumped the shark at Warlords. For them, there will never be an acceptable way to return to the path: ironically, many of the then went on to try and push Vanilla WoW and the Legacy Server ‘idea’ as the only way to return Warcraft to its original state of ‘greatness.’ When I look at (potentially) this path being taken, it is easy to see why simply ignoring everything else and going back to the beginning would hold so much appeal. However, once the die was cast and we were sent to Draenor? That was it, there was no going back. I can see a time when Activision Blizzard simply don’t mention ‘the time travel Expansion’ any more and everyone happily pretends that two years of our lives never happened. It doesn’t matter now, of course, because with the Mobile app launching tomorrow?

The future of this game is very bright indeed.

7 thoughts on “I Fought the Law

  1. I’ve spent more time reading up on ‘old’ lore since the film and the first Legion trailer came out – to understand how it all held together and to get my head around Illidan/Black Temple is he good/is he bad etc. I’ve been playing since just before Cata went live and I’ve enjoyed every story in isolation – be that levelling up or the current content.

    I’ve never felt the need to fit it all together before. I’ve played WC3, and completed all the instances in caverns of time – and kept it all compartmentalised – partly written off because I was not there when it happened first time around.

    But I have been inspired to read around the game, learn the current version of the lore, so there is something positive about the current management of it all that has not been there before.

    I’ve just started Highmountain as my second zone. Stormheim was great – once you get used the 3 axis nature of the place and the grapple hook. I feel overwhelmed by it all. I need to get on with my profession alts to make some gold (having spent it all on a mount and a pet), but don’t want my main to fall behind the guild as we’re a healthy amount of players once more and raiding as a non-pug groups is on the cards (we’ve a chilled and fun group of people so I can’t wait for that to be possible once again – it wasn’t so in WoD).

    And the profession questing / levelling is a bit complex so far – but I may be trying to do it all at once.

    The app looks amazing. A week later and I’m still buzzing way more than I’ve ever done before in the game.

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  2. I love the Lore of the universe, but I’ve started holding Blizz to a less exacting standard than I have done previously.

    At the end of the day it’s a game, and we’re playing it to have fun, I don’t think tweaking little details here and there as we go along is going to hurt things too much tbh.

    After all, when Blizzard change the Ultimate Big Bad from Sargeras, how can we get upset at smaller details being changed? :)

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    • I guess it all comes down to what you pay attention to and what matters to you. And what your imagination already added to the existing picture. The differences of perception when it comes to a fictional world were a well-known phenomenon even before multi-media universes came to existence. No matter how far creators go to “canonise” things. Hell, if even real-world fact-based history is sometimes like that…

      WIth how things are going, I can see fictional world history becoming a science of its own ;)

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  3. I assume you’re referring to the events around Spiritwalker Ebonhorn, since I can’t really see any other possibility. I disagree with it being a retcon, as I believe it falls into the category of information no character in-game ever had. What we believed to be the case turned out to just not be true all along.

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    • Exactly what I’m wondering about many of the supposed “retcons” lore community talks about. How do we know most of the stuff that’s supposed to be “canon” – through the words of the characters themselves, mostly.

      Guess it might also have to do with clichés of fantasy fiction, where misinformation, lies, simple ignorance and subjectivity don’t work the way they do in real life, and the reality of conflicting theories coexisting and constantly evolving is not present. So if an important character does an infodump we tend to treat what they say as timeless fact, cough, “canon”.

      So when we experience the story of Huln Highmountain, we don’t treat it as a myth, a tale, affected by tricks of memory, constant retelling and perhaps embellishment – we take it at face value.

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