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.
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.
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.
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?
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.