Please note, this is an article of speculation. Blizzard has not announced anything related to what happens after World of Warcraft: Shadowlands. We don’t even know what Patch 9.2 has in store. However, there is a pattern of expansions and significant loose ends to suggest the next great adventure will focus on the world situation and World-Soul of Azeroth. These are some of the conjectured story lines the expansion could involve.
Pattern of History
There is a long standing assertion that the even numbered Star Trek movies are superior to the odd numbered releases: The Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home, The Undiscovered Country, and First Contact, as compared to, The Motion Picture, The Search for Spock, The Final Frontier, and Generations. I have a similar observation with World of Warcraft expansions, in that odd numbered games primarily take place on Azeroth, and even numbered games transport players off world:
World of Warcraft: Azeroth
Burning Crusade: Outland (Off world)
Wrath of the Lich King: Azeroth
Cataclysm: Azeroth and Elemental Plane (Off world)
Mists of Pandaria: Azeroth
Warlords of Draenor: Alternate Draenor (Off world)
Legion: Azeroth and Argus (Off world)
Battle for Azeroth: Azeroth
Shadowlands: Shadowlands (Off world)
If the supposed pattern holds true, the next expansion will have players resolving plot points introduced in previous expansions on Azeroth, while setting the stage for the next cosmic terror to send us into the Void. Indeed, there are significant issues to be resolved.
The Sword of Sargeras
When the Titan Sargeras plunged his sword into Azeroth in the final moments of his defeat in Legion , he not only devastated the land of Silithus, but gravely wounded Azeroth, the developing Titan cradled in the planet’s core. It was from this wound that Azerite was first discovered, believed to be a powerful new resource worth the price of waging the Fourth War in Battle for Azeroth. When in truth, Azerite was the blood of the dying Titan.
It was only through the power of the Heart of Azeroth, players were able to stop Azeroth’s bleeding and help heal the Titan, but she still have a fairly large sword stuck in her. With the Pantheon returning to deep space, the task of disposing of the sword falls to the world’s inhabitants.
Players have encountered Titan technology of various levels of complexity and function, as well as their sentinels, as they journeyed around the globe. Harnessing these systems, as they did with MOTHER to defeat the Old God, G’huun, could provide a solution to extracting, banishing, or destroying the sword. The shock of which may be the catalyst to awakening Azeroth.
How the emergence of a Titan will effect the planet is anyone’s guess, but since Blizzard has plans for future expansions, it is a good bet the world survives. The recovery and birth of a powerful new Titan could force the void lords to launch the final battle between light and shadow.
Healing of the Night Elves
When Sylvanas destroyed the World Tree, Teldrassil, she not only razed the city of Darnassus, but struck at the soul of the Night Elves, a once immortal race that has witnessed millennia of history. The Fourth War left the Night Elves homeless and shattered.
Tyrande Whisperwind embodied her people’s collective pain when she chose to perform the Night Warrior ritual, an oft-lethal rite, which transformed her into the Night Warrior, a weapon of the goddess Elune‘s fury and retribution. Tyrande focused her rage on Sylvanas and it may only be sated when she holds her adversary’s bloodied head in her hands.
Unlike when Deathwing wrecked parts of Stormwind, it appears unlikely Darnassus will be rebuilt in the shadow of a dead World Tree. Moving their capital across the strait to Darkshore is one solution, but I believe the Night Elves strong spirituality will inspire them to settle near another World Tree, such as Nordrassil, which is why Mount Hyjal would make a great new starting zone and capital city.
Cataclysm used extensive phasing during the story telling of the zone. Phasing could now be used to improve the region (I always felt it was a bit small for what it represented), and lead the player through the battles to clear lingering cultists, and establish a new permanent Night Elf capital.
Mount Hyjal would provide Alliance players a mainland Kalimdor location and new flight paths. The Alliance has military airships, so they should be able to create a passenger version to link the new city to the Eastern Kingdoms. Assignation of the region to the Alliance can be a provision of a peace treaty.
Speaking of Cataclysm zones and phasing, I participated in the Blizzcon 2010 Q&A along with Red Shirt Guy and Victoria’s Secret Female. My less impact-full, and rather drawn out, question was about phasing’s application in existing Azeroth zones. It took a little searching, but I found it on YouTube (15:34):
Fate of The Forsaken
Going back to Cataclysm, Sylvanas expressed her concern for the future of the Forsaken. As undead, they could not reproduce. The only way to maintain a viable population and secure the Forsaken’s future was to create more undead with the help of the Val’kyr, who swore their service to Sylvanas following Arthas‘s defeat. The process still involved resurrection of the dead, something even Garrosh frowned upon as unnatural and forbade. Her limited options are undoubtedly the reason for her alliance with the Jailer, though they do not excuse her attack on Teldrassil.
The Alliance rallied in response to the Horde’s destruction of Darnassus, and laid siege to the Ruins of Lordaeron, location of the subterranean Undercity, home capital of the Forsaken. As the battle turned against the Horde and the Undercity was evacuated, Sylvanas released the Blight, effectively rendering the area a dead zone for the living and undead.
In the aftermath of Sylvanas’s desertion of the Horde to join the Jailer in the Shadowlands, leadership of the Forsaken was granted to Lilian Voss and Calia Menethil. Lilian has been a favorite character of mine since her introduction in Cataclysm and I hope to see more of her in game.
Calia Menethil was already a fascinating character, being Arthas’s long lost sister, but it was her reappearance, murder by Sylvanas, and subsequent resurrection through the power of the Light into the first undead of her kind, that makes her a unique additional to the Warcraft universe. Does her Light creation hint at a possible new future for the Forsaken?
My only criticism of Calia is her introduction and story unfolded in the pages of Before The Storm. If you haven’t read the book, she simply appeared out of nowhere in the game, in an important position within the Horde. I support Blizzard’s cross-media approach, but key plot points belong in the game. Novels and comics should be employed to expand on them not usurp them.
The Forsaken share the Night Elves dilemma in needing a new capital city and potential starting zone. They can rebuild in a different area of Tirisfal Glades, such as the along the coast. A new city overlooking the sea would be strategically beneficial in preventing another Alliance invasion from that corridor. They can also cross Lordamere Lake to the south and occupy Dalaran Crater.
The Forsaken established a stronghold and military force to clear remaining Scourge from Andorhal in the Western Plaguelands. They could strength the position and claim the former human city. The Alliance may protest this annexation, but the clouds of Blight in Lordaeron serve as a warning against action, even if the new Forsaken leadership promises such an event would never be repeated.
Between the World-Soul, Night Elves, and Forsaken, there is more than enough material to support an Azeroth themed expansion once we are done playing The Good Place in the Shadowlands. The futuresof these two important races should be resolved sooner than later. When they are, it will probably be done in a more imaginative way than postulated here. The impact of our time in the afterlife on the next expansion is another big unknown. Hopefully, we will receive hints as 9.2 draws closer.
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