So… The War Within is in. On one hand, I’m relieved it wasn’t Avaloren: The Generic Expansion, as the now-confirmed-fake leak indicated. On the other hand, I’m disappointed that there’s once again no world revamp. Now would be a perfect time to de-Cataclysm the old world, remove embarrassing questlines like Rambo of Redridge and CSI Westfall, and replace dated questlines with evergreen ones.
Speaking of “evergreen”, I like that it has become a firmly established developer buzzword from Dragonflight onwards. It’s a sign that they’re focused on the long-term evolution of the game rather than features designed to sell an expansion and then be thrown away in an “after us, the deluge” manner.
Indeed, in hindsight, the creative decisions of Dragonflight make a lot more sense if you assume it was designed with the knowledge it would eventually replace BfA as the new leveling experience, as we’ve now learned it will. The story is self-contained and newcomer-friendly1 (all you need to know is that good dragons want to save their long-lost homeland from evil dragons), the tone is optimistic, the world is colorful, nails down the Warcraft aesthetic but with modern production values, and is just pleasant to look at. And there are perfectly valid story reasons for you to be there as Just An Adventurer, coming there straight from your first adventure in Exile’s Reach, as opposed to a seasoned veteran who has already saved the world multiple times and is now called to save it once again from (certain doom #135).
As for the new expansion announcements…
Chris Metzen is back, and he has a plan. Or at least, he wants us to believe he has a plan. The plan for the Worldsoul Saga feels like he came in, looked at what was written in his absence, shook his head and tried to salvage some kind of coherent story out of that mess.
The writers are not outright retconning BfA and Shadowlands out of existence (Dragonflight is, as mentioned, self-contained), but thematically the Worldsoul Saga is definitely a sequel to Legion.2 The story acknowledges that the events of BfA and Shadowlands happened, but doesn’t focus on their impact. No characters introduced in these expansions seem to be participating. And there’s a notable absence of mentions of Order magic, Zereths, First Ones and all other Danuserisms.
Unfortunately, while I now have some faith that storytelling in The War Within will be good, or at least passable, and won’t require roleplayers to headcanon half the setting by themselves, I find there’s little to catch my interest the way Legion and Dragonflight did. By the looks of it, reduced expansion budgets are here to stay, and we’re looking at another by-the-numbers, four zones, eight dungeons, one raid, probably two major patches expansion. We’re paying more than we paid for Legion, for less content. And from the roleplaying perspective, none of my existing characters have a compelling reason to go spelunking into the depths of Azeroth, and the expansion just doesn’t excite me enough to create a new RP character from scratch the way I did with Legion (and ended up sticking with that character as my once and future RP main).
Besides, Dawntrail is coming out next summer, with the New World and sea adventure fantasy that would fit my FFXIV RP main to a T. I think I’ll finish my current Dragonflight RP story arcs by spring and take a break from WoW RP, switching to FFXIV RP for a while.
Imagine the reaction of a new Alliance player who has never played or seen anything Warcraft before and is thrust from Exile’s Reach straight into BfA. “So we’re following this sea… mage… lady… who was exiled from her homeland for some reason? Oh, now I got busted out of jail but she’s nowhere to be found, did the story just forget about her? Who are all these Alliance people on the ship and why are they showing up in a land that hates the Alliance? So I guess I’ll be helping them with their problems to gain their support against the Horde? Why are we at war with the Horde, again? I’m lost.” ↩
Not only does it focus on the most obvious and pressing sequel hook from Legion that BfA sidelined into a B-plot, but it seems there’s more meat to the world soul itself this time than “Champion, heal her woons with azerite!”, and we’re going back to the Titans as the centerpiece of Warcraft’s cosmic lore, in the tone of Chronicle volume 1, which Metzen co-wrote. ↩