The funny thing about preparing for a post like this is that yesterday, early in the day, when I started on my first Blaugust post, I did not anticipate that we’d have much to talk about. If datamining did start, I assumed it would be a slow start, as the developer notes last week put forward a relatively small set of changes.
How wrong I was.
The fascinating thing about Battle for Azeroth, one that I think has been a mixed blessing, is that the lore and story of the expansion has a lot of threads in play. Between Warbringers, Before the Storm, the various comic offerings online, and the in-game lore, we have the largest cast of active and semi-active characters in the game’s expansion history, and the largest number of plot threads. Between the 8 Allied races, the two main faction stories, the central expansion story of faction conflict, and the Old God story, there is a lot of varied storytelling that can happen.
One thing highlighted in the recent “leaks” is that among the playerbase who would…”leak” such ideas, no one really fully knows what the future holds. There’s a Horde fracture, Thrall is around, the Alliance has a pissed-off Night Elf leadership and a tense set of other leaders, and Azshara has been moved off seemingly unwilling by the shadowy tendrils of N’Zoth.
The primary job of 8.2.5 is to tell the story that gets us from Nazjatar and the Eternal Palace to where we’re going next – whatever that may be. Is it a Battle of Thunder Bluff? Ny’alotha? Undercity but de-blighted? I would wager on Ny’alotha over the others, but the great thing (legitimately!) about BfA is that I can’t be 100% certain of that.
So, the amount of detail we already have about 8.2.5 without much datamining sheds a lot of light, but at the same time, has a lot of irons in the fire, and so it doesn’t actually make the future fully clear.
Let’s dive in!
The New Models and the Story They Tell
The most interesting element of the datamining, and the one we are touching on here today, is the new NPC models. We have a very small handful of new models that bring in some interesting plot points – which actually touch on a lot of different plot elements.
Wrathion is up first, and is one that was somewhat predictable. The arc of Deathwing’s story in Cataclysm and Wrathion’s story alongside is how the Black Dragonflight was corrupted by the Old Gods, bound to them. Neltharion became Deathwing because N’Zoth drove him mad. Wrathion was different because he was a clean egg, and he also has a fascinating tale within WoW lore, as he is one of the few major NPC’s whose entire storyline is contained within WoW (and spinoff novels, but nonetheless!). With the Old Gods coming into sharp focus, especially N’Zoth, it makes all the sense in the world to see him back. The new model is also great – Wrathion got hot, everyone.
Calia Menethil continues the story of the pre-BfA Before the Storm novel, in which she was murdered by Sylvanas and then brought back as an Undead touched by Light in Netherlight Temple, by the Naaru Sa’ara. Her presence hints at multiple possible stories – firstly, a possible means to bring battle back to Sylvanas, but also, an interesting anomaly in that she is touched by Light as Old Gods approach. Her potential interactions with Old God servants could be interesting, as could any potential interaction with Alleria Windrunner (who is still quite conspicuous in her absence). I also imagine that the sister of the second Lich King would have much to say to the daughter of the third Lich King (and c’mon, Calia and Talia? That has to be intentional).
Zekhan, aka Zappy Boi, gets a new custom model, which signifies a new chapter in the Horde story in all likelihood. We’ve been able to make choices about how to proceed with regards to Saurfang and the insurrection within the Horde, and Zekhan represented one of the earliest paths of that choice. With Thrall, Saurfang, and Baine all together, one can imagine that Zekhan will join with this merry band and with that we will begin to see true open strife within the Horde.
Lastly, a new model of Valeera Sanguinar, comic character turned Battle for Undercity NPC turned Rogue Order Hall NPC turned Jaina-scaring rogue who came to be trusted. Her new model has a lot of possibilities tied up in it, but is a bit of a curveball at the same time. Her use within the Alliance side of the 8.1.5 war campaign was a curious choice, as it didn’t really seem to align with any of the active plot threads, other than that she had previously carried messages between Baine and Anduin. Putting her in this role and drawing a lot of attention to Jaina’s initial mistrust seems an interesting call in hindsight – while the new model may just be to distinguish her from other NPCs, Blizzard has not been in the habit of updating NPC models unless they have plans for them. I don’t know what to make of this, as while she is a Blood Elf, the comic story that introduced her gave her a deep kinship with Varian Wrynn, which has led to her being an Alliance-aligned character. She is known by members of the Horde, so I doubt she’d be operating undercover – in the open, at least.
All of this together paints quite a jumbled mess, with no other connective content to bring these elements together. It feels like a safe assumption that our future story is largely Old Gods and N’Zoth with a side of faction conflict, and I would expect that 8.2.5 should mark the point at which those plot threads begin to intertwine, but at the same time, I struggle to see how Calia might crossover to the Old God plot, or how Wrathion fits into the faction conflict, other than his obvious double-agent status during the legendary quests in Mists of Pandaria. Zekhan only really fits with the Horde war campaign story, and Valeera is currently sort of left-field – I have no idea what role she’ll play going forward, although it must be at least major enough to warrant a new model.
Unfortunately, the voice-overs and other datamining so far only point to a limited amount of ideas, and they are similarly split – which will be our topic for tomorrow!