Earlier today, I touched on the various features of the upcoming patch 8.3, showcasing the gameplay side and expressing some concerns with how the game design of 8.3 seems to be angling towards a repetitive, grindy mode of content engagement.
That is not ideal, but there are redeeming aspects and it remains to be seen what the balance of these gameplay elements ends up being. So to bring that discussion back around, there is one other major component of 8.3 – the storyline ending of Battle for Azeroth.
So why bring this up now? Well, there is a ton of lore content jammed into 8.3, and with that said, it is worth saying up-front – there will be spoilers based on PTR in this post. Now is your chance to turn away!
The main story campaign of 8.3 consists of a mix of things – unifying the dragonflights with a grown Wrathion at the Chamber of Heart, discovering the factions of Uldum and Vale of Eternal Blossoms as they push back on the invasion of N’Zoth, and everything setting us towards Ny’alotha and the direct conflict with N’Zoth.
The story campaign is loaded with in-game cutscenes using standard models, as is the raid. We have seen some of the story beats from these already – conflicts with the Twilight dragons, the cleansing of the Emerald Dream, and we end up with the stage set for the raid – Wrathion researching the corruption of N’Zoth, the way into Ny’alotha defined and waiting, Ra’den corrupted and missing, and so on we go.
Curiously, the ending of the raid is currently an in-game cutscene and not a saved, pre-rendered cinematic. So, that makes this discovery by Wowhead very curious – two encrypted cinematics in the 8.3 PTR files, one at a whopping two minutes and 15 seconds, and the other at 59 seconds.
This leaves more questions than answers – which is why I am here to speculate wildly!
With the major plot points we know about covered via in-game cinematics, that leaves a lot to wonder about. Based on earlier datamining, we’ve seen some broadcast text indicating that Jaina and Anduin have not seen Sylvanas and the hunt for her remains on across both factions, with Tyrande particularly being bitter over the lack of attention to said hunt. We also know that Taelia Fordragon is getting increasingly antsy to meet her father – the Lich King, who will be raising allied race/Pandaren Death Knights in 8.3 (although this is technically early in the story for it, as this happens closer to Shadowlands in lore).
Given that N’Zoth’s end, the dragonflight story content, and the invasion events all show their content via in-game cinematics we’ve already seen and heard the voiceovers from, and that the new DK experience for currently non-DK races has also been datamined, that leaves us with few possibilities that we can predict – and a potential surprise.
If I had to guess, the 59 second cinematic is almost certainly going to be a post-script to the end of Ny’alotha and the defeat of N’Zoth. We know that the means we use to bring the Old God low has to do with the Halls of Origination and the power it possesses, but there are a lot of ways for that to go terribly wrong – some of which could very well tie into Shadowlands. If I had to really push out a theory on the contents of this, I’d think that we’re going to avert catastrophe for this cinematic – the pre-render will let Blizzard do rapid camera changes all over the world and cooler visual effects with N’Zoth and the related NPCs and could perhaps show a cool visual of the void grip on Azeroth retracting.
However, that then leaves the 2:15 cinematic. What, oh what could it possibly be?
My speculation is this – it is going to be Sylvanas-themed.
Short of 8.2, we have had Sylvanas presence in every patch, in every major story beat. and while she wasn’t physically present for 8.2, her presence was still felt as we learn that she struck the deal with Azshara that ultimately pushed us all to Nazjatar and into the Eternal Palace. Her absence at present is very conspicuous, although we know she is going to be our bridge into the Shadowlands. Given this, I suspect quite strongly that we are going to see Sylvanas begin to move towards the events of the awesome cinematic we saw last month.
Why is that? Well, it would be foolish to not build that element at all. We have a ton of questions left unanswered by the current game. How does Sylvanas figure out the way into the Shadowlands? What leads her to Icecrown? How does she gain the amount of power she has when challenging Bolvar? Why the Shadowlands?
These questions won’t all be answered, of course – some of which because the story of 9.0 is likely to push some of these things further forward, but some of which because Blizzard will simply have some plot gaps left unfilled. However, much like how Antorus ended with the sword of Sargeras plunged into Azeroth, I highly doubt we will leave 8.3 without some sort of story hook to lead us into Shadowlands. Now, this may be detailed or not, depending on if we get an 8.3.5 or not.
However, outside of that, I simply don’t have a lot of speculation to offer past that. I doubt that we’ll be all the way on the path to Shadowlands after 8.3 – I feel like there almost has to be an 8.3.5 to get us all the way there with a smooth lore transition, but at the same time, Blizzard may pull a Warlords of Draenor-lite and simply finish the content and aim to move forward.
Either way, we hopefully don’t have long to find out!