*There are some spoilers for World of Warcraft Legion in this.*
If you are even remotely interested in games made by Blizzard, you might be aware that BlizzCon 2017 is happening as we speak. If not, then well you’re probably not even reading this post.
But for journalism’s sake, BlizzCon is an annual event where the video game making behemoth thatis Blizzard makes their groundshattering announcements. Generally, these include improvements and additions to their already existing intellectual properties – or IPs as I’ve heard them being called before.
This year’s BlizzCon started today and it will go through the weekend, however we already have six big announcements. While the Overwatch, Hearthstone, and Starcraft announcements are exciting and all, I am more interested in what’s going to happen to the flagship of the company.
I am of course talking about the one and only World of Warcraft. Traditionally, all BlizzCons come with hype-fuelled expectations that a new World of Warcraft expansion will be released. And as always, Blizzard has managed to amp the hype up to 11 by announcing the seventh expansion in the on going saga: Battle for Azeroth.
The Battle for Azeroth Has Begun
The biggest part of any World of Warcraft expansion announcement is the cinematic. Take a look, it’s pretty darn amazing.
The cinematic starts above Lordaeron, which is currently the capital city of the Forsaken, the undead faction lead by the Banshee Queen Sylvanas Windrunner. We see that the city is under siege by the Alliance. Then we follow the footsteps of someone walking to the ramparts, as Sylvanas explains to us what the hell is going on. And then it turns out this “someone” has been Sylvanas all along. Then we get an amazing shot of Sylvanas looking down at the besieging forces, while Horde flags flutter and Lordaeron burns.
Already, these few scenes indicate to that Azeroth has changed significantly since the end of Legion. While the actual content that leads to all of this hasn’t been released yet, we know that the end of Antorus, The Burning Throne (the final raid of Legion) will end with Sargeras stabbing Azeorth and releasing an ancient evil of some sort.
This is possibly related to the Old Gods and Void Lords. For those who have been paying attention, this is something that Blizzard had been hinting at for a very, very long time.
However, it seems like this change we’re going to be seeing is not new. Following a trend in the gaming industry, it seems like World of Warcraft is going back to its roots and bringing us some good ol’ Horde vs. Alliance action.
If you are a fan of player-versus-player action, this cinematic’s got to have you literally shaking in your seat. We haven’t seen the two factions of Azeroth this clear and this glorious ever before.
But of course, we all know what the best part of the cinematic is. (Unless you are a member of the Alliance for some weird, unfathomable reason.) It is when Sylvanas unleashes her full potential to bring down an Alliance siege tower.
The entire sequence is breathtaking, she leaps from the ramparts onto the siege tower, takes out two soldiers, and then fires an Explosive Shot into the tower, making it explode. Then she slides down its side and gets covered in some mystical black smoke.
AND THEN SHE TRANSFORMS INTO A GODDAMN BANSHEE AND (i think) DRAINS THE SOULS OF EVEN MORE ALLIANCE SOLDIERS.
I am 99% sure that most Horde players literally died right then and there and were reborn as loyal subjects of the Banshee Queen when she screamed “FOR THE HORDE!” after all that.
How Blizzard Uses Cinematics Effectively
It’s a bit unfair at this point. I don’t know how they do it. Whenever Blizzard releases a new cinematic for an expansion, I get hyped. I can’t remember the exact number of times I’ve quit playing World of Warcraft, but the cinematics always drag me back in.
Take for instance the cinematic for Warlords of Draenor. While the expansion itself turned out to be lacklustre, the cinematic managed to hide that fact pretty darn well.
First, you had the soundtrack. It started with battle horns, followed by the classic theme song of the franchise. However, it was more primal than ever before. That made sense, because it turned out that we were 35 years into the past at the exact moment when Grommash Hellscream took Gul’dan’s offering of cursed fel power. But then, what is this?! Grom refused Gul’dan’s offer! That’s not what happened in the past!
Again, what sold me Warlords of Draenor was a single line. “Times change.”
Blizzard obviously knows that their cinematic game is the most powerful weapon they have in their arsenal. This has always been the case. Even befoer World of Warcraft, Warcraft III had phenomenal cinematics, which – to this day – make the Warcraft Movie look like garbage.
With these trailer cinematics, in particular, Blizzard seems to have discovered the secret to cajoling veteran players into retaking their swords (or bows, staves, whatever) and coming back to Azeroth.
Briefly, here’s what I think happens. Keep in mind that these might happen to different levels.
1) Every World of Warcraft cinematic has an amazing soundtrack. For the cinematics for the Vanilla version and The Burning Crusade, they had to come up with some new track that was instantly awe inspiring and that would become iconic. For Wrath of the Lich King they amped up the nostalgia factor, by bringing back a melody that was already popular amongst the fans, which was used at the end of The Frozen Throne.
2) Then there is the nostalgia kick. For a very long time, the cinematics served to bring back popular characters and places from previous Warcraft games. You got the Lich King reveal, Illidan Stormrage reveal, Deathwing reveal and so on. Heck, even the Pandaren from Mists of Pandaria kind of work that way, since they were, after all, a joke race in Warcraft III.
3) This one I call the crowning moment of glory. In Wrath of the Lich King, this would be when Sindragosa fully emerges on top of the glacier and roars with her wings spread wide open. Deathwing flying over Stormwind in Cataclysm also works to this effect.
4) Lastly, there is the one-liner. This doesn’t necessarily have to be an actual single line said by someone. Rather, think of it as the one thing that you’d still remember about the cinematic, even if you forgot everything else. This is Illidan Stormrage declaring “You are not prepared,” as well as Chen Stormstout revealing Pandaria to the Orc and the Human.
For the Horde!
It’s easy to see how the cinematic for Battle for Azeroth uses all four of these elements.
The soundtrack remixes old themes that we have grown to love to great effect. We hear some new melodies too, however the majority of the goosebumps come clearly from hearing the more classic tunes: The Stormwind Theme when the siege tower is introduced, the three notes from Illidan’s Theme as the scene cuts to Sylvanas, Varian’s Theme when Anduin looks longingly at his father’s sword. Of course, there are some new themes introduced as well, but I’ll have a better idea about them when I can actually listen to them in full once the soundtrack is released.
As for the nostalgia kick, it doesn’t get any more nostalgic than a large-scale battle between the Horde and the Alliance.
Interestingly, there are two crowning moments of glory in this cinematic, one for the Horde and another for the Alliance. This makes sense, because this is the first time ever that Blizzard can’t openly take sides in a cinematic. If they make the Horde look badass, then the Alliance players will start moaning again. (Although, let’s face it. Sylvanas turning into a fucking banshee is way cooler than Anduin casting mass resurrection.)
Likewise, there are two one-liners and they are literally “For the Horde” and “For the Alliance.”
All these combined, set the grounds for this expansion. “We are going to fight and kill each other and you better pick your side.”
Dark Lady Watch Over You
I am down with having a new World of Warcraft expansion and I am glad that Sylvanas is going to be at the heart of it.
I guess now all I have to do is wait for a whole year and hope that the hype never dies.