Monday, August 31, 2020

The Problems With the Battle for Azeroth Story, Part II

In the last post, we discussed the Burning of Teldrassil and Sylvanas Windrunner. In this post, I'm going to look at two more philosophical problems that the writers are having.

Fool Me Once, Shame On You

There is an old aphorism, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

In a nutshell, that sums up the problems with the Alliance side of the BfA story. This is the second time the Horde has attacked the Alliance out of the blue. And yet the Alliance cannot seem to learn any lessons. Thus they come across as foolish when they try to make peace, especially a peace without terms.

The story tries to portray (early) Jaina and Tyrande as wrong with their uncompromising stance against the Horde. But Jaina and Tyrande are right and sensible! Jaina's reversion in 8.3.5 to her previous stance is a huge mistake and erases all development for her character.

As for Tyrande, it feels like she's going to learn a "valuable lesson" about the dangers of vengeance in Shadowlands, completely ignoring that sometimes anger is justified.

 Battle for Azeroth turned out to be Garrosh 2.0, only this time the Alliance comes across as foolish. Not even a nod to Varian's declaration that "if your Horde fails to uphold honor as Garrosh did, we will end you." Nothing but paper tigers.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Perhaps the biggest problem with Battle for Azeroth, which ties into the previous point, is that characters' actions don't seem to matter. What matters is the words they say.

Take Sylvanas. The entire resolution of the story hinges on her saying, "The Horde is nothing". If she simply doesn't say that, the ending falls apart. All the actions she took, good or bad, none of them matter in the end.

As for Saurfang, he happily invades Ashenvale and Darkshore. Then he's sad and sorry, so obviously he's in the right.

There is a great disconnect between the actions taken and the words spoken. And the story comes down on the side that the words spoken are true and correct, and the actions are not. This is a major source of dissonance.

Maybe the WoW writers feel these aphorisms are old and outdated. But they're common wisdom for a reason, ingrained in how most people view the world. In my opinion, a writer ignores these and similar proverbs at their peril. It usually turns out badly, as Battle of Azeroth shows.


  1. Since at least Wrath, and some would argue some of Wrath, the actions and words of the two factions have been tossed aside in favor of Blizz artificially keeping the conflict alive. If the option is conflict versus working together during the early through mid (and even into late game of an expac), the factions will choose war.

    And making the Alliance the chumps --or the Horde always the bad guys, your choice-- is just poor writing.

    1. Personally, I think the game is best when the factions are at war, but not a super-hot war. A border war, rather than one where the armies are marching on capital cities.

  2. Again this is vision to me. What Blizz has are milestones. Sylvanas needs to be HERE by the end of the expansion. The why doesn't matter at all. The other characters don't matter.

    Jaina is a great example. Her story is fairly isolated, well written, then completely ignored by end of expansion.

    I'm reminded of a sci fi trope, where bad sci fi stories had the technology moving the plot, while good stories have characters moving it. Blizz has a habit of having things happen because it looks neat, and character consistency isn't a value.

    I'm picking on Blizz here, but very few games actually have good writing. God of War on ps4 does. Assassins Creed does not. Both are enjoyable.

    1. That's true. If they do have milestones, they need to do a better job of getting from Point A to Point B. Maybe making sure their writers always have Point B in mind.