I don’t even know where the time’s gone. Another two weeks have gone by and I haven’t published a single post. It’s almost as if Blizzard and Steam (including failing to keep up with TI4 with Dota) have banded together to make time fly by in the rare moments I do have spare time.
Of course that’s far from saying I haven’t had time to game, I just haven’t had time to both game and write about what I’m gaming on at the same time, or I’ve just been enjoying myself too much and letting time get away from me – with the beta launching and me falling totally in love with Shadowmoon Valley in Warlords, it comes as little surprise that I’ve just been going and going with finding out more and more about what’s coming up later this year. The screenshot above is the skybox through the trees when you first enter Shadowmoon – that alone was gorgeous enough to set a great precedent for the rest of the zone, and it certainly does not disappoint at any stage of the story. Even just this morning I had my first sight of a Draenic mine. We haven’t had anything Draenei in such a long time in WoW, every corner you turn is such a delight to behold. It makes me eagerly anticipate what we’ll see in zones such as Spires of Arak where the Arakkoa are at the peak of their civilization, or see what the Fields of Farahlon were like before they were ripped through the nether and became Netherstorm.
I had a chance at testing out Frostfire Ridge too, though when alpha first launched I already had some sneak previews from multiple streamers as that was the only zone available to begin with, but it certainly feels much more action-focused and faster-paced than Shadowmoon feels. Don’t get me wrong, there’s an awesome scenario in the SMV questline that’s got plenty of action in there, but it just feels that the Draenei are more methodical and go into things with purpose, whereas in Frostfire Ridge you’re mainly chasing after a certain NPC that seems to put action before thought most of the time. It probably helps that in FFR you’re introduced to Bladespire Fortress near the start, whereas in SMV the Temple of Karabor is toward the end – both hubs being the original ideas as being the capitals for Horde and Alliance respectively.
Without trying to give too much away however, the version of Draenor we’re going to is certainly an alternate universe and not just time travel. Even to the point in time where Garrosh goes to at the end of the War Crimes novel is an alternate universe, as I’m sure lore-fans will work out in the Shadowmoon experience. So while there is an element of time travel involved in the sense that it’s not taken Garrosh 30+ years to mobilise the Iron Horde to attack current-day/universe Azeroth, but there are some story and plot elements that indicate that the Draenor that Garrosh (and we) go to isn’t the same one that invaded Azeroth all those years ago.
To those that say that Blizzard are going with lazy writing for this expansion couldn’t be any more wrong. If anything, this is one of the hardest things they could try to fit into the game lore-wise, and while we don’t know what’s happening after Warlords (heck, we barely know anything about 6.0 storywise, let alone patches later on) as they’ve got to create all this new content for the alternate Draenor, while keeping the same underlying theme for the characters that we already know and love.
There’s got to be a lot of backchecking bits of story to make sure we don’t have another Red Shirt Guy incident, but having that alternate tag on there gives Blizzard at least a bit of leeway when it comes to a very archaic story they started writing in the early 90’s. Especially when they themselves have stated that a lot of their early stuff was based on the Warhammer universe, Warcraft really needs to set its story identity apart from that at this stage of its success, so serious retcons would have happened if it was truly a time-travel expansion, notably including the Draenei.