Know Your Lore: Warcraft’s orc problem
One of the hardest lessons to learn as a person is that not everything is about you. So it is for me. I, personally, as a World of Warcraft player, do not mind orcs in my Warcraft storyline. I don’t mind them as antagonists, protagonists, and I certainly don’t mind if the main focus of a raid or even an expansion is (for example) an entire Iron Horde full of them. This doesn’t bother me, it has never bothered me and it’s never going to bother me.
That being said, there are a lot of other people who play World of Warcraft and who feel like there are too many orcs. Too many orcs as antagonists, as downright enemies, even as allies and friendly NPCs. Too much focus on these orcs, to the exception of interesting lore figures from other in-game races. These players want to see some variety — they want to explore some other villains, some other worlds, some other history than those of the orcs.
Love them or hate them
Part of the reason I personally might not be as disenchanted with orcs this time around is simple. I played Alliance, and moreover, I’ve only leveled two characters to 100 and they both were draenei. For me, Shadowmoon Valley was a great example of a very heavily draenei focused zone, and so was Talador. Spires of Arak focused almost exclusively on the Arakkoa. So I didn’t really get hammered with more orc lore the way Horde players did. Oh, it was there — plenty of orcs to fight in Shadowmoon (and I even had to team up with Ner’zhul’s ex-wife Rulkan) and Talador, including a very weird lore moment when one of the main draenei figures of the expansion, Maraad died… and so did Orgrim Doomhammer, except it wasn’t our Orgrim (he’s already dead) and what little we saw of this Orgrim, he wasn’t exactly someone I’d miss anyway.
It was that weird moment with Orgrim that got me wondering that maybe the detractors had a point. We’ve lapped our orc NPCs — in essence, we’ve killed so many orcs over the years that we ended up going to a whole new timeline just so we could kill them again. As far as we were concerned, Orgrim was already dead. Having him die in a Talador quest chain that even Horde players were left feeling dissatisfied by doesn’t really equate to Maraad’s death, as that guy was just starting to get interesting story focus.
You cannot escape them
It could certainly be argued (I’d argue it, for instance) that seeing the Burning Blade or getting a chance to see how the Bleeding Hollow orcs really organized themselves is an interesting bit of lore worth our time. But I get that a lot of players have what I’d call orc fatigue and it doesn’t really matter to them what the orc in question does. Take Thrall’s presence in the storyline lately. In Cataclysm, we got an example of Thrall as a kind of overarching story figure — Thrall walks away from the Horde in order to try and discover what’s gone wrong with Azeroth and the elementals, and becomes embroiled in the effort to save the planet from Deathwing. As a result of this, he dominates the story. His Elemental Bonds questline is a huge story moment in the Firelands patch, and when Dragon Soul comes out we spend an entire dungeon escorting Thrall and the Dragon Soul to their final destination, then helping him by holding off a whole raid’s worth of Deathwing’s servants.
If you really think about it, we don’t really defeat Deathwing. Thrall and the Dragon Aspects do. We just keep the trash mobs off of them long enough for them to do it. That’s galling for some players. But then Mists of Pandaria rolls around, and Thrall’s absent for most of it… but Garrosh Hellscream is the major lore figure. It’s Garrosh and his actions that drive the plot for both Alliance and Horde, Garrosh who ultimately goes full villain from conflicted antihero during Cataclysm, and Garrosh is ultimately who pulls Thrall back. Now, at least we get to deal the defeat to Garrosh this time around. Thrall, in fact, really only swoops in at the very end to dicker with Varian about whether or not he should get to pulp Garrosh’s head after we’ve already clearly beaten him.
Orcs my friends, orcs my foes, orcs my destiny
Again, from my perspective, this doesn’t bother me. But I understand why it bothers others. And I’ll admit this much — after Garrosh escapes to become the main reason Warlords of Draenor even happens, I was itching to catch up to him in Nagrand. I led a force of draenei alongside Yrel, we stormed the Warsong compound and brought the fight to Garrosh. So far, I didn’t feel like this was overly orc-dominated. Sure, the orcs were the villains, but that was fine by me.
Then, after I whittled Garrosh down, Thrall shows up and we cut to a cinematic.
He did it to me again. First he stole the Deathwing kill from me. Then he ruined the moment of victory with his little argument with Varian. And now Thrall swoops in and steals my kill again. Not only was the main villain of the zone an orc, not only were his servants the Warsong, a clan of orcs, but his defeat was at the hands of an orc. And not even a player orc. The story was so thoroughly dominated by these two figures, I actually felt strange even being in the zone. Why did I even come out here, if Thrall was always going to come in and end the fight?
I can’t help but feel that to some degree people’s orc fatigue comes from feeling pushed to the side for these characters. If we must forever be held hostage to NPC’s who make the save, it could at least be different NPCs. While I’d be okay fighting more orcs, it’s probably not for the best for the game, ultimately. We’ve seen enough Thrall, enough orc clans, enough savage conflict. It’s time to pick up some of the other threads of the Warcraft setting. Time to see what else is out there.
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