Know Your Lore: The next WoW expansion
As soon as Hellfire Citadel and patch 6.2 hit the servers — and maybe even a little before — people started talking about what the next WoW expansion is going to be. And with the announcement of an impending WoW expansion announcement at Gamescom next week, all that talk has gotten even louder. With this announcement, Warlords of Draenor pretty much seals its place as the shortest WoW expansion to date, and far more in line with the hopeful one expansion a year that Blizzard has been talking about for a very, very long time now.
While we don’t know what to expect next Thursday, we can take a look at the most common information that’s being thrown around right now in terms of story theories, how the characters in all of those proposed ideas could potentially fit, and whether or not they’re really likely to make an appearance.
Please note: The following Know Your Lore is largely speculation on the next expansion. This means we might actually dig up some spoilers. If you’re avoiding that kind of information, I’d suggest coming back next week after the Gamescom reveal.
Warcraft: The Movie: The Game
Let’s just get this one out of the way first — some people have theorized that the next expansion will be some kind of direct tie-in to what we’re going to see in the Warcraft movie coming out next year. Either we’ll be using our new time and reality traveling system to head to an alternate Azeroth set in the movie universe, or when we return to our world, we’ll be returning to our world in the past — the Azeroth from the days of the First War.
It’s already been established that the Warcraft movie canon is its own separate canon at San Diego Comic Con. Much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Warcraft movie is its own story, completely removed from World of Warcraft. Because of this, it is highly, highly unlikely we’re going to see any reference to anything that happens in the film in game. The closest thing we might see is an actual reference to Varian’s mother at some point, now that the woman has a name.
We’ve also been repeatedly told that there is no alternate Azeroth out there. Whether or not that statement is currently true, we really don’t know. But when you combine that information with the movie information we heard from SDCC, it makes little sense to try and do some kind of movie tie-in with the next expansion.
The South Seas and what lies down there to explore has been a subject of interest since the early days of WoW. When Mists of Pandaria was rumored to be a possible WoW expansion, I spent some time going over what kind of potential could exist in the isles we had yet to explore. Let’s face it — we have not seen everything there is to see on Azeroth. Clever lore theorists have pointed out that the southern expanse of known Azeroth is all desert and tropical climate, which indicates what we think is furthest south is, in fact, the equator.
If that’s the case, then there is a gigantic chunk of the world we simply haven’t seen yet, a piece that Azeroth’s cartographers haven’t mapped out yet. And if that’s the case, then the South Seas could be something much, much larger than the few islands we know about. Right now we’ve got what’s left of Kezan to think about, Kul Tiras is supposedly floating out there somewhere, and of course there’s Zandalar, the slowly sinking home of the Zandalar tribe. Somewhere out there, too, is Tel Abim, home of the Tel Abim banana.
The possibility of bringing in the Zandalar, Zul, and good old King Rastakhan isn’t entirely a stretch. But there also hasn’t been much happening in Warlords of Draenor that could potentially tie to something like that on Azeroth. Given that this expansion is supposedly going to lead directly into the next, I’d say this doesn’t sound like the most promising prospect for the next WoW expansion.
But if we go in the direction of this expansion leading into the next, some familiar characters keep repeatedly popping up in all the various theories out there. In our timeline, Gul’dan was originally contacted by Medivh, and together they came up with the Dark Portal. Medivh wanted the First War to start — he wanted Azeroth wiped out. Only it wasn’t really Medivh thinking about all of this, it was Sargeras, the leader of the Burning Legion. He had direct control over Medivh, and arranged for the orcs to be delivered to Azeroth via the Portal.
Obviously, this Draenor’s history has been irrevocably altered, and both Gul’dan’s origins and his future are drastically different from what we already knew. And as far as we know, Medivh’s fate in the universe is still largely unknown — at the end of Warcraft 3, he said he was going to take his place “amongst the legends of the past.” He has since been referenced on more than one occasion, and his son, Med’an, had a major role near the end of the Warcraft comics series.
In fact, when we left Med’an, he had his father’s staff — the staff Khadgar is now currently toting around. While we’ve never seen Med’an in game, some people are speculating we might actually see him this time around, particularly since Gul’dan is such a clear threat. While I’m not a fan of the character, I do admit that of all the times for him to make an appearance, this is the one that would make the most logical sense. Med’an has connections to Gul’dan through both his mother and his father — or rather, the thing that inhabited his father — so it’s not so far-fetched a presumption to consider.
But then we’ve got someone who makes even more sense in the picture. Queen Azshara was a major player in the War of the Ancients, thousands of years ago. And during the War of the Ancients, she was an incredibly powerful night elf — so powerful, in fact, that Mannoroth noted in the novels, “Here was a force against which only his lord and Archimonde would prove superior.” Someone with that kind of power is someone that the Legion would be incredibly interested in. At the end of the War of the Ancients, Sargeras’ plans were thwarted, and Azshara and those most loyal to her sank into the sea.
And once they were there, voices whispered to the former Queen of the kaldorei, offering her untold power — power she accepted. She and her followers were transformed into the naga, and although the naga have been seen all over Azeroth, Azshara was always noticeably absent, until a minor appearance in the Cataclysm expansion. In Cataclysm, it was made perfectly clear that Azshara was working as a servant of the same Old Gods that corrupted and fueled Deathwing’s madness.
And at the end of Cataclysm, those same Old Gods were thwarted, Deathwing was defeated, and still, we heard nothing from Azshara at all. Neptulon the Tidehunter is still noticeably absent, supposedly taken by naga at the end of Throne of the Tides. Presumably, Azshara has the former Elemental Lord wrapped around her little finger, though her intentions were never really made clear.
So what does all this have to do with Gul’dan? Well, Gul’dan appears to be working directly for the Burning Legion now. Azshara, conveniently enough, has no real master to speak of, now. The plans of the Old Gods fell through entirely in Cataclysm, and any ideas Azshara might have had, or any promises she may have been made as far as remaking the world in her glorious image died right along with them. That means that Azshara is largely working on her own, or close enough to it that she has little holding her in check.
But consider this: Azshara already had a great deal of power in the War of the Ancients, enough that Mannoroth supposed only Archimonde and Sargeras could really cross her. And after the War of the Ancients, she was given even more power — so where does that put her, on the Sargeras scale of powerful, potentially horrible and lethal instruments of evil that he would very much like to be aligned with? He already knows how she operates: he’s seen it before. He already knows what she wants: he’s seen that too.
All he needs, at this point, is a mouthpiece that can go talk to her. And Gul’dan could fill that role quite nicely, particular if there was more power for him involved in the deal as well … and there’s plenty of power hidden away on Azeroth for the taking. Is it a stretch? A little. But it’s less of a stretch than you’d think — and it’s beyond time we see what happened to the former Queen of the kaldorei, isn’t it?
Obviously it’s all rumors and speculation for now, and for all we know, we could be dealing with something completely out of left field at this point, something that has nothing to do with anything mentioned so far. But it’s fun to speculate, and we’ll have our confirmation soon enough when the expansion is officially announced at Gamescom next week.
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