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Know Your LoreJan 12, 2018 2:00 pm CT

Know Your Lore: My 2018 wish list for Warcraft, Overwatch, and more

The start of a new year is a good time to think about what we’d like to see from our favorite games. Games provide an interactive medium for storytelling, which tends to create a feeling of personal investment. A consequence of this is that we often end up waiting and hoping for our particular favorite stories to get more focus. We might want to hear more about Gilneas, for example, than we’re eventually shown. And so we come to the idea of a wish list — a means to ruminate on what stories we want these games to tell.

Last week, we talked about the lore of the StarCraft and Diablo settings. This week, we’re going to talk about Overwatch and Warcraft. After. After we talk about this game first.

Blackthorne. No, really.

Blizzard keeps teasing us that they’re going to include Blackthorne, aka Kyle Vlaros, in Heroes of the Storm. I say that’s not good enough anymore. Sure, you can download the game for free from Blizzard right now. But I still say we need more. We need a whole franchise, and 2018 is the year it should happen.

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Blackthorne is one of those games that earns you funny looks when you explain the plot. The backstory is insanely 90’s. I mean, look at that artwork. That’s Jim Lee, guys. Jim Lee at his most 90’s. So I’m not saying Blizzard should just make a Blackthorne 2 or whatever. They should do the one thing they never really seem to do — they should reboot it.

Keep the basic premise the same — Kyle Vlaros is sent to Earth from the planet Tuul. He and the mystical Lightstone are hidden away from the forces of Sarlac. But instead of having Kyle become a generic badass overnight, let us see him grow up. How did he go from the young son of a murdered king to the shotgun wielding dude on the cover up there? Make the story of Kyle’s life on Earth the first chapter of the Blackthorne story. You’re going to tell me Sarlac didn’t use the Darkstone to send anyone after Kyle and the Lightstone?

Making a modern Blackthorne

Of course, to make this a modern game, you’re going to need more characters and a lot more story. Even platformers can’t get away with “Badass mercenary with a shotgun finds out he’s from another world and proceeds to shotgun everyone in the face until he wins the game” anymore. Just look at Super Mario Odyssey. We’d need more characters to care about, both on Earth and on Tuul. But that’s fine by me.

There’s plenty of backstory to expand upon. What was the deal with the ancient shaman who divided himself into pure good and evil in stone form and passed the stones on to his sons? How long was it between that and the rise of Sarlac? The transformation of the people of Ka’dra’suul into monsters? It’s said that the Ka’dra were made into monsters because they rejected the Darkstone. But why did the ancient shaman think anybody would want the Darkstone in the first place? Was it actually intended to be evil? Was it evil? This is some crazy stuff and I’d love it if Blizzard did more with it. Expand the cast of characters, make it more of an actual story instead of a thinly veiled excuse for platforming. It could be the Breath of the Wild of 2018.

Plus, one of the things I love is that it could easily be tied into Overwatch. No, it really could! Kyle “Blackthorne” Vlaros could easily be moved forward a century. He could be a member of the Overwatch squad, or maybe even Blackwatch. Then he discovers he’s an alien from another world and leaves. Yes, I’m postulating that a new Blackthorne game could be a spinoff from Overwatch. Look, it’s a wish list, not a stuff I expect them to do list.

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Speaking of Overwatch…

What I’d really like to see from Overwatch in 2018 is more of what we’ve been getting, plus stuff they’ve shied away from doing. I want to see the Queen of Junkertown. I’d like to see progress in the various story hooks they’ve built up, like what Talon is up to now. The factional battle inside the organization seems to be heating up with Doomfist’s return. I want more of that, plus more of Sombra’s crazy conspiracy theories. And of course, I’d like to know what Katya Volskaya is really up to.

More short films, and maybe they’ll finally start moving towards more regular story content. A TV series, an animated movie, anything that allows the story to advance without adversely affecting the game. Overwatch is somewhat unique in that the gameplay isn’t at all about delivering story. It adds it in subtle ways, like dialogue and set dressing in maps. And that’s fine — as much as I love campaign modes in games like Titanfall 2 or Star Wars Battlefront 2, not all games need it.

But I definitely think there’s a hunger for more Overwatch story out there. Not all of it needs to be huge and sweeping, either. I think the 2016 Christmas comic definitely shows that, with scenes of characters out living their lives. I’d be thrilled to see more of Tracer’s home life. Who were those people Reaper was following? Did Hanzo enjoy that cake? Why oh why won’t you just tell us who Pharah’s dad is? If he’s a Canadian named Sam, get on with showing him from the front already.

Oh, and do that Blackthorne thing I mentioned.

Finish them!

My dearest hope for the Warcraft setting in 2018 is that Battle for Azeroth launches this year, with enough time to get us some real progression into the expansion’s story. That we finally get a sense of resolution in the Horde/Alliance conflict. I know that this is always going to be a setting about war between hostile factions, but we’ve been teased that we’d get focus on the conflict before.

While I loved Mists of Pandaria, it didn’t settle anything. At the end of Siege of Orgrimmar, the Alliance and Horde basically just shrugged. They were back at each other’s throats in Warlords, fighting over an island out off the shore of Tanaan Jungle for no readily apparent reason.

Resolution doesn’t have to be one side wins, one side loses, and it doesn’t even have to be that the hostility between them ends. What it needs to be is a feeling that the story has been addressed. Like how at the end of Wrath of the Lich King there’s still a Lich King atop the Frozen Throne, but we still feel like the expansion’s story was resolved. Arthas’ death still had weight, it still had consequences. One could argue that it set Sylvanas on the path she’s been treading ever since and that Battle is the ultimate culmination of that path.

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Battle for Azeroth

Things I want to see in this expansion:

  • Sylvanas and Genn continuing their hate party. One of my favorite moments in Legion was when Genn destroyed the lantern and stole Sylvanas’ victory right out from under her. I wouldn’t mind seeing her get some payback, except that I also don’t feel like she’s even come close to paying for invading Gilneas and killing Genn’s son.
  • Some actual growth for Sylvanas. Yes, she’s dead. But that doesn’t mean she can’t reflect on her actions and tone it down just a smidge. Or maybe even get worse, but either way I’d like to see her do something new.
  • Tess Greymane. Lorna Crowley. Do more with both of them.
  • Anduin’s path to being a King. I don’t want him to turn into Varian, but let’s see what kind of King he’s going to be.
  • I am desperately eager to see what happens when Jaina and her mom meet up on Kul Tiras.
  • The Zandalar Isles. If Hakkar isn’t there I’ll be upset. He’s the Blood God. If there’s a Blood God attacking those islands it should be Hakkar.
  • Magatha Grimtotem needs to turn up, betray us all after she worked with the Earthen Ring in Legion and steal something really powerful which she immediately uses to further her own ends.

Oh, and I think Mitch and Anne were right and we need a scene of Thrall deciding he’s getting back in the game only to have you hand him a bag containing the broken pieces of the Doomhammer. Sorry, dude. That would be funny.

Anyway, I have a lot more things I’d love to see, but these columns have to end sometime. Luckily, the comments await you. What do you want to see in 2018?

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