The events of the Broken Shore don’t work as a pretense for war
In an interview with PC Gamer, production director John Hight speaks to the Alliance reasons for the renewed faction conflict in Battle for Azeroth. He points to the events of the Broken Shore, but I don’t think this works.
Here are his words:
Now that that big enemy has been defeated, I think the Alliance are returning to a point where they can explore that thinking of, ‘We felt betrayed, we lost our king’. And, of course, Anduin is coming into his own as a young man – he certainly misses the presence of his father, but he recognizes his responsibility as king, and one of the first things on his mind is to get some redemption for what happened.
But with the way the story played out across the expansion, this explanation doesn’t make a lot of sense.
The factions have been working together closely
Using the Broken Shore as the pretense for war stretches a suspension of disbelief to the breaking point. Even if we disregard diplomats and neutral groups like the Earthen Ring or Cenarion Circle, Legion has the heroes of Azeroth set up no less than a dozen Class Order Halls. Inside, both Horde and Alliance members of each class mingle and work together on missions for the Champion (Highlord, Deathlord, Farseer, Archdruid, etc).
I’ve spent most of the expansion with Blood Elf Lady Liandrin as the main companion for my Dwarf Paladin. Tauren Hamuul Runetotem accompanies my Night Elf Druid. I’ve sent Night Elf Delas Moonfang and Tauren Aponi Brightmane out on many missions together. I’m certain, around the campfire one night in the wilds of Stormheim, they would have discussed the events of the Broken Shore.
It’s implausible to think the Horde and Alliance don’t both have a good understanding of what transpired from the rank and file all the way up to the leadership. Both understand the other lost their faction leader. Seeing both sides, the Horde’s actions are at least understandable, if not justifiable. Anduin would have made a similar choice had he been in Sylvanas’ position. The only way Genn Greymane and Anduin could still be unclear is willful ignorance.
It would have been a rout if the Horde stood its ground
The more hawkish elements within the Alliance may argue the Horde should have stood its ground even after learning the full story, but this also doesn’t work — and any leader with military experience would have to recognize that. Regardless of the Horde’s actions, the results of the Broken Shore do not change. If anything, the outcome would have been far worse.
Let’s imagine the events of the Broken Shore if Sylvanas didn’t call for a retreat. As the Alliance is about to press forward to Gul’dan, Varian Wyrnn — who can’t see the demons overwhelming the Horde forces protecting the Alliance’s flank — declares a premature victory. He only learns what’s happened when he calls for the Horde archers to clear the Felbats, and by then it’s too late. The Horde lines have already been broken and Vol’jin is already mortally wounded. Without the call to the Val’kyr, the demons would butcher the archers and then push on to the Alliance.
When Genn saw the Horde’s retreat, he said the Alliance would be overrun — and he was right. But that would have been the outcome whether Sylvanas called a retreat or not: the Horde are either gone because they’ve been overwhelmed by demons or they’re gone because they’re trying not to be. With or without the Horde’s withdrawal, the Alliance wouldn’t have the support they need.
But let’s say the Horde managed to hold despite the odds. Don’t forget that Gul’dan still had the ability to call down an immense Fel Reaver which looked like the Garothi Worldbreaker in Antorus. In-game, we couldn’t defeat Worldbreaker until we were level 110 and our Artifacts had been empowered time and again. At the time, there was only one Artifact on the field: Shalamayne. Varian might have still found a way to plunge Shalamayne into the Worldbreaker’s head, but he might not have. And either way, if he hasn’t already called for a retreat, the Alliance casualties will grow.
The Alliance wouldn’t retreat if the Horde didn’t retreat
Remember that the Horde’s withdrawal prompted Genn to call for a retreat. If the Horde remains, they give the Alliance a few more moments — but the Alliance doesn’t know the Horde position is overrun and don’t order a retreat. By the time Genn and Varian realize their desperate situation, the Alliance has suffered more causalities. If they delay too long, or if the Skyfire is damaged, the entire Alliance force could be wiped out.
The only thing Sylvanas’ retreat changed was the number of casualties for both sides. Regardless of her actions, Varian and Vol’jin still die. But without both factions retreating, the demons would wipe out the entire invasion force, including their leaders and champions (us). Light’s Heart would stay at the bottom of the ocean. The powerful Artifacts we use against the Legion would never be recovered. The Pillars of Creation would fall into the hands of the Legion. The Nightmare would overtake the Emerald Dream. And finally, Azeroth would fall.
So why are we fighting?
The Broken Shore couldn’t have been a victory, and anyone who considers the whole situation must realize that. But not everyone will think about it logically. In the interview, Hight mentions the Alliance feels betrayed, and war could work as an emotional reaction to the Broken Shore — but not a logical one.
The champions of the Alliance and Horde have spent the entire expansion fighting side by side against the Burning Legion. In that time, it seems like we would have found common ground and come to understand just what happened on the Broken Shore. The fact that we don’t makes using the Broken Shore a flimsy justification for a fight.
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