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Know Your Lore > WoWJun 11, 2018 2:00 pm CT

Know Your Lore: What we leave behind in Legion

In every expansion, we come out having triumphantly saved whatever world or continent we’re fighting for. This is of course especially true in Legion, where we’ve managed to defeat one of the biggest villains on the Warcraft roster. Sure, there’s a sword stuck in our dying planet and we’re essentially going to war over its blood in Battle for Azeroth, but at…least….the Legion’s gone, right?

And given due time, we’re certain to overcome that obstacle as well. That’s the thing about WoW – we keep moving forward into new stories and new challenges. Sometimes we move so quickly, however, that we forget what we leave behind. Legion was the expansion that saw us pitted against some of our worst enemies – and it wasn’t an easy win. We lost things along the way.

So before we wander off to parts unknown, let’s take a look back at what we’re leaving behind…and how that might affect our future.

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King Varian Wrynn

King Varian Wrynn didn’t live to see the land beyond the Broken Shore. But he died as he lived – fighting his heart out to protect what he believed in. Varian’s development over the years has been interesting to say the least. The peculiar nature of his dual personality was first explored in the Warcraft comics series, and he made his first real appearance in-game during the introductory parts of Wrath of the Lich King. Since his introduction, Varian’s internal struggles have been one of his most defining characteristics. He wasn’t a happy-go-lucky King; he had his own demons to overcome.

I don’t know if I can say he succeeded or not, but watching him progress has been interesting. Doubly so in the case of his son, Anduin. Varian was almost crushingly overprotective when it came to his son. And Anduin couldn’t be further from his father in terms of temperament. These differences led to clashes between the two, and watching Varian wrestle with his temper while trying to raise a child that held none of his wary regard for the world made for some pretty great storylines.

But with Varian gone, the Alliance is in…a very different place. Is Anduin ready to lead? Yes, I’m pretty sure he is – he’s the same age Varian was when he became King. However, the way Anduin looks at the world is a dramatic departure from his father’s view. And despite his father’s constant lessons, Anduin still holds on to that idealistic vision of a world unified by peace. Varian’s struggles as a leader were based in old hatreds. Anduin doesn’t have those old hatreds – but his idealism may be taking some swift blows in the next expansion.

Warchief Vol’jin

We can’t really talk about one leader without discussing the other, and between the two, I think Warchief Vol’jin was dealt a worse hand. Vol’jin wasn’t really the subject of any major storylines until Cataclysm, where his fight against Garrosh Hellscream unified the Horde in a battle against itself. At the end of it all, Vol’jin was given the title of Warchief – a title he’d earned. Vol’jin saw what Garrosh was trying to turn the Horde into. It wasn’t the Horde Vol’jin and the Darkspear signed on with.

But we never got to see Vol’jin beyond that triumphant ascension. Warlords took us away to parts unknown, and Vol’jin didn’t really come with us, not until the end. Even then, we didn’t really see much out of the Warchief. He was content to let us handle operations on Draenor, with little intervention on his part at all. I was looking forward to seeing how he handled the role in Legion…and instead, we lost him entirely.

Warchief Vol’jin earned that role because he knew what the Horde was meant to be, and Garrosh’s vision of a faction of conquerors wasn’t it. Now we have Sylvanas Windrunner at the helm, and she…seems to lean more towards Garrosh’s way of thinking than Vol’jin’s. The Horde isn’t a family to Sylvanas – it’s a means to an end, a way to further secure the survival of her people. At times it feels like we’re due for another revolution – but without the Darkspear leader to instigate it, will that actually come to pass?

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Illidan Stormrage

Once upon a time, Blizzard came out with an expansion called Burning Crusade. Illidan Stormrage was both on the cover and in the trailer. But despite his appearance in both, we rarely saw him in the expansion at all. His appearance was largely relegated to the Black Temple raid, where…we killed him. It seemed almost like an ignoble end for a character that was so well developed in Warcraft 3 and the War of the Ancients trilogy.

We got him back in Legion. And what could have easily been a trite story of redemption turned into a compelling character arch that really helped define just who Illidan was. We spent a good chunk of the expansion under the assumption that Illidan had been re-written to be a hero intended for some grand destiny, courtesy of the naaru. And in one fateful cinematic, Illidan demonstrated why he was anything but.

He’s not a hero – not exactly. He’s not a villain, not quite. He’s just a Night Elf who made some particularly poor choices with his life, in the name of something greater. We may not have seen the last of Illidan Stormrage – he didn’t die, after all – but his story, for now, has come to an end. Despite first appearances, it was a really good story. I hope he has fun up there in the sky, eternally punching Sargeras.

Khadgar

Look, I’ll say it straight up – I was wrong. I always sort of tentatively expected that Khadgar would turn on us, somehow. That maybe Sargeras’ spirit had passed on to him, way back when Medivh was killed in the First War. I kept waiting for it, but it never happened. Instead…well, we have Khadgar. A mage who really just wanted to make sure the world was all right, one of the few left who was there for the First War.

Khadgar leapt in to take up the role Jaina Proudmoore vacated – a neutral mage who was insistent that both factions work together to fight the greater evil. I’ll admit, I always resented him for that. His place in the spotlight meant Jaina was abruptly shoved aside, her development placed on standby in favor of this old dude. And where Jaina’s optimistic views of the world were dismissed by many, Khadgar’s opinions were somehow…perfectly fine.

It wasn’t Khadgar’s fault, of course. And it was interesting to see an old hero make a return in a more active role than his campout in Shattrath City during Burning Crusade. I’m not surprised to see Khadgar leave now – after all, we’re ramping up for a war between factions, and he has no interest in that. And I’m actually kind of happy he’s doing so now. Had he stuck around any longer, we might have gotten tired of him. As it stands, I’m all right with bidding him a fond farewell, and I sort of hope we see him again someday.

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The future

The list above is a very short one – there are a lot more names that could be added to it. But the four above have one thing in common: They’re all major players in Warcraft lore. Or they were, at one point in time. Each one warranted a novel or two, each one played a major role in important moments in history.

And now they’re gone.

What that leaves us with is a new generation of heroes. King Anduin Wrynn may not be an established ruler just yet, but he’s starting out on that new journey, just as we did when we rolled our first characters however many years ago. Sylvanas Windrunner represents the last original leader of the Horde. Thrall’s gone, Vol’jin is gone, Cairne is gone – it’s just Sylvanas now, and given her actions, her time as leader may be limited.

Legion wasn’t just about the defeat of an evil that’s threatened our world from the beginning. It was the resolution of one of the last old storylines WoW had left. We’re headed into a world in transition – one where the stories of old give way to new chapters, with new heroes leading the way. Battle for Azeroth may be marketed as a return to the old fight of Alliance vs. Horde – but I don’t think we’re headed into a retread of known history. We’ll have to wait and see what’s in store for Azeroth and its heroes after the dust settles.

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