Patch 8.3 in-game cinematics wrap up Battle for Azeroth’s story
First up, this post contains spoilers for the end of the patch 8.3 storyline and Battle for Azeroth as a whole.
No, guys, I’m serious. The fine people at Wowhead have done their usual fine work and have found the cutscenes for the Alliance and Horde storylines for Battle for Azeroth and the story of patch 8.3. While I’ve had my opinions on these — seriously, go listen to Lore Watch, we talk about it a lot — this is the first time I’ve gotten to see them and hear the voice actors, and I’m of a slightly different opinion now after having done so.
Again, last warning — spoilers for patch 8.3 in this post. Please don’t read any further if you’re not interested.
The Alliance is on fire
I think the takeaway from this cinematic is pretty clear — the Alliance has come out of what King Anduin calls The Fourth War (and which will likely be called that going forward) with the least unity it has ever had. Many of its members are glad to be done with the fighting — clearly Anduin is chief among them. But both Tyrande Whisperwind as leader of the Night Elves and Genn Greymane, king of Gilneas and leader of the Worgen, feel that the armistice with the Horde cannot be trusted.
It starts off positively enough — Anduin comes in and announces the peace treaty, expresses his relief at the end of the fighting. But this time, Tyrande seizes the floor immediately (and with a casual display of the terrifying power of the Black Moon, darkening the room and shaking the ground beneath her feet in the process) and states in no uncertain terms that this armistice is hollow. Her exact words — No. Not while the Black Moon still cries out for vengeance. Not until the Horde has answered for its treachery — I think are mirrored by a lot of Alliance players and seeing and hearing this moment gave it a power the transcripts I’d previously read didn’t. It’s not just that she’s angry, it’s that she’s got a real point here. Yes, so does Anduin — it’s true that the bloodshed won’t bring the Night Elves who died back, but it’s also true that the Horde and the Alliance have done this dance before, after the Third War and again after the Siege of Orgrimmar, and both times the ink wasn’t even dry on the paperwork before the Horde started flexing its muscles.
In a way, this story is going exactly where it should. Yes, everyone’s exhausted after yet another ruinous war. And the stress between Anduin’s almost plaintive It has to at the end, when insisting to Genn that this path to peace will be different almost serves as a counterpoint to Tyrande’s accusation of naivety — you can actually feel sympathy for him as he tries to bring about a better future and yet also see Tyrande’s point, that wishing hasn’t made it work so far and that the Alliance (especially her people) suffered a wound that can’t be closed with pretty words. Someone really does have to pay for all this, and Anduin’s talk of councils and peace with the Horde doesn’t address that at all. It’s surprisingly powerful and, I think, does a fair amount to make me hopeful for the future of the game. I’m very much down for a resurgent, furious nation of militant Night Elves who won’t let the Horde walk away unpunished.
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The Horde abandons tradition
Meanwhile, as for the Horde cinematic, it lacks the drama of the Alliance one with one enraged leader confronting another. Instead, it’s theme is reconciliation. The factions of the Horde are just glad the whole mess is over with. Not being privy to what happened in Stormwind, they view the Armistice as being the end of a horrible chapter and want to move forward. Lor’themar Theron presents the news and broaches the topic of a new Warchief, suggesting Thrall, but the former leader of the Horde is adamant. He will not lead the Horde, and indeed, he’s not sure if there even needs to be a Warchief at all.
With Baine’s backing — the Tauren leader having come out of the events of the Fourth War with the moral authority his father once commanded, as he was the one leader willing to defy Sylvanas to her face — the idea of a council of leaders is brought forth. Baine makes the explicit point that in a time of peace you don’t need a leader who is specifically dedicated to war — this opens the way for the position of Warchief to return later as a sort of emergency leader in a specific crisis or war situation, which I think makes sense.
The last image of the Horde cinematic is the various factional leaders, including several (not all — there are no Zandalari or Vulpera present that I noticed) Allied Race leaders like Thalyssra and Geya’rah coming together to unite the Horde under this council. What’s fascinating here is that, on paper, the Alliance won this war. Yes, the Horde burned Teldrassil (and also blew up Undercity) but they lost both the Arathi Basin and Darkshore Warfronts, their allies the Zandalar lost a huge chunk of their fleet at the Battle of Dazar’alor, and the coming of N’Zoth meant that further conflict between the two factions would have been tantamount to suicide. But in the end, that victory on paper didn’t satisfy those on the Alliance side who were the victims of the Horde’s initial attack, and after Sylvanas’ departure the Horde is rallying around a new path forward.
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The path to Shadowlands
But neither the cinematics team nor the Wowhead team were done there, and a third cinematic was datamined soon thereafter. The end of the big introductory questline for patch 8.3 gives us the final fate of a character we’ve been waiting to see more of since Mists of Pandaria, and hints at how the portal to the Horrid Visions ends up next to M.O.T.H.E.R.in the Heart chamber. It’s there because N’Zoth himself opened it as part of an attempt to seize control, and it’s only the sacrifice of Ra-Den — Highkeeper Ra, the one who created the elemental planes and was imprisoned so long ago by the Thunder King as a source of power for the Mogu — that keeps the Old God from conquering it.
Great. We lose Ra-Den and Odyn’s still around. Fantastic. No matter who ultimately wins in this conflict, that’s a big loss in my opinion.
We don’t know how this is going to shake out, of course. But I’m definitely excited for how the events of this expansion reverberate into the future. Will we see the Alliance fragment, or perhaps even fall into a civil war? Will we see Shandris Feathermoon serve as a calming influence on Tyrande, or even eventually move to replace her foster mother as leader of her people? What of Maiev Shadowsong, who we saw Tyrande place in charge of Night Elf forces during the Night Warrior questline and who led them to victory at Darkshore? Horde side, what kind of governing body will this council become, and how effectively can it lead a Horde that has been accustomed to one-Warchief rule? Can Thrall keep his word and not lead the Horde? What role will the Allied Races have in it going forward?
I’m excited — and a bit nervous.
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