Know Your Lore: The Secret End Boss of Battle for Azeroth
That moment when everything comes together in World of Warcraft can be amazingly satisfying for us lore nerds. I feel safe calling myself that, and I believe that here, among my people, I can unfold how this one brief moment in the patch 8.3 introductory quest — which is a huge questline, and quite frankly one of the best I’ve ever seen in WoW — made me jump and make aha noises for several minutes.
We often talk about the writing for this game, and I see a lot of people denigrate it. But I have to tell you, this one moment made me realize just how much craft and expertise is going on in that writer’s room. This is the culmination of literally years of storytelling and it hit me in the stomach like a sledge once I realized just how deftly it had all been tied up. I should have seen it sooner. I did see pieces, but I failed to recognize just how elegant all the callbacks are.
Clearly there will be spoilers for patch 8.3 here. If you have not done these quests and you wish to experience them without this knowledge, you have been warned.
Corruption all the way back to Vanilla
As part of the questing to unlock the Horrific Visions, you discover an anomaly in the Halls of Origination. After a bit of wrangling, a trip to Blackrock Descent to gather scales from the bodies of Nefarian and Onyxia and destroy the agents of the Old Gods who seek to use them to control the Black Dragonflight once again, and a few trips into the realm of madness that N’Zoth inhabits you discover that everything you’ve been doing so far — every trip with Magni to a Titan facility, every step you’ve taken to harness the power of those facilities and re-awaken the Forge of Origination and focus its power to use it against N’Zoth — it’s all been exactly what N’Zoth wants you to do. Because N’Zoth has corrupted the Forge, and when it is activated, it won’t destroy him at all. It will instead rewrite all of Azeroth into the pre-Titan Black Empire that N’Zoth and the other Old Gods once ruled, right here and now.
And that’s amazing, because it brings every storyline we’ve ever had with N’Zoth full circle.
When we first heard whispers of N’Zoth, he was essentially asleep and dreaming. His dreams invaded the Emerald Dream, creating the corruption of the place we called the Emerald Nightmare. This corruption stretches all the way back into Vanilla WoW days — the place that corrupted Eranikus back in the Sunken Temple dungeon. The corruption that unleashed the four Dragons of Nightmare, that’s been part of the game since launch — that was N’Zoth invading the Dream in his sleep. In Legion, we finally defeated the Nightmare, beat the satyr Xavius, and banished N’Zoth’s presence from the Dream at the cost of Ysera’s life.
And that was exactly what N’Zoth wanted us to do.
Truly you have been N’Zoth’s favorite
Wrenching N’Zoth from the Dream was what woke him up from his slumber in the Titan chains deep under the ocean. And once he was awake — and planning — he did exactly what you’d expect. Because the Emerald Dream is an unsullied version of Azeroth, it’s essentially the Titan’s use of a plane of existence as a backup copy. If the Forge of Origination was ever used, it would scrub all life clean from Azeroth and then it would use the Emerald Dream as the basis of a new Azeroth, taking the planet back to an Alpha version, so to speak. And N’Zoth has been corrupting that backup copy for as long as we’ve been playing World of Warcraft.
That one moment of story reveals that N’Zoth has been not just wanting, but actively leading us back to the Titans’ design. Everything we’ve done for multiple expansions — all our work against the Nightmare, all our work to empower the Heart of Azeroth, everything we’ve done in the faction war, everything we’ve done to try and stop Azshara — it all led to this.
We’ve literally been N’Zoth’s greatest ally all along. We restored his conscious mind to him. We gathered the power of Azeroth into the Heart and brought it to Azshara’s palace, the one place where it could be used by her to open the locks and free N’Zoth. We activated the Titan network across Azeroth so that N’Zoth, who’d been in its backup files and knew the system better than we did, could use it to turn all of Azeroth into a nightmare.
Playing the long game
It works with everything we saw Deathwing — who remember was working for N’Zoth — do in Cataclysm. Remember, Deathwing was attacking Uldum, using fanatical Tol’vir to breach the Halls of Origination, and we all thought he was just doing it to use the Halls to destroy us. He was, because using the Halls to fire the Forge will destroy us… and transform our world into N’Zoth’s perfect recreation of the time before the Titans came, when all of Azeroth was a single empire dominated by the Old Gods. This one moment ties together original World of Warcraft, the Cataclysm expansion, Mists of Pandaria, much of Legion, and all of Battle for Azeroth. It is an achievement of continuity and collaborative storytelling, and it happens like a mic drop.
For me, this is the real moment of patch 8.3 of Battle for Azeroth. The entire expansion and all of the hype of the Sylvanas and Anduin story has been misdirection for this one moment, and it slides in like a stiletto to the ribs. It’s perfect.
The real villain, the real menace and threat of Battle for Azeroth isn’t Sylvanas. It certainly isn’t Azshara. It isn’t even N’Zoth.
All along, it’s been you.
You did all of this. All of this, going back to the Dragons of Nightmare, going back to Eranikus in the Sunken Temple… it’s all been your doing. You brought us here. You did everything N’Zoth wanted.
You are the end boss of Battle for Azeroth. It remains to be seen if the heroes of Azeroth can turn the greatest weapon of N’Zoth’s cause — you — against your master.
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