Shadowlands will have a more linear story than Battle for Azeroth according to Steve Danuser
In case you missed it, World of Warcraft’s Lead Narrative Designer Steve Danuser did an interview with Taliesin and Evitel, which the folks at Wowhead liveblogged. They covered a lot in the interview and I guarantee we’ll discuss huge chunks of it as we head into Shadowlands, but there was one subject I wanted to call out immediately: the expansion’s linear story.
Shadowlands won’t continue the divided Horde storyline from Battle for Azeroth — we’re not going to see Sylvanas loyalists getting to stay loyal to the Banshee Queen. This time, it’s one story for everyone, and it’s a lot more linear than previous expansions like Legion or Battle for Azeroth.
One of the things Blizzard experimented with in Battle for Azeroth was a story that allowed you to decide — if you played Horde, that is — whether or not to support Sylvanas as a loyalist or work against her and aid Saurfang as he slowly decided what to do about her escalating plans for Azeroth. There were several moments where you could deliberately work as Sylvanas’ agent, doing things like spying on Baine Bloodhoof, or indeed work against the Banshee Queen. It was an interesting story element, even though — since WoW is an MMO — it wasn’t much of a story split. Players on both sides of the conflict still saw almost all of the same events, just with a few differences like “secretly working for Sylvanas the whole time” in places.
But the Shadowlands narrative is focused on a coherent story that everyone experiences, so Blizzard is moving away from that kind of narrative split. When patch 8.2.5 ended the BFA War Campaign storyline, Blizzard decided that — and the Sylvanas at Windrunner Spire scene that Loyalist players got — as an epilogue to the Loyalist/Rebel storyline. When we get to Shadowlands we’ll all basically be on the same page.
There might be some in game moments — Steve mentioned that there could be flavor moments to reflect your choices during Battle for Azeroth — but Blizzard specifically wants Shadowlands to be a unified storyline, so everyone understands what Sylvanas is up to and is on the same page this time.
There’s a chance we could get storylines that offer that kind of choice again in the future, but for this expansion, Blizzard has a specific story they want to tell. That means it will be linear in terms of how it’s told, moving from zone to zone and culminating in Revendreth. The player choice will come after Revendreth, where you get to pick your faction and experience that storyline.
Honestly, I played primarily Alliance in Battle for Azeroth, so I never experienced the story the way Horde did, getting to choose between Sylvanas and Saurfang. I won’t miss it, but I do hope they revisit the idea in the future with a more balanced storyline where every player gets to see the choices.
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