How the Barrens in Hearthstone diverges from the Barrens in WoW
Throughout Hearthstone‘s history, its story and expansions have not necessarily followed what has been established by WoW‘s lore, including the newest expansion, Forged in the Barrens. There was the time Dalaran was hijacked, or that time we fought all the old gods at the same time including Y’Shaarj, or even simply the ability to include both Orcs and Humans in the same deck, without having to worry about faction! Hearthstone increased its storytelling capability with Solo Adventures like Book of Heroes, which focuses on the well-known heroes of Azeroth. Forged in the Barrens added Book of Mercenaries, telling the stories of ten new characters introduced with this expansion. The Hearthstone page Meet the Mercenaries comes with a warning: The Hearthstone timeline diverges from the Warcraft canon at many points. These mercenary stories seem to be the reason why.
However, this can all be explained away with the the idea that Hearthstone is a game people play, sitting around an inn in WoW, sharing stories. Stories related by word of mouth are bound to have a few details mixed up over time. In Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion, playable characters could become Death Knights, but that didn’t mean canonically there was a Death Knight Jaina — it was a What-If scenario in a story.
With that said, where do Hearthstone and WoW diverge, and where does Hearthstone copy directly from Warcraft?
Where the Barrens looks like WoW’s
Forged in the Barrens is doing its best to capture the feel of the Barrens zone from WoW. It’s loaded with watchtowers, which people see when looking at the silhouette of the zone. There are references to places throughout, most notably the Crossroads, but also Northwatch Hold and Camp Taurajo — I’m sure it’ll be fine.
There is an emphasis on the creatures and the humanoids, too. At such low levels, there were no monsters, but beasts were the main mobs to be found, and many carry over to this Hearthstone expansion. Along with prominent races of the Barrens — like Forsaken, Goblins, and of course, Orcs — there are Quilboar, Centaurs, and Murlocs. The first mini-set, Wailing Caverns, was the major dungeon in the Barrens, and the cards from this set focus on the Druids of the Fang, the major bosses in that dungeon. The video intro even included Arch Druid Hamuul Runetotem, who sent players into the dungeon, though here he was discouraging the group from entering.
And of course, one of the most famous characters from the Barrens, Mankrik, who must search for his deceased wife. The design team hit most of the main points of the zone.
So then where does Hearthstone diverge from WoW?
Major differences in Hearthstone’s Barrens
The Barrens represents the early leveling of WoW Classic in its original incarnation, but per the Book of Mercenaries solo adventures and the Meet the Mercenaries page, we’re already including Burning Crusade content — the Exodar is already crashing into Azeroth, the Sin’dorei are joining the Horde, and the Draenei are present. It’s still a year before the invasion of Outland, so the Dark Portal isn’t open — and yet, there are a plethora of Demon Hunters on Azeroth. One of the mercenaries, Kurtrus Ashfallen, is a Demon Hunter, one of the former Illidari who broke away. They should still be in Outland serving Illidan or, failing that, if they had broken away after he was trapped there at the end of the Third War, Demon Hunters were not openly welcomed by Horde or Alliance. Even per Hearthstone‘s story, the Demon Hunters joined when the Dark Portal reopened in Ashes of Outland.
Rokara’s story has Garrosh play a major role — not just that he appears, but he has a position of power in Orgrimmar. Thrall meets him for the first time in WoW lore after the Dark Portal reopens. In his Book of Heroes story, Garrosh pines that his father was a failure, but then Greatmother Geyah assures him that no, Grom was great, and mentions her grandson. That is all canon in Hearthstone. However, it does not mention when this occurs, or that it in any way relates to the invasion of Outland. Does that mean that Garrosh is older in the Hearthstone AU? Garrosh was not mentioned in the Ashes of Outland expansion, so perhaps Thrall was able to cross over to Outland prior to this and bring him back.
Remember in the Barrens in WoW when players were sent to look for pieces of a Naaru? No? Because that is the major plot of Forged in the Barrens. This is referred to as The Night of Falling Stars. Most of the Mercenaries are after these Naaru shards — that’s why they are entering Wailing Caverns, some for curiosity of what has fallen, some because these fractured pieces will bring in a lot of gold, and others to rebuild the Naaru. When players first level here in WoW, Naaru did not exist on Azeroth, and even after the Cataclysm revamp of the zone, Naaru did not play a role in the Barrens.
What is missing from Hearthstone’s Barrens?
There is something vitally important missing in this expansion. When thinking of Barrens in World of Warcraft, there is one thing that almost always immediately pops into mind. Barrens Chat was a staple of early WoW, for better or for worse. If Hearthstone ever implemented a chat function into the game, what better time than forging it in the Barrens? They missed out on jokes about this, as well — they said as much in a GamesBeat interview at BlizzCon Online, with Alec Dawson, a senior game designer, and Cora Georgiou, an associate game designer. The designers stated they did not know how to handle that topic, and purposely omitted it.
The other major feature of the Barrens that feels absent is Ratchet. The board has a ship, that represents transportation in and out of its port, and there is a Ratchet Privateer. Where are the Goblin vendors that are neutral? Where’s a card representing waiting for The Maiden’s Fancy to Booty Bay? Where is the one flight point for Alliance in Horde territory? Perhaps, another mini-set around this tiny city will land in the future.
In another missed opportunity, there is no quest to collect zhevra hooves.
Obviously, Hearthstone can’t capture everything from World of Warcraft. It includes many of the main points of the Barrens — although mixing in the Exodar and Naaru at this time seems an odd choice. And Garrosh is a pretty mistimed appearance. Going back to the roots of WoW and telling a story from a beginning zone onward is a nice way to bring in new players. However, jumping back in time makes something like Demon Hunters feel sorely out of place.
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