“World of Warcraft: Shadowlands,” will be released before the end of this endless year, bringing players of the 16-year-old MMO to Azeroth’s realm of death.
Players will meet the spirits of heroes and villains long departed from the world of the living, pursue after Sylvanas Windrunner as she continues to be pushed harder than Roman Reigns ever was, and will go toe-to-toe once more with godlike entities. WoW: Shadowlands is an epic adventure in the making–
–and I really don’t want to go on it.
I quite love the setting of Warcraft and consider Azeroth a second home for me. There are many aspects of it that I’d love to explore, many storylines that I’d love to see played out, and many adventures I’d still love to go on.
But chasing after a former Warchief, and Queen of the Damned, who has long outstayed her welcome, is not one of them, nor is battling her unholy godlike master.
There’s no incentive behind the idea, no charm to it that intrigues me, nothing that personally invests me. Some people may be looking forward to finally taking down Sylvanas, who has been visibly evil for several expansions in a row now, but I just feel tired with the idea. Let someone else take care of her as far as I’m concerned, I’m done going after all these epic named characters who keep threatening the entire world.
Back in the Good Ol’ Days…
Back when World of Wacraft first began, you played as a no-name traveler exploring the world of Azeroth for the first time. Your journey began a simple town, with nothing to your name but the clothes on your back and a weapon to fend off the dangers of a foreign and hostile world. A local takes note that you seem to be looking for work, and offers you payment in exchange for you putting your weapon to use.
The work is nothing glorious. The village needs some local animals culled, and has you collect food and furs in the process. For each job you do, you are compensated, and your reputation eventually draws the attention of a mentor who shows you a few tricks. Before long, you’re slightly more capable as a fighter than when you started, and you have better equipment to show for it as well.
Eventually, local authorities recognize your skills, and bring you into the fold on a bigger issue happening in the area. A group of bandits have become a legitimate threat, or perhaps a demonic cult, or a bunch of angry Catholics that don’t like your loud goth music.
Whatever the issue, you seem capable of taking it on, and so, you are sent to do just that. You manage to survive your first encounter with this faction, while ensuring they do not, and are then sent to deal with them on a bigger scale.
Throughout your journey, you encounter other travelers as well. It’s a very hostile environment, and so, you have to work together with companions to defeat common foes, and bring order to the frontiers of the world.
There are times where you face unwinnable situations, and have to come back with either better skill, better equipment, better numbers, or a combination of everything. It’s frustrating at times, but also thrilling, because every day brings a new challenge to overcome.
Eventually, you finish the journey you set out to complete. The faction you were sent against is thwarted – for the time being, at least – and you are stronger and wiser for it. But there are other dangers out in the world, and so, another journey is right around the corner. You fresh up your equipment, consult the friends you’ve made along the way, and set out to find the next place to explore.
This may not be the most accurate summary of how older versions of World of Warcraft played from a technical perspective, but it’s certainly how playing the game made myself and countless other people feel. You were on an adventure into the unknown, and there was always something new to discover. This isn’t a feeling trapped in the past, nor created purely by nostalgia either. When I played the relaunch of World of Warcraft: Classic in 2019, that feeling was completely there, and I couldn’t stop playing for weeks. Newer video games can cast the same spell on me too.
But as far as the latest expansions of World of Warcraft go? It’s not there for me.
The Biggest Damn Deal on the Planet
Instead, in World of Warcraft, Battle for Azeroth, you’re summoned by the leaders of your empire to take part in the siege of a city – because you’re not the little guy anymore, you’re the biggest damn deal on the planet.
Then, a diamond man screams “CHAMPION!!!!!!” in your ear at the top of his lungs and says that ONLY YOU can save THE WORLD! After that, you, THE CHAMPION, are sent to single-handedly unify a nation, lead armies against the opposing faction, and still do menial chores for strangers in between battling divine beings. It’s an obnoxious and ceaseless barrage of epic situations that want you to feel like the coolest person ever.
Yet, no matter how many people are screaming at me that I’m on an epic quest, I certainly don’t feel like I am. Instead, I feel like I’m working. There’s no thrill to anything, no stakes, certainly no challenge.
When a pirate captains threaten to kill me, I don’t care. Why should I? I’ve killed planet destroying gods, several times over. What can an idiot with a boat and a gang of thugs possibly do to me? Bore me to death? Oh no, I’ve been captured and enslaved by a local band of extremists! This will be a tough situation–no wait, I’ll just pull this undead frost dragon out of my pocket and obliterate my captors from existence.
So what? The villain I’m going against destroyed a city maybe? Seen that happen quite a few times already. Perhaps they killed one of the many loud characters that I’ve no reason to be invested in? (Unless I’ve read the novel that tells all about the important events that aren’t explained in the game!) Good for them, I’ve probably killed those characters a few times myself truth be told, or wanted to.
Be a Little Man Exploring a Big World
This is how World of Warcraft has felt to me for the better part of a decade now. And while Classic certainly isn’t as romantic as my little summary makes it out to be, it still to this day does something right: It lets me be a little man exploring a big world.
And that’s where my lack of enthusiasm comes from. I’m tired of being THE Hero. I’m tired of everything being a big epic moment, orchestra and all. I’m tired of everything I encounter being trivialized by how amazing I am. The most dangerous people on the planet are myself, and my companions. Nothing stands a chance, and when it acts like it does, I’ve already heard it all before.
I don’t care about any of it, and I certainly don’t care about going to the Shadowlands. Why should I? Being in the afterlife won’t change the fact that I, THE CHAMPION!!!, will crush anything that gets in my way. I can only save the world so many times before it becomes an uninteresting chore.
Instead, give me an expansion where I’ve retired. Where age, trauma, and the exhaustion of me saving the world so many times have caught up, and I am no longer the superhero everyone has made me out to be. The world isn’t ending, my intervention is not needed to make everything right, and no leader of any faction is screaming in my ear about how cool I am and how much they need me.
And then, maybe something happens locally that pulls me out of that retirement. Maybe a widow I’ve developed a friendship with asks me to look into the death of her husband, who was killed by a band of thugs. Even though I’m old and weaker than I used to be, I get involved in taking them on. And they can kick my ass a little bit – nearly kill me even. Then I would have motive to regain my strength and skill, and take on a group that has personally wronged me.
It doesn’t have to be just like that. There’s so many different things we can explore about Azeroth, endless people we could meet, and so many things that could change within it due to all its been through, and the advancement – or degradation – of its many diverse societies.
But maybe, just maybe, we can take a break from all the epic conflicts, tone down the blaring orchestras, and go back to a more humble journey?
Sometimes, I don’t want to go to the loud and flashy amusement park. I just want to quietly hike a mountain.