WoW Wednesday: The Future of the Battle For Azeroth

Battle for Azeroth has taken quite a few interesting turns and detours from its previous expansions. The general opinion is that, despite slight improvements to gearing over Legion’s static artifact system, the war for the world has taken a large step backward. Even with the heavy advancements with the Essence system and character progression Rise of Azshara introduced its clear that reception is less than positive for the expansion overall. Now that we are officially over halfway into the newest adventure in the wide World of Warcraft, we can begin to take some guesses as to where things might just take us next. What does the end of the Blood War have in store for us?

With the launch of Azshara’s Eternal Palace, we’ve seen the realization of N’zoth’s ten thousand year plan. The Old God of the deeps, with the assistance of Azshara, Xal’atath and the Champion of Azeroth, has managed to break his titanic prison. Those taking the fight to Azshara’s personal chambers will get to witness the event in full below. Despite her intent to use the Heart of Azeroth to become a goddess of her own, N’zoth instead unleashes his full might from the depths and buys his own freedom when she fails.

And then it simply ends. Frustratingly.

With Blizzard’s method of storytelling in Battle for Azeroth, it’s highly unlikely we’ll get much answer as to what the fallout of such an event is in the near future. Like previous installments of the War Campaigns, including the latest, its incredibly likely we’ll only see further story advancement during the next mini-patch in 8.2.5. With Xal’atath’s freedom in the Crucible of Storms its unclear where the Old God storyline is going from here, though its been made clear that Azshara is not gone forever. Rather instead, Blizzard employees have teased that the patch was named as such for careful reasons.

The only firm direction or knowledge of the plot we know is in direct correlation to the recent War Campaign. With Baine Bloodhoof’s rebellion in freeing Derek Proudmoore, he has since been imprisoned in the Heart of Orgrimmar. In the sanctum of Garrosh’s True Horde, Warchief Sylvanas Windrunner imprisoned the Chieftain with a bloodthirsty guard. Assisted by Thrall, Saurfang, Jaina Proudmoore and Mathias Shaw, players fight off rabid Sunreaver Mages in their hunt for justice against Proudmoore. Managing to free Baine, they teleport away to Thunder Bluff where Thrall and Jaina divine the next steps Sylvanas will take.

It is incredibly likely that Sylvanas will besiege Thunder Bluff and its people in order to seek her justice. This is the popular choice among storycrafters for the direction in which Patch 8.3 is going to go, as while the groundwork is present for N’zoth’s rise it is underdeveloped in several aspects. With the Great Gate of Mulgore featuring as a Warfront during Battle for Azeroth’s testing and development cycle, the groundwork IS already there for a large, zone-based raid or even a revamped Mulgore quest hub. With the War Campaign having been a major focus of the expansion’s earlier progression, it makes sense to resolve it in the last major patch.

That begs the question, “Where do we go from there?” With the large factional divide present throughout Battle for Azeroth, its incredibly unlikely we’ll see much of a peace accord fall together at Thunder Bluff. Even if the Alliance and Tauren pin Sylvanas against a cliff-face its been made clear that the Warchief will not surrender as Garrosh did. Clearly in an effort to tie off this expansion we’ll need some large ‘bad guy’ villain to unite the two factions in an alliance of survival. The Heart of Azeroth will undoubtedly be retired in lieu of the next expansion’s main gameplay system, as well as the concept of Azerite being widely available for our gear.

Logically, the conclusions all point towards one major brewing entity: N’zoth. While it is incredibly likely we could see something come right out of thin air as happened with Warlords of Draenor and Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard seems against such a notion. Previous expansions since Warlords tend to set up the narrative for the next expansion. Gul’dan’s escape at the Black Gate led to Legion, whereas Sargeras’ defeat lead to Battle for Azeroth. While we have had light teases into new concepts such as Helya’s return, the Dragon Isles and the Infinite Flight, it’s far more likely to lead into a Void related expansion.

As such, for 8.2.5 we could certainly expect that patch to deal with the fallout of both Azshara’s Eternal Palace and Baine’s Liberation. Patch 8.3 will most likely feature one of two things. The first is a siege upon Thunder Bluff if not a Great Gate Warfront, much to the chagrin of players who experienced the Siege of Orgrimmar several expansions ago. The second, and in my opinion less likely, possibility is the rise of N’zoth and his attack on the Heart Chamber in Silithus, it being Azeroth’s most vulnerable point. However, it makes much more narrative sense to tide the ‘big baddie’ to the next expansion and wrap up the war plot with a strong lead-in.

Falling in line with this theory, a poster on 4chan (which was later reposted to the WoW subreddit) posted a ‘leak.’ Most 4chan leaks, unlike other sites such as ResetEra, have historically been largely false. This particular post, made on the /b/-Random forum, is most likely just as fake as others. It does offer up an incredible wealth of possibilities for the narrative to travel in a hypothetical Patch 9.0.

This ‘leaked’ expansion, entitled Age of Darkness, sees N’zoth interrupting the Siege of Thunder Bluff during their final battle. Seeking to take Kalimdor as the first sect of his Black Empire, N’zoth rallies the Infinite Dragonflight and attempts to finally turn Nozdormu, the Aspect of Time, into their leader. Using their aid, he attempts to alter time to where the avatar of his brother, C’thun, was never defeated. Utilizing a revitalized Twilight’s Hammer cult, he then seeks to awaken C’thraxxi and Old God forces across the Eastern Kingdoms and Northrend.

Even if this isn’t the plan for the future, other thematic teases for upcoming expansions seem incredibly bleak. From Vol’jin’s quest throughout the Realm of Shadows and the Horde’s new-found crusade on behalf of Death itself, to the fanatical vengeance of the Night Elves on behalf of their new Night Warrior, conflict on Azeroth between the two factions will not end here. The war, however, does need to come to an end sooner than later; Ion Hazzikostas, Warcraft’s game director himself, has expressed interest in completing the relatively panned expansion promptly. With a brutal war on the horizon, and dark possibilities at every turn, there’s only one assured direction for Azeroth’s future.

A new giant threat will eventually arise. Let’s just hope this one is worth focusing an entire expansion around.

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