This post really isn’t about Theramore. Well, it’s not wholly about Theramore. Theramore is an illustration of a broader problem.
Way back when Wrath of the Lich King was first released, the Scourge invaded Stormwind. I imagine that they did something to the Horde as well, but I didn’t experience things from that side, because I’m not a Horde player and never will be one. The response to this invasion was a massive mobilization of the Alliance to invade Northrend in an effort to topple Arthas from his rule.
It’s true that in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion there were some things that branched off from that particular objective. Ulduar, for instance, represented a existential threat from the Titans and Old Gods. But that too involved a mobilization of forces.
The point of this, to me, was that there was never a time in Wrath of the Lich King where I felt that what I was doing as an adventurer was unimportant. The Alliance recognized Arthas as a threat and moved to dethrone him. The Kirin Tor recognized Yogg-Saron as a threat and mobilized to deal with that. I felt like a part of a story where things happened and the leaders of the various factions responded appropriately.
Then came Cataclysm.
Deathwing came and wreaked havoc on the world. He destroyed Auberdine, the Stonewrought Dam, and an entire district of Stormwind, in addition to all sorts of other things that had less of an impact on the Alliance (and thus are better told by a Horde player). After this he continued to fly around Azeroth, torching areas and killing every single individual who crossed him.
What was the Alliance’s response to this? Nothing.
Meanwhile, the Horde were also busy with their own shenanigans. Sylvanas’s Forsaken journeyed south and used Plague Bombs and other chemical weapons to destroy Gilneas and Southshore, effectively seizing control of Alterac, Gilneas and Hillsbrad foothills. To my understanding, Gilneas was at the time the second largest human city in Azeroth. The Forsaken used plague bombs to essentially wipe the city clean; it is, for all intents and purposes, uninhabited. More on this later.
Meanwhile, over in Kalimdor, the goblins had set up shop right on top of the Kaldorei’s ancestral capital, smack dab where Azshara’s palace overlooked the Well of Eternity. In probably the clearest sign ever for a disdain of history, the goblins began terraforming it to look like a Horde symbol and built a go-kart track over the ruins.
What was the Alliance’s response to this? Nothing.
Later, vicious troll tribes rose up from Zul’Aman and Zul’Gurub. What was the Alliance’s response to this? Traxy has a joke about it: “We were hoping you and four of your friends could take care of it.”
Even later, Fandral Staghelm escaped custody and resummoned Ragnaros into the world in an effort to destroy the World Tree in Hyjal. This represented, to my understanding, an existential threat to the kaldorei.
What was the Alliance’s response to this? Nothing. It was a matter for the druids to handle.
Finally, Deathwing got bored with burning random areas of Azeroth and decided instead to go after the Dragonflight in what he hoped would be the final cataclysm.
What was the Alliance’s response to this? Well, they sent the Skybreaker. But other than that it was treated as a matter for Thrall to handle.
A brilliant summary of these events from a Horde player’s perspective is over at Need More Rage. Here’s the money quote:
In this expansion, Blizzard has abdicated any attempt to tell a compelling story, and is relying on loot and Justice Points to keep us going. Yes, it works, but don’t we as customers deserve better?
A while back, when 4.2 came out, I wrote about a phenomenon called Clang. Clang is a term coined by Roger Ebert:
A Clang is a moment that breaks the fabric of a film with something that is impossible, illogical, tone-deaf, out of character, amateurish, or otherwise goes Clang!
Way back when, I used the term to describe, among other things, fishing for Algaefin Rockfish so that pools of Highland Guppies would appear, landing on a Horde boat to fish, fishing for Volatile Fire, and a person emoting that they are “thinking” or “deciding” something.
This is on a far greater scale.
Deathwing destroying the Park, Auberdine, and the Stonewrought Dam are major parts of the Cataclysm story. The Forsaken destroying Gilneas and Southshore are major parts of the Cataclysm story. Everything listed above is presented as a major part of the Cataclysm story. When NPCs within the game do not react to those events, when they in effect collectively yawn at what is happening, what does that say to a player?
It tells me that I’m an idiot for caring.
I don’t know if Blizzard has ever looked at Moon Guard apart from what happens in Goldshire, but I think it would be instructive. There are entire guilds that are based around the idea of retaking Lordaeron from the Forsaken. Not just one guild, but several guilds. There are entire guilds that are based around the idea of retaking Gilneas.
I’ve never been a fan of such guilds, but not because I think as a character that their goals are unworthy. Rather, I think the guilds are pointless when Blizzard has blatantly refused to recognize on behalf of any human NPC _any_ desire to recapture Lordaeron or Gilneas. Their efforts will never change the game in any meaningful way, and to be a part of those guilds would depress the hell out of me.
But the desire from players is there. Despite that.
Which brings us to Theramore.
Five game days ago the Horde dropped the equivalent of a nuclear bomb on Theramore, which after the destruction of Gilneas was the second largest human city in Azeroth. For the second expansion in a row, the Horde has used means that are universally held to constitute war crimes to destroy a human city in its entirety.
The Alliance’s response to this was to hand out a tabard, a banner, some fireworks and chant “Remember Theramore!”
Now, I had previously held out hope that in a couple days, that this would change. That maybe things in Northrend, Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms would change to reflect the destruction of Theramore. But that hope is now gone. In the words of their lead content designers:
Q: Will we see any changes to the world outside of Pandaria other than Theramore and possibly the Orgrimmar raid? Is the war going to affect the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor too?
A: There is a possibility that in a later patch you could see something that could happen to possibly set up what is going to happen in Orgrimmar. Orgrimmar is in a final raid with Garrosh that we have talked about. Obviously you will see changes to Orgrimmar, but we are talking about possibly doing something before that to set it up, so that when it happens it doesn’t feel like something that hit you by surprise. The majority of what you are going to see is focused on Pandaria though. Anything that you see that might reference the existing world will probably come through scenarios, which is a great way for us to use scenarios.
Let me get this straight. Theramore is nuked, and “There is a possibility that in a later patch that you could see something that could happen”???
Words fail me.
For the second expansion in a row, the second largest human city in Azeroth has been destroyed by the Horde, the first time with biological agents, the second with the equivalent of a nuclear bomb. The Horde killed the leader of the Kirin Tor and stole an artifact from the Blue Dragonflight to pull the latter off. And for the second straight expansion Blizzard has left the Alliance response to these events to guilds on RP servers who cannot possibly change anything in the world.
But there is a possibility that in a later patch that we could see something that could happen to acknowledge these events. I guess that’s comforting.