Battle for Azeroth Retrospective

Tomorrow Shadowlands will be here, and I’ll be on my way to uncover a new story in a world unlike anything on Azeroth. There will be new stories, favorite characters, and the new endgame to discover. Today, however, I’m taking the time to reflect on everything I’ve experienced in the past two years. I’m a nostalgic person and, as always, I look forward to these kinds of posts.

Story

BfA made several advancements and improvements in storytelling that I loved; including the use of more cinematics in the middle of quests, and cut scenes that show your character being directly involved in the story. There was more focus on narrative and story that was improved on in Legion, which had excellent storytelling as well. The first thing that comes to mind as an example of this is the storyline with Jaina on the Alliance.

We are introduced to Kul Tiras for the first time through Jaina; feeling her shame and embarrassment after attempting to return to her homeland and heal old wounds. It doesn’t quite go as she planned – her own mother, Lord Admiral of Kul Tiras at the time, sentences her to prison. Though Jaina isn’t present for our questing experience, we see Kul Tiras for what it had become in the aftermath of the Second War. Broken, and its ruling houses in shambles.

Only through our deeds in Kul Tiras and eventually freeing Jaina does everyone begin to heal. We see the conclusion to Jaina’s story arc when she ultimately overcomes the demons haunting her, and reconciles with her mother who names her the next Lord Admiral. Blizzard did a great job with that, and the overall theme and feel of Kul Tiras. Even today I can sit idle in Boralus for hours and listen to the amazing music or take in the buildings and scenery.

-War Campaign

The war campaign was the major quest chain that spanned most of the expansion. It served to be the backbone of the power struggle between the Horde and Alliance – a narrative that would eventually shift into Old God territory as the true plot of the expansion revealed itself.

Even though the war campaign was no substitute for the awesome Suramar story in Legion, it served its purpose. Its job was to fill in the gaps leading up to the first raid Battle of Dazar’alor, and showing the battles and telling the stories of characters who participated in the Fourth War. It was shorter, but it peppered in content that prodded the players to explore Zandalar and uncover secrets and treasures in the hopes that the war would turn in our favor.

While plundering Dazar’alor’s vault with Shaw and Flynn, Aurashot was going through her Goth phase
-Questing

Questing was awesome during BfA, and was an improvement to the already-awesome questing of Legion. Questing through Kul Tiras on Alliance and Zandalar on Horde was a smooth experience, and was very fun. Drustvar was fantastic and just knocked it out of the park, while Tirigarde Sound had many memorable moments and was almost as good. My favorite questlines include the Norwington Estate, stowing away on a pirate ship with Flynn, and pretty much all of Drustvar.

I didn’t enjoy Stormsong Valley to the same extent, and still think that there was some wasted potential there. During the last chapter of the Tirigarde story we meet Brandon Stormsong, son to Lord Stormsong, who has been charged with overseeing Anglepoint Wharf. The Wharf has fallen victim to a group of corrupted Tidesages led by Lord Stormsong himself, but after we help Brandon escape and defeat the threat we never see Brandon again. The story was building him up to be an important character in our journeys though Stormsong Valley, and I was sad we never got to continue that story. I already have posts on Tirigarde, Drustvar, and Stormsong Valley, so I won’t continue to ramble on here.

My experience questing through the Horde continent of Zandalar was just as good. All three zones were amazing and the first zone I chose, Zuldazar, did a great job introducing me to the story. My favorites were Vol’dun and Nazmir. In Vol’dun I teamed up with the Vulpera to fight against the Vulpera across a beautiful desert backdrop, and in Nazmir I braved Old God horrors in order to meet powerful Loa to aid us. I also have posts on Zuldazar and Nazmir, but I somehow missed Vol’dun (I had a great time there though).

My favorite Loa
Leveling & Zones

The pace of leveling in BfA was great, and as always Blizzard continues to improve this process in every expansion they release. I continued to enjoy leveling on my alts and didn’t find it to be an experience that dragged on. I don’t have much to say about leveling, but I thought it would be important to note that it continued Legion’s trend of great leveling experiences.

Kul Tiras and Zandalar were designed beautifully, and I always found something new to explore every time I revisited them with alts. Both capital cities are just astounding and massive areas on their own, not to mention the lands they are nestled in. The first time I went to Zandalar as part of the Alliance war campaign quests, flying mounts weren’t added in BfA zones yet. I remember wandering through the jungles and getting lost, just like what would happen in real life. It’s a world all on its own and, especially as a fresh level 120 with low level gear, dangerous. Just like in Legion, all of BfA’s locations are places you want to spend time in, whether it be doing world quests or gathering herbs. As I write this I feel sad that after tomorrow I won’t visit them as often anymore. Not because I’m bored of them, I’ll just be distracted by the new areas Shadowlands has for us.

-Mechagon & Nazjatar

These two zones were introduced in patch 8.2, and served as a place for max level characters to quest and continue the expansion’s story. Nazjatar was a direct tie in to the upcoming raid, The Eternal Palace, where players finally confronted Queen Azshara. Nazjatar was an important zone because during this patch, the expansion took a notable departure from the Horde vs. Alliance theme and further highlighted the underlying Old God threat that was introduced in patch 8.1 with Crucible of Storms. Besides that, Nazjatar is a beautiful zone with lots of secrets. It was, after all, where Azshara made the deal with N’Zoth after her empire was lost under the sea. As someone who loves Night Elf lore, it was a dream to finally see Nazjatar in the game. The music that plays as I approached a section of the ruins of Zin-Azshari was emotional and told the story of an ancient tragedy.

While the zone looks amazing, it feels kind of empty at the same time. After completing the new war campaign chapters there, I didn’t find much reason to stay. Nazjatar was built up in my mind so much that when I finally saw it, part of it felt disappointing. I wanted more story; more Night Elf stuff, whatever that may be. If you’ve read part one of Aurashot’s history you’ll know that returning to her former home would have been hard for her. I wanted something more, and I realize part of that is my personal feelings towards it, something Blizzard couldn’t have given me.

On the other hand, Mechagon blew me away. I wasn’t expecting much from it, and didn’t fully understand what it was about until I went there. I love the goofy personalities of the Mecha Gnomes and their unique voice lines. The quests were great and the junkyard crafting feature was a lot of fun. I enjoy content that involves rare bosses and awesome loot, and that’s what Mechagon turned out to be – a small island filled with lots of different things to do. I’ve spent way more time in Mechagon than in Nazjatar, and found myself flying back to the island whenever I was bored but still wanted to play WoW.

Warfronts

My experience with Warfronts is mixed, and part of that comes from some confusion on what a Warfront was supposed to be. When they were announced, they were described to be a strategy game kind of like Warcraft 3. Players would command troops and send workers off to gather resources, and upgrade buildings. Those things still happened, except you had to join a group and the players themselves fought against the enemy and gathered the resources. It ended up being cool, but it was different from how it was initially pitched to us at BlizzCon. In particular, I found the Stromgarde Warfront to be boring.

When the second Warfront, Darkshore, came out it was greatly improved from the first one. The fact that the Darkshore Warfront took place in Kalimdor and was focused on the Night Elves’ struggle against the Horde might also have something to do with it.

Island Expeditions

Sadly, I didn’t really start running expeditions until the end of BfA. Island Expeditions didn’t seem very interesting in the early days of the expansion, but I wasn’t paying attention to the fact that Blizzard was working to improve them. I tried expeditions again with my guild and had a blast with them; little scenarios where you kill as much stuff as you can and take their loot. What’s more is each island had its own little story playing out, and even then a single island has a set of random scenarios that play out. The primary reason for doing expeditions is to get Azerite to level up the Heart of Azeroth, which in turn unlocks more traits on Azerite Armor. The other reason is to collect mounts and pets, and I’m all over that. I only wish that I spent more time doing expeditions, but I hope Blizzard will introduce a way to continue farming them after the Shadowlands launch.

Dungeons & Raids

BfA was a special expansion for me because I joined a raiding guild, which is something I haven’t really done before in this 16 year-old game. I got to experience raids and dungeons in a way I haven’t in the past, and what a great expansion it was for raiding. My favorite raid of this expansion was Battle of Dazar’alor, and we spent many hours running it and perfecting the boss fights. To me it has the most memorable boss fights, ending with an epic fight against Jaina Proudmoore herself. Set in Dazar’alor, capital of the Zandalari, it was golden and brilliant. I had so much fun editing the videos for this raid.

The other raids were all great, even if I did want a little more from the Eternal Palace. I wanted more lore-inspired boss fights, and even the fight against Azshara herself felt lacking. The raids were all wonderfully designed and had fun fights. Because of my experience in BfA, raiding Castle Nathria in Shadowlands next month is one of my most anticipated activities.

The dungeons this time around were no less amazing. From Kul Tiras, my favorite is Waycrest Manor; and Atal’Dazar over on Zuldazar. Waycrest Manor is one of those dungeons that I’ll continue to run just for the fun of it. I love that the whole dungeon takes place in a gigantic haunted mansion that reminds me of playing Luigi’s Mansion. It sums up the theme of Drustvar perfectly. Atal’Dazar is sunny and gold, and I love it for the same reasons I enjoy Battle for Dazar’alor. I’m looking forward to what the designers create in Shadowlands.

visions of n’zoth

Visions, introduced in patch 8.3, gave players re-playable scenarios that scaled depending on the amount of players participating in it. Running a Vision can be done solo, but is usually much more fun in small groups. I had some issues with Visions that caused me to stop running them after a while, but I love the direction Blizzard is going with content like this.

I really like the idea of being able to run content that is dungeon-like, yet have the choice of going solo or in a group of up to four other layers. What I don’t like, however, are things that are timed. The major mechanic in Visions was basically time, and how long players could withstand the corruption levels before they had to evacuate. I was also pleased when I discovered one of the major mechanics in Shadowlands is Torghast, which is re-playable content that can be done solo or in a group but without the time element.

Systems

BfA’s systems mostly branched from the theme of collecting Azerite. At the beginning of the expansion, players were given a quest that rewarded us with the Heart of Azeroth. The Heart would increase in power every time we gathered Azerite from quests, rare bosses, dungeons/raids, or island expeditions. We needed to level up the Heart in order to unlock Azerite traits on our Azerite armor, special armor for our helm, shoulder, and chest slots. Azerite traits increased the power of the gear, and boosted players’ stats and gave additional passive abilities. As the expansion progressed, more systems that worked with Azerite was introduced.

-Azerite Traits

Azerite traits were in the game from the beginning, and aren’t complicated or difficult to understand. Every time you get your Heart to a certain level, that will unlock a trait on a given piece of armor. The item level of the armor and how you acquire it determines how many traits the armor will have. Armor that drops in a raid will require a higher Heart of Azeroth to unlock the traits, but the traits will also be more desirable. Each “tier” of traits has three different choices so that there is a degree of customization – even though most players pick the trait that benefits their class and specialization the most. Traits were simple to use, but found that I always picked similar traits. It wasn’t particularly exciting, but it was a good system for enhancing gear.

-Azerite Essences

Essences came later, and could be added to the Heart like sockets rings and armor. Essences were found through raiding, quests, and PvP. You could set both a Major and Minor essence. Major ones often had a spell that could be added to a rotation, whereas Minor essences had passive effects. My personal favorite is the Concentrated Azerite Beam, which fires a beam of Azerite energy in a cone and does tons of damage. Plus it looks cool and it’s fun to use. I got used to having essences and I’ll miss them in Shadowlands.

-Mission Table

Missions played a smaller part in BfA than in Legion, and had less features. This time around, Blizzard made the mission table almost unnecessary besides running missions for a chance at Azerite or other small rewards. I actually enjoyed missions during Legion, where we leveled up our followers and gave them better gear and items that gave them various abilities. Missions have always had a mini-game feel to them, and lots of people don’t like that. I like having that idle content and having missions running in the background while I’m questing or doing other things in game. Missions definitely shouldn’t be a main focus, but I like them for what they’re supposed to be. I’ve heard good things about their replacement in Shadowlands, and can’t wait to learn them.

-Corruption

Corrupted armor was introduced in the last major patch to BfA, and added a risk vs. reward element to the gear system. Corruption worked independently from the Azerite system. Any gear you got from quests or the Nya’lotha raid in patch 8.3 had a chance to be corrupted with Void energy, and granted players increased power. At the time time, building up corruption had consequences. Reaching certain levels of corruption had adverse effects for your character. What starts as a small annoyance builds into multiple enemies spawning and killing you. I was pretty good about balancing my amount of corruption. but many people would take all the corrupted armor they could in order to get all the benefits.

Conclusion

Battle for Azeroth was a great expansion, for many reasons. One of the most subjective being that I joined a raiding guild, and had tons of awesome experiences I’ve never had before. I enjoyed the dungeons, questing, and the story of Jaina overcoming her tragic past. The zone design on both Kul Tiras and Zandalar is amazing, and it was always fun to revisit them whether it be for herbing or leveling new alts. The continuation of the story of Azeroth the dormant Titan World Soul and the threat of the Old Gods was nice, although the Old Gods part did seem sort of rushed. There are things that I didn’t like so much, but that’s normal with every expansion. I look back at the last two years of WoW and remember the great times I had playing the game, which is the true test of a good expansion to me.

Looking to the (very near) future, I hope Shadowlands is just as entertaining as BfA if not more so. I can’t wait to pick up raiding again and choose my first covenant – Aurashot will be going to Ardenweald, but I haven’t locked in choices on my alts. Even though I’m eager to start a new journey, I’ll try to slow myself down today and appreciate all of the awesomeness already in the game.

Clearing Ny’alotha and the Conclusion to Battle for Azeroth’s Raids

What an expansion it’s been. I joined my guild at the end of the Uldir, the first Battle for Azeroth raid, and I’ve been having a blast ever since. Raiding (not in LFR) has added more flavor to a game I already enjoy playing, and it’s strange to think I’ve played this long without joining a raiding guild. Nonetheless, fighting – and dying – our way through the great raids in BfA has been frustrating and an absolute pleasure. Progressing through a raid and refining our strategy until it almost becomes like a dance is satisfying and fascinating to watch in these videos. I’m psyched for Shadowlands and for Castle Nathria to open in November, the first raid in the upcoming expansion – with a gothic Dracula theme!

Back to the current tier though, Ny’alotha was a great raid. From Maut, the boss whose demands for Mana were reminiscent of the cookie monster to The Hivemind, who doesn’t want you to forget that your veins will blister, there were lots of good fights. It’s easier for me to pick out my least favorite fights, which would probably be Drest’agath or Il’gynoth. The fight against N’Zoth was suitably intense and many hours were spent perfecting our strategy until we finally got that sweet Ahead of the Curve raid achievement, which is for players who managed to beat the last boss of a raid in Heroic difficulty before the next raid is available to play in game.

While I eagerly look forward to a new expansion with new encounters to master, I welcome a break for the time being. I’ll enjoy looking back on all the memories I compiled in these videos, but I look forward to what’s to come even more.

The Story of Aurashot – Part One

World of Warcraft has been a lot of things for me over the years, whether it be a place to escape to or a way to bond with family and friends. It’s also been an outlet for me to express my passion, and when I was about 14 I combined my love of the game with my love of writing through creating a comprehensive backstory for my main character, Aurashot. For a while I didn’t write anything down, only keeping it stored in my head and making mental notes when I thought of a new story development or neat detail to add about her life. I think having a story and motivation behind a video game character has contributed a lot to the reason why I’ve played WoW for 14-ish years. This post is a bit of an experiment as I’ve always been too shy to share these stories with anyone, but if these turn out to be fun I’ll share the stories of some of my other characters in WoW.

chapter 1 – life as she knew it

Aurys “Aura” Nightbloom had a happy childhood living with her mother and father in a comfortable estate in Zin-Azshari. As the youngest generation born into a Highborne Magus family, she knew only a bright world of happiness, magic and opportunity. She was even old enough for her father to begin teaching her simple spells, and every day she looked forward to sitting with him in their garden and learning something new. Little did she know that in the background Night Elf society would unravel and fall into disarray as Azshara, Queen of the Night Elves, plotted to bring the Burning Legion to Azeroth as part of her plan to gain more power. The Nightblooms were different than most Highborne in that they did not blindly follow Azshara and were aware that something was changing when the Queen locked herself inside the palace and no longer held an audience with her people. Something was changing, and their plan was to ensure their daughter’s safety at all costs even though they didn’t know what they would have to protect her from yet.

Alben and Indris, Aura’s parents

The terror started when demons poured from a portal opened in Azshara’s palace, and a great battle that would later be known as the War of the Ancients began. When it was clear that the demons were on the verge of overtaking the city, Aura’s parents arranged passage for their daughter to board a transport fleeing to a faraway village. One night, her mother and father kissed her on her forehead for what would be the last time. Aura saw her mother weeping while she faded into the cloak of night, and couldn’t understand why. Indris and Alben Nightbloom were good people, heroes even, and knew that they had to stand against the ruin the Highborne had brought to Azeroth and face responsibility. To protect the world for the future of their daughter. If they were successful, just maybe, they would find her again and be content to live a quiet life. They never got that chance when the Well of Eternity collapsed in on itself, finally cracking under the magical pressure after so many years of the Highborne using it for greater and greater feats of the Arcane. Everything that Aura had known or loved was swept away beneath a newly created ocean along with the Burning Legion. The world that her and everyone around her had known was gone; changed forever.

What Zin-Azshari looks like today

Aura had caught the attention of a group of nomadic Hunters, and they took her with them when they escaped on the backs of Hippogryphs to seek higher ground at Mount Hyjal. Life in Hyjal is a memory that Aura doesn’t like to reflect on even today, as she was plagued with nightmares of demons and being crushed beneath impossibly heavy waves. Aura’s once idyllic life became a distant dream that was so far out of reach she wasn’t even sure if it even happened. Her surrogate family was her only reminder that hope still existed, and she channeled her sorrow and anger into the hunting lessons that they taught her. They knew that Aura was Highborne and had an innate connection to create magic, but they urged her not to develop her skill and to hide it from the other Night Elves. Most Night Elves blamed the Highborne for the War of the Ancients and were not quick to forgive, even though Aura was still young and had no hand in what happened. So she took up the bow to distract herself from the curiosity and drive to learn magic. Archery became therapeutic, and every time she loosed an arrow it was like removing troubled thoughts from her mind. She grew up this way, living a life of solitude in the forests of Hyjal, and as she got older she would spend more and more time by herself focusing on her Archery skills.

Aura training in the forests of Hyjal

By the time Aura had grown to adulthood, she had demonstrated mastery over the bow and could best even the most accomplished Hunters in her family. She poured her whole being into learning archery and mastering the hunt, and she found that the world was easier to understand from the perspective of a quiet forest. When she was there, it was easier to silence the doubt and fear that seized her mind. The Night Elves were blessed with immortality through the world tree Nordrassil, which was planted in order to stop the efforts by Illidan Stormrage to create a second Well of Eternity. For ten-thousand years, Aura passed the time by further mastering hunting and archery until the Humans of Lordaeron caught her attention.

The Humans were particularly interesting to Aura because they were so young. Night Elves were jaded and held centuries-old grudges and were set in their ways. Even then, if anyone knew she was Highborne she would be exiled. Humans were more curious and adventurous, and above all had a spirit that was unusual to the elder races. After living in one place for so long, she was ready to experience all that the Eastern Kingdoms had to offer…

The World of Treecraft

World Trees, trees grown massive through the help of magic, are important to the Night Elves for a variety of reasons. Aside from just being a beautiful thing to behold, they help connect Azeroth to the Emerald Dream and the first World Tree granted the Night Elves immortality at one time. Elves and Druids alike rest under their massive branches and, as we’ve seen with Teldrassil, one was once the seat of an entire race’s civilization. Battle for Azeroth started with the burning of a World Tree that was supposed to symbolize the dying of hope but, as Saurfang said, you cannot kill hope.

Nordrassil

Nordrassil as it stands today

Nordrassil translates to “Crown of the Heavens” and was the first World Tree. Nordrassil was planted after the War of the Ancients, the huge war that began after the Burning Legion was drawn to the Well of Eternity and invaded Azeroth through the help of Queen Azshara. In the ensuing battle the Well of Eternity imploded, but before that Illidan Stormrage managed to fill a few vials from the Well. After the War of the Ancients was over Illidan went to Mount Hyjal, a sacred Druidic land, and poured a vial filled with waters from the Well into a large lake, intending to create a second Well of Eternity.

When the other Night Elves found out they were furious, and decided to plant a tree in the middle of the lake that would eventually soak up the lake. That tree, infused with Arcane energies from the Well of Eternity, grew so large that its branches seemed to touch the heavens. The great Dragon Aspect Nozdormu, Lord of Time, blessed the tree with immortality. And so, the Night Elves were immortal for around ten thousand years until the Burning Legion made its second invasion during the Third War. Archimonde the Defiler, one of Sargeras’ most trusted lieutenants, sought to once again claim the Well of Eternity’s power. In order to defeat Archimonde, Nordrassil’s power was unleashed and, in doing so, the Night Elves’ immortality was lost. After the Battle of Mount Hyjal, the Night Elves struggled to pick up the pieces and return to their lives.

Teldrassil

I couldn’t fit the entire tree in one picture

Seeking to restore the Night Elves’ immortality, a Druid named Fandral Staghelm took a seed from Nordrassil and buried it deep in the ocean off the shores of Darkshore. Indeed, the tree grew to a massive size and Night Elves built their capital city of Darnassus atop its branches and resettled there. This new World Tree became a stable home for the Night Elves, but their immortality was not restored. Teldrassil is the starting zone for new Night Elf players and the first area of the game they become accustomed to.

Rut’theran Village, a village among Teldrassil’s roots

Teldrassil was burnt and evacuated at the start of the Battle for Azeroth, during the War of Thorns. Night Elves and Gilnean refugees alike fled the burning tree, but in the end there were massive casualties. Night Elves are now living in Stormwind City and again trying to pick of the pieces of their lives and continue on. Many have joined Tyrande Whisperwind’s Army of the Black Moon, where they have turned to the more vengeful side of their goddess Elune. The Night Elves’ future is uncertain, and there is definitely a lot of story left to tell with what happens next. I personally would like a newly remodeled and updated Teldrassil that serves as a questing zone, where players help replant a new World Tree.

Teldrassil post-War of Thorns

Vordrassil

This one was another failed World Tree, except it couldn’t even be used as a home. Vordrassil was planted in Northrend long ago, where an Old God also slept deep below the earth. The Old God Yogg-Saron corrupted the tree’s roots and ancient Night Elf Druids could sense the corruption taking hold in Vordrassil, and they ultimately destroyed the World Tree. Players that journey to Grizzly Hills in Northrend can still see the remains of Vordrassil strewn across the zone. In fact, the stump of Vordrassil is home to a tribe of Furbolgs and at the very bottom of the tree there appears to be a World Tree sapling taking root.

This tree has been growing since 2010, it should be much bigger!

The first time I went to Grizzly Hills and saw Vordrassil I was awestruck by the scene of a broken World Tree. However, with a sapling growing in the center of the dead Vordrassil there may yet be hope for Teldrassil.

Shala’drassil

Another World Tree located in Mount Hyjal, this one had a much worse fate. Shala’drassil once served as a link to the Emerald Dream and was much beloved by Night Elves, like all World Trees, but it became corrupted after the emergence of the Emerald Nightmare. Now it appears as a gnarled, nightmarish shadow of its former self.

Nordrassil is considered the only “true” World Tree since it blessed the Night Elves with immortality and every other tree since has failed to do so. Yet, the stories and history behind these other trees are intriguing and important in their own way. The Battle for Azeroth began when Sylvanas Windrunner gave orders to have Teldrassil burned. My hope is that since the Fourth War has ended in peace (for now) between the Horde and Alliance, a new sapling will be planted and Teldrassil’s story will come full circle.

This post is my way of remembering what happened and hoping that Blizzard will create a cool story for the Night Elves with all of this extra material. I am especially excited for BlizzCon this year, with a new expansion announcement among other games seemingly also getting big announcements.

Azshara’s Eternal Palace Wings Two and Three

My guild’s progression through Eternal Palace has been a blast, and this video has more fun and interesting fights. From this (long) video, my favorites are Orgozoa and Lady Ashvane. Part of the excitement of Orgozoa’s fight for me is that his model looks really cool, and he’s one of the neatest-looking bosses yet that I’ve pried loot from. I like the second phase, where the boss takes off down the ramp, and players have to quickly yet deliberately run through a mine field of eggs and magical projectiles. We started making it into a competition to see who can run down the ramp the fastest, and I’ve found that usually I’m one of the last. Slow and steady doesn’t always win the race!

Lady Ashvane is a weird one for me, because on Heroic difficulty it’s totally different. So even though I bring mixed feelings from the time we struggled with Ashvane on Heroic, it’s a fun fight on Normal. I like the part when random players get symbols above their head and go break the coral that spawns around the boss room. The other fights in this video were all great, it’s just that some of them were way more intense and I had less time to appreciate them. Namely, the last two fights with Za’qul and Queen Azshara herself.

The fight with Azshara is long and dramatic, and filled with lore tidbits, as could be expected. It was a good fight, I just think the first phase (with Aethanel and Cyranus) was unnecessary and could have been replaced with something cooler. Like, say, Azshara showing off her magical prowess. You might not know it from the fight alone, but Azshara is one of the most gifted sorceresses on Azeroth. I was disappointed that she spent much of the fight attacking the raid with her spear, instead of doing some cool magic stuff like the Jaina Proudmoore fight from Battle of Dazar’alor. Despite this, the fight was still epic and defeating Azshara was an accomplishment.

Overall, I really enjoyed this raid. It looked beautiful and all the boss fights were really well done. I do wish that more of the bosses were call-backs to old Night Elf lore, but who would they have chosen for this raid? Xavius, once the advisor to Azshara, has already been defeated in last expansion’s raid (The Emerald Nightmare). This raid felt different than Battle of Dazar’alor, though, as it seemed to hold less lore significance in a way. In BoD the whole raid was telling the story of the progression of the War Campaign, through the perspective of both Horde and Alliance. The whole raid felt like an epic battle, and ended on pretty epic notes.

To be fair, BoD and Eternal Palace had different stories to tell. BoD told the story of the Alliance (from my perspective) charging into battle together to confront the King of Zuldazar. There was a real sense of togetherness in BoD. In Eternal Palace, it’s the complete opposite. We are infiltrating this dark, nightmarish place deep in the inky ocean to confront a Queen who has long been hidden from us. In a way, we all stand alone as N’zoth is released from his prison despite our best efforts. At that moment our story becomes one of solitude and fear, each of us now living in a world with a freed Old God who could be anywhere. The ending of Eternal Palace is a stark contrast from the bright lights and shining gold of the previous major raid.

The First Wing of Azshara’s Eternal Palace

Battle for Azeroth’s third full raid came out in Patch 8.2, which ended with confronting Queen Azshara herself. These first three bosses in the eight-boss raid were fun and unique. The most unique fight being the second boss, Blackwater Behemoth, being that it’s a fight done completely underwater. I was excited for that fight and how it would work, but it ended up not being as cool as I hoped it would. In reality, moving around in water is clunky and awkward, and it’s hard to make a super-awesome fight from that. The good news is that the Blackwater Behemoth fight is the only one that I didn’t really find fun. My favorite fight from this video is probably Radiance of Azshara, and even though there are a lot of frustrating times (those tornadoes, mostly) the mayhem of it all can be a blast.

The End of the War Campaign… The Beginning of Something Else

Content update 8.2.5 went live on September 24th in North America and brought with it the conclusion to the long-running arc that was set in motion after the burning of Teldrassil. The update came with a couple of fantastic cinematics to tie up the story, but mostly I was left with questions. While 8.2.5 was the end of the war campaign, it’s now clear to the players that there are many other things happening behind the scenes that I’m guessing will become the main story focus in 8.3 and beyond.

The Future of the Horde and Alliance

During the first cinematic, called “The Negotiation”, Anduin meets with Saurfang in secret to ready for the coming battle, but also to inquire about the future of the Horde. Saurfang talks about how the Horde was built on dishonor, thus the problems and conflict among their rank, but the future of the Horde has a chance to change all that. Right now there is an uneasy peace, or, as the soldier NPCs call it ingame – ceasefire- between the Horde and the Alliance. Many wonder if it will last with all the fighting and actions that have been committed by both sides over the course of the expansion (looking at you, Teldrassil and Undercity).

Saurfang’s funeral

My guess is that it won’t last, because this game is built on conflict and the faction system . Although I can hope for a relaxing of those factions, especially seeing as the Forsaken have been left by Sylvanas. Many will remain loyal to her, but some might want to follow the newly-undead Calia Menethil, who was the Princess of Lordaeron. Lordaeron is the place that many of the original Forsaken come from, and still picture themselves as citizens of the city.

I also know that the game can’t keep on injecting points of conflict for the Horde and Alliance just to see them fight, it gets old. It’s getting old for me, and I think that the conclusion to the war campaign was a good end for any major Alliance/Horde conflict. I’d like to see them work together more (because they have in the past), but still have a distinctly Horde and Alliance faction line. It would be cool if members of one faction could join the other, like Blood Elves or Nightborne. I know the Alliance have Void Elves now, but I would love to see Blood Elves and Nightborne switch sides. Basically I want all Elves to be in the Alliance.

Tyrande and Vengeance

The (former?) High Priestess of Elune and leader of the Night Elves was pointedly absent from the final war campaign battle in Durotar. In her place was Shandris Feathermoon leading some Night Elf archers and Sentinels, though it was a small force. After the burning of Teldrassil, it really doesn’t surprise me that not many Night Elves – or even Tyrande herself- showed up to support Saurfang’s rebellion. But a deeper problem is hinted at with Tyrande when Anduin says he fears that she has been consumed by vengeance. Ever since Tyrande underwent the ritual of the Night Warrior and became the avatar of Elune’s wrath, she’s gone rogue. Who knows if she’s in her right mind, but she’s definitely focused on getting justice for Darkshore and all of the Night Elves.

We need a questline, maybe next expansion or the pre-patch to 9.0, revolving around Tyrande and the abilities she’s been granted by Elune. The Night Warrior is still a mystery, and we don’t know the long-term effects of channeling the wrath of a goddess (or whatever she actually is). My dream is for Blizzard to remake Teldrassil, like they did Darkshore, and for players to go back there and assess the damage. Then, in the process, learn more about the nature of Elune. I can only hope that the burning of Teldrassil is going to lead to a big story arc with Elune and the Elves, because otherwise it seems like a waste. And Tyrande isn’t going to like the new peace with the Horde, which will hopefully lead to more story involving her. The fact that Teldrassil wasn’t really dealt with in this expansion leads me to believe its a setup for future story.

Sylvanas and Death

Horde players who remain Sylvanas loyalists through the whole war campaign get to see a special ending in the Ghostlands, where Sylvanas escapes to after the Saurfang cinematic. Sylvanas lets slip that she is gathering souls and that the whole point of the war was a large body count. Obviously she is an undead creature and serves Death, but she talks about it like its a person or creature. It sounds like she’s serving Death, and she has a deal with it to create more souls.

The Shadowlands is a part of WoW not really talked about in detail, but we know that it’s a realm that mirrors our reality like the Emerald Dream. Will we go there and find whoever Sylvanas serves? I hope so, because I’m curious what the Shadowlands would look like and how it would tie into Old God/Void stuff. In the comic with the Windrunner sisters, it is hinted that Void fears Death or at least that they’re opposing forces. Yesterday I saw that an encrypted 8.3 build is being added to the PTR soon. I wonder how many of these things will be set up for 9.0, and if our questions will be answered or just replaced with more questions.

Nazjatar

I’ve held off on writing about 8.2 for a few different reasons. One big one being that I spent all my time playing the game rather than thinking about things I’d like to write about. The other being that I had mixed reactions about each zone both positive and negative. I figure that each new zone will take up it’s own post, so today I will talk about what I think about Nazjatar – ancient home of the Night Elves which has been in ruin under the seas for ten thousand years, and since have been reclaimed by the Naga. I’m going to preface this whole thing by saying I haven’t completed the story in Nazjatar yet, I still have one chapter left.

What is Nazjatar?

Long before the Naga or the Burning Legion came to Azeroth, Night Elves had a vast civilization that spanned much of the planet. It was built around a gigantic magical lake called the Well of Eternity, where the Elves learned Arcane magic and advancements that would aid in a prospering society. Getting only glimpses of what it actually looked like from the Azshara Warbringer video and the artwork from the Chronicles Warcraft lore books, it was breathtaking.

Ruins of Kal’methir – city surrounding Zin-Azshari

Of course, that all changed when Queen Azshara opened a portal so that the demon armies of the Burning Legion could invade Azeroth, presumably with her as queen of the entire planet. But that never happened, as a massive war broke out and the Well of Eternity ulimately imploded and sent most of Night Elf civilization beneath the newly formed seas. Queen Azshara made a deal with the Old God N’zoth and transformed her and most of her people into the Naga. Over ten thousand years Azshara and the Naga have been living under the sea and rebuilding their once Night Elven civilization of Zin-Azshari into Nazjatar, the Naga capital city. Nazjatar is what Queen Azshara rules now, as she is referred to as the “Empress of Nazjatar.”

What Do I Think?

Queen Azshara and the Night Elves are a huge part of Warcraft lore that have been speculated about for years. By the time 8.2 came around, everyone (including me) had their own vision for what Nazjatar was going to be. It’s like with anything when you build up an idea in your head that seems so great to you, and when it turns out differently no matter what it’s going to feel like a disappointment. For me, I was hoping for much more area to explore and quests that revolve around Night Elf/ Highborne culture. I haven’t been completely disappointed because there’s some quests that show what life was like at the time and gives some insight into what was really going on. There’s also a pretty big area just filled with ruins and Highborne spirits and it’s pretty cool.

I love the idea that these ruins have been untouched for thousands, and that maybe even the Naga are ashamed of them but also that they serve as a memorial for what was. For what could have still been. Queen Azshara could have ordered that the Naga destroy the remants of her failure, but that would mean that she had made a mistake. The Burning Legion was just one rung on the ladder in her quest for more power. I am glad that these ruins are intact rather than the whole land being rebuilt into a more Naga-themed architecture style. I also love the little detail where every statue has been ruined except for the Azshara ones, which are all still intact.

The Music

One of the biggest surprises about Nazjatar for me was the music, but only in specific places. Walking into the area with ruins from the city for the first time was magical. The music here is beautiful and somber like the ghosts from a land long forgotten under the sea. It’s the sorrow of all the people who didn’t have a choice and are now stuck as restless spirits in a place that was once their beloved home. It’s a testament to just how much pride the Night Elves had in Zin-Azshari and the shame they feel at everything they loved being destroyed. The music here had quite an effect on me, and I had to stop and listen to a story that was being told through a somber melody. The areas with all the city ruins play this music, and they are my favorite part of the entire zone. It made me realize how long I have been waiting to see this in-game. Even so, there are some things that did not live up to expectations for me.

What I Didn’t Like

I’m definitely trying to take into account what I said earlier about things not being able to live up to personal built up hype. But I just want more quests, like Suramar in Legion. Suramar was an entire questing zone where there was tons of quests to do to advance the story there. The whole story with the Nightborne was very interesting. I would really like to see Nazjatar do the same thing with Highborne, Naga, or even the new friends we’ve made there. I also haven’t finished the story yet, so I could be missing out on a lot. I think that I’m just hoping for more, and that I need to remember that Azshara didn’t expose the entire land of Nazjatar. That can be seen at the edge of the zone where the ruined part of Zin-Azshari is disappearing into the waves.

It would be cool if there were quests under the water, where players went diving through the parts of the opened up sea to uncover more mysteries about the Naga. Maybe even an entire Naga city to infiltrate kind of like Suramar City. However I also realize that many players did not like questing in Vashj’ir, which was WoW’s only underwater zone, and that I absolutely loved it. Vashj’ir is one of my favorite zones in the game, and I was hoping Nazjatar would have some underwater aspects to it.

It’s hard for me to pick out specific things I didn’t like about the zone. Both Mechagon and Nazjatar are grinds in order to get things you want or advance the story in some way. I think that I was just hoping for more, which is kind of ridiculous since Nazjatar is a huge zone. I find myself less excited to go there than Mechagon, which may be in part because Mechagon is a completely new concept. I am already familiar with the story of Queen Azshara and the Night Elves, so in a way I am not discovering much new information. That being said, so far the raid is awesome…

Azshara’s Eternal Palace

I don’t know how the raid ends. I haven’t watched the cinematic after the Queen Azshara fight, but I have pieced some information together thanks to video titles on YouTube and Facebook. So I’m not completely in the dark, but I’d like to experience the cinematic in its entirety for the first time after my guild defeats Azshara. So far we’ve done the first two bosses, but I was only able to make it to the second boss – the Blackwater Behemoth. Being thrown into this boss fight first was interesting, because the Behemoth’s the raid’s only fight that takes place entirely underwater. It takes some time to get used to direction being 3-D, but other than that it was a blast.

The jelly fish of doom

The raid looks very ornate and Elven and I’m having a good time with it so far. I haven’t seen many boss mechanics yet so I’m going to hold off on my thoughts on that, but I’m excited to see what Radiance of Azshara will be like. At the end of raid night last week we tried fighting it once, only to die spectacularly so I’m looking forward to next raid night!

That’s a big fish

The Curse of Flesh

A new short story in the style of mini-comics that has become customary for BfA came out a couple days ago and, like the other installments, this one is fantastic. The comic is all about Mechagon and giving the players a short but sweet introduction to the new content coming in 8.2, and the popular opinion seems to have been very positive. People (myself included) were surprised to have enjoyed a story that features solely Gnomes and Gnomish themes. I’ve been really loving that Blizzard has been spending more time on a race that hasn’t had much of a spotlight on it before, especially with Mekkatorque in the opening cinematic to Battle of Dazar’alor. As much as I can never get sick of a good Elf story, there are more races in the World of Warcraft (I suppose).

Why Mechagon? Why now?

My feelings on Mechagon have changed since Patch 8.2 was first announced. My first thoughts were that it was underwhelming and that the Gnomes were not interesting enough to me. Now, I like Gnomes for their quirky personalities and their Gnomish culture, I just wasn’t 100% Mechagon. To me this chunk of content seemed random and out of place when contrasted with Nazjatar, with its Naga and Old God themes. So why did Blizzard choose to release Mechagon Island, the lost and fabled home of the Junker Gnomes, alongside content that thickens the plot of Old God corruption?

A Little Bit of History

Way back in time when Azeroth was young, the Titans of the Pantheon cultivated the newly discovered planet and helped it grow into a world abundant with life. The Titans were drawn to Azeroth because of the World Soul that dwells within the planet even today, which will eventually mature into a new Titan. The whole concept of Titans being birthed from World Souls within some (not all planets have Titan World Souls within) planets is kind of weird, so imagine it like how Celestials are explained in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. In the movie Ego, a Celestial, is a being of great power who’s true form turns out to be the planet that he takes the guardians to. The humanoid being that he uses to communicate to them throughout the movie is merely an extension or avatar of himself. That is how I like to think of Titans, because every Titan in the Pantheon originated as a slumbering World Soul until it was mature enough to create a form for itself. One day Azeroth will mature and become the first Titan in a new Pantheon, and I think that day is soon.

The Titans helped Azeroth prosper. And to quicken that process the Titans created constructs with skin made out of stone, just like theirs. Some of these creations would be known as Dwarves, who shaped the mountains and the land, and Gnomes, who tinkered with and created Titanic machines deep beneath Azeroth. However, there was a huge problem with Azeroth: Old Gods. The Titans found that several monstrously huge Old Gods had embedded themselves inside Azeroth, seeking to corrupt the planet and spread chaos and disorder. After a time many Titanic constructs populated Azeroth, and the Old Gods saw an opportunity. The Old Gods could not corrupt these Titanic creations that were immortal and made of stone very easily, so they cursed them and turned the Dwarves and the Gnomes (and some other races) into mortal beings with skin made of flesh (1). This tragedy is known as the “Curse of Flesh,” and the Titans could not reverse it.

King Mechagon

In the mini-comic an old, flesh and blood Gnome finds Mechagon Island in the hopes that the Junker Gnomes will teach him their secrets of immortality. King Mechagon talks of returning to the old ways, the way that the Titans meant for all races to be. Mortal bodies made of flesh cannot be sustained forever, and are prone to error. Mechagon’s Junker Gnomes are notably different from the original Gnomes which were created by the Titans because they were created as mechanical beings called Mechagnomes. Junker Gnomes were originally mortal Gnomes that have gradually been augmented with machine parts.

I found the set up for the villainy of King Mechagon to be compelling because there is truth to what he says. He seems to be genuinely concerned with finding a solution to the Curse of Flesh not just for Gnomes, but for all races. He is right to be concerned, seeing as Azeroth’s intelligent races are only mortal because Old Gods wanted to find a way to corrupt us easier. But it’s the way he goes about it, using force and maybe other ill intentions, that make him a villain. I think that by replacing most of himself with robotic parts, King Mechagon has lost some vital mortal characteristics. But maybe the way that we finally defeat the Old Gods on Azeroth lies with studying the Curse of Flesh in more detail. Once I drew that parallel between Gnomes and Old Gods, Mechagon made more sense to me. I love Titan lore, so I’m excited to see what all this means for Azeroth.

References

  1. https://wowwiki.fandom.com/wiki/Curse_of_Flesh

Patch 8.2 Rise of Azshara Releases on June 25th!

So today was a good day. To me, it feels like a holiday when Blizzard announces the release date for a patch I’ve been excited about. 8.2 especially so because I love Queen Azshara. She’s a key part of Azeroth’s history, and a catalyst for a lot of things that have happened throughout time. When I was still new to the game I would read about Warcraft lore for hours, and back then I had a small glimmer of hope that Azshara would be even just mentioned in the game. She was like this mysterious character that seemed so far away, and we only got vague hints that she was even still alive. I want to know what her plan has been, ever since she sank beneath the sea ten thousand years ago. It has to be good, right? I just hope that Blizzard takes the time to give one of their coolest characters a fitting story. I already made a post about Queen Azshara, so I’m not going to talk about why I’m fascinated by her here, but I am glad that we are almost here. I would be even happier if we got a continuation of the Teldrassil story with maybe some insight into who/what Elune is, but I’ll take what I can get.

Azshara is also a big part of Aurashot’s story. In fact, Aura’s life would have been much different if it weren’t for the invasion of the Burning Legion and the subsequent War of the Ancients. I haven’t gotten around yet to organizing her story so that I can make sure it fits nicely into a series of blog posts, also because there’s a lot of revising to be done, but I can’t wait to talk more about that. The bottom line is that this upcoming patch holds special meaning to a story that I have been writing and re-writing both in my head and on paper, and I’m not quite sure yet what will happen next for Aura. I’ll be excited to do some exploring around Nazjatar, and gather what I can about Night Elf lore.

8.2 is going to be a pretty big content update with different things to choose from. The key points are going to be the two new landmasses – Nazjatar, capital of the Naga and Queen Azshara, and Mechagon, island of the mysterious Junker Gnomes. There’s a new raid, Azshara’s Eternal Palace, and a mega-dungeon called simply Mechagon. The island of Mechagon is going to function a lot like the Timeless Isle from Mists of Pandaria, in that there’s lot of re-playable content like rare bosses that drop cool items or treasures to discover. There’s also a new type of engineering on Mechagon, and when you explore the island and collect resources eventually you’ll be able to construct cool things like mounts or pets. Nazjatar will be a smaller area in comparison, and it’s primary focus is to help deliver the story of the new patch to the player. After all, Queen Azshara lured us into a trap by allowing us to find Nazjatar, so now we need to figure out her plan.

One of the things that surprised me the most about 8.2 is how my opinion about all the Mechagon stuff changed. At first I wasn’t excited for it at all, in fact I thought it was going to take away from how cool all the other content seemed to be. But the more I saw pictures of Mechagon City and I read a little bit of the story with the Junker Gnomes and some of the things we’ll be able to craft, I changed my mind. Gnomes are cool. I never thought I’d openly admit that, but there it is. Plus we need to find out what happened to Mekkatorque after the Battle of Dazar’alor!

Until then, Aurashot will be preparing for what’s sure to be a relaxing beach vacation…