Alright, it’ been two weeks, and there’s a lot more to say about “Stormrage”.
For those of you who are sensitive to spoilers, you might want to back out now. For the rest of you… I’ve got a big problem with this book.
So, what’s my problem?
When we play World of Warcraft we take it as a given, an unconscious assumption, that the game will provide us with the core narrative.
What the heck does that mean? It means we expect the game to provide us with all of the “need to know” lore.
The “Stormrage” novel breaks that. There is now a kink in the spine of Warcraft’s lore.
We’re lore-dorks. Face it, to whatever degree, we are. Consider what a huge concept it is for us that WoW will now skip an entire expansion’s worth of material between WotLK and Cataclysm.
The real problem? Imagine now someone who isn’t a lore-dork trying to wrap their head around that. When an aspiring lore-dork asks me to explain something to them, it’s often as basic as “What’s Sylvanus Windrunner all about?” I can only imagine what it’ll be like trying to explain to them that, “No no… the Emerald Dream expansion as we all imagined it has already happened. No, it didn’t happen in game… Blizzard skipped over it. They only released it as a book. Malfurion is back and married to Tyrnade, Eranikus is dead, the morrowgrain mystery was answered. Fandral is in a straitjacket. Oh, and Teldrassil is no longer corrupted.”
One could counter that players, who don’t care about the lore, aren’t going to mind if there’s a hole in it.
Wonderful. So what’s the plan here? To ensure that players who don’t care about lore keep right on not caring? Aren’t these the players we should be *encouraging* instead of making immersion and lore that much more difficult?
Before “Stormrage”, the biggest hurdle was convincing people to pay attention. Read the quests and boss dialogue, you’ll learn a lot. As long as you give the game the attention it deserves, you’ll know WoW’s core storyline. When Cata is released, this will no longer be the case; you will now also need to read a 400 page book. Unfortunately, most people aren’t going to do that. They’ll throw their arms up and decide it’s a lot less “work” to simply ignore WoW’s storyline.
We’re going to lose a lot of would be lore-dorks because of “Stormrage”. It doesn’t matter how well we can summarize the book for them; all they’ll hear is, “To follow WoW’s core story, you now need to read a big thick book… yech.”
So, the book itself… how is it?
It has a lot of great moments and lost opportunities.
Remember the night elf civil war speculation? It happens… but it only lasts for a couple paragraphs, and it doesn’t involve much more than a conversation. An entire city of Night-Elves who went against Malfurion’s wishes by seeking to regain their immortality? Yeah… we’ll just sweep that little inconvenient truth right under the rug.
Malfurion’s return is also underplayed. Here it is… Azeroth’s darkest hour… the closest it has ever come to being conquered. And then, right as hope runs out, the mythological messiah returns. In the story, no one witnesses this. No one is there falling into despair, only to see Malfurion step out of his barrow den.
A great moment that will very likely be milked later on is when Malfurion briefly becomes aware of every individual living being on Azeroth. Why will this be milked? Because it means Malfurion now knows of every hidden hero and danger on the planet. And yes, that means Malfurion probably now knows where Jarod Shadowsong is.
Before I’m done, I need to give a shout out… and this one might interest you.
During the WotLK beta there was a guy on the beta forums, who declared himself as the “Official Lore-Dork of the WotLK Beta”. In one of this posts, he came up with this crazy idea that Xavius was the Nightmare. My reaction was to argue with him that this was only possible if Xavius was backed up by an old-god.
Well he nailed it. Granted, I did too, but stating, “The old gods did it!” is hardly earth-shattering when it comes to WarCraft lore speculation. I can’t remember the guy’s name (hopefully I’ll find him during the Cata beta), but credit should be given where it’s due. I also know for fact he went to BlizzCon in ’08 and told Knaak his ideas.
So… there you go. Blizzard’s creative development department certainly has their work cut out for them, proving they can now work around the kink in WarCraft’s spine.
Will they pull it off?
We’ll just have to wait and see.