Varian Wrynn – Overpowered?




King Varian Wrynn

Earlier this year, a fundamental shift occurred within Varian Wrynn, King of Stormwind.  Within the novel “Wolfheart”, King Wrynn was bestowed with the physical power of a demigod, making him to warriors what Thrall is to shaman, or Malfurion Stormrage to druids.  So what does this mean?  Is he simply now overpowered?  A Knaak branded Mary-Sue?  Or was this shift part of an overarching theme currently making its way through WarCraft’s lore?

When Varian Wrynn returned to the forefront of WarCraft lore, he was  the Alliance hero many had been waiting for.  He’s a fighter and a leader who believes the Alliance truly stands for something.  And yes–While I personally believe Turalyon best embodies what it means to be “Alliance”, I also believe that Varian best embodies what it means to be “human” on post-cata Azeroth.


In the novel “Wolfheart”, Varian is embraced by the power of Goldrinn to such an extent that Varian is super-human.  He is able to sprint across half the width of Kalimdor without breaking a sweat, literally.  He’s even able to outrun the Worgen… on foot.  In battle, he is in an entirely different league than everyone else on the field.  The novel was written by Knaak, who’s notorious for creating Mary-Sues.  But is that what happened here?  My seed of doubt springs from the fact that the same thing was recently done to Thrall by Christie Golden, and she’s not known for overpowering her characters.

When Cataclysm was released, Thrall became “The World Shaman”, the most powerful of all shaman.  I bemoaned this shift, since it meant that Thrall was now too powerful to ever believably lead the Horde again.  It simply wouldn’t be balanced.  What’s that?  The Alliance have valiant leaders too?  Pfft, that’s nice.  The Horde is led by a guy who literally stood in for a Dragon Aspect.

With Garrosh becoming a raid boss, I suggested that Nazgrel might become Warchief.  However, if Varian is now as powerful as Thrall…  Could Varian’s newfound powers be Blizzard’s way of returning Thrall to the throne without the faction leaders becoming unbalanced?  Even more so, could this be part of some overarching design Blizzard put into motion back in 2010?

In preparation for our eventual fight with Sargeras, is Blizzard creating a situation where the Horde and Alliance are both led by characters who are as powerful as demigods?  If that’s the case, then the good news is that we’ll likely see Thrall retake his throne at the end of Mists of Pandaria.  At this point… I think this will happen.  So, what’s the bad news?  Should this happen, I have to wonder if WarCraft is drifting too far from its roots.  Bear with me on this…

WarCraft is “Orcs & Humans”.  The Horde has been led by great orcs, and the Alliance by great men.  Lothar was a hero among heroes, and he didn’t need the powers of a demigod to pull that off, nor did Doomhammer.  To me, this whole “super-powered faction leaders” thing opens up a can of worms typically found in comic books, “Is it the man, or just his powers?”  Would Clark Kent still be a badass if he wasn’t Superman?  Questions like this are why Batman comics out-sell Superman.  Bruce Wayne has no powers… he’s just a badass.  Up until recently, Thrall and Varian were the same way.  They didn’t need superpowers; they were just badasses and we loved them for it.  And that’s my point– I’d rather have a Horde and Alliance led by badasses than demigods.

There are other options.  It’s possible that Blizzard will leave things unbalance lore-wise, with super-powered Varian Wrynn leading the alliance, and a normal badass orc like Nazgrel leading the Horde.  (I have a feeling though that there are those within Blizzard who want to see Thrall back on the throne.)  Blizzard could also back-peddle, or simply refuse to acknowledge the powers Varian gained in his novel.  To be fair, some of us may even prefer the new demigod approach.  Since our characters are still mere mortals, perhaps Blizzard believes that’s enough.  After all, it’ll be us who defeat Sargeras, not Thrall or Varian.


At the end of the day though, I guess I’m old-school since I prefer Thrall in black armor instead of a robe.  It’s interesting to note though, that WoW’s lore is old enough now to have formed a subset of lore-junkies who could consider themselves “purists”.  Whether or not that’s a good thing, I don’t know.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 chipthamac August - 2012 at 8:01 am

They are bad-asses, that’s WHY they were granted superpowers.

2 Cocles August - 2012 at 1:17 pm

But does that necessarily improve them? Would Batman be better if he could fly, catch bullets, and shoot heat-beams from his eyes?

3 Menasor August - 2012 at 1:18 pm

I reckons it’s just them trying out the idea. I mean it wouldn’t take much for either of them to be depowered in some sort of in game cut scene.

Also, random nitpicking, Batman is one of the lowest selling comics produced by DC. I worked in a comic store for years, Superman outsells him easy. But your point stands, which is why Batman is so much more popular

4 Cocles August - 2012 at 1:27 pm

Right, they could easily backpedal. A commenter on Reddit had an interesting thought: Perhaps Blizzard is simply buffing Varian and Thrall to ensure they remain more powerful than the players.

Regarding Batman… I’m trying to find the actual figures. Last time I checked it was Superman that wasn’t selling very well, but that was admittedly several years ago. I probably should have used how much their first-appearance issues have sold for.

edit: typo fixed, thanks Charlie.

5 Thornquist August - 2012 at 4:36 pm

The problem lies in the game.

WoW tries to make everyone a badass hero. If you are a leader of a faction filled with heroes, then you must be something more? A demigod?

I dont know anymore. Can anyone say that WoW’s lore hasnt declined since WC3? Very few I fear. Warcraft needs another strategy game to kick some actual story into the lore again.

Thats me, though.

6 Madruga August - 2012 at 2:07 pm

Regarding your feeling that there are people in Blizzard wanting Thrall back…

I think you are right. There was an interview some time ago, after Mists was revealed, where a developer stated that Thrall was coming back as Warchief. I don´t remember who it was on the interview, but as he was commenting on the final raid in Mists, he stated “which Alliance Player would not like to raid the Horde capital city, and which Horde player would not like to see Thrall back in the mantle of Warchief?”

He said that as if it was already decided. Later on, blue posts denied that it was really Thrall who was becoming the next Warchief. So your feelings may be right, there may be a dispute going on inside of Blizzard on who could be the next Warchief.

Myself, I didn´t like Cataclysm Thrall too much. I prefer the old armored one a lot more. But I liked the Thrall shown in the twillight of Aspects… Maybe with good writing I can accept the World Shaman as my Warchief.

7 Mult August - 2012 at 7:47 am

I’ve had a problem with WoW lore, despite the fact that I love it so much, for a while now.

It seems like Blizzard writers don’t quite know what they’re doing a lot of the time, and crack under pressure. So many times an entire zone or quest line will be dedicated to one plot, and then the resolution for that plot comes in the form of a lame quest or dungeon. It’s as if they couldn’t think of a better way to tie the plot in to the rest of the universe, so they just abruptly end it.

For example, the bronze/infinite dragonflight storyline had a huge presence in Burning Crusade, one meaningless quest in Wrath, and then suddenly, without any buildup, wraps up in Cata. End Time easily could’ve been erased from the lore and everything would still work perfectly. It’s like Blizzard writers just wanted to get it over with instead of let it really develop.

It also looks to me like Blizzard has been dropping the ball on a lot of small things, as well. Most of the rehashed vanilla zones feel like spoofs or fan fictions because their plotlines are so strange. One of my favorites is Eastern Plaguelands, but even that has its flaws. One piece of dialogue comes to mind about a dwarf and a high elf, who apparently both grew up in the Plaguelands and killed zombies as kids, despite how unlikely and frankly, impossible that is.

I feel like they’re only focusing on character development for NPCs, which is so weird to do in a game with millions of players. WoW’s plot has become too character-driven and now it feels like you’re insignificant. I don’t see a point for any leader to become some super badass awesome godly warrior from heaven and hell at the same time. I want them to be normal people, that’s part of what drew me to Warcraft. Not everyone was Rambo or James Bond. But despite how unlikely it is, all of the faction leaders are superpowerful. It just irritates me, so sorry if I sounded angry in that post.

8 lowestofthekeys August - 2012 at 12:01 pm

This is one of the issues Blizzard ends up with when they let other writers eff with the lore. Blizzard’s lore writers themselves are not perfect, but they understand the fine balance between tuning and over-tuning a character’s development (I believe this is a phenomenon known as Geek Integrity).

Some of these random authors they freelance out to don’t really seem to understand the balance, which shakes the consistency between the lore created by the game develoeprs and the lore created by authors.

9 el Greco September - 2012 at 8:52 pm

Cocles, it’s always such a pleasure reading your articles. I’ve been reading your blog for years now and I’ve always been so captivated by how perceptive you are of Warcraft lore and how insightful your discussions are. I did forget the last time I ever got to write a comment on your site, so this is why I felt compelled to just offer my respect and gratitude at the start of this comment. With regards to what I want to say in relation to your post, I got a lot to say but I’ll be straight to the point. (I’m not that good with words, so I might as well be direct.)

I predict that Warcraft lore will only get perpetually worse from here on out. The superficiality of the story and flamboyance of the characters (the Supermanization of Batman, as you clearly perceived it) will only continue to grow. Here’s why:

The main problem is that both Blizzard and Warcraft have expanded severely. Blizzard has grown too large to still have that direct, intimate connection with Warcraft that it used to have in the 90s and the early 2000s. The company has simply gotten too big to adequately nurture the franchise and instill that focused, hand-crafted essence into it. Today Blizzard would probably deny this and say that they’re still giving their product the same attention and effort as they did when they were small. But the reality is that the pie no longer tastes like the one grandma used to make. It now tastes like one produced at a pie factory… Ask any Warcraft fan pre-WoW, and they’ll tell you the same thing.

By way of WoW, Warcraft itself has also grown too big, too fast, along with Blizzard. It’s hard enough to instill soul into a handful of characters, but when you have entire worlds, and races, and underwater zones, and planets, and time-travel, and gods, and worgen, and pandas, and so on, it just becomes overwhelming. You can’t reasonably mold everything together when you’re moving at such a rate. The end result just won’t please people who enjoy good stories. WoW has its moments of brilliance, of course. But we have to dive real deep and wait very long to find these occasional pearls.

Chris Metzen simply cannot handle the rate at which Warcraft lore is expanding. No one can handle something like that and still shape it into art. And to be honest, I think Chris Metzen is no longer feeling the same way about Warcraft as he did a decade ago. I remember reading a more recent interview of his in which he states that ever since he became a father he started to feel more lighthearted towards Warcraft. (Or something along those lines, I cannot remember the exact wording…) Also, it seems that Metzen is infatuated with superheroes and comic books nowadays more than ever. That would explain why our characters are becoming so one-dimensional — good is good, bad is bad, and there’s no room for shades of gray. And it’s pretty sad to see a grown man be this way. Chris Metzen will always have my respect for what he’s helped shape over the past two decades. But it’s sad to see his vision become so juvenile over the past couple of years. Normally you’d expect a man to start juvenile and end epic. For him it’s been the other way around.

I’ve been immersed in Warcraft since the days of Warcraft 1. I’d say that the golden age of Warcraft lore ended after Warcraft 3: the Frozen Throne. We’ve been on a slow decline ever since. In all these past years I have never seen a more apparent stagnation in the lore of this franchise than we are seeing today. I don’t want to be such a pessimist but, realistically, I don’t see Warcraft lore getting any better, only worse.

To be honest, I’m not even looking forward to the fight with Sargeras anymore… 5 years ago I would have been ecstatic imagining the event, but today I can only see Blizzard turning it into another rinse and repeat raid for the common player and a disappointment for the lore fan. Old fans of Warcraft would probably find the whole experience similar to a typical, summer action blockbuster trailer aimed at a young, shallow audience that has never seen “Gladiator,” let alone “Ben Hur.”

10 Cocles September - 2012 at 5:36 pm

@lowestofthekeys I agree with you. Blizzard needs to enact more quality control for their lore. The “Leader Short Story” for Varian Wrynn takes place right after “Wolfheart” but portrays Wrynn as a warrior incapable of defeating a modestly buffed drakonid… and that’s with Anduin (a priest) backing him up. This was obviously done to give the writer a chance to make Anduin look powerful, but it contradicted what we learned in Wolfheart. Blizzard is usually better about this stuff.

@el Greco Thank you for the compliment. It’s very much appreciated. As for your comment, there’s a post I’ve been wanting write for awhile now, but I’ve held off, because I’d like to dig up some more concrete examples to back my case. I’ll touch on it here, but it’s not really ready for prime time. When I played through Cataclysm, I got the sense that I was playing a version of WoW created by the fans instead of the original writers.

This makes sense. The people working on WoW now are guys like you and me… huge fans who have been hired by Blizzard to continue the game. The original creators are still at Blizzard, but they seem to be largely focussed on Titan. WoW in it’s current guise is (logistically speaking) licensed fan-fiction. Keep in mind though, that this is largely inevitable when you have a game that goes on for this long within a company that has expanded far beyond what it was when the game was originally created. It’s not ideal, but it’s realistic, so we really can’t fault Blizzard too much for this happening.

Examples of this “fan-fiction” feel the game currently has? Well… we’ve touched on the heroes becoming Mary-Sues, especially Thrall. Another big, red light was Hyjal, which plays out as if the writers didn’t know which parts of the story the players would care about. They didn’t push the right “moments”. Malfurion returning to the game world was huge, but all they could do was dump him in a quest-hub with an exclamation mark over his head. He deserved an “ENTRANCE”. Then they did the same with Jarod Shadowsong. Did the writers even know who these characters were, and what they meant to the lore-junkies? It’s obnoxious. Blizzard can do better.

As for Metzen… I think he could handle keeping track of everything if he wanted to, but he’s moved on to newer things. We can’t fault him for this. It’s natural. But it does leave us lore-junkies out in the cold. There’s an article I strongly recommend everyone read. It’s by David Wong, who pretty much always kicks ass. Here’s the link: http://www.cracked.com/article_15631_the-10-best-sci-fi-films-never-made.html

Pay close attention to what Wong has to say about “angst” on the second page within the Star Wars section. The Metzen who created WoW’s lore was a young, angst-filled artist. Now he’s a wealthy, middle-aged dad. His angst his gone, which is AWESOME for him, but his work is going to lose its edge. Consider the origin of Thrall from WarCraft III. That’s some dark, yet inspiring story-telling… it’s fantastic. I don’t know if Metzen’s capable of such an arch today. (I hope he is!)

MoP is obviously an attempt by the current writers to bring WarCraft back closer to its roots. Hopefully they’ll be able to pull it off.

As for Metzen, perhaps we’ll see the return of the king when final Sargeras chapter begins. Metzen might want to be more involved with how his WarCraft lore ends. And who knows? Titan might bring back that loving feeling Metzen’s work used to provide.

–C

P.S. Props for referencing Ben Hur and Gladiator. ;)

11 Gigi September - 2012 at 1:56 pm

I am fine with Varian being ‘overpowered’ because I think it’s meant more to buff the Alliance. If you have read the new book he is finally even tempered and thinking critically about his role and how to go about getting Garrosh. I can actually feel like he is leading and not just barely keeping things together.

12 el Greco September - 2012 at 6:43 pm

Thank you for the reply, Cocles. It’s interesting that you regard the current state of Warcraft as something like fan-fiction. It sure feels this way to me as well. Like I said before, I know sense Warcraft as a familiar product that is no longer made by the same, familiar people… I’m a bit surprised though about what you said here because I had no idea that Warcraft’s team had changed so drastically. I knew that some of the developers moved on to other projects, but I always thought they were game design people, like Rob Pardo and Jeff Kaplan, and not story people. For some reason I thought that old man Metzen was essentially THE guy behind it all. I knew that he had to bounce ideas with a few people every now and then when it came to lore and creative development, but thought he was essentially the only guy behind what does and doesn’t happen in Warcraft… (This is why I thought Warcraft has become so diluted — that the franchise and Blizzard itself had grown to the point that it was hard for Metzen to keep up with everything. Plus Metzen’s own change of character over the years, as I had mentioned and as you’re mentioning now with the whole angst-filled youth and relaxed adulthood…)

Well, I did some research and found out that there are several writers and other people from the “Creative Development” department that he works with. For Cataclysm, the writers were Cameron Dayton, Matt Burns, Tommy Newcomer, and James Waugh. And man, you are totally right… None of them have been writing for Warcraft further back than 2007. Tommy Newcomer is the oldest writer of the group, having worked on Burning Crusade in 2007. But now I see… That explains a lot.

I enjoyed reading the article by David Wong, thank you for sharing it. You draw a pretty good analogy between the angst of Lucas and Metzen of the past and their present attitudes. I can definitely understand why these two guys are like this in their current times. However, I don’t think that angst is necessarily something that must be abandoned at any point during an artist’s life. There have been many artists, writers, directors, that have retained their familiar edge throughout their entire careers. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if Chris Metzen makes his comeback. I sure hope so.

13 Cocles September - 2012 at 7:14 pm

@el Greco The writers are the ones figuring out what the Bosses shout when you fight them. If you want to really dig, take a good look at the quest designers. Our original guy was Alex “Furor” Afrasiabi, but he has moved on to Titan. (It was originally Alex and Metzen who hosted the lore panels at BlizzCon.) Alex’s replacement is Dave “Fargo” Kosak. Kosak did a webcomic and ran IGN. He wasn’t involved in the creation of WoW; he was a just a big fan like you or me. Now, he’s in charge of our questing experience in WoW. That, I believe, is where the fan-fiction feel comes from. You’ve got a fan now in charge of it all. The senior guys are all on Titan.

14 el Greco September - 2012 at 7:46 pm

I see.. Yeah remember seeing both these guys in past Blizzcon videos. I didn’t know much about Dave Kosak until now, but I remember Alex Afrasiabi well from the lore panel with Metzen. Well, that should be interesting. If Titan will be casual and won’t drastically change the dynamics of the mmo genre, at least let’s hope it has some good characters and stories.

15 lowestofthekeys September - 2012 at 9:17 am

@Cocles:

Wow, really? That sounds like terrible writing on the part of the author. I’m surprised that stuff gets past the Blizzard developers, unless they’ve just given up on it.

I imagine there’s also a monetary benefit to these half-baked attempts at lore.

16 Mult January - 2013 at 2:18 pm

Cocles, now that Metzen has confirmed that Turalyon and Alleria are going to be in the next expansion and that the blood elves (who almost rejoined the Alliance in 5.1 lore) and draenei are going to be given a larger role in lore, will you do an article on the possibility of another Burning Legion/Burning Crusade revamp expansion and the roles Turalyon and Alleria may have (neutral or Alliance, etc.)? :)

17 Cocles January - 2013 at 4:45 pm

@Mult Yes, although I found myself inundated over the past few months as I began grad school and burned though MoP’s content (so I’d still know what I’m talking about ;) ), I do plan on writing a new post discussing those points (right now it’s second in line). More specifically, I plan on discussing the upcoming expansions, what they might include, and the fact that it now seems that Blizzard is… stalling, trying to now farm the game for as many expansions as possible before finally letting us take a stab at Sargeras. So yeah… expect a weird expansion or two (or three) before we finally get back on our original track. We also still need to see Kul Tiras.

18 Darth WTF January - 2013 at 12:08 pm

This website – RIP?

19 Cocles January - 2013 at 2:15 pm

No. Just partial hiatus at worst. The new expansion was released right as I was entering grad-school. Free time is at a premium, and at the moment it’s all being spent plowing through all of the material in MoP, so I still know what I’m talking about. ;)

Behind the scenes, I’m keeping the site’s maintenance up to date, and I *always* read every comment.

20 travel abroad February - 2013 at 5:44 pm

Hi there friends, fastidious article and good arguments commented here, I am really enjoying by these.

21 Schwarzerwind June - 2013 at 3:42 pm

Hrm… alllmost a year with no update.

Wondering what thoughts are for the next expansion. Everyone seems to be betting on The Burning Legion given the audio/visual cues Wrathion gives.

I still think the expansion they were well underway into before they decided on Pandas (as reported by major news outlets via Blizzard’s own admission) was Emerald Dream, given all the stuff that magically appeared overnight related to Druids that had absolutely nothing to do with Kung Fu Panda.

Now that phasing has reached new limits with what can be done via Cross-Realm Zones and the upcoming Virtual Servers, and also the hit-miss applications of it in Cataclysm, I think Emerald Dream is more than possible, especially given the novel only had things wrapped up “for now”.

22 Schwarzerwind June - 2013 at 3:46 pm

Also, I really think it would be a slap in the face to the Alliance if Turalyon and Alleria suddenly start being friendly to the Horde as quest givers.

23 crorella June - 2013 at 1:09 pm

Cocles, more post please!!

24 Karolin June - 2013 at 5:39 pm

My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find most
of your post’s to be just what I’m looking for. can you offer guest writers to write
content available for you? I wouldn’t mind publishing a post or elaborating on most of the subjects you write related to here. Again, awesome website!

25 Cocles June - 2013 at 2:34 am

I will have time in August to catch up on everything and write a new post or two. Suffice it to say, grad school is keeping me busy. That said, I still have plenty to write about.

@Karolin, I’m always open to well done guest posts. I recently invited a writer who is lore-knowledgable, but it looks like he is taking a complete break from blogging at the moment.

@Scharzerwind I agree with you about Alleria, but Turalyon, no. He is similar to Thrall. If he could create an enduring peace with the Horde, he’d do it in a sec. That’s one of the reasons why we have “Garrosh & Varian” on the throne instead of “Thrall & Turalyon”… were it the latter, there would be no war.

26 Milan July - 2013 at 1:43 pm

What sort of War do you expect will continue after the events of siege? I mean Varian seems to be lightening up, and I am sure the new warchief wont be as apposed to peace as garrosh was.

27 Cocles July - 2013 at 2:00 pm

We still have Azshara and the Burning Legion/Sargeras. That said, expect some “filler” before we get to them. In other words, now that WoW needs to “last” a bit longer, expect an expansion or two where we all kind of scratch our heads and go, “Hm, okay… wasn’t expecting an entire expansion about THAT.”

28 Milan July - 2013 at 11:35 am

Well one thing they have proven is that they can come up with new lore, and honestly it isnt tough for them they just come up with concepts from the real world. Aszshara could raise islands, The Zandalari are not dealt with just yet. The other side of Azeroth could happen. Maybe we get in contact with another alien world that is being invaded by the legion. All in all there is a lot.

My question is what of the Horde and Alliance war? Does it continue, does it end? The playerbase won’t be happy if it ends, but I just cant see any good plot devices to continue the war.

29 Cocles July - 2013 at 2:58 pm

The Horde and Alliance war? That’s deserving of its own post. ;)

30 Milan July - 2013 at 1:01 pm

Most certainly it is. I mean Zaryhm did respond to one of my tweets saying the war will go on I think Kosak said that the alliance may still be disgruntled. I can’t wait to see how so.

31 Arxtix October - 2013 at 12:04 pm

So I still check this site everyday, but I’ve almost lost all hope since the last sign of activity was almost 4 months ago. It saddens me, since I loved reading this blog, and a LOT of stuff has happened since the last post, a lot to be talked about and I would love to hear you talk about it. But if you’re done with WoW I can understand if you don’t want to post any more, just let me know so I don’t check everyday for nothing.

32 Cocles October - 2013 at 1:01 pm

Grad school is kept me busy since fall of last year, but I still read every comment, pay the bills, and make sure everything is running. I am also still playing MMO’s with the small amount of free time I have. So the site is anything, but abandoned, and I’m still online. Once the work schedule subsides, I will be back. I’m flattered that you check everyday!

33 chipthamac October - 2013 at 1:21 pm

What, you have a life outside of WoW? Such a casual…
=)

34 visualcubb February - 2014 at 2:12 pm

Still waiting for you man :)

Come one, give yourself a couple of minutes per day to at least say hello :)

35 Cocles February - 2014 at 2:16 pm

I appreciate it. I’ve overloaded my class schedule for the first several semesters, so I’ll have some breathing space once I get closer to the end. That breathing space should start kicking in this May. ;)

36 Cristian March - 2014 at 9:10 am

Great!

I’ve been visiting the site from time to time so see if there is anything else than “Is Varian Wrynn Overpowered” haha.

I love your articles, your deep knowledge of the Warcraft lore and the though process you made to infer the new directions the game will take… looking forward to see you in may.

37 online advertising September - 2014 at 3:26 am

How do you really search engine optimization need to
include updates of well-liked music, Flash Website,
regardless of the points. One of the web site projects a professional Los Angeles or not.
Your search engine optimization website is merely 1 of 7: Tracking Traffic from the increased
of price quotes for various web solutions. You must always
insist on a short time.

38 Marlene October - 2014 at 2:56 pm

Thanks ffor sharing your thoughts on Lore. Regards

Leave a Comment