I have several posts planned in the coming days, and we will begin with looking back to the chronology of the War Campaign. I will summarize the war events only with cold logic, the post about Sylvanas and her goals is coming next.
Round 1: Blitzkrieg
Even though the world is yet healing from Legion invasion, Sylvanas decides to strike at the Alliance, considering the azerite arms race. The Horde is promised Stormwind lands after victory and is afraid of their strike, so they are fully supporting Sylvanas’ actions.
Blitzkrieg against Ashenvale and Darkshore, resulting in burning of Teldrassil, is an overwhelming success of the Horde.
In retaliation, the Alliance comes to Tirisfal and claims Undercity. Sylvanas could win the war here, beheading the Alliance, and only presence of Jaina saved its leaders.
A city for a city, but the Alliance is winning this round: they captured overlord Saurfang, escaped their leaders’ demise, and the Horde is starting to question Sylvanas’ dishonorable actions – genocide in Teldrassil and killing her own soldiers to raise them as undead.
Round 2: Allies and Their Lands
Both factions don’t have fleets to launch sufficient invasion forces into the enemy continent and so an opportuinty to continue the war. The Horde takes initiative once again, releasing princess Talanji and making bonds with Zandalari. The Alliance has to risk Jaina and reforge the union with Kul Tiras once again, the only naval force in the world capable of matching the troll empire’s fleet.
Both factions endure immense difficulties of gaining their trust. Both continents are being ripped apart from inside by Old Gods’ influence (generic and natural) and are on the verge of civil wars.
This round is a draw: with a huge effort, the kingdoms are saved from destruction, and fleets at their full might are joining the factions. The Arathi warfront is not won by any faction: lorewise, there are two equal strongholds picking at each other from time to time.
Round 3: Test of Might
The Horde is able to establish a solid base in Stormsong Valley, although doesn’t succeed farther into the continent. Both factions establish small bases of operation throughout the enemy lands.
Both factions are now mostly in guerilla tactics: the Alliance is hunting and assassinating important Horde generals (San’layn, Gallywix, and others), while Sylvanas is totally devoted to seeking Kul Tiran useful targets to gather intelligence, to learn how to use them against the Alliance, and turns them into undead (Derek Proudmoore, Amalia Stone, Thomas Zelling, marshal Valentine).
The guerilla and intelligence turns into baking their big moves: the Alliance has managed to plant bombs under Zandalari fleet, and the Horde steals a Scepter of Tides, capable of destroying Kul Tiran fleet.
Another warfront opens here. Although we do not know the lore aftermath, but it’s safe to assume that the fight still continues. It just sucks resources from both factions: many night elves and many worgen are not contributing to the Alliance’s main effort, but an equally matched Horde force is tied there, notably undead and goblins. Neither faction wins here. Elves do not have power to destroy the Horde industry and main bases, but they effectively act from the shadows and prevent the Horde from mining resources from the land and delivering them to the Horde.
It’s a draw again. Both factions succeed in guerilla, and they each have an ace in their sleeves.
Round 4: Breaking Point
While the Horde succeeds in destroying the azerite technology and warehouses assembled in Norwington Estate, it’s an overwhelming success of the Alliance. They easily repel the Horde’s landing parties in Tiragarde, steal back the Scepter of Tides and in a blade-precise blow behead the Zandalari empire and deal with their fleet. Jaina’s heroic actions even let them retreat and save their own ships!
Moreover, a rebellion is boiling up. Saurfang is released, Horde leaders are questioning her warchief, and Baine releases Derek (which wouldn’t make a difference anyways, even if he killed all Proudmoore family).
The Horde loses the war here, and Sylvanas stops pretending she has a plan in favor of her faction. She gains Xal’atath and breaks free lady Ashvane, making a deal with Azshara, pursuing her own goals.
Result: Alliance almost won the war on all fronts.
Round 5: Nazjatar Gambit
Sylvanas and Nathanos lead the remains of the fleets into Azshara’s trap. Common foe and common misadventures stop them from fighting each other, and they make a truce. Saurfang’s sacrifice helps to unite the Horde, and banish the evil dictator. Factions make peace with each other, and the war is over.
In retrospective, there are no blank spaces, and all the warfare and decisions made by faction leaders are very much logical.
Magic aside, the whole campaign may have been in normal history books of the real world. The result was provided not by deus ex, but through strategic and tactical decisions, through guerilla, intelligence, personal and faction heroism.
The question is: who won the war?
War is considered “won” when claimed goals are achieved.
The Alliance won, because they claimed to defend their lands and people from the Horde aggression, and they did so.
The Alliance won, because they claimed to fight for peace, and they both crushed the Horde’s war machine and plans and made a truce.
The Horde lost, because they didn’t succeed to crush the Alliance – their first goal.
The Horde won, because their leaders’ goals swapped to dethroning the dictator and stop the useless war – and more importantly, the endless Red/Blue cycle of hatred.
And finally… Sylvanas. As we know now, and as we’ve suspected long ago, she didn’t care for the Horde. Her one and only goal in the expansion (and not only expansion) was providing a death toll by thousands and hundreds of thousands – from both sides. The death toll was insanely high – the Orgrimmar stand-off was the last of the factions’ forces.
In that she succeeded to an extent, and yet she didn’t turn Azeroth in a complete graveyard. Her goal was not achieved before she was exposed and exiled. She lost.
And finally: Blizzard has won the war over Red and Blue player division.
Battle for Azeroth was an overwhelming success in putting down those of us who were warmongers. They’ve shown us how brutal and unnecessary the faction war is when it comes to real actions, how much grief and dismay it could bring. They could always nod now into this expansion’s direction: do you really want to repeat the experience? And the normal answer could be the only one: no, we don’t.
Refered to as “pockets”, some areas could still hold potential for a gameplay restrictions and PvP, but they are not gonna be a thing, a purpose for mutual eradication.
By the end of final cinematic, we can only look at other faction’s leaders with respect, affection, and finally feel good about fighting the common enemies side by side. There is a bridge between factions now, and it will be hard to break it.
That’s the spot where players win.