Shadowlands: Animated Short Ardenweald Review

Now this is how you do introduction cinematics!

After the disaster of Maldraxxus video, the plank dropped so low that literally everything could have looked better in comparison. And yet Ardenweald became the greatest cinematic of Afterlives so far.

Bastion coped with introducing major conflict, and gave an interesting lore morsel of Arthas’ fate. Despite you want to side with the “villains”, and not with the threat-blind “good guys”, it was fair by sheer logic and gave us some food for thought.

Maldraxxus was a total disaster. All the pathos and presumably awesome character of Draka went downhill because it explained literally nothing. Five minutes of babbling without revealing either inner conflict or outer threats they’re supposed to defend Shadowlands from. All sparks and no fire.

Ardenweald though is the piece of art where everything clicked in its place.

The Choice of Azeroth Character. Ursoc has never been everyone’s favorite, and yet he was a well-known lore figure – enough to feel for.

The Conflict. It is building up throughout the video, and we totally understand how the zone works, what’s the trouble, the hard choices, the motivation. Everything is crystal clear with what’s happening and what we’re gonna do, highly motivating us to rush for the aid! That’s what the introduction cinematic is supposed to do, isn’t it?

The New Characters. You knew nothing of them – then you suddenly know everything about them. Both Ara’lon and Winter Queen are perfectly shaped, and you can’t help feeling sympathy. Soft Boi is a new meme!

The Emotion. Needless to say, social media are filled with comments mentioning tears, and I’m among them. That final weak growl is something to die for. Last time I felt heartbroken that strong in WoW was Ysera’s ascension cutscene.

To sum it up, you don’t need Maldraxxus-type excuses “You’ll understand everything when you actually play the game”. Ardenweald ruins this preposterous idea in its root. When doing an introduction video, sketch the conflict, show the major characters and make us feel for the “good guys”. The expected result is: motivation.

Bastion outlined the conflict, showed the major characters, yet totally lacked the emotional component. Maldraxxus showed Draka and failed everywhere else… is it a land of skeletons and felguards fighting each other for reasons unknown?

Ardenweald has done everything right.

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