The Story So Far…
Ever since Vanilla, if you wanted to experience the whole mass of Warcraft lore, you had to play at least two characters: Alliance and Horde. You’ve missed all lore for the Alliance/Horde-specific zones, and often a half of what was contested.
In further expansions, the split of two factions remained to less extent, but it was there. There were general questlines leading to the big bad, but zones here and there still offered unique lore and unique stories, as players bonded with new factions, or factions they brought with them to the new continent.
Legion was the first expansion when lore suddenly scattered like a torn pearl necklace. Even if Order Hall campaigns took 10-15% at most of the overall experience, you were obliged to travel 12 paths to see everything – and without an option to switch your main to another story once you’ve seen it all in your home.
BfA took it back to Alliance/Horde paradigm, and two characters would again suffice. At the same time, it was an unprecedented lore division: up until Nazjatar you traveled a completely different path and dealt with your own lore characters – it’s been almost like Vanilla, where we united only to beat the Old God in the end!
And now we have Shadowlands. I would say that this is probably the golden middle of the approaches – no division at all – or division up to eleven pendulum.
Shadowlands and Their Four Covenants
You are supposed to have at least four characters, yes – but you could also swap factions, for example, if you’re bored during the expansion lull, you could hop all Covenants in a couple of weeks (I wonder if you would see the other campaign after swap by the way? I think yes, as Renown is reset upon swap). There is a major storyline before players scatter into four holes, so they know what’s going on everywhere. So you’re not stripped of seeing all stories even if you play just one character! Previously, it’s been pre-defined by the character you’ve played: if you’re a night elf druid, sorry! There will be no Mankrik’s wife, Garrosh’ story in Nagrand, Taunka, Dragonmaw in Twilight Highlands, Frostfire Rodge, Zandalar or anything apart from Val’sharah grove for you.
And most importantly, the way you will follow in Shadowlands would come from your own choice – that is, player’s action! You’re able to pick whether it’s blue grass, sky temples, a pile of shit or ruined castles you want to align with – no matter if you’re a mechagnome or an orc. Lorewise, this also provides a non-competitive mix of all sorts of characters, so important after the Fourth War. Gameplay encourages that: if you’re Fae, you’re so welcome to untangle through Tirna Scithe shortcuts, if you’re aligned with Venthyr, gargoyles in Halls of Atonement are your best friends. Baseline: if you play for the other side, you’re welcome. Everyone contributes to the main course of events.
This lore pro-active choice also plays a very important role for altoholics like myself. Once you reach level cap, you follow a completely different path in further lore. Even with my 22 toons, the amount of times I do every campaign is no more than 5-6, and that is A LOT less than you did in BfA. First toon sees the story first, all the awe and wonder. Toons 2-4 (5) swoosh through the now-well-known path, skipping everything that could be skipped, and final toon reads the quests again and sees all the cutscenes to memorize the experience in stone. With my experience of repetitive replays of the same questline on so many alts, I can’t even manage to get bored, as: hello, you’re already the final toon in this covenant to be there? That’s refreshing.
And obviously, it’s even more fun to those who don’t have many alts. If you have up to four, you don’t even get any repetition!
What Would I Like to See in the Next Expansions?
I think the paradigm of different factions and splitting lore works great. Whenever we go to the next planet or continent, I would very much like to see the same approach: as we get a glimpse of the major lore to decide what we want. Then we scatter to 3-4 factions to see their stories before we go for the big bad!
The keypoints that I would like to see here:
- Pro-activity. Not your faction/class/race alignment defines your new faction, but only your choice.
- An option to swap a faction in a blink of an eye – and see stories of all if you have wish/time to do that.
- An option to collect at least basic cosmetics for every faction. Think raid set recolors: you would get the basic version of sets/weapons/mounts if Exalted everywhere, but the prettiest, shiniest stuff comes from alignment – even if it’s the same model with extra shine/jewels.
- Finally, drop the unique borrowed powers and make it cosmetic. You could name a hunter’s arrow ability a Touch of Venthyr or Kyresthia’s Spear, animate it differently, but make it act in the same manner, and provide the same damage/healing/mitigation output. That will really make factions important by lore and your character’s preferences, not what Icy Veins told you to pick.
I vote with my both hands and feet for further lore splits!