And so comes the grand finale of 9.1. patch – Chains of Domination.
First of all, the gameplay was good :) No kidding, no sarcasm – I really liked this chapter. As little things were left to tell, Blizzard did not push it in their usual manner – go grab some relic in Korthia to unlock the medallion and kill 10 mawsworn on the way, or go visit Covenants for the sigils. Seriously, just a couple of cinematics and just a few talks on the spot was like: Wow! Blizzard can do that?! We really need this kind of lore chapters once in a while!
Second, I liked how masterfully they’re weaving in the raid events – again. The chapter includes the raid cinematic, so players who haven’t downed Sylvanas yet (and avoided spoilers in some weird, spoiler-free galaxy) are updated with the events, as Jaina, Bolvar and Thrall come straight from the Sylvanas encounter to proceed with the chapter event.
There is not much to say about chapter lore. What had to be said and done, was said and done. Primus informed us about Zovaal’s past and his intentions. It was already obvious from Runecarver lore chapter and raid cinematic, but it had to be said – carved in stone, if you like. Primus grabbed the sigils and retreated to his forge to cobble them together and craft a replacement to the Arbiter/Zovaal’s sigil so we could follow him – that much was a logical resolution for the current campaign, and we know what to expect next.
Both Sylvanas/Anduin cinematics (the medallion and the raid) are actually a flip off to those that think that Sylvanas had a “sudden” change of mind. Blizzard were building this from the very beginning of Shadowlands. With every next cinematic Sylvanas doubts, questions – not her and Zovaal’s ultimate goal, but the means to achieve it. Anduin gradually drops seeds of this doubt, and they give root in her soul.
I’ve written before that the question of free will is her ultimate trigger, but it did not work of a sudden in raid. Before Shadowlands she was scheming on Azeroth, busy with the current events. She did not have time or actual Jailer’s presence to think about it or to trigger her.
Now, in Shadowlands, as she served as his lieutenant, constantly dwelling by his side and observing his casual week, actually talking to him all the time, she already had her questions – and Anduin’s psychoanalysis sessions pile a lot on top of this.
Turning Anduin into a proxy Arthas was another thing – not that she could ever forget the fallen prince, but having a constant reminder by her side was quite a thing, don’t you think? So when she sees Zovaal bend the will of Jaina, Thrall and Bolvar, it’s a straw on camel’s back, but NOT the switch from cold to hot.
And well… If you watch the whole stack of Sylvanas videos from the whole expansion (I believe there must be YouTube enthusiasts that collected them all in one video), pay attention to what she says, how she says it, her facial expressions and emotions – you’ll see this emotional development.
And well… no. Sylvanas’ character development in terms of attitude and emotions is not the story problem. It’s straightforward and logical.
What is the problem? The lack of focus on the key characters of the expansion.
All those people, heroes and villains alike, are somewhere there, and we’re not involved with them at all. We don’t follow, we don’t hang out, we’re not harassed by the villains. We see them only in cinematics, and it feels like watching a movie, happening somewhere else to someone else.
At the same time, we’re busy with very local problems of some very local, strange and weird folks, which – due to their weird, death realm nature – we don’t feel attached to either.
We can’t relate to their anima problems – we can understand, yes, but we feed ourselves with game and crops, we build our homes and appliances from wood, metal and stone, we have weather, we have seas, lakes, rivers and fish in it, so… I can bring an anima cone through miles and miles of blue terrain for weird reasons, but do I feel like it?
I’ve never felt that detached emotionally in a Warcraft expansion, and for that very reason.
Returning to our theme, the logic of the lore events and campaigns is fine with me. I totally understand what’s going on, and hero/villain motives are not deus ex, or something illogical to deal with. It’s just… I don’t really care. They tried to play the Marvel card, forgetting that WoW is about small villages and epic cities, lakes and fields, forests and valleys, and folks living there threatened to have their lives get ruined. That’s what we should deal with. Moreover, that’s what we want to deal with!
Shadowlands lore is not shaky as in BfA, it’s just boring due to the choice of setting and lack of emotional strings. Frankly, I just want it to be over.
P.S. God forbid they have Emerald Dream or something like that in plans. Hope they learned that we can’t dwell in ethereal realms for so long.
P.P.S. The gameplay of SL is good!