THIS POST MAY POSSIBLY CONTAIN SPOILERS. OR NOT. I GUESS THAT DEPENDS. STILL, BE WARNED!
So, in the grand tradition of the internet close to the point of a last content patch for a WoW expansion, speculation runs rampant as to what we’ll be seeing in 8.0.
Today, someone went in to blow that up, by posting an image that posits to be the announcement website for the next WoW expansion.
Rather than posting the massive wall of text I had about lore retcons, I’ll do that tomorrow and this today, because I’m kind of optimistic about this.
The style looks like Blizzard’s handiwork, and the image doesn’t seem altogether implausible. What follows are the comments that supposedly belong on the site in question. I want to break these down, piece by piece, and talk about the possibilities (and the BS, where that applies).
Right off the bat, a purported release date of January 25th, 2018. A Thursday launch, while not unprecedented (WoD), would be a bit peculiar. That’s also really freaking soon. If this truly is real, and announced, it will probably announce at Gamescom with beta to follow after 7.3 launches to live servers.
Veil of Shadows – the supposed title. I like it, it encompasses the themes discussed. Plausible.
“New adventures, scaled quest system, creatures, and kingdoms, in reworked zones across Azeroth!” – this implies a few things. Firstly, that Azeroth is getting a second Cataclysm. Whoa. I don’t necessarily buy that, but at the same time, if you want to communicate the sense of scale that a full Old God takeover entails, it makes sense. Plus, to skip ahead a bit, there are only 3 new zones in this “announcement” – Dragon Isles, Kul’Tiras, and Nazjatar. If you aren’t doing a Cataclysm-level revamp of all things in Azeroth, this makes sense. Tentacles over here, void and shadows over here, new caves and buildings dotted around the landscape, okay, sure. I can buy that.
Codex of Creation – sounds like a replacement for the Artifact system, doesn’t seem to be tied to a weapon. Cool, and believable.
New Weapon Types, Combat Animations, and Class/Weapon Combinations – The leak notes appear messy and go on to state Flails, Pistols, and Spellbound Weapons are the new types. Flails are in game now, but without special animations that really fit. Pistols are kind of in the game for Outlaw Rogues, so that fits. I don’t know what the fuck a spellbound weapon would be, but it sounds cool! Plausible. Combat animations again? – you might ask. If you have new weapon types, I can see it making sense. Also, maybe you would get new auto-attack animations for different classes and specs? I can believe this. Lastly, new class/weapon combos is a bit silly, but very believable. In the lead-up to Artifact Weapons, most specs lost the ability to equip weapons they once could. Restoring that ability would be simple, and it would be super cynical for Blizzard to call this out as a feature – which is why I buy it!
Warships – Garrisons laid a groundwork of tech that is used today in the Order Halls, and it would likely just be a new progression of that same tech. I can believe this.
New Race/Class Combinations…buckle up!
Pandaren Death Knight – what the hell is this? However, there was a Pandaren DK in Warlords as a Garrison follower. You’d need new lore here, and probably a totally new start experience for this to work, but if Blizzard wants it to work, it could. Don’t totally buy this, but it’s not impossible.
Human Shaman – huh. This one is a sore thumb to me. I like the idea in theory, but lore-wise, you’d have to push hard to make it work. Azeroth is crying out in duress due to Old God attacks, and maybe some already magically-attuned humans figure it out? Maybe they partner with the Wildhammer dwarves to figure it out? Not implausible, but gonna need a lore framework to happen.
Troll/Night Elf Paladins – tying these two together, because Night Elf paladins exist in lore. There is a whole quest chain in the Paladin order hall campaign about exactly this. A Priest, already attuned to the light, decides to walk that path completely, becoming a Paladin. Sure. Trolls are a little bit weird, but if you apply that same logic, it works. The lore does have troll paladins as well, so it’s possible.
Draenei/Tauren Warlocks – hrmm. Troubling, this one is. The lore of Orc Warlocks points to them all being ex-shamans, whose connection to nature led them to Fel as well. Plus, Draenei and Eredar share heritage, meaning it’s possible. Tauren, on the other hand, would be more left-field, but the Feltotem in Legion did it. A player Tauren, strong of mind and spirit, would be able to resist corruption and control that power rather than being controlled by it. Plausible. (Warlocks are going to need some lore explaining how they even work still at all given that the Legion no longer exists, but hey!)
Pandaren Druid – not sure how I feel here. It makes sense, but also, lore-wise, is odd. I guess since they can be Shaman already, it would make sense that some of them attune with nature in a different way, thus leading to Druids.
The New World – okay, so to elaborate more here, the implications we see in this is that everywhere on Azeroth except for Pandaria is going to be void-tainted in some way. This is a totally crazy concept…that I believe could be true. Why? Well, a couple of things – leaving Pandaria off the list makes sense in that it was already Old God corrupted in many places due to Y’Shaarj. Those scars of corruption still exist today. In IRL terms, Blizzard just made Pandaria recently and it is up to snuff with modern WoW tech, arguably in some ways more beautiful than some of the newer zones. Revamping Azeroth and Northrend would allow Blizzard to smooth these zones out further, and would not require as drastic a re-work as Cataclysm, especially if the existing questing is left alone. I can see a path forward in which this logically makes sense as an investment for Blizzard – coupled with the level scaling tech from Legion. Keep the stuff new players see evergreen and up to snuff, so more newbies join up.
Kul’Tiras – the lore implications of this “leak” are that the Old Gods have taken root here, and Jaina has decided she needs all of Azeroth’s help. This is believable in a few contexts – one, it would be a great new arc for Jaina. Two, it would fully explain her odd absence throughout Legion (and her presence on the key art for Blizzcon). Three, it fits the naval theme that seems to be the secondary foundation for this expansion, even in the minimal data-mined info we’ve seen thus far.
The Dragon Isles – this one is a bit WTF to me. The leak states that it is the home of the remaining powers of the Dragon Aspects, now controlled by the Infinite Dragonflight, who’ve taken it by using the power of the Eye of Aman’Thul. From a lore perspective, great, this makes sense. However, apparently Nozdormu went mad trippin’ through a timerift to escape, and so now all these weird anomalous creatures are popping up. This is a bit oddball, but…I could see Blizzard writing recklessly around the concept of time travel once again, so hey. Maybe!
Nazjatar – Azshara’s home, the Naga empire’s base, all of this fits. Even if the rest of this is totally fake, this is gonna happen – I’d bet money on it.
Small Plot Note – the longer quotes on the “leak” indicate that our haste in departure for Argus led to the pillars of creation being left alone in the now-clear Tomb of Sargeras, leading to the big villains taking them. It’s a bit bare-bones, but at the same time, I buy it – we spent most of Legion level-up grabbing these from their previous, lax-security homes.
Queen Azshara – top billing for bad guy, and I am on-board this train. Varimathras has things to say about her in Antorus, and Ilgy’noth has quotes that could relate as well. She was also semi-present during Legion, and the game has been ramping up references to her. One of the most believable entries in this list.
Magni Bronzebeard, Hand of the Earthbreaker – oh my. So, Ilgy’noth tells us “the king of diamonds is a pawn.” He hears whispers from the planet. Who else did that? Deathwing? Who is that anyways? All kidding aside, this fits to me – he could very well be tempted to “save” Azeroth by giving in to the Old Gods, and he has access to the nooks and crannies of the Titan creations within the planet unlike any other. The text here indicates that he isn’t necessarily corrupted himself, but rather, takes as gospel the whispers he hears – making him a perfect pawn. If done right, I buy it, and also, it would be a better character arc than the standard Blizzard Plot Corruption ™. Good people can do bad things if they believe they are doing the right thing for the right cause. Plausible.
Hakkar the Soulflayer – uh, what? We’ve seen Hakkar in some form twice now, an avatar during vanilla Zul’Gurub, and again in Cataclysm ZG as a spirit whom we helped by setting him free. It would bring the Zandalar back into play, and while I don’t necessarily like it, troll raid is a trope for a reason. Plausible.
The Infinite Dragonflight – I’m interested here. My original post for today griped that these guys haven’t done shit since Cataclysm, where, even then, they were kind of a backdrop for the Nozdormu = Murozond shocker. Them coming back, outside of Caverns of Time, and while Nozdormu is out trying to “save” us? Yeah, I could see it – and I like that idea.
Odyn and Ra – these two being good/becoming good is a cool concept. Trying to rally the Keepers to the aid of Azeroth while holding onto the Aegis of Aggramar builds up that they’ve got power, and both are familiar with the corruption in some ways – Odyn saw what Loken went through, and Ra of course was subjected to torture at the hands of Lei Shen. They also, apparently, would play a role in the Codex of Creation stuff, which fits pretty well and means they’d be relevant throughout this supposed “expansion.” Plausible.
A big list of character names that appear oddly pasted – a few stand out. Vol’jin, you say? Why? How? There was a theory floating around that I saw which was that Vol’jin and the loa voices he heard were actually Old Gods, and he’s maybe not dead. He was also very thoroughly burned on a funeral pyre. That one smells funny to me, and not just because loldeadbody. Moira playing a role would make sense if Magni is doing bad things, so…this part is tough. Also, Sylvanas is misspelled, but there’s still about two weeks before Blizzard takes the stage at Gamescom, so I could imagine that some of this will be proofread more, assuming it is real.
Faction Campaigns – you mean, like, a quest-line? I laugh at this being called a feature, but if it is a specific, focused-upon faction story, cool. Rolling my eyes a bit about this one.
New Dungeons and Raids – duh.
Level cap raised to 120 – duh.
New World Bosses – duh.
New Battlegrounds – that would be news, but also kind of duh.
Revamped Character Customization Features, New Animations & Voices – hrmm. I think this would be cool, and perhaps possible. New weapon types would mean new animations, so I don’t necessarily think this is as big a revamp as some commentators are taking it to be. New voices is a nice-to-have, and would mean more customization, so that is cool. It’s not really specified to be new playable character voices, but it seems to fit with the bullet point it belongs to.
Boost to 110 – kind of duh as well, we’ve had this feature in-game for 3 years now, and it has always leveled up with the expansion releases, so yeah.
In Conclusion…I’d Live In This Shadow
So you’ll notice something here – I think most of this is plausible, or at least not immediately, disqualifyingly, obviously fake. Why is that? Let me break it down:
-A lot of the story hits mentioned here fit with where the game is clearly pointing. The Pillars of Creation being around again makes sense as they then are our transitional element, just like Garrosh in MoP -> WoD and AU Gul’dan in WoD -> Legion.
-Given that Blizzard has upped the size of the WoW art team a lot, and that only 3 new zones are mentioned here, I could actually see a re-revamp of Azeroth (and new race features/animations) working well. Why? Well, Northrend has a couple of rough patches that could be well-served with an update. The rest of Azeroth is probably okay post-Cataclysm, but a few art upgrades to bring it up to current quality, coupled with a few void-elements added on would be easier (in theory, I am not an artist) than just creating new zones out of whole cloth. I do raise an eyebrow at a naval themed expansion not revisiting Kezan or exploring the Undermine, but that could end up being announced.
-The gameplay features here all fit well enough. We have Garrison 3.0, Artifact System 2.0, and Level Scaling 2.0 – all of the “big” new features here really sound and look like updated systems that already exist. None of this sounds like new technology has to be added, which I think fits. A lot of the work that went into Legion was to build Artifact systems, revamp bits of the Garrison code, and to implement and improve upon level scaling. Using these already-strong Legion systems as the foundation for a new expansion makes a lot of sense.
-The bits that seem to be crazy, can be retconned into being or actually kind of fit when you think about it. Pandaren DK – one already exists, and in lore, Lich King 3.0 is out there raising dead to bolster the ranks of the Ebon Blade. Human Shamans? Weird, but not entirely impossible. Vol’jin – probably the craziest, but it would also not be the first time a dead character was brought back to further a plot thread.
The craziest thing to me, is this – January 25th, 2018. Here’s the thing – I actually think they could do it, and if announced at Gamescom in two weeks and beta testing beginning in September – could work. With Antorus coming out later, probably in November, it fits. We’d get two months to roll around Antorus and then bam – right into a new expansion. That is the crazy part to me, but it also has me excited. We know Blizzard splits the WoW team into two pieces for development work – a maintenance team working on content patches and upkeep development, and a future team that works on new expansion content while the current one is ongoing. With 7.3 near dropping, the maintenance team, coupled with other folks from inside Blizzard, could collapse into one giant team, working to hammer out the remaining pieces of Veil of Shadows (if that even is your real name!).
Sure, it’s in vogue to shit on these kind of leaks, writing it off as fake, or too wish-listy, but here’s my take – that is precisely why I buy it. No new characters, just current or old ones that have supporting lore that fits them in to this concept (except, again, Vol’jin, but hey). Old world being revamped and level-scaling enabled has been a wishlist item for all of Legion since launch, so why is that now a surprise and “lolfake?” Almost none of this list is completely out of the realm of possibility, and really, when you think about it, why wouldn’t Blizzard release a new expansion quickly and keep the content train rolling?
If you like the direction Blizzard has taken throughout Legion, a focus on constant release of new content, than why is this out of the realm of possibility? Even the image seems to mirror the Blizzard-style announcement site.
Sure, this would be a crazy new development that doesn’t at all fit the Blizzard of old.
And that is precisely why I think this carries more weight than you might think.