Super spoilers abound in this early peek at patch content, so be warned!
Not kidding, lots of spoilers!
I think we’ve cleared the early text preview limit. Let’s begin!
Patch 8.2 was, at least for me, the part where the stories of Horde and Alliance needed to start merging together to tell the fairly obvious central story of the Old Gods and Azshara that is bubbling beneath the surface of all of this faction conflict.
With the first datamining from patch 8.2 coming out today, we can see the groundwork laid for…exactly that!
The biggest thing to me is that the 8.2 war campaign appears to be build around a single scenario with alterations made for the factions. There are, in fact, 3 versions of this very scenario. In the aftermath of the patch 8.1.5 war campaign quests, we’re left with Jaina softened towards the Horde, as Baine returned her brother, reanimated though he was. The realization that seems to be setting in is that the Horde as a unified body is not the problem the Alliance seeks to counter, but rather, the Sylvanas loyalists. The end result of this is that the Alliance, the Horde, and even the Sylvanas loyalist Horde all do the same basic scenario – jailbreaking Baine. However, this is not done alone, and the scenario features Jaina helping (regardless of the faction in question) and the return of Thrall! What we don’t know just yet is how this unfolds – the scenario text uncovered thus far suggests that Sylvanas is prepared and has laid a trap in all three instances, but how this unfolds is anyone’s guess for the time being. The reality is that the changes cannot be too bold – for as fascinating as it would be to see the Sylvanas Loyalist version result in the death of Jaina and Thrall, or even their imprisonment, that is a hell of a leap when the other two versions likely see the player character aid these two major lore figures.
This is a problem of sorts that is introduced with the choice-driven narrative of the Horde war campaign to this point – you’ll get different story content, but it can’t be too different, because the other choice path and the Alliance as a whole have to be presented with different content, and the game cannot really do two completely different story paths and still be considered good or coherent. However, the return of Green Jesus himself is a big indicator of where the story goes next – alongside Magni, he is one of the most naturally talented at hearing the elements, although when we last saw him in Legion, he wasn’t doing so well at it. He is also the biggest peacenik in the WoW canon, alongside pre-MoP Jaina, and so I will wager his return to the stage at this crucial point, with both factions beaten down but neither relenting, is going to be key to our pivot towards a more central foe.
However, just who that central foe is could be disputed…
A lot of the speculation out of last week’s combintation of livestream and influencer (god I hate that term) events was that Azshara had perhaps turned on N’Zoth and was seeking to conquer the planet of her own means and for her own aims. However, there is a mix of storytelling happening here that seems to suggest this is not the case. For one, the raid images shown in the stream of the Azshara fight area shows a Titan prison of some sort, with clear Titan runic markings and what appears to be the lens of a Titan engine, coupled with ethereal chains that mimic what we saw in Ulduar with Yogg-Saron. The most recent Weekly Reset video from Taliesin and Evitel also indicates that dungeon journal for the Azshara fight indicated that Azshara’s goal was to free N’Zoth from his Titan bonds, which is either contradictory to the idea that Azshara is working against N’Zoth, is an act of desperation in defeat, or, the most likely – that there simply wasn’t any real support for that theory short of an offhanded comment that was misinterpreted. The questions this raises for me are many however – do we teleport to this Titan prison? Is this prison in Azshara’s Eternal Palace? If so, who thought that was a good idea (in lore)? If Azshara has the means to free N’Zoth, then why is she waiting until 10-30 of us are about to murder her to make sushi before doing this? All of these, I’m sure, are questions that will be answered in the course of the raid – if they are answered satisfactorily will be another matter, but I can wait and see.
As for the rest of the raid, few real surprises stand out – the Herald of N’Zoth that was discussed last week has a properly Old God name, mangled by apostrophes. There is one remaining surprise, sort of, which dovetails nicely with the remaining big lore thing I want to discuss.
Priscilla Ashvane is in the boss list for the raid, which made me scratch my head upon that revelation. When last we saw her, she had been jailbroken out of Tol Dagor by the Horde at Sylvanas’ instructions. So how does she end up in Azshara’s Eternal Palace? Well…
This is going to veer into speculation, but it is fairly easy to establish a foundation in the information we’ve been provided so far and the little datamining tidbits above.
The whole reason we go to Nazjatar is in pursuit of Sylvanas, who gets a whisper of what waits there and heads out. When this tidbit was dropped in the livestream, my assumption was that the Horde was accompanying Sylvanas, that she would be leading the charge with the remaining leaders of the Horde. However, now, if I had to guess, I would suspect that Sylvanas is going rogue, and that we are going to wrap the 8.2 war campaign quests before ever even hearing the name Nazjatar spoken of. Why is that? Well, we know that the foundation is laid for Sylvanas to acquire Xal’atath, and in the Horde Crucible of the Storm quest that opens today, Horde players will bring her the blade. The words spoken by N’Zoth upon acquiring this quest are troubling, however. “The fall of night reveals her true face. She will bring only ruin.”
So, what does this mean? Well, at first, I thought that it would surely mean she’d go off and kill Tyrande, Malfurion, or any other lore-important Night Elf (good luck finding one). However, the meaning is actually clear in retrospect – she has already caused the fall of night – the burning of Teldrassil. The Sylvanas we have seen from that point forward has been markedly different – far more arrogant, greedy, and a whole new degree of cruel. She has gone from peacefully helping hold together the Horde in the light of the loss of Vol’jin and has become thirsty for power, pushing back on any that stand in her way. Zelling is dead. Baine is imprisoned. The Night Elves that stood up to her have been twisted into dark rangers. While the game lore and accompanying content have pushed the narrative that she acts on behalf of the interests of the Horde and seeks to secure their survival, her actions have placed a big target on the Horde as a whole and it is only now, with Baine’s act of kindness to the Proudmoore family, that we see the distinction laid bare for the Alliance – the Horde is fractured (yet again).
In a way, however, it does paint the acts of the War of Thorns in a new light. N’Zoth knew, or at least will hint at it in the standard Old God riddles. It drives a clear point that I think will bear fruit in 8.3, though – after 8.2, Sylvanas will be the only Warbringer who has not been a raid boss. Before we get there, however, we have the question that started this very long road of text – how in the hell is Priscilla Ashvane a boss in Azshara’s Eternal Palace?
Well, imagine if you will the journey to Nazjatar – Sylvanas, working with a masterful sailor like Ashvane, who leads the way. Ashvane’s only real contact with the Horde has been Sylvanas, as there was not a lot of conversation with her during the breakout in Tol Dagor. Sylvanas has heard whispers of a bounty in Nazjatar, the Black Blade, no longer Xal’atath, guiding her to the target, the whispers growing familiar to her. N’Zoth’s herald awaits, first the void creature that plays herald, and then the ancient naga queen herself. Lady Ashvane is no stranger to the Old Gods, having summoned the abomination Viq’Goth in the Siege of Boralus, and she was already serving Azshara in some ways, as the post-Siege cinematic for the Alliance reveals that she was aware of the containment of the fleet, an action taken on Azshara’s behalf by Lord Stormsong. Serving the naga queen is a natural fit, and after Sylvanas is ferried to Nazjatar by her skillful sea navigation, she will be fit to serve, as she has an axe to grind with the Alliance for the imprisonment and ruining of her plan to ascend to the throne of Kul Tiras (or is it captain’s chair?), and with non-loyalist Horde for their work against her liberator.
While I’ve meandered around this point due to the awkward segue (that’s what I get for writing at work!), I want to return to the Sylvanas point for a moment. At this point, the comments made during the Q&A at Blizzcon and in subsequent interviews coupled with Sylvanas’ story arc begin to make a lot more sense. Unfortunately, there’s not much here to allay the concerns many had that Sylvanas was going off the deep end. In fact, her actions lead us all to the deep end (ha!), and the sad reality is that it appears much of the content to come in the war campaign is going to setup a battle with Sylvanas. The question remaining is if this battle will be during 8.2 or 8.2.5 content, during 8.3, or perhaps beyond even that. However, I think it is coming sooner than we might want. In addition to the opening scenario, a map named Siege of Orgrimmar – Coup Scenario is listed in the files. Now, while this may just be the map used for the Baine scenario, I think it may be a separate component. My speculation is this – 8.2 will see Sylvanas outed as warchief. Who is installed is anyone’s guess but I would imagine Saurfang, Baine, or Thrall will take the mantle, as any of these choices would carry a certain narrative weight and allow the new allies more comfort in bonding with the Horde.
Will Sylvanas immediately be hostile? Yes and no. My guess is that we free Baine, we take back Orgrimmar for the Horde (probably a unique Horde quest, but I am not so sure of that) and with the Horde attempting to stabilize after all of this turmoil, Sylvanas takes Ashvane and flees to re-establish, leading her to the waters of Nazjatar and onwards. There, Ashvane connects with Azshara (and apparently, according to the dungeon journal, gets a crab shell of some sort?) and stays to defend the naga queen, while Sylvanas aims to set N’Zoth free at the whispers of the Black Blade. My leaning here is that Azshara will not be the one to set N’Zoth free. She will try, but in that climactic fight of the Eternal Palace, she will fail to do so.
However, in will sweep Sylvanas, and she will bring ruin as destined – freeing N’Zoth and setting loose the dangerous Old God to feed on Azeroth as the planet is more void-soaked than ever before, which will then make clear the path to 8.3 – a war campaign that unifies the two factions against a shared foe – Sylvanas and N’Zoth. Sylvanas will ultimately not be an end boss, unless it is via a dungeon – N’Zoth is far too important to not be the end boss. I could see the dungeon scenario unfolding – Sylvanas will almost certainly bring Nathanos with her, and the Dark Rangers with him, and that would round out a fairly comprehensive dungeon experience.
The remaining open question I have is this – would Lor’themar Theron follow the Banshee Queen in her quest? On the one hand, he seems fairly offput by her actions as of late, and Lady Liadrin is definitely in that camp which would help bind the Blood Elves more to the Horde than to Sylvanas. However, the Blood Elf heritage armor quest makes strong emphasis on the fact that Lor’themar is on Team Sylvanas for her acts taken in her last moments of true life – but how deep does that loyalty go?
I guess we won’t have long to wait in order to find out!