Friday, December 29, 2017

No Wall Yet: Fingers Crossed in Dark Souls III

Well, here I am, back in Anor Londo. The place where I hit the wall that prevented me from beating Dark Souls. Only now, instead of being at the highest peak (give or take the Duke's Archives) and bathed in sunlight (which I understand to be an illusion you can dispel later on) it's a snowy ruin in the Boreal Valley.

After fighting my way through Irithyl - an interesting take on Dark Souls' urban environments in that it was clearly abandoned in some way but not in ruins - I made it to Pontiff Sulyvahn. I was pretty convinced that this would be the first really infuriatingly difficult boss, given that I could barely hit him the first four or five attempts. But then I discovered the wonders of the Buckler - I believe that in Dark Souls III (maybe the original as well,) small shields make up for their lack of 100% physical damage reduction by giving you a wider parry window. And with Sulyvahn going crazy with his massive flurry of attacks, it wasn't hard to get a parry in there and take a massive chunk out of his health.

Also useful was getting some lighter armor so I could dodge more effectively - he clones himself at 50% and you need to be able to dodge the clone's attacks before parrying the boss. Once I even attempted the parry method I think I beat him either in one or two attempts.

We're pretty well into the mid-game here, and I've done all I need for the Usurp the Flame ending (poor Anri... or... maybe she's fine? I don't know how it works for Hollows, but that's the most fucked up "wedding" I've ever seen... well, at least among those that went as planned, so not counting the Red Wedding.) One of the cool things in Dark Souls is that good and evil are pretty ambiguous. I mean, ok, Aldritch (and Sulyvahn, who kind of orchestrated Aldritch's actions) is very definitely evil. But is the Usurp the Flame ending the "evil" one? Given the endless cycle that seems to just be getting more and more miserable as it goes, the idea of doing something new with the fire seems like not such a bad idea. Does your character become some kind of dark emperor? Well,  yes, by definition, but again we're not exactly sure whether Dark and Evil are the same. (Are dark and the abyss even the same? And what is the Deep?)

Anyway, I was very happy that I helped out Siegward at the Cathedral of the Deep because he rescued Greirat in Irithyl. I'm led to understand that Patches can do this as well, but only if he has the Catarina armor still. Kind of cool to know that Patches can actually do something nice for once.

I've been thinking a lot about how to do another character. This guy was originally supposed to be Strength-based, but your options for weapons seem a lot broader with Dexterity. Still, I think the next character will probably be a caster (I'm thinking Faith-based.) I'm beginning to understand a little better why one might go for infusions that remove scaling - if your character is a caster, that means most of their weapons won't scale with their main output stat, and so having a weapon that just does a bunch of damage regardless of your stats seems powerful, especially early in the game. I could imagine focusing on survival stats in the early game even on a STR/DEX character using this method and only pumping stuff into the throughput stats (aside from what is needed to equip items) once the scaling would make it better.

While the core gameplay is very similar, I'm understanding how much simpler the stats and equipment in Bloodborne are. I wouldn't mind seeing a Bloodborne 2 (well, I could end the sentence there) that diversified things like Hunter Tools a bit more, but there's also something kind of nice about knowing that you can pour Blood Echoes into your main stats without fear.

Anyway, in the main game I think I basically have Aldritch (with the main doors to Anor Londo open, I assume that I can just run into O&S's old room) and then Irithyl Dungeon (I believe I know how to get there...) the Old Demon King and the rest of the Demon Ruins (which I've partially explored,) the Profaned Capital (which I believe is super-short, not unlike this game's Anor Londo) and then Lothric Castle and the end of the game.

However, I've also got both the DLCs. I talked to Gael when I first showed up in the Cleansing Palace at the Cathedral of the Deep, but after I got the first bonfire I left, intending to return when I was ready. I figure I'll try to get at least Dragonslayer Armor down before I do any of the DLC stuff, and then go Ariandel before Ringed City.

So I'm in no danger of running out of game anytime soon. Not to mention all the stuff I'm sure I've missed.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Dark Souls III: No Wall Yet, Fingers Crossed

When I played Dark Souls, I hit the Ornstein and Smough wall. I had heard that they were the hardest boss, and boy did they seem to be. But either because I've played through all of Bloodborne or because Dark Souls 3 isn't as hard, I've been going through bosses at a decent rate.

After the Curse-Rotted Greatwood I went down the Road of Sacrifices and found the Crystal Sage first. As with the other bosses, it's taking be 3-4 attempts per boss (with one exception,) and while it was pretty easy to get this guy to phase 2, I had to learn to patiently eliminate some of his clones before wailing on him in order to take him down.

From there, I went to the Cathedral of the Deep, which is a pretty large and complex part of the game. I eventually got through the Patches encounter - an NPC I actually seem to have missed in Dark Souls 1, perhaps because I did the Undead Tomb (or whatever that area was called) a little early (I also lost my Pinwheel boss souls, which was infuriating.) I did the next part of the Leonhard quest chain - I believe I have to get to the Profaned Capital for the next part. I also got Siegward his armor back (spending my Deacons boss souls on it.)

While the Cathedral itself was very tricky (and there are definitely a couple of it that I still need to explore,) its boss, the Deacons of the Deep, was the only boss so far that I've one-shot. I think it's basically the Witch of Hemwick of the game - a simple puzzle, but once you figure it out, it's quite easy. (It helped that rather than surrounding the "enflamed" member, they simply got between me and the one they were protecting, meaning that I could easily run around the crowd to the back and take out the target.)

Next I went into Farron Keep, which was actually not as terrible a poison swamp area as I expected (I expected Blighttown.) On to the Abyss Watchers, it took again, about three or four attempts before I made it. I realized that damage reduction was not worth it if you couldn't dodge, so I got a bit of a mix of armor sets, still using my 100% physical reduction shield (I think the Dragon Crest) to break up combos. The Watchers don't have much health - it's just that getting a hit in is tricky. Also, they probably have my favorite boss music in the game so far.

I then sojourned into the Catacombs of Carthus. I definitely need to explore this area further (I think the Demon Ruins are below it?) I met Anri for the next step of the Usurp the Fire questchain, though I think I need to get into the aforementioned Demon Ruins to continue.

I did go and defeat High Lord Wolnir, which I really hope hasn't screwed up that quest chain. The first two attempts, I thought I was going to win because I got two of his bracelets off, but then I got swallowed by the Abyss fog, so the next time I played a lot more conservatively (I also attacked the single bangle on his right wrist first, and oddly didn't see any skeletons spawn in the final, successful attempt. I suppose this is Dark Souls' take on a Lich, which is pretty cool.

Anyway, I think my post-boss ember for Wolnir was the shortest-lived yet, as I immediately died to the beast thing that pops up on the bridge as you enter Irithyl of the Boreal Valley.

So, I think what is left for me in the main game is the Old Demon King, Pontiff Sulyvahn, Aldritch, Yhorm, Dancer of the Boreal Valley, Oceiros, Champion Gundyr, Nameless King, Dragonslayer Armor, Lothric, and the Soul of Cinder. But I think that I'll treat Dragonslayer Armor as the "Micolash" of the game, as a boss that will lead me into the DLC, starting with Ariandel and then the Ringed City. Here I was worried I was plowing through the game too quickly, but I've still got a ton of bosses left.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Dark Souls III: High Wall of Lothric and Undead Settlement

Having picked up Bloodborne again recently, I assumed I'd be in good shape to breeze through some of Dark Souls III's early areas.

Um. No.

Granted, I don't think I've been going into the kind of controller-smashing frustration I had with my first foray into the Undead Burgh in the original Dark Souls, but it certainly hasn't been the kind of cakewalk that I have with Central Yharnam on playthrough... four, I think, of Bloodborne.

The pace and rhythm of the game is also very different. If you pile on the armor in Dark Souls, you're not going to be able to dodge. Also, the lack of recovery - the mechanic in Bloodborne where you can get health back after being hit as long as you strike back quickly and don't get hit again - makes the Bloodborne gameplay style a little too reckless in Dark Souls.

Still, it hasn't been horrible. I've managed to beat Iudex Gundyr (the only boss you have to beat before you can level up,) Vordt of the Boreal Valley, and the Curse-Rotted Greatwood, all in about three or four attempts.

There are a lot of quests to keep track of, but I think I've managed to get all the NPCs out of these areas, and I did the first part of Ringfinger Leonhard's quest chain (the Venetian-like mask he wears MUST BE MINE.)

I will say that leveling up in Dark Souls is a lot more complicated than in Bloodborne - in the latter, you can more or less pick one of the throughput stats and then just level it up in tandem with Stamina (which is the health stat, if I recall correctly) once you have the requirements for your chosen weapons. There are many more to juggle in Dark Souls, and I haven't done much exploration of spellcasting as an option.

I'm still at a level where I could go either Dexterity or Strength - I'm generally drawn to the latter, though given the fast Bloodborne-style gameplay I'm used to and the fact that it seems like there are way more Dex weapons than Strength weapons, I'm equivocating a bit (for now I'm going to try to pump in enough Dex to use the Hollowslayer Greatsword, which is a boss weapon from the Curse-Rotted Greatwood.)

This is of course a shared feature with Bloodborne, but I've got to say that having the ability to teleport from the get-go (never having beaten Ornstein and Smough, I never got that in DS1) as well as getting a bonfire after every boss has been a huge quality-of-life improvement. I have yet to summon an NPC for a boss (my ember from earlier bosses has never made it to the next and I'm not ready to start using up the consumable items) but I'm very grateful that you don't have to Ember up at a bonfire, and can instead pop one right before stepping into a boss room - I can't tell you how frustrating it was to lose all my humanity after some ill-timed dodge fleeing the giants in Anor Londo before I even got to O&S.

I'm actually contemplating trying out a PS+ account to try the online stuff. I'd love to aid people in Jolly Cooperation and potentially get... some kind of reward? I've never played these games online, so it would be new to me.

Monday, December 18, 2017

PTR: 110 Level Requirement for Allied Races

This is all PTR datamining-based stuff, but apparently there is a string (little things that can pop up as messages in-game) that suggests that, in order to create an Allied Race character on a given realm, you'll need to have one character of level 110 there.

Much as Hero Classes have historically required leveling characters on the specific realm (you still, I believe, need a level 70 character to create a Demon Hunter on any given realm, though the old 55 requirement for Death Knights went account-wide a few expansions ago - and I don't know what its fate was after Warlords introduced level boosts,) it appears you'll need to have some investment in a particular server before creating Allied Race characters, who we should recall start at level 20.

I imagine the primary impetus for this is to prevent exploits, like creating characters only to vendor their gear and repeat - though with level 20 characters, I can't imagine the gear will be worth enough to do that (not to mention that starting gear for hero classes has tended to be worth the bare minimum of 1 copper a piece for the same reason.)

What I think is notable is that the required level will not be 120, but will be the current cap of 110. Now, this could just be to allow players to jump into Allied races from the launch of the expansion, but I continue to suspect that we might be getting at least four of the playable races (whose models and voice files are all in the 7.3.5 PTR patch) before the expansion launches.

One reason I think Monks never became quite as popular as Death Knights or Demon Hunters was that when Mists launched, if you wanted to play a Monk, you'd have to level up from 1 while everyone else was in the new continent already.

Allowing the Allied Races, or at least some of them, to start leveling early (not unlike the Demon Hunter) could get them mixed into their factions so that you could have Void Elves and Highmountain Tauren as players' new mains right out the gate.

So I highly suspect we'll get these races (probably not the Zandalari Trolls or Dark Iron Dwarves) before the expansion launches. The question is one of timing.

Demon Hunters were released in the Legion pre-patch, but they only have two levels worth of catch-up to do, and all of that could be accomplished in one unified questline (with a lot of forward momentum to carry people through.) Comparing those two levels to an Allied Race's 90 means that if you want Lightforged Draenei and Nightborne hitting the new continents at launch, you're going to have to give people more time to start them up.

So while I think 7.3.5 might not bring them immediately (something Blizzard has more or less explicitly told us,) I do think that they'll be packed and primed, allowing Blizzard to flip the switch some time in the middle of next year, which will also have the huge benefit of giving players something to do after Antorus has gotten stale and players are simply waiting for Battle for Azeroth to launch.

It's all speculation, but that's what I predict.

Journal with Tantalizing Hints Found on PTR

On this Reddit thread, someone on the 7.3.5 PTR found a journal on a rare Twilight's Hammer-affiliated ogre in Silithus, which is spoiler territory for the Antorus Raid.

I don't know exactly how spoiler-conscious we should or even can be when discussing Silithus, so beware of UNMARKED SPOILERS FOR ANTORUS to follow. Also PTR SPOILERS.

The journal that players discover is called Visions of Ogmat the Steadfast.

Much like Il'gynoth, Xal'atath, and the Puzzle-Box of Yogg-Saron, this thing is chock full of prophetic mysteries. What's exciting is that it seems to refer to previous statements like those from Il'gynoth. What's really intriguing is that I don't know that it's talking only about the Old Gods...

Thanks to Reddit user Wilder_people for the find.

Let's go through the journal, interpret, and speculate:

The journal's description: Visions of Ogmot the Steadfast: "The handwriting is barely legible, and the primitive sketches contained within are best described as... unsettling."

Pretty standard for a Tome of Eldritch Lore. Let's crack it open:

"I was a mere boy fighting at the war camp when the Masters first blessed me with their visions. I have come to Silithus, to the site of the great wound, seeking wonders beyond imagining. Make me your vessel, Masters!"

Given that this is an Ogre, I suspect that his boyhood exposure to the "Masters" could have happened in Nagrand, perhaps near Oshu'gun (aka the Genedar,) where K'ure began to turn to the Void. Draenor never had Old Gods, which suggests to me that this Ogmat is referring specifically to the Void Lords

"Last night I dreamt of two great armadas clashing upon an ocean of blood. Shadows writhed beneath them, rising. Rising. I smiled in my sleep. Why did the skittering of insects have to stir me? Damn those bugs! No matter. We will finish what they began."

The armadas I would assume are those of the Alliance and Horde. But the ocean of blood? Could simply be metaphorical: the wound in Silithus has created a resource race between the factions to gather as much Azerite (aka Azeroth's crystalized blood) as possible. This war is also probably going to be heavily naval in nature, and the Shadows beneath the ocean could very easily be N'zoth or his minions (potentially Azshara.)

"Life returns to this dead place. First the bugs came. Now goblins skulk about. It is the blood they crave... I am sure of it. Bah, let them have these drippings! Soon there will be seas enough to sate every thirst."

"Life returning" could just refer to things coming back after the enormous destruction wrought by Sargeras, but one disturbing notion is that perhaps Azeroth's blood has helped to revive C'thun, whose mass exists beneath Silithus. It also suggests that Twilight's Hammer (or whoever) is going to bleed Azeroth until the world drowns in her blood. Not good.

"Today the smoke rose from my campfire and took form. A shepherd, cloaked in the shadows of her past, beloved by a flock of blind sheep. They followed her footsteps without question. Without thought. She guided them over a cliff. Even as they crashed upon the rocks, they never doubted her. The crows grew fat upon sheep flesh. Her laughter echoed all around."

Oh boy. Who is this shepherd? My initial thought was despair that they had finally decided to give in and make Jaina full-on evil. I'm not ruling that out, but I also wonder if it refers to Alleria. She has, after all, cloaked herself in shadow. It could be someone else, but what is suggested here is a long-festering betrayal that may have even begun already that we won't see until far later, if ever. Disturbing indeed.

"The blade's eye watches all. Why do you not see? The first of his lies has been offered. Bound by a throne? No... boundless. The next will come soon."

Man, if the previous one got me revved up, this one's got me climbing the walls. First off, the blade's eye could refer to Sargeras' sword, though what it "sees" remains unclear. Alternatively, and supported by a later entry, it could refer to Xal'atath - a dagger with a big eye in it (though there are other blades with eyes, like Xal'atoh, or even the Dark Edge of Insanity, which drops off of C'thun in AQ40.) Xala'tath is very talkative and cryptic, which suggests to me that she fits the bill best. But that's just the start.

The next refers to the first of "his lies." Il'gynoth says that "the boy king serves as the masters table. Three lies will he offer you." This has got to refer to the boy king, then. So is that Anduin? (We've heard him referred to as such by Gul'dan.) So what lie? If it is indeed Anduin, what has he even told us lately that could be a lie or a truth? And if it's not Anduin, who could it refer to? There actually aren't a ton of Kings in Warcraft - there's basically Anduin, Rastakhan (who is definitely not still a "boy.") There's Genn (see Rastakhan.) One could argue for Wrathion, though the Dragons never really had "King" as a title. There's Moira's son, but as far as we know he's still an infant or at least still a little kid, and we haven't heard a word from him. So Anduin really fits the bill best as Boy King. What, then, could the lies be, especially the first, that he's supposedly already offered us. And does he know it's a lie? Given that I'm about 90% convinced that Teldrassil's burning is not, in fact, the work of the Horde, could the lie be Anduin's motivation to attack Undercity?

Next (and yes, this is still just the four-line page 5) pretty much has to refer to the Lich King. While yes, Sargeras is now bound to a throne as well, I really do think that his story is over. But look at the Lich King: Bolvar is frozen in the ice of the Frozen Throne, but just as Ner'zhul had done, he has spread his influence far and wide. For the Lich King, being bound to the Frozen Throne is no handicap at all, and if my pet theory that the Lich King is actually far older than Ner'zhul or even possibly Kil'jaeden, and that all the Deceiver did was take a godlike entity and craft a physical form in which to store it, then boundless would very likely describe this entity.

Finally on this page, "The next will come soon." The next what? The next WHAT? The next Lich King? The next Old God? The next Titan? The next Warchief?

Moving on:

"A band of cultists arrived. Do they comprehend my blessing? My greatness? They speak of Argus. Of the one who was awakened. Of the victory that went unnoticed. I shared my vision, but the skinny one just laughed. I do not like her."

Ok, aside from the fact that Ogmat is distinct from whatever cultists (presumably Twilight's Hammer) have come, which is an interesting note, the most curious stuff is about Argus and this unnoticed victory.

I had floated the idea a while ago that the Pillars of Creation, being used to close the portal in the Tomb of Sargeras (which... um, did we ever do that? We chased Kil'jaeden through it and then got teleported back through Khadgar's magic and Illidan's portal network) actually served to open the restraints on N'zoth's prison (as Il'gynoth said, five keys to open the way, five torches to light our path, or something like that. We saw no immediate repercussions of using the Pillars (if indeed we did,) but wouldn't it be just like the Old Gods to let us think that everything had gone according to plan only for us to find out when it's too late to do anything that we just stuck all the keys in their keyholes and turned. The one who awakened, I would imagine, was N'zoth after the defeat of the Emerald Nightmare.

Now, what about this skinny female cultist? Granted, to an Ogre, anyone would look skinny. But I'd keep an eye out for humans and elves as likely candidates (which rule out neither Jaina nor Alleria.) What vision caused her to laugh? The one about the armadas? Is it because it's too obvious, or that there's something else going on?

"Many days have passed without a vision. Have I displeased you, Masters? I will leave you a sacrifice. Remember me!"

Not sure if there's too much here other than that this mad prophet isn't getting his visions. His sacrifices are almost certainly humanoid - is he killing the cultists?

"The star peers down. I must hide from its glare. The dagger spoke true. It has been too long since I was drowned. Do not forsake me, Masters!"

Ok, first off: star, not stars. Which star? Could it be the glimmering remain of the portal Illidan opened? (Following Antorus, the portal that has allowed us to view Argus in the sky is replaced with a faint, five-pointed red glimmer - presumably something less obtrusive that they can leave up in the skybox indefinitely.) Or is it something else?

The dagger speaking true... well, that sounds a whole hell of a lot like everyone's favorite talking cutlery, Xal'atath, and a dark prophet is exactly the kind of person she'd talk to. The line about drowning... well, remember that Il'gynoth says "to find him, drown yourself in a circle of stars." Is Ogmat going to try taking that advice? And is the star above related to the circle in which one must drown?

"The bones were picked clean, yet still I am granted no insight. The others scoff. They question my devotion. But I am the chosen vessel. I will not lose faith! Another sacrifice. Yes. One more of them will not be missed."

Sounds like another murder. But if the others are scoffing, is it possible that A. he's sacrificing people other than the cultists or B. he's a member of a different cult, sacrificing members of the visiting one, and that his own cult is scoffing?

"Roused by her screams. Stirred by their whispers. A blessing from the Masters. At last I understand. A door. A path. Ours. Ours. Fool! The circle has awakened us all."

This is where the journal ends. Is the "skinny cultist" the one who screamed? Perhaps dying, or worse, in the night? The whispers seem to have awoken him in whatever dark night this was, presumably giving him the vision he sought.

By the end, he claims "the circle" has awakened us all. Take note: he says Us. Ogmat sought to become a vessel for something - perhaps one of the Old Gods. Is it possible that when he says Us, he's not talking about his mortal form but rather than dark thing inside of him (and possibly others - maybe even the screaming female?)

Also, we get the word that has been haunting us throughout Legion: the Circle. What is the freaking Circle? The Legion, the Old Gods, and even the Titans seem to refer to this mysterious circle. Is this the Circle of Stars? And if so, how is it both a place one can drown and also some kind of metaphor for a cycle in time (if indeed, it ever was.)

Man, I love this stuff. It's like Blizzard is channeling Hidetaka Miyazaki for this story.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Darkspear, the Zandalari, and Trollkind

Since vanilla, the playable Troll faction was actually a very specific and small group of people. Trolls could very well be Azeroth's most populous humanoid race (though the arthropod-like Aqir races might have them beat at the expense of being far less likely to live to old age) but when it comes to the playable races, we're looking at only the Darkspear Tribe - one tribe within one kingdom of a larger Troll civilization.

The Darkspear were initially members of the Gurubashi Empire, which spanned much of the southern Eastern Kingdoms area before humans drove them back into Stranglethorn Vale. Stranglethorn had been the heart of the empire, with its capital of Zul'Gurub.

Despite having the overarching leadership of the Gurubashi Empire, the Darkspear fought brutal battles against rival tribes, and some time after the Second War, the Darkspear were driven out of Stranglethorn and forced to sail west to a small group of islands in the Great Sea.

It's unclear exactly whether the Darkspear had fought alongside the Horde during the Second War. Orgrim did secure many Trolls as allies, including the Amani under Zul'jin, and given the Gurubashi's position within what was fairly securely held Horde territory during that war (ironic, given that the map in the Second War and that at the beginning of World of Warcraft was practically flipped) it would make plenty of sense to have seen the Gurubashi lending support to the Horde against their ancient human rivals.

Still, it was when Thrall and his recently-liberated Orcish Horde landed on those islands and helped avenge the Darkspear chieftain, Sen'jin, that the Darkspear officially joined the Horde, and they would settle on the peninsula that Thrall named Durotar in honor of his father.

The Darkspear have obviously risen to far greater prominence within the Horde than they had before. Once a single, downtrodden tribe exiled from a crumbling empire, they are now perhaps the most politically powerful group of Trolls in the world. They did suffer a bit under Garrosh, but as they spearheaded (pun not intended) the revolution against the tyrannical Warchief, they even managed to ascend to the Horde's greatest heights as their own chieftain, Vol'jin, became the first non-Orc Warchief of the Horde.

But with Vol'jin's death, they are in a state of bizarre limbo. While certainly not languishing in the outright persecution they faced under Garrosh, they have seen their place of power, held so briefly, taken by the Forsaken - a highly organized war machine that was very effective even when they were just one small branch of the Horde.

And with Vol'jin dead, the Darkspear do not have an obvious leader. Vol'jin had no children, nor did he have a clear second-in-command who might take over for him. While core members of the Horde, their influence must be waning.

And that makes this a really complicated time for the Zandalari to join the Horde.

If the Darkspear were exiled refugees from a crumbling empire collapsing under brutal tribalism, putting them at the bottom of Troll civilization's social ladder, the Zandalari are its pinnacle.

The Zandalari Empire was the greatest of all troll civilizations. The other three major empires were initially just territories ruled from Zuldazar. Even in the wake of the Zandalari Empire's collapse, the remaining Zandalari kingdom still maintained an elite status. Theirs was the center of culture and history. The Zandalari could afford to send out teams to study the degradations of the other Empires while they seemed to remain prosperous and enlightened. As the Gurubashi fell to the madness of Hakkar and the Drakkari collapsed in the face of the undead Scourge, the Zandalari were safely on their own island watching in safety, but with concern.

Ultimately, the Zandalari are proud. They even stand up straight, unlike the other Trolls who hunch and bend.

And now they are going to be joining the Horde.

A few issues present themselves: First off, while our initial interactions with the Zandalari were nothing but friendly - even the Alliance could work alongside them when fighting Hakkar - they underwent a shocking reversal, swept up in a zealous dream of manifest destiny, attempting to reunite their Empire under the spiritual leadership of the Prophet Zul.

Joining up with the Gurubashi zealots they had helped us defeat, the Zandalari suddenly began a global campaign of domination. They traveled south to Pandaria where they revived the Thunder King and attempted to help reestablish the brutal Mogu Empire to serve as an ally in their campaigns against the Alliance and Horde. Yet it was during that time that we discovered one possible motivation for their actions: Zandalar had been devastated by the Cataclysm, with parts of it sinking into the sea.

In Battle for Azeroth, it looks like we'll get a revised sense of that story: that it wasn't so much the sinking of the Nazmir forest, but what it unleashed.

With Blood Trolls and Blood Gods, and potentially a great deal of other rising threats in Zandalar, the Horde will convince King Rastakhan to join up.

But what does that mean for the Trolls?

First off, Rastakhan will probably take a great deal of convincing to swear fealty to someone else - an undead elf, no less. It's unclear to what extent Rastakhan was on board with the Prophet Zul's vision, but even if he resisted Zul as the fanatic he is, for someone who is the king of the oldest mortal civilization on Azeroth, it's got to be tough to have to kowtow to someone else.

The other really interesting issue that could arise is the relationship between the Zandalari and the Darkspear. It was Vol'jin who struck out against the earliest efforts by the Zandalari to reunite the empires, and even setting that aside, you have what is essentially the elite of the upper class now allying with the ultimate downtrodden pariahs. What even is the power dynamic there? As nearly foundational members of the Horde, do the Darkspear "outrank" the newcomer Zandalari? And can they, even, when their own leadership is in shambles? Or will Rastakhan, entering the Horde, insist upon being at least the sovereign over all the Trolls in the Horde?

And in the midst of all this, what do the Loa have to say?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Combatants in the Battle for Azeroth

When you've defeated the most powerful evil in the cosmos (for the sake of argument, let's just say that if Sargeras beat us, he'd also beat the Void Lords, albeit without leaving anyone other than demons to celebrate such a victory,) who do you fight? Blizzard's answer appears to be "each other," which does have a certain logic to it.

Unlike other major forces in the Warcraft universe, the Alliance and Horde, for story and gameplay purposes, always keep pace with each other. The Alliance gets big steampunk airships? So does the Horde. The Horde loses a city? Only if the Alliance loses one first.

The headline fight in the next expansion is going to be an all-out war between the Alliance and Horde. We did see this in Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria, but this expansion seems to be putting that conflict center-stage, while those earlier expansions had the real focus as Deathwing and the elemental unrest he caused, or the mysterious land of Pandaria and its many secrets.

And yet...

There are logistical problems with making an expansion all about Alliance and Horde fighting. Generally, the raids in an expansion are where we deal with the big villains - take Legion as a great example. Every raid ends with us defeating a very important enemy from lore, with only Helya and Argus the Unmaker not established previously (though new, both of those characters were definitely very important lore-wise.)

But when you're focusing on the conflict between the playable factions, how do you resolve that story?

We have had raids in which the experience is mirrored but different for the two factions. In both Trial of the Crusader and Icecrown Citadel, some fights feature members of the other faction as the enemy. But ultimately, that conflict plays a distant second fiddle to the real threat, which in both cases is the Scourge.

Even in Mists of Pandaria, that ended with the Siege of Orgrimmar, we had to jump through a few narrative hoops to ensure that the Horde had a reason to invade their own capital. The Alliance story was utterly straightforward (and thus, sadly, not really as interesting) while the Horde underwent a revolution from within. But the end result was that both sides were, as they tend to, uniting against a common enemy.

Now, there is a case in which cooperation was decidedly not part of the endgame: in the aforementioned Icecrown Citadel. While the Argent Crusade and the Ebon Blade were arguably going through their own "unite against a common foe" plot, Alliance and Horde could only get in each others' way during that raid. The closest they came to cooperating was when Varian allowed Varok Saurfang to claim the body of his son after we killed him (a scene only Alliance players get.)

But again, in that case, even if the war was hot between the factions by then, the real enemy was a third party.

And to be honest, I suspect that this will be the case in Battle for Azeroth as well.

Let's look at evidence, circumstantial, datamined, and speculative:

Throughout Legion, we've been getting hints that the Old Gods are active. Yogg-Saron summoned faceless N'raqi to attack us in Ulduar. The death of Xavius ended the Emerald Nightmare, thus waking up N'zoth. The Naga, allied with the N'raqi, were seeking the Tidestone of Golganneth for apocalyptic purposes (we also know Azshara will be a boss in BFA.)

Now sure, this could all be building things up longterm - Wrathion's comments about the Legion were all in Mists of Pandaria, and we had Warlords of Draenor extending the gap between that and the Legion's invasion.

But if we're talking about longterm buildup, I suspect that Battle for Azeroth is actually going to be introducing threats more from the Shadowlands than the Void.

Getting into datamining spoilers, we should also talk about a few other elements:

The quests sendings both Horde and Alliance to Silithus to keep tabs on what the other faction is doing there after Sargeras stabbed the planet in that zone eventually have us run into members of Twilight's Hammer who are trying to reunite the cult after their defeat in Cataclysm. While Deathwing's demise (not to mention Cho'gall and Benedictus,) Twilight's Hammer's leadership has been devastated (even Bishop Farthing, who replaced Benedictus in Stormwind, both appears to have also been a Twilight Cultist and is killed by Shadow Priests after he acquires Xal'atath in Tyr's tomb.)

But when you consider how Twilight's Hammer is a textbook example of a Chaotic Evil cult (emphasis on the chaotic,) it stands to reason that killing one leader or three isn't going to mean that the whole thing disappears. And given that the Old Gods have their tendrils deep in the cult's activities, one could even argue that the "leadership" was only middle management.

Moving onto the Allied Races, datamining suggests that the Highmountain Tauren will have to deal with Void corruption, as shadowy whispers attempt to corrupt Ebonhorn, who is one of two surviving (and uncorrupted) Black Dragons on Azeroth (we still don't know the fate of Baron Sablemane/Sabellian, but he's been in Outland all this time as far as we know.)

On top of this, it also appears that Void-aligned Ethereals attack at the Sunwell when Lor'themar invites the Nightborne into the Horde. Alleria is there, and despite helping defeat the ethereals, she is blamed for the event and exiled even from the historically neutral grounds of Quel'danas.

Also, Void Elves. The connection to the Void, and thus the Old Gods, is not hard to imagine.

Moving on to the stuff we see in Kul Tiras and Zandalar, the most obvious is the presence of Uldir and the "Blood God" within. This creature was a failed attempt at turning Old God biology to a good purpose by the Titans, and while that does mean that this Blood God is technically a different thing from the Old Gods, it's still on-theme.

The Sea Priests of Kul Tiras also have a very strong Old God vibe to them. While these guys do provide a service to the kingdom by blessing their ships, everything we've seen of their practices screams Old Gods, from their tentacle-and-eye-motif robes to the cathedral that looks like a giant kraken to the fact that said cathedral will be a dungeon with what is apparently a void-corrupted water elemental as its first boss, I'd be rather shocked if they aren't N'zoth cultists.

And then of course we have Azshara, who will apparently be a raid boss in Battle for Azeroth. While it's possible she only really worships herself, Azshara does have ties to the Old Gods that have existed for ten thousand years - far longer than her brief alliance with the Burning Legion. Even if she's ultimately in it for herself, she's probably going to help her allies if it means more power for her.

So I'm pretty confident about the Old Gods, and likely N'zoth in particular, being major villains if not the major villains of Battle for Azeroth.

But if they aren't?

Well, Azshara could be the final boss of the expansion - she's a big enough lore figure to warrant the spot, and could easily lead into an Old God expansion. If not her and not N'zoth, I don't really know who would make the most sense as a final boss unless they pull a Siege of Orgrimmar situation and make one of our own leaders the boss, though Sylvanas seems too obvious a choice if you ask me, and in the interest of balance, it would make more sense for an Alliance leader to get the raid boss treatment. I don't think Anduin makes sense, which leaves probably Genn or Jaina. I don't want them making Jaina evil, as I think she's far more interesting as a good person who has just been pushed too far to forgive the people who keep betraying her. Genn could pursue revenge to the point of becoming evil, but I think his influence on the Alliance has been interesting, and I want the Alliance to retain characters who aren't so firmly in the altruistic and good category.

I guess there's also the Prophet Zul, though I see him much more as being a mid-tier raid boss rather than the boss of the whole expansion, especially because his connection to Kul Tiras is non-existent as far as I know, and whoever is the final boss really ought to have a presence on both continents.

At this point we're still probably months away from the Beta, which is when I think we'll be getting a far better sense of just where the expansion is headed. Until then, we can only speculate, but damn if that isn't fun in and of itself.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Dark Iron Destiny

The Dwarves of the Eastern Kingdoms were once united as a singular Ironforge Clan. All of known Dwarf civilization existed within the kingdom of Dun Morogh (though later discoveries would reveal the existence of the Frostborn in Northrend, and the dwarvish ancestry within the Earthen.) When King Anvilmar died without an heir, three clans formed and began to fight - the Bronzebeard, Wildhammer, and Dark Iron. While the war began as a three-way free-for-all, after the Bronzebeards drove the other clans out of the city, the Wildhammer clan seemed to accept their defeat and set about creating their own capital of Grim Batol off in the Highlands to the east. The Dark Iron clan acted similarly, journeying south into the Redridge Mountains where they would found Thaurissan, their own capital. But unlike the Wildhammer, the Dark Iron never accepted their defeat, and continually plotted against and skirmished with their Bronzebeard neighbors to the north in the hopes of one day capturing Ironforge.

Thaurissan, the Dark Iron's leader and founding monarch, decided that something great and powerful would be needed to defeat his foes, and so he gathered his closest allies and summoned forth Ragnaros the Firelord. The ensuing explosion killed Thaurissan and his seven fellow summoners and burned Redridge Mountains for miles in all directions, creating the Searing Gorge and the Burning Steppes. I don't know if this event also changed the Dark Irons physiologically (the Bronzebeard and Wildhammer look more or less the same, their only visible differences being tattoos and ornamental jewelry,) but it would not be that hard to imagine.

The surviving Dark Iron Dwarves, including Thaurissan's heir, swore fealty to Ragnaros, building Shadowforge city within the newly volcanic Blackrock Mountain. They would then wage war against the races who would one day form the Alliance as well as the upstart Horde invaders after the Orcs conquered the upper reaches of the mountain.

The Dark Iron Empire has kept some very disreputable company: their worship of Ragnaros caught the attention of Twilight's Hammer, who sought to aid them in spreading the chaos of Elemental Fire. We also know that when Thaurissan's queen, Modgud, led her attack on Grim Batol, she carried with her Xal'atath (the current Shadow Priest artifact weapon.) While she was killed, she ultimately unleashed a curse through the city that made it inhabitable, forcing the Wildhammer to live out in the countryside while their capital rotted.

The Dark Iron Dwarves were Warcraft's evil dwarf race, but things got more complicated starting even as early as Vanilla.

When Moira Bronzebeard, daughter of King Magni, disappeared, her father believed she had been kidnapped and held as a political hostage by the dastardly Dark Irons. Little did he know that Moira was, in fact, in Shadowforge City of her own free will, and had in fact fallen in love with Dagran Thaurissan, the Dark Iron Emperor. While we brave adventurers went in and killed her husband, we discovered the truth of their relationship: not only had Moira become Queen of the Dark Irons, she was in fact the mother of the infant who we had just unwittingly made Emperor.

As a union of both Dark Iron and Bronzebeard, Moira believes her son could become the true king of all Ironforge. But given what the Dark Irons have done in the past - holding slaves, worshipping destructive elementals, consorting with apocalyptic cults - a lot of people are very suspicious of her motives (not to mention that with an infant Emperor/King, Moira would probably have all the power until he was an adult.)

In Cataclysm, after Magni was transformed by the Titan ritual that would eventually reveal him as the Speaker (for like three expansions we kind of just assumed he was dead,) Ironforge went through a big political transformation. The Wildhammer and Dark Iron clans were officially allowed back into Ironforge and made part of the Alliance. The Wildhammer taught the Bronzebeards Shamanism while the Dark Irons introduced Warlocks and Mages.

But while playable Bronzebeard Dwarves can now pursue those paths, in Battle for Azeroth we'll be getting Dark Iron Dwarves as a fully playable race.

So how is that introduction going to work?

While there's been plenty of political strife after the formation of the Council of Three Hammers, Moira has pretty much proven her loyalty to the Alliance at this point. So in fact, it might be very easy to get the Dark Irons into the Alliance - simply allowing what has been available lore-wise since Cataclysm.

But I suspect we're going to get more of a story than that.

One thing that I think they need to deal with is that Moira might be leading the Dark Iron Dwarves, but she's not one of them. Sure, you could point out that Sylvanas leads a bunch of former humans, with only a handful of undead elves, but that bond of going through undeath is probably enough to satisfy most of the Forsaken. Is her relationship with Dagran and her son enough to convince all the Dark Irons to follow Moira? I suspect not.

While the possibility of Void Elves, Nightborne, Lightforged Draenei, and Highmountain Tauren coming out before Battle for Azeroth's actual launch seems plausible (all the necessary game files seem to be coming in 7.3.5, meaning they could easily flip the switch any time after that,) it's clear that the Horde won't be getting Zandalari Trolls until we go to, you know, Zandalar. But are the Dark Iron Dwarves tied to Kul Tiras the same way?

Obviously, Kul Tiras is primarily a human territory, and the Dark Irons are pretty firmly established in the Searing Gorge/Burning Steppes area. I suspect that, rather than finding some lost branch of the Dark Irons over on Kul Tiras, it's more likely that while we deal with the intrigue of the Tirasian political environment, we might also have to have some kind of reckoning with the Dark Irons - consolidating their role and purpose as a member of the Alliance separate from the Bronzebeard dwarves.

Might we see some new Dark Iron leadership? Or, given the subtle underlying themes that appear present in Battle for Azeroth, is the Dark Iron connection to Twilight's Hammer and other servants of the Old Gods going to turn out to be an important asset when we have to fight them?

More than the other allied Alliance races (that phrase was odd,) we really don't know much about the actual details of establishing the Dark Iron Dwarves as playable. I suspect we won't until the Beta starts, which is probably still a couple months off.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Blood Elf Shadow Priest's Conundrum

Way back in Burning Crusade, an altoholic already (even having only played for a few months!) I decided that I would need to create both a Draenei and Blood Elf character. Not having a Priest, I went with that for my Sin'dorei. He's never been a high priority character (though I've enjoyed the Insanity mechanic introduced in Legion, which has bumped him up from his typical last place position,) but he's been there for over ten years.

As I've never been much of a healer, he's been Shadow most of this time, and with little lore dissonance - one could easily imagine that after experiencing the horror of the Scourge's assault on Quel'thalas, he decided that dark powers would be required to defend himself, and there is great power within the Void.

In Battle for Azeroth, the Alliance will be getting Void Elves as a playable race. For the first time in WoW's history, we're going to see a group of former members of the Horde joining the Alliance, rather than the other way around (though to be fair, the Horde group they come from had itself defected to the Horde from the Alliance, meaning a Void Elf character could have fought for the Alliance already during the Second War.)

The backstory on Void Elves, to the extent that datamining and such is reliable, suggests that the Void Elves were banished from Quel'thalas for communing with the Void. While Lor'themar and his regime will not tolerate this activity, Alleria Windrunner has mastery over this kind of volatile magic, and assists Alliance heroes in rescuing the Void Elves and recruiting them into the Alliance.

But what about my Priest?

I mean, if anyone has been communing with the Shadow, it's by Priest, who takes on a shadowform not unlike Alleria's at the end of Seat of the Triumvirate and clearly has a strong connection to the void. How is he not being exiled? Is it because, as High Priest of the Conclave (you know, for his individual character canon) he has proven himself too valuable, and that the Ren'dorei are meddling in things that they're not strong enough to manage? They do require Alleria and an Alliance hero to rescue them from the beings whose attention they draw - a position my Shadow Priest has never put himself in.

It's definitely possible that this is simply a case of Story and Gameplay Segregation - perhaps canonically, only the Forsaken have a large number of Shadow Priests, and in other cultures, you either go Holy or Disc or you pretend to do so.

However, I think there's another alternative:

Priests have a somewhat unexplored theme of being the Mind over Matter class. It's most obvious with Shadow Priests, given all their Mind-prefixed abilities (in D&D, while a Death Knight or a Warlock would both trade a bit in Necrotic damage, a Shadow Priest would be almost entirely Psychic.) But there are a few things even among the healers that seem to be mentally-themed. Think a Discipline Priest's Pain Suppression - you're not actually preventing physical harm, but you're making it so that the subject merely doesn't feel as much pain, which somehow keeps them alive. Even the theme of Power Word spells suggest that presenting the idea is enough to have a magical effect.

And in a way, that ties into the idea of Priests being disciplined minds: when it comes to magic, Faith is a kind of willpower - holding onto the idea of the miraculous so hard that it actually winds up coming true.

I've suggested way back when they introduced Insanity as a resource for Shadow Priests that it's sort of shorthand for a more complex idea: a Shadow Priest is building up and holding onto the paradoxical notion that there is power in an absence of things - that the Void, which by definition is completely empty, nevertheless has beings and power within it. The greater the power drawn from the void, the greater the paradox, and thus I think that staying in Void form is more and more mentally taxing as more power is siphoned off until the Priest must relent, reverting to a more stable and static Shadowform.

While the form is changed, like most priest spells, it is probably based within the mind - the Shadow Priest does not undergo any permanent physical change. In fact, the Shadowform itself may in fact by a kind of psychic projection - an illusion so real that it might as well be, even though on some fundamental, objective level of reality, the Shadow Priest is still a being of flesh and blood.

And that's where we get the opening to distinguish Void Elves from Shadow Priests.

Void Elves are not all Shadow Priests. They can be, and they are probably very well suited to the role. But they can also be anything from Mages to Monks to Warriors. A Void Elf Fury Warrior is probably not thinking very much about the mysteries of the Void when she charges into battle, painted in her enemy's blood and swinging a pair of massive greatswords. But she does carry the Void with her.

I would suspect that while a Shadow Priest engages with the Void on an intellectual level, the Void Elves have done so on a physical level. What they sought to accomplish with their experiments, we don't know, but they are changed in a physiological sense. Ultimately, my Shadow Priest can drop his void form, change his practices, and become a Holy Priest, who is probably not going to worry anyone in Silvermoon.

But that aforementioned hypothetical Void Elf Warrior is always going to be just that. They are tainted with the Void to a greater degree than the Blood Elves were ever tainted with Fel.

A class is what you choose to do. Race, in WoW, is who you are. One of these, lorewise, can be changed. The other can't (well, perhaps we should say that changes like this are a one-way street.)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Hakkar, the Blood God

We have yet to meet a friendly Wind Serpent deity.

To step outside WoW for a moment to another iconic RPG, in Dungeons and Dragons, the closest equivalent to a wind serpent is a Coautl, which is actually a Lawful Good Celestial (the creature type shared with beings like angels.) Inspired by Mesoamerican mythological figures like Quetzalcoatl, they're basically good guys.

In WoW, Wind Serpents are an ordinary type of animal, and thus there are Loa (Wild Gods) who take that form - possibly they began life as ordinary animals that were uplifted by the Keeper Freya, which we know is what happened to make Ashamane a Wild God.

There are four wind-serpent deities we know of in WoW. Three are affiliated with Trolls (two even within Zul'drak specifically) while one is from Draenor.

Sethe was a Wild God (if that's what huge, powerful, magical, intelligent beasts are called there) who allied with the bird gods Anzu and Rukhmar to free Arak from the Primals. Each brought their own powers to the table, and what Sethe brought was a connection to the Shadow and the Void. After their victory, Sethe became jealous of Rukhmar's ability to fly high above the spires, and plotted against her. But Anzu confronted him, slaying Sethe by slamming him into what is now the Broken Spire. Sethe threatened to poison the whole world with his blood, and so Anzu ate up all of his flesh to prevent the spread of his corruption. Anzu was cursed for this, losing his ability to fly and being connected to the Void himself. Later, when the Adherents of Rukhmar cast down the Talon King Terokk to be maimed by the blood of Sethe in Sethekk Hollow, Anzu came to him as a patron deity.

How did Sethe become connected to the Void? By the time of his death, he was so filled with it that he blood created a poison that would curse people forever. This curse was the basis of the Red Mist the Horde used against the Draenei of Shattrath, creating the Krokul, or Broken, just as the Adherents had created the Arrakoa Outcasts (the existence of Krokul on Argus, independent of the Draenei who lived on Draenor, is another big question mark in that puzzle, though it could be the influence of L'ura, even so high above the surface in Mac'aree.)

On Azeroth, there are two Drakkari Loa who were both slain by the Drakkari in their desperate attempt to hold of the Scourge. Quetz'lun was slain at her shrine, and her only solace has been to torment the souls of her killers within the Shadowlands. Now, the question of Tharon'ja is sort of open: it's possible that Tharon'ja was actually a Troll, perhaps the one who siphoned the power of Quetz'lun to take on a Wind Serpent form, albeit a skeletal one. Either that, or Tharon'ja was a Loa who was somehow already undead even before the Scourge conquered Drak'tharon (with our unwitting help.)

However, the most famous of the Wind Serpent deities is Hakkar the Soulflayer. A ruling priesthood within the Gurubashi Empire attempted to summon Hakkar multiple times, first in the Temple of Atal'Hakkar, also known as the Sunken Temple. It earned that second name when the Green Dragonflight descended upon the massive temple and sunk in beneath the swamp - in fact, there's a good chance the Swamp of Sorrows is the way it is because of this destructive act to safeguard the world.

Ultimately, the Atal'ai were eventually successful, though, and summoned Hakkar to the central palace of Zul'Gurub. There, Hakkar loomed over the empire in total domination until a band of adventurers journeyed within and defeated him.

Later, when the Zandalari, spurred on by the prophet Zul, attempted to re-create their global empire, the Gurubashi, led by Jin'do the Hexxer, now called Jin'do the Godbreaker, began to channel the power of Hakkar. Jin'do pulled us into the Shadowlands, and we were only able to escape by breaking the shackles on Hakkar and setting the Blood God free. That's the last we've heard of him.

But what is Hakkar's deal? Why is he so dangerous that the Green Dragonflight had to destroy the Temple of Atal'Hakkar? And perhaps most cryptically, why does the flavor text of Soulflayer's Corruption, a Blood Death Knight legendary, specifically point out that his origins are a mystery and that he does not exist in any Titan records?

The simplest explanation for Hakkar would seem to be that he's a Wild God like the other Loa. But why such special attention, or rather, why such a mystery?

Hakkar, in addition to being called the Soulflayer, is also known as the Blood God. In the announcement for Battle for Azeroth, we learned that in the swamps of Nazmir, we're going to enter a facility called Uldir, where the Titans attempted to experiment with the Old Gods. They knew that they couldn't just tear them out of the planet after what happened with Y'shaarj, and so instead they tried to understand them and potentially change them into something that could help foster life on Azeroth rather than threaten it.

What they created instead was something that Blizzard made a special point to call a Blood God - something that was potentially more dangerous than even the Old Gods.

We know that Nazmir and even Zuldazar are being overrun by fanatical Blood Trolls, maybe devout followers of the Blood God.

But is this Blood God, which I think I read somewhere is called G'huun, the same sort of thing as Hakkar?

It could actually offer a different explanation of that line from the legendary's flavor text. Perhaps the reason there are no Titan records is not because the history has been forgotten, but because it was intentionally redacted. Maybe whatever Titanforged being was running the experiments wanted to cover up his or her actions. Maybe they wanted the record purged so that the experiments would not be repeated.

But if Hakkar was the unfortunate result of Titan experimentation, it could explain why such massive efforts went to preventing his summoning.

Still, we have a few unanswered questions:

Where were the Atal'ai summoning Hakkar from? We see him in what I assume is the Shadowlands during the Jin'do the Godbreaker fight, but that makes sense seeing as he's dead (you know, thanks to us.) Where was he when the Atal'ai tried to summon him to the Swamp of Sorrows?

Is there a connection between Hakkar and Sethe? Both are wind serpent deities whose blood is highly corruptive. They're from different worlds, but given that the Orcs associate Goldrinn with their own wolf spirit, Lo'gosh, is it possible that Hakkar and Sethe might even be the same entity in different forms?

And is Hakkar truly a "Blood God" in the "Titan+Old God" sense? Did Hakkar come out of Uldir, or somewhere else? And what connection, if any, does he have with this G'huun entity?

And why does he have the same name as a prominent Legion demon who is the final boss of the Hunter class campaign, Hakkar the Houndmaster? (Ok, that one's a silly one - I assume they named Hakkar the Soulflayer after forgetting that they already had a Hakkar in the lore. Hey, you know, one of my best friends has the same first name as I do. It happens.)

Depending on the answers to some of these questions, we might learn a lot more about Hakkar in Battle for Azeroth, and perhaps finally follow up on setting him free back in 4.1.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Shadows Die Twice in FromSoft's Teaser

FromSoft, the company behind Dark Souls, its spiritual predecessor and its spiritual sequel (interquel? Given that Dark Souls III came out after it?) Bloodborne, has a bizarre and creepy teaser for a new game.

So what the hell are we even looking at? It almost looks to me like a device meant to set a bone, this bone seems to have already been extracted from a body.

With Dark Souls III supposedly ending the franchise, many of us who loved Bloodborne have been eagerly hoping for a Bloodborne II.

This neither confirms nor rules out that possibility.

Admittedly, the blood and gore and the mechanical device would both fit well in Bloodborne's universe, but it is, of course, very little to go on.

And it's possible that "Shadows Die Twice" is not a tagline, but rather the actual name of a new IP.

Still, given that Bloodborne is one my favorite video games of all time, I'm eager to find out any information about a possible sequel.

Kobolds and Catacombs Live

First of all, you need to see this:

Ok, with that taken care of:

Kobolds and Catacombs is the new Hearthstone expansion, heavily inspired by tabletop RPGs, especially the quintessential member of the genre, Dungeons and Dragons (the name of the expansion is clearly a reference.)

While the expansion itself has plenty of fun new cards, the thing I really recommend checking out is the solo adventure that comes with it.

Unlike previous adventures, which have had set bosses that you'd have to build decks to beat, in this "dungeon run," you build a deck as you beat bosses, gaining higher max health and powerful abilities, but also encounter far tougher enemies.

It's hard to build your deck around these enemies, as you don't know what boss is around the corner. So far, I've managed to beat three bosses in a single run - but to beat the whole thing, you need to defeat 8. With new decks each time (and no, you don't need to provide your own cards, which makes this great for players with smaller collections) you're going to have to try different strategies on each attempt.

It's lots of fun and it's an entirely PVE-based, so even though it's very difficult, it should be a relatively low-stress way to play, and because it changes every time, it'll stay fresh.

The Shal'dorei Reckoning

Before we begin, let's take a look at this little fun fact: Elves on Azeroth have an interesting naming convention, which is to have a prefix followed by the suffix "dorei," meaning "child of," which is how they name the different races of elves. Kaldorei, the Elvish (technically Darnassian, which I think we can assume is a dialect of some greater elvish language or language group) word for Night Elves, literally means "Children of the Stars." Quel'dorei is the term for High Elves, and literally translates to "Children of the High" (I believe.) Sin'dorei means "Children of Blood." The upcoming Void Elves are called Ren'dorei, which I'd assume means "Children of the Void" (with Ren perhaps being related to the English word rend, like a rend in the fabric of space.)

Shal'dorei is the term for the Nightborne, introduced in Legion. It's not immediately obvious what the prefix Shal means. One potential definition could be "night," which would make the Nightborne the "Children of the Night," which sounds about right. The irony here, of course, is that Night Elves really ought to be called Star Elves, and we could then just call the Nightborne Night Elves, which they sort of are (then again, all elves are sort of Night Elves. And all Night Elves are sort of trolls.)

We actually see the "Shal" prefix in a lot of places. Shal'aran is the hidden facility that Thalyssra and her Nightfallen rebellion use as a headquarters. Shaladrassil is the world tree that served as a prison for the Satyrs after the War of the Satyr (the first major conflict to follow the War of the Ancients) and thus became the focal point for the Emerald Nightmare (which actually could explain how N'zoth usurped the Nightmare from Yogg-Saron, who had started it in Grizzly Hills.)

But let's talk about the Nightborne.

The Nightborne will be joining the Horde in Battle for Azeroth - a move has raised quite a few Alliance eyebrows, given the efforts that individual Alliance heroes put in to freeing the Nightborne. Indeed, two of the major Broken Isles factions are going Horde, and unlike the Highmountain Tauren, who seemed inevitably likely to join their Mulgore-based brethren, the Nightborne seemed really appropriate to either side. From a meta-perspective, I think that they wanted to find a way to give the Alliance some form of High Elf (and while I think they're cool, I don't know if all the people waiting a decade for High Elves were really looking for something like the Void Elves) and so it made sense to give the Horde an equivalent to an Alliance race.

But there is some logic to it. The Nightborne were largely Highborne at the time of the War of the Ancients, when the mages there sealed the city away to escape the Burning Legion. Like the High Elves of Quel'thalas, the Nightborne of Suramar grew dependent on magic - though while the High Elves' connection to arcane magic was more of a choice and even status symbol, in the case of the Nightborne, it was pure survival. The city was sealed away with no farmland or wilds to hunt. Other than the vineyards and perhaps the city canals, they would literally starve to death if they could not sustain themselves through magic.

Perhaps because Elves in general exist only because of the Arcane power of the Well of Eternity, they are highly susceptible to magic addiction (makes me wonder if something similar would happen if Tauren learned to be mages, as they have a similar origin.) And those who were cut off from the Arcwine in the city, perhaps through exile (I don't really know the timeline - whether they could push people out of the city without allowing anyone to get in or if all that exiling happened after Elisande sold out of Gul'dan,) would lead to a painful devolution first into Nightfallen and then Withered.

When the Scourge defiled the Sunwell, the High Elves suffered as well. The withdrawal from magic addiction after their source of arcane power was cut off led many High Elves to suffer a nearly identical fate, eventually devolving into the mindless Wretched. However, it was Illidan Stormrage who presented a solution - teaching the newly-named Blood Elves how to siphon Fel energy from the Twisting Nether to replace the arcane power of the Sunwell (this is what turned their eyes from blue to green.) It's not totally clear why High Elves like Vereesa Windrunner never went Wretched, but it could be that as her followers were largely rangers, they might have spent less time over their lives as permeated by Arcane magic, and thus might not have had the same level of addiction.

The Blood Elves and the Nightborne have a ton of common experiences, and so it actually makes plenty of sense that the former would recruit the latter for the Horde.

But there are issues to address:

First off, while many joined up in rebellion against Elisande and the Legion (even Elisande seemed contrite after we killed her, through some kind of post-mortem memory-echo,) one has to imagine that a ton of surviving Nightborne were totally on team Green, and they will need to answer for those crimes.

Likewise, with the conflict between Alliance and Horde building up to a fever pitch, the Nightborne are going to have to have some serious break with the Alliance. Even if they didn't have the same connection to the Kaldorei that they did with the Sin'dorei, the Alliance also put a ton of effort into helping Suramar free itself, and turning around and declaring war on them is a pretty nasty act of betrayal.

I wonder how this will be handled. Now, it is true that some Alliance and Horde races have gotten along fairly well individually - the Tauren and Night Elves have historically been rather friendly with one another, at least until they joined opposite factions. It's possible that the Nightborne will support the Horde, but not directly attack the Alliance except as part of larger Horde operations. It's also possible we'll see some event to set off greater animosity - perhaps some ill-advised aggressive move on the part of the Alliance.

In the end, we're going to wind up with way more playable elf races in WoW, which tend to be popular (but give me that updated Worgen model as soon as you can, Blizz.)

Monday, December 4, 2017

After the Fall of Sargeras, Who Threatens Us?

While we never get to fight him directly (something that I'll confess I'm a little frustrated about,) the end of the Antorus raid sees Sargeras defeated. Forced into his giant (as in, the size of a planet) humanoid form rather than the cloud of fel darkness encroaching on our world and drawn into the Seat of the Pantheon in a far smaller form, imprisoned by the other Titans with aid from Illidan (for, like, all eternity or at least until Blizzard decides they need him back as a villain,) Sargeras is no longer there to lead the Burning Legion, and with the engine of Antorus destroyed with the death of the Titan Argus (though how permanent that death is remains to be see - the other Titans were killed by Sargeras after all but seem relatively ok after the raid,) the Legion cannot regenerate at the same rate it used to (again, wish we'd get a less ambiguous explanation for what, exactly, Antorus did for them, as demons naturally resurrect in the Twisting Nether.)

So the Burning Legion, the most deadly force the Warcraft cosmos had ever seen, is scattered to the winds.

If the defeat of the Legion in the War of the Ancients put Azeroth's heroes on the map, this victory puts us at the center of it.

If the mighty Legion can fall before us, who could dare oppose us?

First, to step outside of the narrative for a second: Ultimately, nothing can stand against us because this is a game, and any instance of our failing to defeat the big bads (if they are indeed fightable as a boss) is rendered non-canon as soon as we take them down. There are games, of course, that end in defeat, but even in those, one usually triumphs against some big fundamental monster. Anything in WoW that can we set our murderous sights on is ultimately going to be defeated.

But to step back into the narrative:

What we're basically creating here is a list of villains. There is a lot of what I'd call "umbrella-ing," where some powerful foes fit within the context of a larger foe. However, if something feels different enough to be an independent expression, I'll list both. That includes two of the biggest, which I'll get too early in the list.

This list is also something that will continue, and must continue, to grow. Given that Warcraft as a setting is less a singular epic like Lord of the Rings and more of a diverse universe meant to be a setting for many stories, like the Marvel Universe, new threats and new heroes will always have a chance to rise up, and old enemies or even old allies will transform into things we're going to have to fight.

So, without further ado: The remaining villains of Warcraft:

Each Other:

While this would normally be the last entry on such a list, the "huh, makes you think" entry, given the nature of the upcoming Battle for Azeroth expansion, this threat is actually going to be center stage. It's all well and good that your Horde character has become nearly god-like in his or her power, but the Alliance has been keeping pace with you, meaning that a rivalry between mere mortals has ascended to mythic levels. Yes, you beat the Legion, but so did your counterpart on the other side.

This is also the villain that, for gameplay purposes, as well as meta-narrative purposes, can never truly be defeated or subdued. Blizzard could probably never tell half their players that they are the losers in this central conflict, which makes me very, very curious to see how Battle for Azeroth's plot resolves.

The Old Gods:

We know of four Old Gods to have infested Azeroth. There are probably many others out there in the cosmos, but they are not likely to be a direct threat to us, as the Old Gods seem to focus on whatever planet they have infected. There is a possibility that there was a fifth (or more,) but unless we get some big reveal and confirmation, right now we know of only Y'shaarj, Yogg-Saron, C'thun, and N'zoth.

Y'Shaarj is the most likely to be fully dead. Even the Sha, which cursed the land of Pandaria for eons, were considered only an echo of the Old God, and the Klaxxi, who were devout worshippers of Y'Shaarj, saw the Sha as abominations, which suggests that Y'Shaarj has truly been dead all this time. It is unlikely that it could be resurrected, as it seems the last of its essence was used to empower Garrosh Hellscream, who was still defeated.

C'thun was defeated in Ahn'Qiraj. After its death, it managed to possess Cho'gall, meaning that even in death, it was still powerful. Now the question is whether Cho'gall's death meant anything more serious for C'thun. There is one other major element here, though, which is that when Sargeras was imprisoned, he stabbed Azeroth with his massive sword directly into Silithus, meaning that the sword most likely hit C'thun's body. In my mind, this seems most likely to have done damage to the Old God, though it's also possible that doing so weakened C'thun's bindings, perhaps giving him greater freedom to escape (given Sargeras' opinion of the Old Gods, any help for C'thun was almost certainly unintentional, which makes me doubt that it did help the Old God. Sargeras may be evil, but he's no idiot.)

Yogg-Saron was defeated in Ulduar. The fact that we directly attacked its brain (which, interestingly, seemed to exist in a strange realm of memory and imagination or vision) suggest we must have done some real damage to it, but on the other hand, his servants pop up as we enter Ulduar to speak with Magni at the beginning of Legion. That means he's probably not totally out of the picture.

Finally, N'zoth remains at large. We woke him up, ending the Emerald Nightmare but in the process maybe freeing him. I'm also about 80% convinced that using the Pillars of Creation unlocked his prison in Ny'alotha. N'zoth has never been killed, so there's no reason to think anything is standing in his (its, sorry, defaulting to male pronouns) way other than his original (likely faulty and crumbling) Titanic restraints.

The Void:

The creators of the Old Gods are mysterious. We're learning more and more about the Void as a source of magical power - one that is dangerous but not necessarily malevolent (though usually it is.) The Void Lords are really the only villains who could unseat Sargeras as the Biggest Bads of the Warcraft cosmos. But it's also possible that destroying them isn't even metaphysically possible. We're far more likely to encounter agents of the Void, including the Old Gods, than actually facing against them directly.

That's also assuming we haven't already. We've encountered plenty of relatively innocuous Void entities (some bearing the actual name of Void Lord) in our travels, and Warlocks even have them as minions. What if the Void Lords individually are actually no more powerful than any given Voidwalker, but that they are collectively an incredibly powerful force that could threaten even the Titans? In the void, what do power and even the individuality versus collective identity even mean?

The Scourge:

The end of Wrath very pointedly had us crowning a new Lich King. The Scourge is absolutely still around, but we ended its war against us and installed someone who would not act as a conqueror, but rather a "jailor of the damned." But Bolvar has been acting in disturbing ways lately, given the Death Knight quests in Legion. Even if his intentions are ultimately benevolent (in a greater good sort of way because those red dragons sure did not deserve what happened to them,) it's also possible that he does not have full control over the Scourge. There's no reason to believe that Kel'thuzad has not resurrected somewhere, as we never found his phylactery the second time we raided Naxxramas, and he could easily take command of legions of undead. There are also some splinter factions within the Scourge that might be small for now, but could wind up growing uncontrollably, you know, like a plague. The Cult of the Damned still exists.

Something From the Shadowlands:

I'm still holding on to my theory that the Lich King is not demonic in origin, but rather is a powerful entity of the Shadowlands that Kil'jaeden extracted and stuffed in a suit of armor. But even if he's not, the Shadowlands are clearly host to many undead threats, from Helya (who we did kill,) to the Drust spirits, Bwonsamdi, and whatever taught Odyn how to turn Helya into the first Val'kyr (if that's not my theoretical Lich King spirit.)

The Infinite Dragonflight:

Yes, we've killed its leader, but first of all, that was in a timeline that no longer happens and second of all, killing a time-traveling villain means next to nothing if you can't account for every moment it spent (according to its own personal timeline) between becoming that villain and dying. From Murozond's perspective, he might have spent twenty-five thousand years messing up the timeline between transforming from Nozdormu and when we caught up to him. Hell, if he can "fix" his death to that moment, maybe he's unkillable until that moment (I think it would be awesome to have a raid fight against him where we can't kill him - we can only try to prevent him from interfering with our killing him back at level 85.) Also, does the infinite dragonflight die with him? We know they certainly haven't been erased from the timeline, and they even aided in Garrosh's escape (which notably led to our contact with another timeline plus a demonic invasion that will probably have helped free the Old Gods, who serve the Void Lords, who exist in a state where there is no single true past or future...)


We're probably going to get a good long break from demons after Legion, but just because its leadership is dissolved doesn't mean that demons as a thing no longer exist. And they're not known for being polite and helpful.

The Elements:

Much as the Alliance and Horde have historically set aside their differences to face larger threats, the only time you tend to see the Elemental Lords working with each other is to counter some external danger. The Shaman class campaign was all about navigating the politics of the Elemental Plains. But without the Legion threatening doom to everyone, and with Azeroth's soul in torment as she suffers from Sargeras' attack, I don't think that this cooperative peace is going to last very long.

Something We Thought Was Good:

X'era's vision for the universe is actually pretty terrifying. As a being of pure light, she pursued purity. And perfect purity means no life, because there would be no disparity. The Light is generally seen as benevolent, but if the ultimate goal is to make everything uniformly filled with light, that existence loses meaning just as much as the total annihilation of all things apparently sought by the Void. Now, I'd guess that not all Naaru are like this - many seem to have a nuanced enough view that they're happy to foster life and peace and just generally want people to be safe and happy. But an obsession with purity on the part of powerful beings of Light could prove a very dangerous threat indeed.

Similarly, the Titans and their creations are agents of Order. And while Order can generally mean safety and stability (which seems to be primarily what they sought to establish on Azeroth) it can also veer into tyranny and totalitarianism, as we saw with the Mogu, who were one of the Titanforged races. Odyn has been an ally in our fight against the Legion, but even if Helya's response to his behavior made her a villain, his actions toward her - imperiously forcing her into undeath to serve as his first Val'kyr, to then grant fallen Vrykul a form of undeath in eternal service to him - was pretty awful, and I can't say I blame Helya for being pissed at him.

Even Life in abundance can be villainous. The Botani and their ilk - the spawn of Draenor's massive Sporemounds - were so feral and all-consuming that they threatened to choke the planet like a cancer. And the ferocity of wild beasts, while revered by druids, is not always directed at the monstrous threats to our world. The Worgen struggle with the power of Goldrinn that has infected them like a disease, and the ferocious power of beasts can threaten to topple the safety and order of civilization, as it nearly did in Gilneas.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Health Buff to Low Level Enemies

Since around Cataclysm, and particularly since then (especially with heirlooms,) there's been this issue with leveling up through low-level areas. Things die at an absurdly quick pace.

Now, on one hand, this makes the process go quickly and smoothly - we've come a long, long way since the days of Vanilla, when I felt the need to heal up and drink mana-replenishing stuff after every couple fights just out in the world (dungeons used to take a lot longer because you would generally want all the mana-using classes to drink after nearly every pull.)

But one of the problems with the swiftly dying foes is that you don't really get much of a sense of a rotation. Even dungeon bosses go down so quickly that if you're playing, say, a Demonology Warlock, you probably won't even get to Hand of Gul'dan unless you skip summoning your Dreadstalkers.

The level-scaling revamp is going to slow things down by giving enemies more health, relative to the damage output of the players.

So what does this mean? We're getting six new playable races with Battle For Azeroth (and potentially four of those six before the expansion,) with a specific incentive not to level-boost or race-change the character, as you'll get unique transmog gear for that race (only usable for that race, mind you) if you level them up "manually."

That means a big incentive to roll new characters.

One of the problems WoW has had as it has gotten older is that, while places like Outland and Northrend still exist, and are still important steps to leveling up a new character, the scaling of damage and health and such has been knocked pretty seriously out of balance. Leveling might be "easier," but it's more mindless than it used to be.

Obviously people are going to have mixed opinions on this: I'm sure a lot of people like leveling up super-fast so that they can get a new character to endgame. But something that I think used to be more true of the game was that the endgame was important and fun, but it wasn't the whole game.

The lower-level zones provide opportunities for you to get engaged in the world, and also allow for you to have more of a heroic arc - as cool as it is that I'm now Highlord of the Silver Hand, it feels that much cooler knowing that eleven years ago, I was some little punk running around fighting (and getting murdered by) Murlocs in Elwynn Forest.

Yes, it's an intermediary step, but I think it's important to have some time to really feel and work your way through becoming the Titan-stomping badass that you become at level 110.

To an extent, players like me, who have leveled up an embarassingly large number of characters over the years, are always going to be a little itchier to get to endgame, as we've done the old world, Outland, Northrend, etc. several times before.

But I think that both level scaling and this slight (and it's not huge) buff to enemy health is going to make the journey when I level up by new characters more engaging and fun.

Now, what I need to figure out is if I can do all of my 58-80 leveling in Wrath content. I love Outland for its alien landscapes, but its quest content has not aged so well.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Garothi Worldbreaker: Tank Perspective

I know what you're saying: "What? You're doing your raid overview before LFR is even out?" Yes, it turns out that my guild, who I often affectionately call the "clean-up crew," actually managed to beat the first boss of a new raid the very first week it came out. This might be the first time the guild has been so current in our raiding.

We even got the next boss (we did Hounds of Sargeras) down to 10% on our first attempt before we had to call it.

So let's talk Garothi Worldbreaker.

This guy is a huge Fel Reaver who peers over the edge of a cliff at the raid. It's a relatively simple fight, but the damage ramps up significantly as the fight goes on.

First, let's talk about the arena: it's a relatively rectangular room with a kind of blob of to the left as you face the boss (I can't remember how it orients regarding compass directions, so I'm going to act as if the boss is the audience in a play and refer to the boss as being Downstage, the cliff you jump from Upstage, and Stage Left and Stage Right referring to the way you'll be facing during the fight.

Tanks will need to swap pretty frequently due to Fel Bombardment: he'll mark the current tank and after about five seconds, they'll start getting bombarded for about 4 million fire damage, which hits three or four times. The good news is that if you keep moving, you can avoid most if not all of this damage. Remember the blob I mentioned? You want to run back upstage, stage left, and let the bombardments follow behind you before turning around and heading back to the boss. Tell your DPS and healers not to go into that area and you'll be fine.

There are two major abilities that the boss uses over the course of the fight: Decimation and Annihilation.

Annihilation places green circles on the ground that need to be soaked or they'll do raidwide damage. Thankfully, soaking the damage can be split between players, making the damage easily survivable.

Decimation marks individual players with a large circle, dropping a painful barrage at their location after it expires. Players with decimation should get away from other raid members, let the circle drop, and then get out of its radius. Just reserve that little blob stage left for tanks to drop their Fel Bombardments.

At 60% and then 20% health, the boss will lean forward and begin charging a nasty attack that I believe pretty much one-shots the raid. However, his two cannons - the Decimator and the Annihilator - are exposed. Pick one of them to attack (whichever ability you least wish to deal with) and kill it. This will interrupt the cast and also prevent the boss from using that ability for the rest of the fight.

After breaking the cannon, a few seconds later it'll cast Exterminate, deals more damage the closer you are to the boss. Everyone should run away from it asap until it goes off, then tanks should run in and pick the boss up again. While it loses an ability based on the destroyed cannon, it also gains a permanent 20% damage buff, meaning tanks are going to have a somewhat tougher time.

There's a decent amount of time to burn the cannons, so I recommend saving Time Warp and its ilk (my guild has a lot of mages and very few shamans) for later in the fight, when the damage gets more intense.

I'll probably have the first raid finder wing write up next week, but I'm also relatively confident we can take down the Felhounds on Normal next weekend. We'll see if there's much different in mechanics.

The Draenei, the Lightforged, and the Krokul

One of the allied races joining the Alliance in Battle for Azeroth (or possibly a lot sooner) is the Lightforged Draenei. We first encountered these guys as part of the Army of the Light, a force that had been fighting against the Legion since its conquest of Argus.

The history of the Lightforged is a little ambiguous. They are called Draenei, which is the Eredar word for "exiled ones." In the case of Velen's followers, that makes perfect sense - they left Argus on the Genedar and wandered the cosmos for 25,000 years, always hoping they could return home but developing a new culture based around the worship of the Light and reverence for the Naaru.

Velen was the main skeptic of Sargeras' offer, and he was unable to convince his fellow Triumvirs, Archimonde and Kil'jaeden, to reject it. It was Velen who led the dissenters to flee the planet as the other Eredar began transforming into demons. The dissenting Eredar appear to have split into three groups:

The Draenei as we have known them since Burning Crusade have the most complete history - they fled from planet to planet, pulling up stakes when the Legion found them, and finally settled on Draenor after the Genedar crashed, where they attempted to make an honest go of it until the Orcs, manipulated by Kil'jaeden, turned on them, committing genocide and driving the few remaining Draenei into hiding until they were able to escape Outland on the Exodar and join the Alliance.

However, two groups remained on Argus.

One group was the Darkfallen Krokul, led by Chieftain Hatuun. Hatunn had been loyal to Velen and volunteered to face down Kil'jaeden in order to buy the soon-to-be Draenei time to escape. We don't really know what happened to him and his followers, but they seem to have been rendered Broken (Krokul being the Eredar word for Broken) much as the defenders of Shattrath would be during the war against the nascent Horde in Outland. The Broken on Outland seemed to be cursed by some kind of Void or Blood (is Blood magic a type of Death magic, like necromancy?) magic (whatever Sethe is tied to) the same way that the Arrakoa Outcasts were. How such a curse fell upon the Darkfallen of Argus remains a mystery, but these people waged a guerrilla campaign against the Legion from their hidden bases in Krokuun.

The people we have the least clear backstory on are the Lightforged, which is interesting, given that they are going to be a playable race pretty soon.

One possibility is that the Lightforged truly are Draenei who followed Velen off of Argus, but perhaps on one of the many planets they were forced to flee, they might have gotten separated, only to be rescued by X'era, who offered to purify them as Lightforged, and then they might have traveled back to Argus on the Xenedar.

Alternatively, not everyone might have made it aboard the Genedar when Velen led his followers off of Argus (we know Hatuun didn't make it,) and while some would become the Darkfallen, others may have been rescued by X'era.

It seems the Army of the Light worked with the Darkfallen to fight the Legion - it is Turalyon who calms down Hatuun after we arrive in Krokul Hovel with Velen. But how exactly their two factions cooperated is also ambiguous.

One thing that's pretty interesting about seeing the Lightforged join the Alliance is their relationship with the regular Draenei. The Draenei culture is largely defined by its faith in the Light. But while they are a pious people, they're still ultimately a group of (naturally long-lived) mortal people. There's variation in their religiosity, and even Velen appears to have (or at least be developing) a more nuanced view of the cosmos and the Light.

The Lightforged are different. They are literally infused with the Light, to the extent that even non-harmful Shadow magic can potentially kill them. Alleria nearly killed her husband Turalyon (the only Lightforged Human) when she used Void magic to help them escape the Legion.

With X'era dead, the Lightforged are going to have to come up with their own path to walk, but they are in a state where adherence isn't merely a philosophical choice, but rather a physiological fact.

The other really interesting thing is that the Alliance will be getting both the Lightforged Draenei and the Void Elves at the same time. The Lightforged are going to be fighting alongside people who are as infused with Shadow as they are with Light. That's got to be weird, and has the potential to create some real tension within the Alliance.

The Fate of Demonkind

Demons in the Warcraft Cosmos existed long before the Burning Legion. The story goes that in the beginning, there was only Light. And then the Light began to coalesce in particular areas, leaving gaps within it. This was the Void. The disparity between Light and Void allowed the physical universe, referred to as "Reality" or "The Great Dark Beyond" (the latter used more to refer to Outer Space as opposed to the surface of life-bearing planets,) to exist.

Reality seems to be composed of Light and Void - in other words, existence and non-existence. Without anything in the Void, it has no meaning, but also, without borders between things within existence, Light has no meaning either.

Where the two meet and strike each other, annihilating into pure energy, that energy is called Fel - the magic of chaos. While Reality exists, in a sense, between Light and Void, so does the Twisting Nether - the realm of Fel magic.

We don't know specifically how Arcane magic works, but if I had to guess, it is equal and opposite to Fel - rather than a chaotic collision of Light and Void, it occurs when the two are in harmony, ordered into a productive form.

There are two other primal forces with affiliated magic, namely Life and Death, but I'm not going to get into those in this post.

Demons are beings of Fel magic, whose souls are bound to the Twisting Nether. If there is anything that seems to tie them together, it is their connection to Fel magic, even while they vary greatly in physiology.

And yet, this does not seem to be 100% consistent. Illidan Stormrage, a problematic anti-hero to be sure (though his portrayal has been far more sympathetic in Legion,) used Arcane tattoos to contain the Fel magic he was given by Sargeras, a practice that his Illidari Demon Hunters have incorporated into their technique. While he cooperated with the Legion in certain ways to survive, his goal has always been their destruction.

In the Black Temple in Outland, Illidan discovered a strange artifact - the Reliquary of Souls. Where this thing came from is unknown - it doesn't seem likely that it was an original feature of the Temple of Karabor (we didn't see it in Warlords of Draenor, but then, we didn't get to go inside then) but as we learn in the Warlock Green Fire chain during Mists of Pandaria, it served as a font of Arcane magic. Illidan was able to convince many demons to serve him in exchange for the arcane magic that it provided. It even changed their physiology, turning them more purple and blue than Fel green or red. They remained Demons, but they seemed to have become beings of Arcane magic rather than Fel.

And that's pretty odd. Also it's something that never came up during Legion.

Demons existed before the Legion, but not all of the demonic races were demons yet at that point. Most famously, the Eredar were an ordinary, if technologically and magically advanced, mortal race. Sargeras recruited them, turning the two thirds of the populace who agreed into the Man'ari while the remaining faction fled as the Draenei (splitting, in their haste, into two smaller factions, one following the Prime Naaru X'era and the other following the former Triumvir, now Prophet Velen.) We can presume that many demonic races were also former mortals, with a known example being the Satyrs, formerly Night Elves.

But some, like the Nathrezim, were demons before Sargeras formed the Burning Legion.

These seem like an interesting group to examine. It's possible that, like the Eredar, the Nathrezim were originally mortals, and that rather than accepting an offer from a Titan, they instead discovered the Fel on their own.

But their selection of magics is really interesting: Sargeras molded the Legion primarily to fight the Void, and thus oriented Fel magic to combat the Void. Ironically, the Light and the general population of the universe was sort of an obstacle in the way of his primary goal - defeating the Void.

And Sargeras discovered the Void thanks to the Nathrezim, who had dedicated themselves to Void, not solely Fel, magic, and served the Old Gods on a different infested world.

Lothraxion, when he was a part of the Legion, was tasked specifically with hunting creatures of the Void, which suggests that even though he was Nathrezim, he could turn against his earlier magical orientation. Of course, he would undergo a different transformation, becoming Lightforged and turning to serve the Army of the Light.

While the Light and demons are generally seen as opposed, it also seems to follow that if demons (and specifically Nathrezim) could align themselves with the Void, it isn't so crazy that they should be able to align with the Light, if Fel is the chaotic mixture of the two. And interesting question to ask regarding Lothraxion is whether he is technically still a demon. Can you have a benevolent, Lightforged creature that is still, technically, a demon, perhaps even retaining his connection to the Twisting Nether?

The game hasn't fully explained the purpose of Antorus - we know that it is a sort of engine that channels the power of the Titan Argus in order to bring demons back to life. Given that demons killed outside the Nether do this anyway, that doesn't seem necessary. I hope it's not just an oversight on lore (something Blizzard has been known to do in the past, even forgetting that the Eredar were originally portrayed as the demons who drove Sargeras to evil, a position that was given to the Nathrezim after the error was noticed.) There are some explanations that could work (I'd just like to see them mentioned in-game,) like the possibility that Antorus speeds up the resurrection process from something that could take years or longer into something that only lasts days. The other possibility, and one that I really think would be cool, is if Antorus allows them to get around not just death in Reality, but even within the Twisting Nether and other Fel-saturated places like Argus - "patching the leak" as it were on the Legion's vulnerabilities.

We know that defeating Argus will shut it down, though, and with Sargeras imprisoned, not to mention that Kil'jaeden and (I'm pretty sure) Archimonde gone for good, the Legion is totally leaderless, its main bastion shattered.

But that doesn't mean that demons as a thing won't persist.

Perhaps as long as there is chaos (so, always, pretty much) there will always be demons.

But what will they do, and who will they serve?

Might the surviving Nathrezim return to their old masters, the Old Gods? Might we see Lothraxion recruit more of his kin to embrace the Light? (And even if they become beings of Light, does that mean they'll actually be good? I could see a bunch of Light-infused demons deciding that they're going to continue Sargeras' good work of purging the Void, this time with an obsession with purity and using Holy magic to scour planets of anything remotely void-tainted.) Might demons become truly chaotic - following no leader or ethos and just destroying anything in their path, with none of the Legion's willingness to take a moment to conquer and consolidate their victories?

Or will some powerful demon attempt to take up Sargeras' charge and continue his Burning Crusade in the Dark Titan's absence?

I strongly believe we're going to be mostly free of demons for a good long while in WoW - I even suspect they're building up Death-aligned enemies so that it's not just all Void stuff from here on out - but though our victory in Antorus is/will be a huge deal for the Warcraft cosmos, we aren't eliminating demons entirely.