Blizzard has released a new cinematic for World of Warcraft ahead of the August 14 launch of its seventh expansion, Battle for Azeroth. It comes at a time when fans are up at arms over recent story developments, but this new movie shows that Blizzard can still craft good stories that make players happy.
I was one of the voices criticizing World of Warcraft’s story last week. A new quest line and cinematic showed the Horde acting as the aggressors in a new war against the Alliance. This event reached its climax with the Horde leader Sylvanas burning down the world tree, home of the Night Elves. It’s a heinous act that kills a lot of innocents. For many Horde players, it was upsetting to see their faction painted as so evil.
This new cinematic, which you can watch above, focuses on an Orc veteran, Saurfang. It makes it clear that he is not happy about the burning of the world tree. It also shows him reflecting on the death of his own son (something that happened in the game back in the second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King).
First off, the quality of the cinematic is outstanding. Unlike the recent Warbringers shorts, which mostly get by with still images, this a full GC animated production. We usually only get these kinds of cinematics when Blizzard is announcing a new expansion. It’s great to get one just as a way to further the game’s story.
And this movie’s story is captivating. It gives Horde players something they’ve wanted since last week with a major Horde character questioning Sylvanas’s actions. But beyond that, it helps develop Saurfang’s character, a person who will be a major player in Battle for Azeroth.
We also get a new character via a plucky, young Troll Shaman that revers and challenges Saurfang. It’s great to see a more hopeful and just downright pleasant character in the Horde. And he’s already won the hearts of the community. Last week, Reddit’s World of Warcraft front page filled with posts complaining about the world tree story. Today, it’s all memes celebrating this new character, which the community has dubbed “Zappy Boi.”
Does this cinematic quell all my worries about World of Warcraft’s story? Not really. Many players assumed that Saurfang would take up the mantle of opposition against Sylvanas. It’s nice to see that her evil deeds will be challenged, but this is still a bit predictable. It also mirrors a story that World of Warcraft already told when Garrosh, a former leader of the Horde, went too far and had to be taken down by a rebellion.
But while I’m worried that the overall narrative could retread old ground in a predictable manner, it’ll be easier to swallow if the execution is as thoughtful and compelling as it is in this cinematic.
Oh, and Blizzard? Give us more Zappy Boi, please.