I said I'd lay low after the HotS fiasco, and I will once I've gotten this argument off my chest.
Since Heroes of the Storm was proven to be Blizzard All-Stars, I've noticed an emerging trend where people suddenly believe in all kinds of implausible theories for the next expansion. What does a name change, in the end? Our hints remain the same. The Burning Legion is most likely next!
During The Burning Crusade, the Draenei opening cinematic was as follows:
Since Cataclysm, it has instead been:"One month ago, a terrible explosion tore open the skies above northern Kalimdor. At that moment, the great ship Exodar plummeted from the heavens, and crashed upon the world of Azeroth. Having fled the ravaged world of Outland, the noble draenei used the dimension-travelling Exodar to reach safe-haven. Inspired by tales of the heroic Alliance that stood against the might of the Burning Legion, the draenei have come to enlist aid in retaking their shattered homeland. Dedicated to preserving life, and upholding the tenets of the Holy Light, the draenei hope to gather a new coalition of warriors to battle the Burning Legion and put a halt to its horrific Burning Crusade. Armed only with courage, and their unshakable faith in the Light, the draenei look forward to finding the Alliance and ushering them towards the destiny that awaits beyond the skies of Azeroth. Now, the fate of two worlds rests in your hands."
The original one clearly refers to us forming a coalition with the draenei to save Outland (Draenor) from the Burning Legion. This is proven by the the second version, which mentions how the dranei led the charge against the Burning Legion in Outland, and that their mission is now complete."Empowered by the Holy Light, and the undying strength of their convictions, the draenei led the charge against the demonic Burning Legion in Outland. Now, with the Legion's defeat, they have completed the desperate mission that first brought them to Azeroth. Though some Draenei were sent back to Outland - to revitalize their former civilization - the majority have vowed to remain and uphold their sacred commitment to the Alliance. Driven by a powerful vision, the immortal prophet, Velen, believes that a great war between the Darkness and the Light is fast approaching - and that Azeroth will be its principle battleground. As one of Velen's chosen, you must stand bravely before the Shadow, and ensure that your people are ready for the war to come."
What's important, however, is that the second version mentions a vision of Velen (bold text), in which a war between Light and Darkness takes place on Azeroth. This teaches us the following:
- The threat is external, as there is a need to mention Azeroth as the principle battleground. If the threat was only on, or from, Azeroth, then it would be the only battleground - not just the principle one.
- Azeroth will be the place where our war takes place, which could rule out the possibility of us going to Argus or back to Outland for a full expansion.
- The Shadow is coming, and it is a war of Light and Darkness. Frequently throughout Warcraft lore, the Darkness or the Shadow are terms used to describe the great enemy, the Burning Legion, and the dark realms like the Twisting Nether or the Void.
The one thing we do know is that Velen's visions are seldom wrong.
So Wrathion is a bit of an important character throughout this expansion, without openly taking any major role in its events. Like a puppeteer in the shadows, he guides you through the lengthy Legendary quest-line, incites violence between factions, and continuously foreshadows an impending war with the Burning Legion. More specifically, he shows the Legion invading Azeroth in the form of a magical hologram with green fire raining down upon it. Here's what Dave Kosak had to say a couple of years back:
Say what you will of Wrathion. He is a difficult character to map out. The bold text really makes me think he's just getting started. 'The Black Prince' is strangely familiar to Anduin, 'The Prince of Light'. Both young characters with an unusual position, going above the petty interests of the Horde and Alliance. But also locked in an interesting and balanced dichotomy. Like Light and Shadow, the two fundamental forces of the Wacraft cosmos."When we had written that questline in the Badlands there, we knew that this would be a cool story thread to pick up some day. But if you really think about how long it would take a dragon to mature and start developing his own thoughts, it'd be a long time. Like decades. And we didn't really have time for that! So I said well, OK -- if we ask people to buy into this one thing, that because of these experiments he can have some self-awareness early on, wow - what an interesting character that is!
All of a sudden he's so compelling. Because let's see, his father was crazy and tried to destroy the world, his mother was basically raped by the red dragonflight, then his egg was experimented on to sever his ties with his own family - so how do you view the world at that point? Well, you don't really view the world as a friendly place. You're probably eager to take control of your own destiny, which he does, even before he hatches. And then you kind of have this thing to atone for - your father tried to destroy the world. Your father went crazy. Are you crazy? How do you not be crazy, how do you make up for what your father did. Suddenly he's such a cool character! I really want to explore that character. We kind of went nuts with it. So we kind of asked people -- well if you can already buy in to the idea that he hatched from his egg and already started hatching schemes, then there's a whole cool story that can come from that. And we really rolled with it.
That was kind of the genesis of that character. His value to the franchise is he really can kind of stand above Alliance and Horde, and really try and be a good guy, but without all the moral reservations that most good guys have. He really does have the best interests of Azeroth in mind, but his interests may not necessarily line up with our interests. His plan may not be the way that we would think of planning it. That kind of gray area between hero and villain is so cool for us, very cool to explore. And you're never sure whether you should trust him or not. It helps that we got a wonderful voice actor who really gets that across. He gets that kind of, that air of arrogance and also a little bit of smarminess. You know, like you like him, but don't trust him at the same time. Wonderful, wonderful characterization."
Kosak said Wrathion had the best interest of Azeroth in mind. But how utilitarian can you get before you inadvertently turn 'evil' from our point of view? The 'good of Azeroth', according to Titans, seems to be its complete obliteration and re-shaping. That's not what's best for us, however. Perhaps a re-shaped Azeroth is in the best interest of the planet itself, according to Wrathion?
Here's a really interesting article from Joystiq, analysing Wrathion and his origins, as well as his potential intentions. Hint: It heavily suggests that Wrathion may be a sort of Titan, or Titan Watcher. This would explain why he has no qualms with the idea of the Horde being wiped out, if it would mean that our war ended so we could brace for the Legion. Who knows - maybe Wrathion's charge is to weaken Azeroth with a Divide and Conquer tactic, thus allowing the cycle to end and the world to be re-shaped.
But I may be getting ahead of myself on that point. Wrathion could just be a sadist who enjoys creating chaos and watching people dance after his pipe.
Either case, Wrathion seems to possess extensive knowledge - either from being very, very clever, or from some sort of inherited knowledge through his DNA. If he says the Legion is coming, my bet is that he's right.
"But Wrathion said it would be another year to take Thunder Bluff!" you might say. While it's true that he did, it's difficult for us to know to which extent it matters. After all, our real-life timeline is about two years out-of-sync with the in-game one. Maybe one year on Azeroth would literally just be the gap between Siege of Orgrimmar and the next expansion, which could potentially be more than six months away.
The one thing we do know is that someone who is potentially a Titan, or infused with Titan knowledge, is unlikely to be wrong about the plans of the Burning Legion.
The key in all of this, and the link to the next expansion, is Pride. Pride is the one vice which prevailed as Emperor Shaohao cleansed himself from his negative emotions at the time of the Sundering. By ridding himself of the others, he veiled and protected the pandaren people for ten thousand years. For millennia, Pride served two pivotal purposes: (1) it infested the pandaren spirit, and allowed the other negative emotions to re-gain their foothold in Pandaria over time (thus forcing the Shado-Pan to suppress them by force, as they could not let go of their Pride); (2) is also made sure that the pandaren, a proud people, preserved their knowledge in scrolls, folklore, and ancient libraries. Notice the extreme emphasis on lore and storytelling on Pandaria. Lorewalker Cho being a notable example, and the video version of Emperor Shaohao's Burdens is another. Not to forget the countless shrines and scrolls we walk into around ever nook and bend. Pandaria was protected not just to save its citizens, but to preserve this heritage. Shaohao could not create the Mist until he acknowledged that all people on Pandaria deserved a chance. All people deserve a chance.
Pandaria and its trials prevailed so that we could one day find it and its ancient knowledge. So that we could undertake the same journey of self-purification as Emperor Shaohao once did.
What did we do in Orgrimmar? We defeated the Sha of Pride and ended the cycle of Pandaria and Emperor Shaohao. More importantly, we cast our own Pride aside, as shown by the fact that Varian, despite Jaina's proud objections, allowed the Horde to prevail. After everything they had done, and after all he and Garrosh had fought for as Proud leaders of opposing factions (both from extreme backgrounds; one forced into gladiatorial combat in Orgrimmar, the other being a true brown orc with a shameful (or great?) family history), Varian still put his Pride aside. The cycle of hatred caused by Pride between the two factions was defeated.
Pride, at last, fell. It fell precisely when it needed to. For ten thousand years, it remained so that we could one day cast it out and become the best that we could be. So that we could one day stand together against the Legion, and prevent the next Sundering. Shaohao didn't just abandon the world to burn under the Legion's invasion. He preserved key part of ancient Azeroth which would one day be needed to actually defeat the Legion - knowledge, wisdom, comradeship, and pure hearts.
It is no accident that Blizzard relentlessly reminds us of Shaohao and his perils. It is not for nought that he is the overseer of the Celestial Tournament on the Timeless Isles. After all, we are about to fight in a Celestial Tournament that is Timeless, Eternal.
As I've said before: during the live-streamed launch ceremony of Mists of Pandaria, Chris Metzen was on-stage to take questions from the fans. Some of these questions were via Twitter, and one of them was from me.
'Turalyon and Alleria forever to be MIA? What news from the Twisting Nether? For Lothar!'
'Uh, so eh- this question comes up all the time...
Do we have plans for these two characters?
Uh, I'm very happy to say... we absolutely do.
To my knowledge, I'm pretty sure they are not showing up in Mists of Pandaria.
(Crowd goes 'Aaw'.)
However... what can I say out loud?
Eh... in terms of what's coming next...
You're gonna need their help.
So, you look forward to them showing up!'
Anyone who is familiar with game developers being interviewed while under NDA will know the signs:
- Metzen is struggling to think of what he can and can't say.
- He confirms beyond doubt that they have plans for the two characters, with emphasis on the word 'do'. This means they'll be important.
- He almost hesitates as to whether they will show up in Mists of Pandaria or not, implying that they are strongly connected to current events in WoW and development at Blizzard.
- Lastly, he specifically says that we will need them for what's next. Their connection to the game world is nearly exclusively the Burning Legion, the Twisting Nether, and Outland at this point. They used to be Horde-slayers. Now they are demon-slayers. This implies the Burning Legion may well play an important role very soon.
Mojo Risin's Verdict
I've you've read this far and still find it implausible that the Burning Legion will soon invade us, then I applaud you for your stubbornness - you must be a Bronzebeard? But don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that just because the Burning Legion might invade, no other themes could be in focus.
- The battleground will be Azeroth. We won't be going anywhere. This leaves out new continents on Argus or Outland.
- We know Blizzard wouldn't want to base an entire expansion around a trashed and besieged Azeroth. They'd want to give us new land to traverse.
- We've received hints for both the Emerald Dream, Queen Azshara, and N'Zoth. All of those have / are realms within Azeroth, and could co-exist with the Burning Legion theme.
For all I know, it might be precisely the Burning Legion invasion which is to cause us to take the plunge into the sea to interrupt Queen Azshara's summoning spell that breaks the world apart; seek out the Dark Below to conquer N'Zoth; access the Rift of Aln and the Emerald Dream in order to restore Azeroth once it's broken. Voila, not only can all speculated themes fit into one expansions, but we also have a good premise for a whole range of new future lore with an Azeroth partly or wholly reborn.
There, I'll return to my corner. I'll maintain that this is all speculation, and should not be seen as evidence for anything. There are holes in my theory, but there are also a lot of things worth thinking about.
See you at BlizzCon!