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The Alliance Superpower?

November 19, 2013

With Blizzcon now a week behind us, plenty of time and words have already been spent discussing all that was said and what it means.  While today’s post will be covering something Chris Metzen said during the reveal for Warlords of Draenor, I won’t be covering that one particular thing that I already have said my piece about on Twitter and on the episode of Justice Points that was released today.  (Though you should certainly go check out the links above for some extremely important discussion about the representation of women in Warlords.)

No, instead I will be fussing about something completely different.  Somewhere amidst a speech about manly orcs doing lots of orc things in the upcoming expansion, Metzen snuck in a comment about the Alliance being Azeroth’s “superpower” after the events of Mists of Pandaria, and culminating with the Siege of Orgrimmar.

What?

What?

So yes, the Siege of Orgrimmar raid did involve a combined army of Horde and Alliance entering the Horde capital by force.  We do eventually remove the current Horde warchief from power, but only after we have essentially received the permission of the other Horde leadership (namely Vol’jin during the Battlefield Barrens questline) to do so.  This is nothing like getting together a group of 40 friends to go storm the Horde capital city and get your Black War Bear mount.  It is not a “rah-rah Alliance” moment; it’s a “cleaning up Thrall’s mess” moment.

This is not the first time I’ve felt that there is a fundamental confusion about what exactly it means for some part of WoW to feel Horde-centric or Alliance-centric.  Siege of Orgrimmar will always be, to me, a Horde-centric raid and storyline because we are fighting orcs in the Horde capital city to advance the Horde’s plotline.  The idea that the Alliance is a superpower seems to come from the notion that we brought the fight to the Horde’s doorstep, as if we had any other choice but to do so.  Garrosh is hanging out in Orgrimmar’s basement with the heart of an Old God.  Our options are to stop him or to let him basically destroy the world.

Again, this definitely not a time to play “Hail the Conquering Hero” as Alliance forces storm the Horde gates.  We are there to do one job and one job only – remove Garrosh from power.  We make no additional gains as a faction based on the events that occur in Siege, except perhaps for Varian to make a few empty threats to the new Horde warchief.  Walking into Orgrimmar to depose Garrosh doesn’t make the Alliance a superpower, especially when the Horde does exactly the same thing.

Obviously it is always appealing to see one’s own faction as the underdog of the story, and Horde players could rightfully do so for a long stretch of time in the earlier years of WoW.  Yet the political attitudes of each faction have slowly developed or revealed themselves over time, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to see the Horde as such.

During the story of the Wandering Isle, the pandaren faction leaders, Ji Firepaw and Aysa Cloudsinger, join their respective factions based upon a very clear set of values.  Ji takes action when Aysa waits to consider the best course.  The Horde acts while the Alliance reacts.  It’s a divide that was present in past plot points but has been growing increasingly true in recent years.  The Alliance seems content to go home, build, and develop whereas volatile elements within the Horde demand expansion and conflict.  These ideals are so ingrained that they’ve even become a part of the way the Horde and Alliance name things.  The Horde has the Dominance Offensive (two strong, aggressive, active words) versus the Alliance’s Operation Shieldwall (words that suggest planning and defense).

All of this is why it rings false to say that the Alliance have had their day in the sun, their moment as Azeroth’s superpower, and that’s why it’s time to give the Horde a chance in the spotlight with the Warlords of Draenor expansion.  Consistently, from Cataclysm onward, we have seen a push to advance the Horde storylines with a lack of similar attention to the stories of Alliance heroes.  Jaina is arguably the Alliance character whose storyline has progressed the most in MoP, but all of her character development is a result of an act of war by the Horde.  Again, the Horde acts and the Alliance reels to pick up the pieces.

The counterargument provided by Dave Kosak seems to be as follows:

Except that that doesn’t ring especially true either.  Are we really expected to believe that the Alliance’s goal walking into Orgrimmar wasn’t merely to depose to Garrosh, but to burn the whole place down?  There may have been one Alliance leader thinking that, but it certainly wasn’t Varian’s goal to destroy (or dismantle) the Horde when he led his army into the city.  There’s no evidence to support this in-game and so the reason for continued fighting between the factions feels increasingly manufactured and nonsensical.

At the end of the day, this idea of the Alliance as a superpower doesn’t bother me because I care about how much acreage the Alliance and the Horde each have in Ashenvale, or because I want Varian to return to his warmongering ways.  What matters to me is screentime and story presence.  I want to find out what Jaina does next.  I want to see whether Anduin’s friendship with Wrathion has changed his views on anything.  I want to learn pretty much anything about Moira.  I want to see Tyrande as a fearsome warrior again (preferably without Malfurion hanging around).  I would love to see the gnomes elect a new leader because, nothing against Gelbin, but gnome leaders aren’t appointed for life and isn’t it about time for some new blood?

These are the stories that are important to me as an Alliance player.  When I hear about an expansion that is essentially about the Horde going back in time to interact with its past, that doesn’t excite me.  Alliance stories have a tendency to circle around the periphery of the main plot thrust, only coming to the center when it becomes necessary for us to react to something.  The idea that we are Azeroth’s superpower, when our story is so rarely central to WoW’s narrative, is difficult for me to accept.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. AshVeridian permalink
    November 19, 2013 4:00 pm

    I think the single biggest problem was the Trials of the High King.

    Not only did Varian’s ascent to High King trample over the other Alliance leaders (and ignored the draenei), it pretty well silenced any conflict within the Alliance itself in the name of making that vaunted ‘united front against their enemies’. The goal of tight-knit cooperation eliminated anything interesting that could be used as Alliance-centric story fodder.When everyone is 100% behind their leader and are universally panned as the “good guys”, you pretty much NEED to have the Horde be villainous and proactive to give the Alliance anything to do.

  2. November 19, 2013 4:39 pm

    Coming from a horde perspective, I had a totally different feeling from BlizzCon.

    The first is that, yes, the Alliance truly are the super power. Sure the Horde helped out, but this Horde civil war has resulted in a severely weakened Horde left standing. Before, everyone though in disagreement, was united under one banner. Horde are left hurting, having lost a sizable portion of our people.

    Also, I didn’t get the impression that the Alliance had their day in the sun, and now it’s the Horde’s turn, at all – it seems to me like Warlords of Draenor is the continuation of Alliance rocking. The Horde are travelling to this new land, into some state of volatile clan relations (obviously this will progress over the expansion) and they are learning a bit about their Orcish past, and will probably(?) play out a lot of the precursor to corruption. We’re essentially in a bubble, and once again, we’re looking to fight with our small force on a smaller scale – we’ll be aiming to align with some clans and bring a fight to the others – more civil war. The Alliance are bringing an army and they are going to really kick the Iron Horde war machine’s ass. This is the Alliance who is solely capable of beating the Iron Horde. The Alliance will once again save Azeroth.

    Lastly, in defense of Dave Kosak, I think he’s talking from a horde perspective there. That is what the Horde view of the Alliance is – they (the Alliance) simply want to kill us no matter who we are loyal to. Even though, as you point out, that’s not supported within the storyline of the game. He’s not talking fact, he’s taking a subjective viewpoint.

    Very good post, great to read others’ viewpoints

  3. November 19, 2013 5:14 pm

    Oh and just to add to that, I never really took the argument seriously that Horde’s story was better than the Alliance’s. I just kinda thought it all came down to “Horde is cooler, so the story is cooler”. Personally, I invest in the storyline on a pretty macro level, so the individual screen time of major players isn’t really a factor for me. But to someone like yourself who is more interested in these characters at a more micro, individual level, I totally appreciate that Alliance don’t have the depth to their individual marquee characters’ story that Horde do. This is the actual reason I felt so compelled to reply in the first place!

    • November 19, 2013 5:44 pm

      Thanks for both of your comments! So many great points and it’s really fascinating to see it from a Horde player’s perspective. I have to wonder whether having us storm Orgrimmar was really a great idea if it ended up leaving the Horde weakened and/or demoralized and didn’t really give the Alliance the “epic win” moment that maybe it was designed to.

  4. AshVeridian permalink
    November 19, 2013 8:32 pm

    (I cant reply to Tsufit’s comment under SAT so here we goo…

    Honestly I think that the decision to make Warchielf Garrosh (as opposed to just Garrosh) the Big Bad really sucks for Horde. Not only did we get our capital city trashed, but its made astoundingly clear that the Horde remains an independent, free faction by the grace of King Varian Wrynn. That isn’t just depressing, its flat out demoralizing. It pretty much settled the faction war and the Alliance won, big time. Maybe if Varian hadn’t lorded over Vol’jin like he did (really, leveling a threat at the guy who’s been fighting Garrosh since Cata) it wouldn’t have stung so bad, but Horde players are left feeling like that person who flips off their boss behind their back because they’re powerless to do anything else.

    And for me, as an orc player, its even more frustrating because Blizz really didn’t bother to try and give any nuance to NPCs orcs. It really feels like that every single orc except for the old veteran orcs jumped onto Garrosh’s racial supremacy bandwagon feet first. Which makes reconciliation and even more awkward, daunting task. That’s an entire race that essentially got in line to kick sand in the face of their longest, most trusted allies. How are the orcs gonna make amends and how will the other Horde races ever be able to trust them again? It makes for interesting storytelling, but it really is a kick in the gut for Horde players.

    This doesn’t even touch the whole cognitive dissonance for leveling Horde players in Cata/MoP content, but thats its own deal.

  5. November 22, 2013 5:42 pm

    Completely OT but point of lore. Gnomes leaders are elected based on their works and Mekkatorque invented a lot of things (mounts, Deeprun tram, siege tanks, bots). Other skills don’t seem to come into consideration which is lucky for him as I’ve just seen him poultrysize himself 3 hearthstone games in a row.

    • November 22, 2013 5:43 pm

      This comment pretty much wins.

  6. Dahakha permalink
    November 23, 2013 6:32 pm

    I agree that the major stories since the Wrathgate have basically been Horde-centric, however going into Warlords you have to wonder how the Alliance can be anything but the superpower.

    Going to Draenor, you have to think the Horde is going to be further fractured since the majority of the Horde is orcish, and they will be torn between opposing the Iron Horde and joining it. Trolls are refugees that can’t have built up their population again so quickly, likewise the Tauren are still recovering from being hunted to the brink of extinction by the centaurs. Blood elves were never a major part of the Horde (population-wise), and Forsaken…well, Sylvanus hasn’t committed to the Siege of Orgrimmar, and there has to be a lot of distrust for them throughout the rest of the Horde. Speaking of trust, we’ve just come out of a battle that saw us taking down an army of orcs – do you really think the non-orcs going to Draenor won’t be side-eyeing their orcish companions?

    Meanwhile, the Alliance is unified, has very little internal conflict, and is going to Draenor to hook up with a vastly more powerful Draenei society than we saw in Outland/on the Exodar.

    I’m not sure how this would translate into a greater share of the story, since internal conflict is usually more interesting than unification, but in terms of sheer power I think you kind of have to back the Alliance in Warlords.

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