The Alliance Superpower?
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.
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.