There are heel turns, and then there’s what World of Warcraft’s Sylvanas Windrunner — current leader of the game’s Horde faction — did in a new short released by Blizzard yesterday. She torched the World Tree, a major Alliance landmark, and slaughtered countless innocent night elves in the process. Now Horde players are revolting.
If you don’t really follow WoW, you might be wondering what the big deal is. The Horde is a raucous brood of toothy green murder men, and the Alliance is all knights, elves and night elves in shining armour, right?
Well, as it turns out, the 14-year-old MMO rivalry has — after enough expansion content to fill multiple new games — become a wee bit more complicated than that. The short version is that the Horde has always had a noble streak, and the Alliance has pulled some questionable stunts over the years. Neither side has ever really been “the good guys” or “the bad guys”.
Players have been worried, however, that the Horde was cruising to lose any moral high ground it’s ever laid claim to in new expansion Battle For Azeroth. The lead-up, known as “the War of the Thorns”, has turned the Horde into aggressors in an increasingly bloody conflict.
In April, game director Ion Hazzikostas responded to players’ fears that the Horde was turning evil by explaining that evil is “a matter of perspective” and that both Horde and Alliance should be worried about crossing the line.
“There’s a lot of story to tell going forward,” he said. “Both sides should be worried about this. Azeroth is a world of grey. It’s never been a world of black and white.”
Then, yesterday, the World Tree reveal happened.
Originally, Sylvanas just wanted to invade (rather than destroy) the gargantuan tree to prevent the Alliance from gaining more of a powerful mineral called Azerite. But then she had a conversation with a wounded night elf warrior named Delaryn Summermoon, who caused Sylvanas to flash back to her time as a regular high elf, which concluded with her having her soul ripped out by a previous major series villain, Arthas, and ultimately joining the Horde.
“Life is pain,” Sylvanas said to Delaryn in the short. “Hope fails.”
“You’ve made life your enemy,” replied Delaryn, defiant. “That is a war you’ll never win. You can kill us, but you cannot kill hope.”
In response, Sylvanas changed her plans in a rage and callously lit everything on fire, giving WoW fans flashbacks to the time a previous Horde leader, Garrosh Hellscream, ruthlessly destroyed a major human city. Garrosh proceeded to become crueller and crueller until he went full villain and became a raid boss players had to defeat.
Players are now worried that WoW is retreading old ground, and a similar, less-than-grey fate awaits Sylvanas. They’ve reacted with everything from jokes and fan art to anger of their own, and even harassment of writers (which other players have called for an end to).
— ☁️ - tulip???? (@tulipwitch) July 31, 2018
— Shane Cisler (@Shanecisler) July 31, 2018
Sylvanas in expansions 1-6 "the Forsaken may be a magical accident, but we have a right to exist and defend ourselves"
Sylvanas in expansion 7 "I'm basically the Lich Queen now"
— Dan Olson (@FoldableHuman) July 31, 2018
— Xavier Newell???? (@Pyrolife0) July 31, 2018
Before watching Warbringers: Sylvanas:
Hype levels so high they're on mars or something
After watching it:
Barely above the desk, having witnessed the beginning of the downfall of my favourite character's writing
— Elendrial, Disappointed with Sylvanas' Writing (@ElendriaI) July 31, 2018
I’m feeling really disappointed in the new warbringers animation. Blizzard had the opportunity with the first female warchief to do some really great things. Instead Sylvanas is an emotional wreck of a leader, granted her past isn’t great but there was opportunity for growth.
— Lady Duskfall (@Lady_Duskfall) July 31, 2018
— Justin (but Ret works too) (@RetributionAura) July 31, 2018
Literally everyone: your making sylvanas evil arent you
Blizzard: no!!! mOrAlLy GrEy!!!
*Sylvanas burns the tree killing shitloads of nightelves to "destroy hope"*
Literally everyone: pic.twitter.com/8P3uBvKKAY
— Mang0cat????????????❤Marie (@mang0catmarie) July 31, 2018
— Ioana Muresan @JW-Madrid (@IoanaMuresanArt) July 31, 2018
When you could sit around on Twitter crying about Sylvanas or you COULD DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT INSTEAD...???????? pic.twitter.com/F57fa8rxSz
— Taliesin & Evitel (@TaliesinEvitel) August 1, 2018
— Mandy????Moving Hell (@SpittfireArt) July 31, 2018
"Azeroth is a world of grey."
Unless there's a quote elsewhere, this is what Ion said. He didn't call out Sylvanas specifically as being morally grey. Nor the Horde. Nor the Alliance. Azeroth.
— Mitch (@MitchFizzl) July 31, 2018
Btw I simply love all of this spicy Sylvanas drama. Look at how ALIVE the WoW community is right now. Morals being brought into question, Alliance AND Horde considering their allegiances. Blizzard knew what they were doing with this cinematic and this is exactly what they wanted.
— Pyromancer (@PyromancerSarg) August 1, 2018
Question: How is Sylvanas burning Teldrassil vastly different from when she Blighted Gilneas?
How can ANYONE be surprised over this?
— Wolfsung and Friends (@Ulrich_Wolfsung) July 31, 2018
Sylvanas can burn down my house and I'd still be like yes queen do it
— Ram Djemal (@brokenshard) July 31, 2018
call me sylvanas cos i be burning trees ????????????
— Barny❄️ (@Barny) August 1, 2018