Tuesday, August 19, 2014

That Warlords Cinematic, Though

img: Blizzard
I absolutely loved the cinematic. I replayed it more times than I should have at work. When I got home, I turned the volume up, set the display to full screen and watched several more times. I played certain parts in slow motion, and I began to feel an excitement for this game deeper than I've felt since Wrath of the Lich King. Why doesn't the cinematic team just make the Warcraft movie is a question I've heard but never gave serious thought to---until seeing the Warlords reveal.

Based on the overall tone of the cinematic, the visuals and the music, this expansion looks to be dark and brutal. Ladies and gentleman, secure your trays and return your seats to their upright positions. We are now leaving Pandaria.

But it wasn't the visuals that gripped me the most---it's what actually went down, and it has everything to do with existence in an alternate history and the ramifications of actions taken there. 

Siege's End

At the end of the Siege of Orgimmar, Thrall wants to smash Garrosh's head like a watermelon, Varian wants justice, but it's the Pandaren who exercise the right to first try him for his crimes, as his campaign had the greatest effect on their lands.

In Christie Golden's book War Crimes, readers witness the trial first-hand---literally witness, as a special device known as the Vision of Time has been provided by the Bronze Dragonflight. It allows past events to play in real-time for all those present to see. This of course doesn't help Garrosh's case, and with a judgement of guilt imminent, Garrosh escapes his prison with the help of a certain Timewalker. And the question isn't just where Garrosh has escaped to. It's when. Of course we know when, as the cinematic tells us. 

35 Years Ago

The cinematic right away tells us that what we're seeing takes place in the past. This isn't completely true, as it's not our specific past, but rather a past in a sort of alternate reality. This is a pretty important piece of information to grasp.

The setting is the Throne of Kil'jaeden in Draenor. A little background: the former orc-shaman-turned-first-warlock Gul'dan had allied with the demon lord Kil'Jaeden. Kil'jaeden promised Gul'dan and the orc clans unstoppable power should they drink of his lieutenant Mannoroth's blood. Gul'dan summoned the orc clans to the Throne to drink the blood.

Were it our original timeline, Grom Hellscream, Garrosh's father, would become the first orc to drink of the demon blood. Grom's acceptance of this "gift" is followed by almost all of the other orc clans. The act did provide the orcs power, but it also resigned them to be slaves of the Burning Legion. 

Once the orcs in our original timeline were influenced by the demon blood, they finished their absolute genocide against the Draenei on Draenor. They would eventually invade Azeroth only to be defeated, captured, and placed into internment camps (i.e. the original ancestors of modern-day orcs on Azeroth). The orcs' dark magics contributed to the ultimate decimation of Draenor, leaving the continent we know as Outland in its wake. 

Times Change

Garrosh from the Warlords cinematic.

We bear witness to where the events in this alternate timeline begin to deviate from the events of the past in our own. Grom refuses the demon blood, thanks to that hulking figure in the background who's leaked the impending consequences should the orcs partake. With the knowledge of foresight, Garrosh has convinced his father to reject the gift, ensuring the orcs do not becomes slaves to the demon lord Kil'Jaeden in this timeline. Instead, the orcs will be able to forge their own destiny without the influence of the demon blood.

This is huge.

In the original timeline, Grom's choice to drink the demon blood was widely viewed as damning the orc race, not to mention bringing shame to the Hellscream name. This was something that weighed heavily on Garrosh's shoulders during his formative years. It wasn't until Thrall painted a slightly different picture of Grom that Garrosh began to take pride in his own heritage. On alternate Draenor, Garrosh has prevented that shame from befalling his family name.

How many of us can point to one pivotal moment in our life and say, "Yeah, that's when things went sour, and had I chosen x instead..." and not wonder what would have happened had we gone the other way? Garrosh gets to play that part out, but instead of wondering where he went wrong in his failed quest of Azeroth, he looks much farther back until his eyes settle upon the legacy of his father. And that's where he starts over. He not only gets to finally meet his father, he prevents the need for Grom's redemption.

How must Garrosh feel knowing he's prevented his father from making the gravest of mistakes in all of orcish history? Garrosh can choose to live exclusively in this reality now---corrupted Grom never has to exist since Garrosh never knew him in the first place. With is father's help, he can shed the shame and doubt, and even the defeat he suffered on Azeroth.

This alternate reality sits chock full of possibilities, and where the expansion takes may rest on one character's shoulders.

What Does Grom Know?

img: Blizzard
It's obvious that Garrosh and Grom have had some rather lengthy discussions since Garrosh's arrival. But what I'm wondering most is how Garrosh convinced his father to leave Draenor in favor of Azeroth. After all, alternate Draenor seems a long way from becoming alternate Outland, especially without rampant demon influence.

How does Garrosh convince Grom of the necessity to fight both the desire to become all-powerful through the demon blood as well as conquer the ancestors of those originally corrupted? What's in it for Grom? It can't just be about becoming conquerors. They could accomplish that on Draenor.

Most importantly, if the line of demon influence was severed there at the Throne of Kil'Jaeden in the cinematic, does Grom truly understand the capabilities of the Burning Legion? Or with the quick dispatching of Mannoroth, might Grom think the threat of the Legion well behind him? Gul'dan probably knows the truth. Or maybe even he doesn't.

Perhaps we'll all be caught unawares.

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