I watched an amazing trailer the other day. You may have seen it too…
Warlords of Draenor: Blizzard-Activision’s newest expansion set, due to come out later this year (I could put the ‘exact date’, but we all know Blizzard enjoys toying with it’s puppets… :P). This is the 5th in a long line of expansions for their massive MMORPG-dominating empire that is World of Warcraft.
Now as you may know of me already, I am not really a huge fan of WoW. Or rather, I’m a huge fan of everything WoW stands for… Except the Lore. I can’t stand how they’ve taken the Lore and ripped it up & down, left & right. Many of the most interesting & influential characters (Arthas, Illidan, Kael, etc), killed by random groups of ‘Heroes’. Imagine, the omnimalevolent Lich King… Gutted by the likes of ‘xXxNarutoFan16xXx’.
That being said, I still keep up with WoW and it’s beautiful artwork, interesting ideas, and engaging storytelling. Haven’t yet played it (WOAH, right? :P), but I plan to… Eventually.
(Translation: Probably just gonna roll a Troll Rogue, max out “running really fast”, “turning invisible” and “dodging EVERYTHING”, then take a speedy death-dodging tour of Stranglethorn Vale. All so as to get a good “feel” for the environment within which to finish modding my baby, the Trolls.). And keeping up with WoW means keeping up with all the neat Cinematics.
Say what you want about Blizzard, Activision, and WoW… They *sure* know how to make a cinematic. : ) At this point, just go ahead & watch it; my description isn’t going to do it any justice. (And then, keep that tab open; we’re gonna come back to it)
Basically, we pan over some vast wilderness, drums-n-stuff giving us a good tribal vibe. “35 years ago” appears & fades, indicating that Blizzard has finally stooped to timeline-butchery to get the job done. Or maybe it’s just backstory? Riiiiiight.
Flaming torch, lots of Orcs, cool mountain-thing… And a brave Orcish leader waltzing up to a creepy hunched dude who thinks skulls are in vogue.
So good ol’ Grom goes up, and the Creepy Dude dips a SCHWEET cup in some brackish turgid
Powerthirst green stuff, offers it to Grom, and goes all “Dude totally drink it. It’s like Steroids only DIMENSIONAL STEROIDS and also you can KILL GODS,” and Grom’s like “Yeah I can see where you ripped off the ‘Warning’ label; I’m gonna get really bad acne, aren’t I?” and Creepy Dude’s Gul’dan’s like “Yeah-ok, I’ll be honest it’s pretty bad for you, just drink it ok?”
Grom’s all “NOPE” and dumps it back in, so Gul’dan backs up and let’s Daddy take care of the big-kid business.
Mannoroth doesn’t mince words (he juliennes), and Grom just plays the Staring Game until Mannoroth blinks BECAUSE HE GOT HIT WITH MASSIVE FLAMING BALLS. Mannoroth gets pissed and prepares to attack, but suddenly is blocked by these chain-spear things. Breaks them, starts blowing stuff up with infernal death magicks… Grom runs over & launches a spinning death-engine (seriously, is that a necessary element of Orcish Engineering, giant SPIKY (seriously^2, why spiky too?) spinning explosive engines? Is that, like, ‘core curriculum’ for the aspiring undergraduate Orc-gineer: “Dangerously Volatile Engines 101”??), which kinda distract him, at least long enough for Grom to roll a 20 and critically head-shot him (WITH AN AXE).
Then in a nice-but-dumb homage to Warcraft 3, Grom, having killed Mannoroth (SPOILERS/ again /ENDSPOILERS), stands in the ensuing flamey demise of the demon-lord, only to be saved burnination by
Thrall oh wait his son (OH THE FEELS) Garrosh Hellscream.
Gul’dan’s all like “Dudes, this wasn’t what was supposed to happen haven’t you read the Lore OMGosh” to which Garrosh (ever the soul of brevity & wit) retorts “Times change”. Grom then gets all hopped up on the euphoric feel of having slain a Demon-lord (you know the feeling :P) and is all “Yeah let’s not deal with demons. Let’s just conquer the world(s) ourselves!”.
So let me be clear; I love the Lore. I love the “story”; I’m one of those fools who can’t bear to read the end of a book (unlike my dear wife) or see something out of place (unlike my dear wife) or to tell someone about plot twists (UNLIKE MY DEAR WIFE). So Warcraft’s lore, while retconned to oblivion & back, holds a special place in my heart. The stories of the characters, their lives, their interactions; and the greater machinations of city, culture and creed working on a grander scale throughout Azeroth. It appeals to me. It’s fantastical and whimsical and pretty grounded in obvious Tolkien-, Warhammer- and 90’s Rock-Music-esque themes, and I like it.
So to understand exactly why this video hits me so hard, let me give the tiniest bit of background:
Orcs (brown-skinned (apparently)) lived in relative peace communing through shamanic magicks with elementals & their ancestors. The Burning Legion (Warcraft’s ‘Demons’) needed an invasion force, and tricked/persuaded them to drink Demon Blood (TM), thus turning them into ultra-violent, omnicidal barbarians. They slaughtered & enslaved the locals (Draenei, Ogres, Arakkoa, Mushroom-Dudes, etc), then with no external foe to face, turned their cruelty and malice upon themselves, fracturing into warring tribes.
Blah blah blah, Medivh, Human sorceror & Guardian of Azeroth, blah blah, possessed by demonic whisperings, blah blah, opens the Dark Portal with the help of head-Demon-worshipper Gul’dan and brings the vicious & bloodthirsty Orcish Horde to Azeroth to fight against (& weaken up) the Humans.
That whole game, and the games that follow (Warcraft 2 and 3 & WoW), heck, even the entirety of their now-history as a race has been written in the blood of that first encounter with Demons. Their whole obstreperous and viscera-soaked genealogy can be traced back to that one lineage-damning event.
Go back to that trailer (toldjya), and watch with me the scene starting around 0:57:
Grom, after being told to drink because it is “his destiny” and they will “become conquerors”, glares at Gul’dan, pulls the cup away and growls “And what, Gul’dan, must we give, in return?”
Gul’dan then pulls back his hood revealing the dark truth; his livid green skin and burning red eyes stand as a testament to the Demonic corruption that had already taken place in his heart. Baring his sin before Grom (1:03) he whispers morosely, plaintively, and I like to think despondently:
That line chilled me. I forgot entirely about the green that is oh-so-familiar to us now (didn’t even notice it, to be honest; those eyes were so overpowering), about the Demon-blood, about Draenor. All I could think about was that line, and the implications thereof.
Think of what Gul’dan is saying to Grom here. “Everything, Grom. To take your destiny, to become conquerors… You will give up everything. Your people, your heritage, your culture, your cities… Your bodies and minds, your hearts and lives yea even your very souls. You, your tribe, and every other tribe across Draenor, shall lay your hopes, dreams, your past lives upon the altar. The Orcs as a race will be stamped out; and in their place will be borne the Horde: an instrument, a mere tool, in the hands of our new gods. Everything you have, Grom, everything you are, Grom, to fulfill this ‘destiny’, to ‘conquer’.”
So that’s what really gets me about this whole thing. To be frankly honest, I didn’t even recognize the Dark Portal in that last shot (I’ll blame “archaic & blurry” 720p resolution xD). Though that’s a really cool & pertinent point; basically Blizzard’s gonna introduce this timeline-of-events (“Alternate Universe”-style) into the “regular” timeline via the dimension-spanning “Dark Portal”. Thus they validate the whole “original” past while still introducing a neat “alternate past”.
But again, Dark Portal? Who cares. What I love about this cinematic is that it puts things into perspective, and gives a sobering look at exactly what the Orcs, as a people, had… And what they ultimately lost, utterly and irrevocably: