Sylvanas just murdered loads of innocent Night Elves and now World of Warcraft fans are in crisis

Major story developments in the World of Warcraft have seen one of its most famous characters destroy one of the game’s most famous locations – and reaction has been mixed to say the least.


War of the Thorns is an in-game event designed to set up expansion Battle for Azeroth. In it, the Alliance and the Horde clash once again – with Sylvanas in charge of team red.

Sylvanas was once a High elf before her soul was ripped out of her body by Arthas. Since then, she has led the Forsaken, an undead faction you can play as in World of Warcraft.

Now, she’s leading the Horde and seems hell-bent on starting a new war with the Alliance. To that end she’s invaded Northern Kalimdor and destroyed Teldrassil, the World Tree. This is a big deal for Warcraft lore nerds such as myself (I played a Night Elf priest in World of Warcraft, so Sylvanas has effectively burnt down my spiritual home).

This cataclysmic event was revealed in an animated short made by Blizzard and released yesterday called Warbringers: Sylvanas. In it, Sylvanas is depicted as a brutal, cold, evil person filled with hatred. She callously orders the destruction of the World Tree, murdering the innocent Night Elves who call it home. In short: Sylvanas has gone off the deep end.

World of Warcraft fans have always known Sylvanas would invade Teldrassil in the run up to Battle for Azeroth, but what they didn’t know was how she’d go about it. Sylvanas is considered by many to be one of Warcraft’s more interesting anti-heroes, a character who has suffered greatly and made many poor decisions as a result. Now, it looks like she’s become one-note – an evil villain who wants to murder just because.

Some Horde players feel they’ve seen all this before. In the run up to expansion Mists of Pandaria expansion, then Horde leader Garrosh Hellscream invaded and destroyed Theramore. Is this current Sylvanas story arc simply re-treading old ground? I’ve seen players call her Garrosh 2.0, which isn’t particularly flattering.

An additional critique revolves around the motivation of the Horde. While the Alliance and the Horde are at first glance Warcraft’s good and bad guys, it’s never been that simple. The Alliance has huge problems, while there is much to admire about the Horde. Warcraft’s universe is compelling because it is not black and white. Many races make up each side, and each is fundamentally flawed in their own way. Indeed the Alliance and the Horde have spent years as uneasy allies, coming together to fend off threats from other beings.

War of the Thorns positions the Horde as the aggressors and the Alliance as the defenders. The Horde invades an Alliance capital city to secure a precious resource. Of course the Alliance should defend themselves and strike back. The Alliance have the moral high ground, and that doesn’t make for a particularly interesting conflict.

This development has fuelled a negative – and in some places unnecessarily aggressive – reaction to World of Warcratf’s War of the Thorns pre-expansion event and Sylvanas in particular. The official Warbringers: Sylvanas video on YouTube has had 38,000 likes and 14,000 dislikes. While the likes outnumber the dislikes, the number of dislikes is huge for a World of Warcraft video.

While World of Warcraft fans are currently coming to terms with recent events, it’s worth pointing out there’s a lot more to come from the game’s story in the coming weeks, and Battle for Azeroth isn’t even out yet. Perhaps Sylvanas will see the light? Perhaps she has some hidden motivation for her murderous rampage?

Whatever the case, we now know for sure the World Tree is no more and, as a Night Elf till I die, this means war.

Blizzard: there’s more to Sylvanas than World of Warcraft cinematics suggest

World of Warcraft expansion Battle for Azeroth is still hot off the press (to find out more, be sure to check out Oli’s impressions), but fans are still in a bit of a flap over Sylvanas Windrunner and the direction Blizzard is taking her in as current leader of the Horde.

Earlier in August we reported on major story developments in the World of Warcraft universe that saw Sylvanas destroy one of the game’s most famous locations – murdering loads of Night Elves in the process.

Sylvanas’ seemingly nonsensical, relentless rampage has been criticised by many Horde players for a variety of reasons, but chief among them is Blizzard has turned her into a onenote villain, and the Horde World of Warcraft’s obvious bad guys. For many Horde players, this isn’t a particularly interesting story development, especially when you consider it apes the arc of previous Warchief, Garrosh Hellscream.

While Sylvanas’ story has yet to resolve, and Blizzard quite reasonably won’t spoil the plot, senior producer Michael Bybee told Eurogamer’s Tom Phillips at gamescom that crafting a story in World of Warcraft comes with its own set of challenges, because the story is spread across so many various types of media.

This means not all fans get the full picture when it comes to Warcraft’s ongoing plot. Take Sylvanas, for example. Most players reacted negatively to the fancy Blizzard animated short, titled Warbringers: Sylvanas, that depicted the Banshee Queen callously burning down the World Tree and slaughtering loads of Night Elves, saying it turned the once morally grey ruler of the Forsaken into a one-dimensional, maniacal supervillain.

But, Bybee stressed, there’s more to Sylvanas than that, which you might have picked up on if you’d read the book that leads into Battle for Azeroth, or the two short stories that were released for free online that depict the Burning of Teldrassil from the point of view of the Alliance (Elegy, by Christie Golden) and the Horde (A Good War, by Robert Brooks).

In short, World of Warcraft’s nature as this pop culture phenomenon, as this gargantuan cross-media franchise, means its story is not confined to the game itself.

“One of the things that’s really challenging about World of Warcraft is this game has a tremendous amount of story in it and surrounding the franchise,” Bybee admitted.

“One of the things which happened with Sylvanas is that many of the beats of that story were told in places not in the game.

“So, if you do the quests in the game you get parts of the story, and there’s a video that plays in the game that we posted on YouTube that tells other parts of the story. And then there was a novel, Before the Storm, and two short stories we published free online that give some additional elements of that story.

“I actually think Sylvanas has a depth of character but sometimes that’s missed because maybe people didn’t read some of those things. Cinematics are awesome and sexy and that’s what people want to see – but there’s more to the story. And there’s more coming.”

Unfortunately, some within the World of Warcraft community chose to harass a female member of Blizzard’s writing team – a particularly ugly byproduct of the backlash to Sylvanas’ development in the story.

While Blizzard did not issue an official response to the situation in its wake, Bybee gave us the following when asked about it:

Blizzard does not support harassment,” he said. “We don’t think harassing any member of the team is good. I personally didn’t hear about that at all – it wasn’t something that came up in discussions I heard.

“But I definitely think Blizzard does not support that kind of discussion towards any member of the team, male or female. It’s not cool – we want to work with people and make games for people that are having fun, and if people have feedback we love to hear it, but if people are just trying to hurt other people – that’s not something we think is awesome. We just want to make awesome games.”

On a lighter note, Bybee did offer an olive branch to shocked and stunned Alliance players who witnessed the destruction of their beloved World Tree at Sylvanas’ hands.

“It is a magical tree, and it’s not the first magical tree,” he said when we asked whether it would grow back.

“There’s more that can be done, but we’re not ready to talk about that future stuff.”

Getting Laid Wherever You Are

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