Blizzard misses opportunity for player agency

**Warning – there are some slight spoilers ahead and if you don’t wish to see them you might want to turn back now**

One of the features many in the WoW player community had consistently asked for since Vanilla was similar personal content to the epic Hunter bow (Rhok’delar), and epic Priest staff (Benediction) quest chains.  Paladins and Warlocks also had very interesting epic mount quest chains.  Not every class had such a quest chain in Vanilla but those classes that did served as examples of the type of content many in the community wanted for their classes for nearly the next decade.

I was beginning to wonder if we’d ever see personal character content again in WoW, but then along came Legion, which not only featured the Artifact weapon system for each spec, but also had class based quest chains.  Blizzard delivered on the dreams of many, but so far exceeded expectations that I, and many others, thought the Legion systems would serve as molds for future expacs. Suffice to say they didn’t, and here we are in BFA with a mostly generic expac story-arc again, that has little to do with individual players and characters.

With the sole exception of Horde players, that will apparently get to “choose” whom to support in the upcoming 8.1 patch.  In the end, the choice won’t amount to as much as players might want, as all Horde players still have to end up at the same point later on in the story.  But at least the “choice” gives some agency to players.

It’s too bad the Alliance side isn’t being given the same agency, because there’s certainly opportunity for it to have been added.  In patch 8.1 Tyrande comes to Stormwind to demand support from the Alliance, rightfully pointing out that the Night Elves have never failed to support it when called upon.  With the destruction of Teldrassil and continuing incursions in Darkshore by the Horde, Tyrande wants vengeance.  Although Anduin’s refusal of support is sound and eminently reasonable, Tyrande is in no mood for anything but action.  We all know by now what comes next – Tyrande becomes the Night Warrior.  But if you haven’t played on the PTR, or watched any of the PTR game play you may not know that Genn sides with Tyrande and will lead the Gilneans in support of the Night Elves.

It’s this interesting plot twist that could have served as the Alliance side character flavor, giving similar agency to Alliance players as the Horde gets.  It’s a lost opportunity for players in a story arc that thus far has swept us along, headfirst.  What if, instead of remaining in lock step with Anduin, Alliance characters were to choose at that moment to side with Genn and Tyrande, rushing to Darkshore to confront the Horde?  We’ll get there regardless, but the point is what we as players got a taste of in Legion, is wholly lacking in BFA.  And instead of using opportunities in the expac story arc to allow players to branch out into some character development, we’re instead trapped within a story and beholden to choices we may not support.

Like the Horde players who’ve had very visceral and palpable reactions to Sylvanas’s actions, why isn’t it expected that there are many Alliance players who would have the same reactions; that aren’t willing to sit by while the Horde continue to rampage across Darkshore?  Alliance players who would choose to immediately support the Night Elves don’t necessarily have to have misgivings about Anduin’s leadership per se, but may not be able to stand idle while their friends, and allies are being killed. Although it could be interesting to see schisms develop within theAlliance as well, with some thinking Anduin too passive after his father’s strong leadership.

While the Horde story is obviously more complex, given that a third faction certainly appears to be developing, I find myself wanting the same bit of agency in order to give me more stake in the story.  I want to feel more immersion.  To be true, we’ve never had agency in the Warcraft story before, including during Legion.  But Legion gave us a taste of what we haven’t had a very long time, and for many others, never knew we even wanted.  And now that we’ve had that taste, we want more personal story content.  Additionally, the bit of agency being given to Horde players in 8.1 makes me realize this is something Blizzard should be doing across the board, throughout an expac, from here on. Whether Blizzard does it, or not, is an open question.  After all, I thought after Legion we’d be having class stories, and epic quest chains too.


7 thoughts on “Blizzard misses opportunity for player agency

  1. Alunaria

    I wholeheartedly agree. This whole expansion is a mystery to me, when it comes to the two factions.

    The Night Elves lose their home and most of their race? Ion’s response was, fear not, Horde, you get the Old Soldier cinematic, so you feel better! Was it really that side who needed that?

    It’s odd to witness how Blizzard thinks these days. I’m not saying Horde bias. But it appears as if they go to great lengths to ensure, that Horde players are being looked after in the political mess, that is the story of this expansion so far.

    Where they appear to think that Alliance players have no needs that should be looked after.

    My Night Elf has been in Kalimdor since the burning, slowly but surely finding ways to reclaim what rightfully belongs to her race.

    And in my mind, if possible, I’d reject any attempt on getting a big gorilla to aid us (!?).

    But I get it, this whole thing is suppose to make us feel similar to what we would if this was real life events and real politics/ strategic moves. But I play for fantasy, magical forests and dragons.


      1. Alunaria

        I´d just cherish a bit more balance. Surely having that choice is important for Alliance players, just as it appears to get attention on the Horde side of things 🙂 Yeah, I entirely hear you on that.

        Liked by 1 person

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