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What would be enough?

What would be enough
I play Alliance now. I've played Alliance primarily throughout my WoW career, although admittedly I played Horde over on Malfurion with some awesome folks local to Edmonton (Hi Vees) and again on Sisters of Elune with another group of people I really liked. (Hey Taken.) When I played Horde, I almost always played tauren because, well, I have significant problems with Horde storylines. My then-fellow Horde would always tell me about how they liked the Horde's underdog status, but I never saw that - I saw forsaken plague bombing people, orcs attacking their enemies when they were occupied fighting the Scourge, etc etc. The Horde was always the aggressors, I noticed - how were they the underdogs? Still, I liked the people I was playing with (still do, in fact) and so I kept going. Just because I didn't see the underdog thing didn't mean it wasn't real, and there are plenty of other reasons for faction preference.

Still I ended up back in the Alliance, as I always knew I would. I'm a draenei again, like I was in Wrath of the Lich King (and frankly, often in the same outfit) and I will admit here to favoring the Alliance in storylines. The Alliance is simply the group I sympathize with more, and Cataclysm definitely gave me plenty of fodder on that front. I know a lot of the changes were made to balance the Horde/Alliance leveling experiences, which were infamously disparate. It still ended up feeling like the Alliance was playing frozen side of beef in the Horde's upcoming "I did it, Adrian" montage. While I've since really enjoyed Mists of Pandaria, it hasn't entirely rinsed the bad taste I got leveling an alt through the Cata 1 to 60 game.

So it is from that perspective that I have to say that I don't really understand what, exactly, some Alliance players want to be the outcome of Patch 5.4 - it seems like all that will satisfy some players is the complete and utter destruction of the Horde and the uprooting of half the player base.
What would be enough
I started musing about this when friends I have on twitter started complaining that the Alliance doesn't appear in the Patch 5.4 trailer.

Yes, it's true, the Alliance are not in the trailer... unless you count that giant fleet we see, or the forces besieging Orgrimmar, of course. Then again, what would they be doing there? I doubt the Alliance expected a major Horde incursion in the Vale or was prepared to do more at that moment than defend the Shrine of Seven Stars in the time it would take Garrosh to carry the Heart from the digsite over to the waters at the base of Mogu'shan Palace. The moment we're given in the trailer - the confrontation between Taran Zhu and Garrosh Hellscream - is a moment showcasing the orc leader's Rubicon, so to speak. This is the moment he goes from faction leader to raid boss - a brutal, unprovoked assault upon a neutral people and the despoiling of their most sacred place in a naked grab for power at any cost. Do we need to see the Alliance there to know they wouldn't approve of this? Perhaps Velen could appear and scream "Noooooooooo" when Taran Zhu gets impaled?

It's not as if there's a token appearance from any of those trolls or tauren Taran Zhu mentions, either.

I often wonder (and have heard many, many others wonder as well) if it would have been far better if we'd gone into Mists of Pandaria with no idea where the endgame was. The story throughout the expansion has been (in my opinion) fairly strongly told, especially the Dominance Offensive/Operation Shieldwall questlines and the Isle of Thunder. Watching the Horde/Alliance conflict heat up while also watching the Horde splinter and the Alliance unify by necessity has been well done. I understand some of the objections (some, not all) to patch 5.3's emphasis on the Darkspear Rebellion, but as many have said, the Alliance already has reasons to raid Orgrimmar. We didn't need a big questline parallel to the Darkspear Rebellion when what he got more than suffices to point us where we're going. But would all of this have been better if we hadn't known all along that we were inching our way towards the gates of Hellscream's fortified capital? Did it set up too many expectations, and worse, prevent the event from assuming its true significance?

In the past eight years, no major faction capital has been raided in game lore. Players have gone in to kill a faction leader from time to time, but this is different. In the story of the setting the Horde fragments into civil war and the Alliance assists one of those factions in raiding Orgrimmar, the Horde capital. This is a moment as large as the Old Horde's failure to sack Lordaeron, or its successful destruction of Stormwind. It is a big deal. But because we've seen it coming, it seems like we've disregarded the impact.

The real issue is, what do we want to see as the final outcome of patch 5.4? Unless your argument is that even having Garrosh as the end boss is inherently pro-Horde, in which case I have nothing to respond with. But there have been nuanced arguments that the Alliance hasn't had enough involvement and investment in this expansion that I should acknowledge, even if I don't agree with them. One is that Varian Wrynn has become too moderate and 'perfect' and that he's overshadowing other Alliance faction leaders, who are essentially forced into the role of hotheads in order to allow Varian to come off as diplomatic and in control. And to be fair, I can understand why people say this - but in Jaina's case at least, her 'heel turn' (for lack of a better phrase) has been fantastic. I love the new, bellicose Jaina Proudmoore and I hope she stays in that role. I liked her interplay with Vereesa Windrunner in 5.2 - it went a long way towards making both characters a lot more interesting. And while I'll accept that Tyrande Whisperwind has been a trifle inconsistent over the past two expansions, I enjoyed seeing her fed up with the Horde and arguing for action.

The problem seems to lie as much in the fact that everyone has favorites. I understand this mentality - I have my favorites too. I'd love to see more draenei involvement, especially from the broken shaman Nobundo and Vindicator Maraad. I'm astonished that we haven't seen more from the gnomes in a strange new land with all sorts of new technology to explore - pandaren advances in explosives and missiles are definitely worth exploring. And quite frankly, having Garrosh take center stage means that I don't get to see the forsaken's Banshee Queen Sylvanas around much, which is a shame as I think she's probably the best realized villain in the game.

But for Alliance players it seems to go further. There's a sense of nothing ever being good enough, and everything being a slight on the faction. And I'm no better - I'm on record as loving the Dalaran portion of the 5.1 storyline but hating the Monkey King digression even though it was pretty essential to the whole Divine Bell aspect of the story. And I was a little annoyed that it all ended in Anduin getting himself curbstomped and me having to stand there while Garrosh beat his chest at me after stomping on a frail teenager. I'll admit I want to actually take a swing at Garrosh right there. So I'm not immune to this sensation - I just don't understand what outcome in 5.4 will leave everyone satisfied. I know the Horde has to be around when the dust settles.


Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Mists of Pandaria

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