How World Of Warcraft’s Fiction Justifies Cross-Faction Gameplay

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Many world of warcraft fans were shocked when it was announced that the game will be getting cross-faction gameplay in the future, but lots of wow‘s fiction more than justifies the decision. Coming in the 9.2.5 patch, wow‘s horde and alliance players will come together in dungeons, raids, and PvP, in a move that will change the way world of warcraft is played forever. The patch will come near the end of wow‘s eighth main expansion, Shadowlands, following the Eternity’s End content update.

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world of warcraft was released in 2004 and is set four years after the events of 2003’s Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Since its released, wow has consistently been one of the biggest and most popular MMORPG’s in the world, and the size and depth of the fiction in the universe is a large part of that success. Throughout warcraft‘s history, the rivalry between the Horde and Alliance factions has remained at the core of its stories, and even Heartstone‘s latest expansion embraces wow‘s classic rivalry.

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This is one of the biggest changes to happen in world of warcraft in its 18-year history, but it shouldn’t really be a surprise when looking at what the game’s fiction has done in that time. original world of warcraft was built on the Horde versus Alliance battles, but the following games and the stories in wow made it less of a focus and more of a core value. Even in the events where the two factions are at each other’s throats, there are significant figures on both sides who try to see what they have in common rather than what keeps them apart. In more recent times, the Horde and Alliance rivalry has been put aside during some of world of warcraft‘s major events with the goal of fighting a greater evil instead of each other. For these reasons, wow‘s latest decision won’t be tearing down 18-years’ worth of story, and will instead be embracing what makes the series’ world so interesting.


The Importance Of WoW’s Horde Vs Alliance Rivalry


Cover image of WoW's Battle for Azeroth Expansion

when thinking about world of warcraft‘s decision to add cross-faction gameplay, it is important to consider how important the rivalry between the two factions is now compared to 20 years ago. Looking at the first few games: Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, and Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal, the plot of the games revolves around the conflict between Orcs and Humans, and later Alliance and Horde. Even the cover-art of the games all feature a snarling Orc across from an angry Human soldier.

Things changed very quickly in Warcraft III due to the arrival of The Burning Legion and the actions of the Alliance’s Arthas Menethil, who also features in wow. Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos saw the arrival of The Burning Legion, the greatest threat Azeroth had seen, which forced the Horde and Alliance to form a pact to defeat them. In Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, the story focuses on Illidan and Sylvanas fighting against Arthas and The Lich King, while Thrall tries to protect the new Horde city of Durotar from Jaina’s father with her help. Since Warcraft III, the focus of warcraft’s stories become less about the Horde and Alliance fighting, and more about the two forming uneasy pacts while they stop greater evils. Only the wow expansion Battle For Azeroth in 2018 focused on the classic conflict, with cover art similar to warcraft: Orcs & Humans.


WoW’s Recent Expansions Encourage Cross-Faction Gameplay


The expansion before World of Warcraft: Shadowland ironically presented some of the best reasons why the game should have cross-faction gameplay. Battle For Azeroth began by focusing on the Horde leader Sylvanas Windrunner, as she tried to consolidate the Horde’s power after Legion. The Alliance was attempting on stopping her, attacking the Undercity, and attempting to convince Kul Tiras to aid them. This part of the expansion felt like very traditional warcraft storytelling, as the players’ actions either directly were attacking the opposition or were part of a longer plot to defeat them.

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Once again, however, a greater enemy lurked in the shadows and the Horde and Alliance rivalry almost went away entirely. In the final act of BFA, Sylvanas abandons the Horde and reveals that she was using the conflict as a distraction while the elder god N’Zoth prepares to take over Azeroth. The two factions combine again in stopping N’Zoth and the rivalry between the two is forgotten about. Before it can get going again, the factions must prepare for world of warcraft‘s Shadowlands after Sylvanas has used her new powers to open the portal between the world of the living and the dead. After playing upon the Horde and Alliance rivalry so heavily, wow discards it just as quickly and keeps the story focused on the two factions working together.


How Other Warcraft Lore Encourages Cross-Faction Gameplay


Hearthstone Mercenaries Announcement Art

There are other instances of characters from rival factions working together in warcraft lore. Currently, in Heartstone – which uses characters from warcraft as the basis for its cards – the game is focusing on a new cast of heroes and telling new stories around them. These heroes, one for each main wow class each represent a different race from the universe such as Human, Orc, Dwarf, Dranei, and Night Elf. Despite their races being a part of either Horde or Alliance, Heartstone‘s newest mercenaries are teaming up all the time either in the new Mercenaries game-mode or in the solo adventures story modes.

Even some of warcraft‘s classic characters forgo their prejudices and end up working with their most hated enemies. In the book Of Blood and Honor, written by Chris Metzen, Human Paladin Tirion Fordring goes on a journey that challenges his core beliefs. Tirion is one of the Alliance’s signature characters, who spends his life tirelessly protecting humans from non-human threats. In the book, however, an act of honor from an Orc forces him to decide if what he is doing is truly right. In so much of warcraft’s fiction cross-faction cooperation happens over and over again.

There is a big Alliance and Horde imbalance in world of warcraft at the moment, in both classic and retail, that is hurting the game. There are so many more Horde players than Alliance players currently, which makes it harder for the Alliance to compete when it comes to getting gear or resources. Finally adding cross-faction gameplay is a great start in fixing this issue, but some fans are rightly concerned that the decision would be breaking up the faction rivalry that is at the center of warcraft fiction. However, by looking at all of the World of warcraft stories that are out there, it is clear to see that having cross-faction gameplay makes more sense than not having it.

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