The War of the Thorns, Chapter 1: Yep, the Horde are still the baddies

As of Wednesday (Tuesday for US realms), Chapter 1 of the War of the Thorns is officially available. In the same way that the pre-Legion events prepared players for Legion, the pre-Battle for Azeroth event is there to help players transition from Legion to the new expansion. This means story to explain why things are happening the way they are, but it also means catch-up mechanics, such as quick and easy ways to get good gear.

Note: The pre-patch events are only available for a limited time. You will not be able to complete them in Battle for Azeroth.

BFA pre-patch events aren’t quite as alt-friendly as the Legion pre-patch events, but they’re still alt-friendly

The Legion Invasions in the Legion pre-patch rewarded crazy amounts of experience and gear – so much so that I levelled my rogue from 1 to 100 doing those alone. Unfortunately, there’s nothing like that in the BFA pre-patch, but the world quests that unlock after completing Chapter 1 of the War of the Thorns reward gear with an item level of 210 and above. This is a great way to quickly gear up all your level 110 alts, especially as you only have to unlock the world quests on one character to unlock them on all max-level characters in that faction. So if you’ve already played the Horde questline for the War of the Thorns this week, and you have an alt in the Horde who needs some gear, take that alt to Undercity and talk to Sylvanas, and you’ll see the option to skip ahead.

Combined with being able to choose the legendaries you want to buy, and easy ways to farm the wakening essences it takes to buy them, there’s no reason to head into BFA unprepared.

The story so far…

The Horde are the aggressors. Let’s just get that out of the way.

When you play the Horde side of this event, Sylvanas summons you to Undercity to explain her plans to take the Night Elf city of Darnassus. She’s concerned about Azerite – namely she’s concerned about the Alliance using Azerite to help them destroy the Horde. As Darnassus is both Alliance controlled and in Kalimdor, she worries that Anduin will use it as a safe harbour to funnel Azerite to the Eastern Kingdoms. By taking Darnassus, she believes that the Horde can control the flow of Azerite instead.

Sylvanas knows that the Night Elves will not accept Horde occupation easily. To crush their spirit, she plans to kill Malfurion Stormrage.

Horde players quest through Ashenvale, where we help disarm the Night Elf town of Astranaar by infiltrating it and taking out the guards, and move into Darkshore, where we help Sylvanas get us past a wall of wisps created by Malfurion Stormrage. We kill furbolgs, who have gone into a frenzy, and take over a furbolg den. We find Azerite in Darkshore, and try to get as much as we can while stopping the Alliance from getting as much as they can. Soon enough, we reach a stalemate with the Alliance and regroup at our new base of operations in Darkshore: Blackwood Den. That’s where Chapter 1 ends, and the World Quests begin.

It’s important to note that Sylvanas does not plan to destroy Teldrassil, or even to cause much bloodshed. Her plan is to merely occupy and to do so as swiftly and efficiently as possible. Even her plan to kill Malfurion is one that’s calculated to cause less bloodshed overall – the idea is to crush the Night Elves’ spirit rather than the Night Elves themselves. For now, at least, it still looks like she’s not the one who burns Teldrassil.

I was also interested to see that the Horde have gotten even less aggressive in rewriting. On the PTR, there was a quest to murder the leaders of the furbolgs in order to take over the den. In live, this quest seems to be gone, and it’s not the first time a Horde questline has been rewritten to sound less cartoonishly evil.

That said, plenty of Horde players are still not happy. I spoke to a druid last night who says it feels so wrong for him to be involved in anything that includes an intention to kill Malfurion, even though he personally doesn’t like the character. Blizzard keeps promising that we don’t know the full story, that this expansion won’t be about “goodies” and “baddies” but rather about perspective, but the closer we get to the Burning of Teldrassil, the harder that is to believe.

When you play the Alliance side of the event, Anduin is preparing to send you to Silithus when news comes of the Horde’s attacks. Anduin sends you straight to Astranaar, which has already been taken by the Forsaken. And this is where my heart really sank the most as a Horde player. When attacking Astranaar as a member of the Horde, if you kill a civilian, you’re gently reminded that you’re here to kill soldiers, not civilians. But when you arrive as an Alliance player, you find that the civilians have been murdered as well, so no matter what you do on the Horde side of things, it’s canon that the Alliance find a massacre. You’re encouraged to be horrified at the brutality of the Horde, and even as a Horde player, I kinda did.

In Darkshore, you help Malfurion out, and, among other things, you also kill frenzied furbolgs, officially making this event the worst day ever for furbolgs, and you find out the furbolgs are crazy because of the Horde invasion. You also help rescue the same furbolg leaders Horde players were told to kill in the deleted quest, and you do your best to get as much Azerite for the Alliance as you can while trying to stop the Horde from doing the same.

Chapter 1 ends at the same stalemate for the Alliance, and Malfurion thanks you for your help. As he does, boats arrive from Silithus, suggesting that Sylvanas was right about that at least.

In other news, Night Elf archers are officially wearing the same sexy armour we saw in the original Warcraft cinematic. I love it, and not just because it makes them that much easier to kill, honest.

All in all, Alliance players can feel confident that they’re helping protect their home from invaders. Horde players can argue about how justified the invasion actually is, but it’s not easy to play this event as a Horde and not feel just like a stereotypical baddie. If there is more to this story that’s gonna make everything a bit less black and white and a bit more morally grey, we’d better find out what it is soon.

In a recent forum post titled “Is Sylvanas supposed to be cartoonishly evil?”, a moderator explained that “I do agree that someone that may be a villain on someones eyes, could be a good person for someone else. I’m sure that Sylvanas motive will become clear eventually!”

This suggests they’re definitely still planning some huge reveal that makes everything less black and white, but honestly, it’s hard to imagine what “point of view” would make Sylvanas’s most recent actions and decisions seem anything but cartoonishly evil. Sylvanas’s motivations seem pretty clear already, and knowing them isn’t helping anyone feel better. The rewrites make it seem like Blizzard doesn’t want to take the Horde too far, but the Horde is being taken pretty far already as it is. It’s nice that we didn’t have to murder those three furbolg while Sylvanas cackled with glee, but there’s no point of view that justifies the murder of civilians either – unless Blizzard thinks there is sometimes. Which is worrying all on its own.

Chapter 2 will be out next week and with it the long-awaited cinematic that, hopefully, finally reveals who burns down Teldrassil. I’m guessing we can also probably expect another episode in the Warbringers series on Monday. So we have some surprises coming our way. Here’s hoping they’re good ones.

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