World of Warcraft expansion Battle for Azeroth has come to an end in story terms with a cinematic that’s more than a let down, and it riffs heavily on the end of Lord of the Rings – perhaps too heavily.
Quick background: the Alliance and Horde ended up coming together (making all that fuss about Sylvanas a bit meaningless) to fight a greater, other-world threat (a plot Blizzard has repeated a lot over the years). The greater, other-world threat this time is Lovecraftian nightmare N’Zoth – one of Warcraft’s Old Gods. N’Zoth’s arrival in the world of Azeroth was a cool moment for Warcraft lore nerds like me – this was the first time we’d seen the Old God in the flesh, so to speak.
This week, Blizzard released a new raid called Ny’alotha, The Waking City, and players cleared it in a bid to get new loot and see one of World of Warcraft’s traditional story-ending in-game cutscenes. N’Zoth’s arrival in Azeroth was a momentous moment. Surely the payoff would do it justice.
Unfortunately, The Waking City’s cutscene was a disappointment. The actual fight with N’Zoth ends with the player’s character held aloft as a conduit for a laser fired right into the tentacled monstrosity, who then disintegrates. This also destroys the Eye of Sauron – sorry, the eye of N’Zoth, which was placed within a tower that crumbles to the ground. Remind you of anything? N’Zoth’s corruption fades and Azeroth is healed. The death of N’Zoth, one of Warcraft’s longest-running and existential villains, is handled in a single patch. It’s all too cheap, inconsequential and, well, naff.
The whole thing is already a meme within the World of Warcraft community, and Blizzard unlisted its own video of the cutscene on YouTube after it saw 12,000 dislikes and thousands of negative comments. The WOW subreddit is as you’d expect, and WOW YouTubers and streamers are having their say.
This ending leaves World of Warcraft in a bit of a sorry state story wise. The Horde and the Alliance’s bigged-up faction war sort of petered out, deposed Horde boss Sylvanas is at large and Sargeras’ enormous sword is still sticking out of the world. Nothing is resolved, N’Zoth is dead and Battle for Azeroth feels disjointed. Was it a faction war expansion? Or was it about N’Zoth all along? Neither, in the end.
Now, there’s more than a bit of pressure on upcoming expansion Shadowlands. This picks up the trail of Sylvanas, who opens a portal to Azeroth’s afterlife. It’s not pretty in there.
So! N’Zoth, a villain World of Warcraft has teased for 15 years came and went with a bit of a whimper. The Battle for Azeroth is over. Hopefully things feel a bit more epic soon.