World of Warcraft has reached the end of the Warlords of Draenor expansion with the deployment of the v6.2 update and now that players have voiced their concerns (to put it kindly) with what has been felt to be a rather lackluster expansion to date, it seems a good time to begin thinking about what could possibly come next for the game.
Many players have expressed a hope that Blizzard will return to story, to take the time to explain some of the many mysteries that have confounded the community for years. In October of 2014, Blizzard trademarked the name “Eye of Azshara”. Given that Azshara, once the ruler of Highborne Elves, is only a presence in World of Warcraft (though obviously she can be added to Hearthstone or Heroes of the Storm by virtue of “pirating” of WoW characters), it is likely that this is the name of a future expansion.
Keep in mind that all presented below is speculative in nature. On we go!
The Quick & Dirty Primer on Azshara & the Highborne
For those who are less familiar with Azshara’s and the Highborne story, here’s a crash course.
Queen Azshara had been a most beloved ruler of the night elves of Kalimdor over ten thousands years ago, and remains a current ruler of the naga of the Nazjatar Empire. After the almost successful attempt to summon the leader of the Burning Legion, Sargeras, into Azeroth, which resulted in War of the Ancients and following Great Sundering, she (along with most Highborne) was sent into the depths of the ocean. Once there she and the others were discovered and found to have been transformed into Naga by Old God N’zoth (who is presumably the Old God who drove Neltharion-Deathwing to madness).
There are many compelling reasons why Eye of Azshara could be one of the ways that Blizzard could return to lore in a big, big way. Azshara herself touches nearly all of the most popular mysteries in WoW including:
- The Burning Legion: Xavius, adviser of Azshara, along with the Queen was working on opening the portal for the lord of the Burning Legion;
- The Old Gods, Aspects & Titans: deemed a useful tool, Azshara and her Highborne were been transformed into Naga by an Old God, presumably N’zoth, the same entity who drove the Aspect of the Earth to madness, transforming him into Deathwing;
- The Elemental Lords: Naga have have challenged the Elemental Lord Neptulon for dominance of the ocean. Horde and Alliance have seen to it that this plan didn’t come to pass, however, Neptulon was left without his most powerful artifact, his trident, as is revealed later in quests of Vashj’ir.
- Naga have a long history with their night elven relatives and are connected to the Blood Elves through the Warcraft 3 campaign.
Other little things point to Azshara making a comeback into the game. As late as February of this year, a new model for Azshara was added to the Public Test Realm that does not appear to be simply an updated model of the one found in the Cataclysm time-walking dungeon, Well of Eternity.
Obviously there are many ways in which Eye of Azshara could come to pass and much speculation about whether or not this will be an underwater expansion (Vashj’ir x 100...gods no!) or a Naga invasion of Darkshore or possibly that the sunken cities of the ancient Night Elven empire rise to the surface again. The how of Eye of Azshara remains a mystery, but the speculation of why it would be a great expansion continues.
But wait! That’s Not All!
Eye of Azshara isn’t the only lore that Blizzard can explore in the next expansion. There are other loose ends that could be tied up, or at least players could be given a bit more knowledge about some of the mysteries:
- Alternative Universe Gul’dan’s seeming teleportation to places unknown, possibly to the “real” Azeroth
- Wrathion, who was such a central figure in Pandaria, has largely disappeared, yet players know that he is integral to the main story in WoW as the self-proclaimed Black Prince and one of the last surviving members of the Black Dragon Flight
- What lies under Tirisfal? Blizzard has confirmed that there is something under Tirisfal, but that it is not an Old God and seemingly not any known entity
- Velen’s prophecy that Anduin Wrynn, heir to his father’s throne, will lead an Army of Light against a vast emptiness that threatens to swallow Azeroth
- The shadow of the Burning Legion has been never lifted from Azeroth, as it is as present as ever with the appearance of Archimonde in Hellfire Citadel
- N’zoth or the unknown fifth Old God threatening Azeroth
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is illustrative of the many directions in which Blizzard can go. The question, however, remains whether or not it is willing to return to storytelling in a big, and let’s face it, timely fashion. Subscriptions have slipped drastically since Draenor’s release and it is incumbent on Blizzard to at least attempt to captivate the imaginations of both its current and its former players. Will Eye of Azshara, or whatever the next expansion will be named (just no more ORCS!) be enough to bring back those who have left for one reason or another?
With Gamescom coming up this week, it is highly possible that a World of Warcraft expansion will be announced as other games in the company's stable already have major content announced: Hearthstone's next expansion has already been named; Starcraft is ready to expand with Legacy of the Void; Diablo 3 has a huge content expansion coming; Heroes of the Storm is in the middle of the Eternal Conflict and Overwatch is unlikely to be ready for beta testing at this time. What that leaves us is a major announcement for World of Warcraft. Perhaps Eye of Azshara will be the big news, or maybe one of the others mentioned above. It is a testament to Blizzard's power in gaming that rumors begin to swirl with the mere announcement of a press conference. Tread lightly on those you choose to believe but know that this week will reveal all.
Where do you think that Blizzard is, or should, go with the next expansion? Did we miss your favorite mystery? Let us know in the comments.