Shadowlands (WoW again)

Now I’m going to write things about the new Shadowlands expansion for World of Warcraft some more, and apologies yet again to the Second Life folks who are still reading here in hopes of someday getting Second Life content again. :)

(I have done some “virtual world creation, albeit not Second Life” stuff that I guess I haven’t mentioned here? Which is odd because it was really pretty cool; enough scripting that I nearly got out a source code control system and a bug tracker, in the service of a really remarkable world build. See Karima Hoisan’s post and teaser video on the subject.)

Anyway, Shadowlands! Somewhat contradictorily:

  • I like it quite a bit (the strange systems, the quirkily-different places like the Maw and the Tower of Torghast, the fact that it doesn’t really take itself very seriously, as usual), and
  • It makes not the tiniest particle of sense.

The latter point is (and I suppose in some sense there are spoilers for the expansion below, but really if you haven’t yet gotten at least as far as I have by now you probably aren’t someone who cares about that kind of thing) due to a number of factors, including:

  • It’s supposed to be set in the Afterlife. This has some amusing side-effects, like encountering the occasional defeated ex-villain from prior expansions sweeping the floor to atone for their sins or whatever, but otherwise it’s pretty unconvincing, since:
  • There’s basically no one there. I mean, it’s supposed to have been the place where everyone who dies on Azeroth and and least a couple of other worlds (and quite likely all worlds because why not) goes after they die. So there should be a really incredible number of NPCs around somewhere. But there is no hint of that; there’s like I dunno a few dozen or hundred or something.
  • There’s no Shadowlands Archaeology, supposedly because the place has no history, but obviously the place does have history; Revendreth in particular is chock-full of ruins that would have any archaeologist drooling. And Bastion has that one hilltop devoted to that one hero from the past, and the entire Locus of Memory.
  • Three of the five areas are full of stuff that gets left behind when one dies, and has no place in the Afterlife: bones and gristle and skulls and skeletons and funerary equipment and like that. That’s just silly; what is all that doing there? What are these the bones and coffins and so on of?
  • Relatedly, since this is WoW, one is constantly killing (“defeating”) things. How exactly does that work, ontology-wise? When things die, do they go to an After-Afterlife? Do they just respawn after awhile? (Of course things just respawn after awhile everywhere else in WoW, so that’s a whole area of confusion to think about.)
    • There are a few references to “the True Death”, but if dying in the Shadowlands means that you cease to exist rather than spending eternity doing… something (more on that below) you’d think people would be really really careful to avoid it, at the very least. And the Shadowlands people are always calling us mortals “mortals”, which would seem to imply that they are not mortal, suggesting that there is no “True Death” in fact. Which is it??
    • Sometimes when you die in Shadowlands, a voice says “It is not yet your time, Child of Azeroth”. Not yet my time for what, exactly, voice?
  • And why are there so many things? Why are there fish and plants and annoyingly-overhanging rock formations in the Afterlife? Are they the souls of fish and plants and annoyingly-overhanding rock formations that died in the mortal world? How would that work? (The fact that the areas of the Afterlife are all islands floating in a cloudy void, and if you fall off you… die, is a whole nother issue.)
  • Before this big power imbalance and war that we’re involved in started, the Afterlife apparently sat around for untold ages not doing that. So what were all the (millions and billions, at least, of) souls doing? Considering this by area, we speculate:
    • In the Maw they were just suffering forever because they were so terrible, which is horrible but it’s basically just Hell so okay.
    • In Revendreth they were coming to terms with and admitting their sins so they could then go to some other area, or to the Maw if they ultimately failed (why this involves vampires I may or may not wonder about again below),
    • In Ardenweald they were taking care of the recharging souls of various Nature Demigods waiting for their Respawn Timers to count down, which is sort of nice, but you wouldn’t think it would require all that many people (they also put on plays, which is cool, although the theatre isn’t nearly big enough for the millions of… okay we’re tired of that complaint).
    • In Bastion they were having all of their memories of their lives removed and archived, being turned into overgrown humanoid Smurfs regardless of what shape or species they were in life (wut), and then trained in battle so they could go out and bring the souls of the dead to the Shadowlands for judgment. Except:
      • They don’t in fact do that; the souls just sort of flow down from the sky in a big river,
      • In the one example we see where they do do that, no battle skills of any kind are required since they’re just magical angels and who would they be fighting?
      • Also in the one example we see where they do do that, they need exercise no judgment whatever, so the excuse we see that they have to forget their past lives so that they can fetch souls “without judgment” makes no sense whatever.
    • In Maldraxxus they were apparently being made into bizarre amalgams of bone and gristle and other corpse-parts for no obvious reason, and then set to fighting each other in an endless round of melee, poisoning, plague, spying, and whatnot, ostensibly to defend the Shadowlands, although it’s not clear against what, and of course it’s eventually against each other, which is obviously perfect for a WoW realm, but otherwise makes not a lot of sense.

In the Bastion storyline, we get the impression that the Shadowlands has in the past been attacked by critters from the Void (just like the rest of the universe has), so maybe that’s what Maldraxxus is training against, but I don’t see a whole lot of evidence for that.

Okay, enough complaining for now. :) As I said, I’m certainly enjoying it, but I wanted to write this stuff down just because it’s fun to write down things that make so sense. As I mentioned, Blizzard themselves don’t take it all that seriously; I don’t know if the line “If this is truly the only way, then I shall find another” is intentionally satirical (I mean, strictly speaking and going by the meaning of “only”, you shall in that case not find another), but when the flavor text for a scroll that you find (when looking for a more important one) in the Locus of Memory is something like “In this weighty tome a Kyrian has recorded every one of the memories of their life. Every. Single. One.” you know that they’re having a good time with their lore and ontology.

(Also, one is constantly being carried around unceremoniously by Kyrians, which is pretty funny.)