The latest content update for World of Warcraft, Visions of N’Zoth, has the heroes of the world scrambling to prevent an assault by the last remaining Old God. N’Zoth, who is free from his cell near the bottom of the ocean, is wreaking havoc, trying to twist reality to his will, promising power to those who will follow him and corrupting places and minds far and wide.
The horror aspects of fighting something that can alter your perceptions, that has enough willpower to twist the fabric of reality is definitely a highpoint of the content update and I can’t wait to get started chipping away at the raid tonight. But, during the week of looking for new things to do, working on my legendary cloak and trying to get new mounts, there was one questline that I can’t stop thinking about: the quest that unlocks Vulpera as an allied race for the Horde.
Small, but resourceful
Compared to the Mag’har orc questline, where an alternate timeline Durotar is slowly being converted to the Light by any means necessary in a zealous crusade, the Vulpera questline is pretty lowkey. The Vulpera have learnt of life beyond the dunes they call home and are looking for something new with some protection. But they arrive to find High Chieftain Baine Bloodhoof has his hands full with requests from various allies of the Horde. With their request to join the Horde denied, the Vulpera decide to show their usefulness and how resourceful they are by solving the various problems that are clamouring for Baine’s attention.
The world keeps on turning and as the heroes stop doing the work, that work doesn’t stop existing, so other characters need to do it.
This starts a quest that takes us to three locations: two from previous expansions and one from the current expansion that is almost abandoned now. As heroes, we do our bit to help and then we move on to new threats, challenges and the daily grind. But the world keeps on turning and as the heroes stop doing the work, that work doesn’t stop existing, so other characters need to do it. One quest in the Twilight Highlands shows how the Peons are refusing to work because they are forced to work with shoddy tools, or to do the work without tools at all. As heroes, we get money for our contributions, as well as new gear and titles. Peons, however, have to work in dangerous conditions and get hardly a second glance, never mind a second thought as we leave a zone in our dust.
Another quest takes us to the vineyards of Suramar. While Legion was in full swing, there was no shortage of heroes willing to help out with making wine, but we have moved on to another expansion now, leaving the people of Suramar rather thirsty. To make things worse, joining the Horde means even more people want some of that wine, meaning more hands are required. NPCs like Nomi, who couldn’t stop burning all of our food, have ended up here and things aren’t going too well.
Living in Azeroth
The questline gives the feeling that the world is alive, that things continue as we are away and that progress is being made elsewhere in the world, however slowly, while we are off at war against the latest threat to Azeroth. MMOs can feel a lot like time-travel when you go back to an older zone as you experience events that happened years in the past all over again. But because of this, it can also feel completely stuck in time, with the same things happening again and again and no real sense of progress until we leave a zone or expansion.
Sure we beat the big bad and moved on, but did we do enough to help rebuild and clean up before we leave? Often the heroes cause as much damage as they help. Whether stripping the land of its natural resources, killing local wildlife to extinction or destroying the economy of a small village, adventurers can be a problem. That is before the big enemies arrive, the airships start exploding and the bombs start dropping. Sure we get things done, but at what cost? Then we move on, hardly caring about what is left as we chase the next quest or big enemy.
The final quest for the Vulpera is the perfect example of us just moving on. After defeating Azhara, we moved on to protect Titan facilities from N’Zoth’s assault. Meanwhile, the shores of Zuldazar are still being attacked by Naga forces. Sure we took out their queen and possibly most of their army’s organisational structure, but the attacks continue, probably a mixture of hatred for those who killed their queen, or a lack of awareness that no new orders to attack are being given to the soldiers in the sea.
Now NPCs need to do the work without any heroic aid, and it is tough going for them. Meanwhile, dozens of heroes stand idle in the Great Seal.
While heroes would repel these Naga assaults in quick order several months ago, the need to do so now is almost non-existent. The heroes have moved on to new world quests, to farming other zones and protecting other places. Now NPCs need to do the work without any heroic aid, and it is tough going for them. Meanwhile, dozens of heroes stand idle in the Great Seal – a short flight away – pondering what to do for the day before heading to newer threats, to newer zones.
While it would be easy to assume that the idea of the questline was to have small people do small things, while everyone else is off being heroic, I don’t want to write this off like that. The Vulpera questline shows that the world is alive, that NPCs move on and do different things in their lives, that rebuilding is taking place in older zones, however slowly, and that as heroes we should do more to keep people safe and to deal with threats properly before moving on. I like the idea of a living world, a place where growth and change happens and that while a massive war rages for the fate of the planet, some NPCs just need to do their normal job, like keeping the Horde stocked with wine, or rebuilding after big battles.
It just makes everything feel much more believable and natural and I want to see more content that pushes players to go back into older zones to see what has changed, or what problems we left unsolved. Maybe one day we will see more content like this. For now though, I will level my Vulpera and try to fight the horror that is N’Zoth and maybe I will try to stop and help the NPCs I have abandoned.