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WoW lost its way with Shadowlands, but Worldsoul will fix it

Following the bizarre narrative decisions of World of Warcraft Shadowlands, WoW's EP believes The War Within will correct the MMO's course.

A purple-skinned elf woman with long purple hair and glowing purple eyes with runic tattoos on her face smirks into the camera

I love World of Warcraft and have done since Mists of Pandaria. Azeroth has a certain majesty that no other virtual world does, and its denizens remain some of my favorite videogame characters ever created. However, it’s no secret that the narrative decisions of Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands – especially when it comes to my all-time favorite Banshee, Sylvanas Windrunner – have left the game feeling a little confused. According to WoW’s executive producer, Holly Longdale, the Worldsoul Saga will get WoW back on track.

The applause in the Anaheim Convention Center Arena when World of Warcraft‘s executive creative director Chris Metzen walks on-stage is thunderous. Following the cinematic trailer for Worldsoul, it’s somehow even louder. It’s a testament to the fact that the age-old MMORPG is very much still alive – even as The Jailer and his bizarre machinations tried so desperately to drag it down into the depths of The Maw.

With Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands firmly relegated to the bowels of history (thank God), Dragonflight has felt like a breath of fresh air – in fact, I titled my WoW Dragonflight review ‘Alexstrasza brings new life,’ and I stand by it. There’s a sense of hope in the air – not just in-game but at BlizzCon 2023, too.

I watched hordes (ha ha) of players descend upon BlizzCon’s replica Darkmoon Faire, surging through the doors like a human tsunami, vying for a spot in the queue to grab limited-edition plushies and pins. I’ve never seen a fanbase that’s so deeply in love with a game before, and it’s something I’ll never forget (and the event’s security will have nightmares about).

A wooden archway with a yellow eye in the middle of it bathed in purple light as people queue underneath it

But WoW’s narrative direction has felt a little off-kilter since Shadowlands. Sylvanas met a slightly anti-climatic ‘end’ in The Maw, and the whole thing just felt confused. I ask Longdale if she agrees that the story went down a slightly odd track, to which she replies “100%, yeah. I’ve been playing WoW since launch and I felt it too.”

She calls Dragonflight “a bit of a love story. Yes, it’s a new place, but it feels very rooted in everything World of Warcraft, and that’s part of the feedback we heard from Shadowlands – we didn’t feel that connection. Even though our main characters were there, it just felt a little bit distant.”

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“We have this way of art imitating life, where Shadowlands [was] the era of COVID-19, Dragonflight [was] hope coming out of that time, and then where we go with War Within – that’s like, big hopes and dreams, really taking a big leap. But that leap is going to be rooted in what we know and what we fell in love with. We always want to creatively explore, but it has to have meaning.”

She recalls a conversation between herself and Metzen when he returned to the team with a fond smile, where after much discussion of various new features he asked “‘what’s the heart of this?'” She tells me that the conversation is “how he came up with that touching trailer.”

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And that trailer is truly poignant. As someone who has been away from WoW for a while, I felt myself tearing up – I felt that urge to play WoW again. I really have missed Azeroth (a ‘Maw’ in my soul, as it were), and Worldsoul feels like the kickstart the game needs. I had an amazing time at BlizzCon 2023, but it’s this interview I’ve been waiting to write. There’s a childhood excitement that I’ve not felt for a long time – but most of all, there’s hope. Real, unadulterated hope.

With the Worldsoul Saga set to kick off next year, it’s worth checking out our WoW Dragonflight tier list to get yourself ahead of the curve. We also have a rundown of all the best WoW addons, in case you’ve been out for a while.