World of Warcraft

Should the moral balance between the Alliance and the Horde be (re)estabilished?

wow6 - Should the moral balance between the Alliance and the Horde be (re)estabilished?
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Reposting this, this time with a less ambiguous title. Just to clarify, I am referring to both factions becoming more morally grey: Alliance turning more evil and/or Horde becoming more heroic.

We could not fill the chasm between the Horde and Alliance if we labored 1000 years.

Out of all the things said by Saurfang, this one hit the hardest, and arguably hurt the most. I understand that at this point the problem of the chasm has become an idée fixe of mine for a while, and that I have already made discussions about this, sometimes outright provocative ("if the Horde is that bad, why not just exterminate them all?").

The fact that Alliance fanboys and to a lesser extent Sylvanas fanboys kept bringing the "chasm" up was the main reason, but in part this was also because of my own despair. I hoped BfA to be what MoP couldn't: a nuanced conflict that would not end with a rebellion within the Horde, but with two morally equal factions fighting to eventually unite against the Old Gods. It… didn't. The chasm grew wider. But at least it was nice to see it acknowledged into the game.

One way or another, there are multiple problems with this saying, and the main one is that it reveals, or at least acknowledges, one of the bigger issues in the faction war writing: the writers simultaneously seek to make the conflict morally grey, while refusing to let the Alliance's morality be stained in any way.

What do I mean by that? There is constant damage control by the writers when it comes to Alliance atrocities. Think of Taurajo, where the Alliance questline essentially serves to show that it was all a sad misunderstanding and the Alliance were actually nice and good. Or of the more recent Dazar'alor, where the more aggressive dialogue of Genn is outright implied to be Horde propaganda (while Anduin's unwillingness to hurt civilians is emphasised). This damage control is not limited to just providing justification; sometimes bad deeds are simply swept under the rug. Think of the dwarves exterminating tauren tribes and having a "sovereign imperiative" to conquer new territory. Forgotten. This goes even as far as in prehistorical times: think of how the night elf war against the trolls was retconned in Chronicles to have been started by the trolls.

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As the Horde is never given such damage control, and its atrocities are instead emphasised and put into spotlight, the chasm from Vanilla times has only grown, not shrunk. That wouldn't all be bad – after all, having a bad faction is something that many MMOs do – but the problem is that this flanderisation of the factions is also accompanied by the belief of Blizzard writers that the conflict is somehow grey – and they write it as such. The dialogue between Shaw and Lor'themar in Orgrimmar, for example, implies that the playable factions see Teldrassil and Dazar'alor as atrocities of similar magnitude. However, with all the damage control given to the latter, this comparison rings hollow.

And of course, the constant negative portrayal of the Horde also makes the existing peace hollow as well. At the very least it is acknowledged in-game as a point of contention, so I won't consider that a bad thing.

That is all about the past, but the bigger question is whether the "chasm" can be bridged in the future. Of course, I talked a lot about the Alliance becoming genocidal, and it seems that at least some Alliance members will go down that route, but that obviously will not be enough. After all, I imagine most Alliance players came into the faction to be the good guys, and the faction war won't be the main theme of an expansion for a while now.

But perhaps there could be a chance for the Horde to bridge the gap by greater feats of heroism? Back in Legion, I pondered if the Horde's darker side could be explored by giving it a heroic twist – making them the Batman to the Alliance's Superman, able to sacrifice morality for the greater good and save the world where the cleaner heroes in blue are unwilling to. At the very least, I think we could make the next expansions dominated mostly by Horde heroes, as atonement for BfA, so to speak. Then again, with how little spotlight the Alliance was given in BfA, that could cause some issues as well…

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