The story of Battle for Azeroth and its central characters is one that began with a bang in the Fall of 2017, when the cinematic trailer for the expansion focused in on the new Warchief of the Horde claimed that her faction had “paid the price for sharing this world”, and that they “had forgotten what makes them strong”. From the get-go, the Horde had crossed the line into a state of newfound hatred for the Alliance, orchestrated perfectly by its leader.
From the very beginning of the expansion, it looked as if BfA was going to focus on the unity of the players behind their factions. Two sides would be against each other in their purest forms. Alliance vs. Horde would once again be the focal point of WoW. After so many years of uniting against common threats, the world could, weirdly enough, finally find a restorative sense of balance, order, and normalcy in the very practice of war that brought the game to its current state in the first place.
And although we traveled to distant continents in the hopes of extending the longstanding faction war into new territory, it was quickly revealed that the story had other plans. Plans that were far too familiar to anyone who had played WoW before, particularly during the Mists of Pandaria expansion, when the story had taken eerily similar turns.
You see, instead of sticking to the theme of uniting the Horde under a few common goals, Sylvanas had lost her message somewhere along the way during the course of BfA. She eventually turned into a power-hungry maniac with the sole goal of moving beyond the Horde for her own personal, vengeful gains. Sound familiar at all?
If Sylvanas’s story reminds you of the route that Garrosh Hellscream went down in Mists, it’s because the two characters definitely share a ton of personality traits when their respective descents into madness are compared. Their stories arguably line up closer than any other two characters in the history of WoW, and the arcs that both of them were written into most certainly share a ton of parallels.
However, there is a common misconception among the WoW community’s playerbase that Sylvanas from BfA and Garrosh from MoP are perfect, spitting images of one another. But while that sentiment does ring slightly true at its most basic levels, there are enough differences between the two characters that are distinctive enough to put the “perfect match” argument to rest completely.
Although both Sylvanas and Garrosh were incredibly self-centered and acted mostly for personal gain throughout their respective expansions in the spotlight, Garrosh, at the very least held his people close to his heart. Throughout all of Mists and Warlords of Draenor, Garrosh acted with his heritage and culture in mind, searching for redemption for the Orcs entirely along the way. Sylvanas merely acted in search of more power for herself and herself alone. When members of the Horde – particularly those of her own race – swore loyalty to her, she left them in the dust and marched into the Shadowlands on her own terms. At least Garrosh had the common decency to keep his people – his loyal people – in mind.
Additionally, when it came to keeping those who were loyal to you close to your chest, Garrosh and Sylvanas couldn’t have two more different routes. When Garrosh arrived on Draenor, he was a stranger in a strange land – just like Sylvanas – but at the very least, he knew his place as an outsider. He understood that he was part of something greater than himself. He kept allies like the Blackfuse Company involved in the picture, while also enlisting new pieces, such as other Warlords like Blackhand and Grommash, into the puzzle. Although Garrosh certainly was self-motivated, he always knew that he wasn’t going to be able to accomplish his goals alone.
Sylvanas, on the other hand, never came to that realization at any point during BfA – and it doesn’t look like she’ll have an incredible amount of foresight heading into Shadowlands, either. She could never bring herself to realize that she wasn’t the main part of the world’s rotation – or at least that’s how things stand right now. While she could most definitely be humbled at some point during Shadowlands, it doesn’t look like things are trending in that direction.
She’s even had the audacity in recent times to completely abandon those that believed in her message. The Banshee Queen’s loyalists were left in the dust at the end of Battle for Azeroth’s in-game events, and now, leading up to Shadowlands, she’s going even further out of her way to distance herself from those that swore fealty to her cause. I don’t want to spoil Madeleine Roux’s Shadows Rising, but if you need further convincing that Sylvanas is losing her followers more and more every day leading up to the game’s next expansion, you might want to dive into that book (you should read it regardless. It’s one of the better WoW novels in recent memory).
And while the future is still unclear in regards to Sylvanas’ fate come Shadowlands, there’s still, at the very least, some respite that the story surrounding her won’t be a total rehash of the story we got about six to seven years ago with a different character at the centerpiece in Garrosh Hellscream. While the similarities are obvious, let’s not beat around the bush here, there’s still enough disparities to claim that they aren’t entirely identical.
Is it an extremely bizarre coincidence that two Warchiefs of the Horde both went mad for power, broke away from the traditional Horde, and subverted the laws of time and space to enter an alternate reality where their dreams of world domination could potentially be realized? Probably not. There’s definitely some purposeful parallels. But, is there enough room for both characters to stand far apart from each other in terms of storytelling so that their tales aren’t intertwined forever? Absolutely.
Featured image via Blizzard Entertainment.