The newest World of Warcraft animated series, “Afterlives”, which aims to tease the game’s upcoming expansion, Shadowlands, kicked off last week by debuting a short featuring an old fan-favorite in Uther the Lightbringer, a new character from the expansion, Devos, and of course, the former Lich King, Arthas.
The short explored the events immediately following Arthas’ slaying of Uther, as well as the immediate aftermath of Arthas’ death atop Icecrown Citadel. The playerbase was able to get a secondary view of what exactly Arthas was seeing during the Fall of the Lich King cinematic ending. Beyond that, I don’t want to spoil the new short without any fair warning, so take this direct link to the video as your last warning.
With a little introduction out of the way, let’s talk about the star of the show thus far in Afterlives, Arthas. Of course, Uther is one of the most storied characters in Warcraft lore, so to see his story explored a bit further through the medium of an extremely well-done animated short was a treat. Still, he managed to get upstaged by one of the few characters in the entire franchise with more history and intrigue.
But while I was certainly hyped to see Arthas make a return to the forefront, I’m perfectly fine with him never making another appearance after Afterlives: Bastion again.
While it’s understandable on Blizzard’s end why they’d want to introduce one of the game’s most marketable and iconic characters back into the mainstream, I can’t help but feel a little bit on edge about reopening a storyline that ended so perfectly 11 years ago (and that’s real life years, not in-game years). I haven’t even thought about Arthas since 2009, and I’d be perfectly content if he didn’t find his way into the game through a sneaky manner.
If anything, I’d much rather see characters with loose ends to tie up or unfinished business to complete from beyond the grave get their stories brought back into the forefront. Arthas, in his simplest form, is a closed loop. There’s frankly not much more Blizzard could do with the character that doesn’t open a previously closed – and by now, fully healed – wound.
Furthermore, if Blizzard was to revisit Arthas in any capacity outside of this animated short, the worst way to go about introducing him into a story where he really doesn’t necessarily fit anymore would be by way of a redemption storyline. Although there have been some characters in the WoW franchise to be brought back from the brink in favor of a brighter tomorrow, such as Illidan for example, it wouldn’t exactly be in the best interest of the game to bring back a character for the purposes of redemption when that character is not only a done deal in terms of the story, but also, and more importantly, beyond the point of redemption.
Arthas, unlike a character like Illidan, is long past any sort of redemption arc. If there was ever going to be a chance for redemption when it comes to Arthas, it was going to be long before the events of Wrath of the Lich King – not long after. As far as Shadowlands goes, to make things simple, Arthas isn’t needed.
So while there’s certainly room for the reintroduction of certain characters into the fold – and believe me, I’m excited to see which old friends make an appearance in the Shadowlands – Arthas doesn’t make that cut. Seeing him get redeemed in a hamfisted manner over a dozen years after his departure from the story is quite possibly the last thing WoW’s story needs right now. In order for Blizzard to create a cohesive narrative over the course of the next two years, the characters that are long-forgotten remnants of the story, now residing in the Shadowlands, will have to serve as supplemental firepower to the overall arc of the next expansion, as opposed to the main event.
Featured image via Blizzard Entertainment.