Most World of Warcraft expansions have an antagonist — a villain players can point to as the one, the main force you need to band together to take out. Sometimes it’s a single character, like The Burning Crusade’s Illidan, and sometimes it’s a more of a group, like Warlords of Draenor’s Iron Horde.
The latest expansion, Legion, launches tomorrow. This time around, the bad guys are a pretty big one: The Burning Legion. For those not familiar with Warcraft lore, this is the giant demon army that’s been behind most of Azeroth’s troubles since the start of the franchise.
For long-time World of Warcraft players and those who played Blizzard’s series of Warcraft real-time strategy games before that, finally going head-on against the Burning Legion is a huge deal. And it’s left some fans wondering who else could possibly be left to take on next?
According to those working on the game, there’s plenty of threats left out there.
"We get into rooms to talk about the future," World of Warcraft senior art director Chris Robinson told Polygon. "From our perspective, it always feels like we have too much stuff to cover still. There’s a whole level of titans and old gods that we’ve kind of touched on, but we haven’t really dug into a lot of that stuff."
The titans are a race of space-faring gods in the Warcraft lore generally credited with having created Azeroth. Sargeras, the leader of the Burning Legion, is actually a titan who went evil. The old gods, on the other hand, were a similarly cosmic force that opposed the titans. The old gods were eventually defeated and imprisoned deep beneath Azeroth.
But these near-immortal, hyper-powerful foes aren’t the only ones players should be watching out for. Robinson also said that Blizzard continues to plan for "lots of baddies that we need to build up over time," like they did with Mists of Pandaria and Warlords of Draenor enemy Garrosh Hellscream.
Garrosh is an interesting case, because he started Pandaria as clearly sketchy but not an out-and-out bad guy. This speaks to another point that Blizzard made clear: that World of Warcraft expansions don’t always need to have an explicit main antagonist.
"It’s nice from an illustrative perspective to have a big bad guy to post on the box and make it simple," Robinson said. "But I don’t think it’s a rule that we’ve ever said we have to have that. Nor would I say that we feel like it’s even a necessary part of an expansion. It’s more a question of if it fits when we’re sitting down and jamming out what would be cool for the next expansion. If there’s that kind of set bad guy that we’ll be going up against, then we do that. But there’s a ton of other ways that we could do these things that we talk about on a daily basis, and I think we probably will end up doing expansions that don’t have one antagonist."
Taking on the Burning Legion also isn’t the first time that Blizzard has worried about what’s next. It also happened with 2008’s Wrath of the Lich King, which saw players facing off against the undead ruler Arthas, a major villain from Warcraft 3.
"He’s such an iconic bad guy," said World of Warcraft lead narrative designer Dave Kosak. "We were like, ‘Are we really gonna do Lich King? Do we want to shoot that bullet? What are we going to do after Lich King?’ We’ve felt that way before."
However, Kosak reiterated that he’s not worried about the Warcraft universe running out of suitable enemies for players anymore.
"It’s time to fight the Burning Legion," he said. "It’s time. It’s been dangling over our heads for a long time. Let’s just do it and do it right."
World of Warcraft: Legion launches tomorrow on Windows PC and Mac. For more on the expansion, check out our conversation with Kosack about the new artifact weapon system.