The war between the Horde and Alliance in World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth began in earnest last year when the expansion launched. However, the Battle for Dazar’alor raid is the first time the two factions are duking it out in one of the new capitals. And this fight is host to an event that was set up right at the dawn of the expansion five months ago.
When Battle for Azeroth first launched in mid-August, players embarked on what Blizzard called the War Campaign. Unique to each faction, the War Campaign involves the Horde and Alliance poking and prodding at each other in various ways — as well as recruiting a new allied race to their side.
The player characters acted as the spies in this particular war maneuver. The “Champions of Azeroth,” as they’re so often called, took down enemy fortifications and created a foothold on the enemy continent — Kul Tiras for the Horde and Zandalar for the Alliance.
The Alliance champions went a little above and beyond toward the end of their War Campaign. A fairly boring quest tasked players with swimming under some boats in the Zandalari harbor and attaching bombs. Swimming is rarely the thing you want to be doing in World of Warcraft, but a mission is a mission.
It turns out this mission was key to the Alliance’s secret weapon to invade the Horde’s island capital. From the start of the cutscene, it’s clear that the Alliance have a plan as they row their ships into open conflict with the Zandalari. The Alliance leadership is calm as the Trolls laugh at their numbers and take aim.
Mekkatorque, leader of the Alliance Gnomes and tinkerer extraordinaire, begins charging the Alliance’s victory machine on the deck of its flagship; the secret behind what the machine does isn’t entirely obvious to the players watching. But as the device finishes charging, a fireball hits the Alliance flagship and takes Mekkatorque along with it.
A few seconds later, Mekkatorque wakes up in the hull of the ship with the device tipped over next to him. As the Alliance ships are bombarded, Mekkatorque pulls his tiny, injured body toward the button, tips it up and waits for it to correct itself. When the light turns green, he punches the button at the last second. All of the Zandalari ships explode in the harbor, and the Alliance gains a landing zone for their assault on the Horde.
In the grand scheme of World of Warcraft’s story, this one player action isn’t a big deal — Jaina has made a magic pirate ship fly before, and she could do it again. But it’s one of those moments in a cinematic that attributes action to not only the named characters, but the players as well.
So often in World of Warcraft cinematics, the opposite happens: A boss lies dead as a bunch of famous Warcraft heroes — who didn’t help the players slay said boss — stand around and receive credit. Instead, this event makes the players’ actions the star.
Not only does this pay off a forgettable quest, but also it makes it feel like the players of the Alliance form a powerful army. I may have only placed bombs on one ship, yet dozens of vessels exploded, thanks to the help of fellow World of Warcraft players completing that quest in their games.
Blizzard has been attempting to do some interesting experiments with player choice and interaction over the last year. Moments like this certainly help the world feel within the player’s control, and it was exciting to see something from five months ago finally pay off in such spectacular fashion.