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World of Warcraft’s mounts are trapped in an endless cycle of salt

Why horses remain a hot topic in World of Warcraft

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World of Warcraft - a player sits atop their stingray mount in the new Nazjatar zone in World of Warcraft Image: Blizzard Entertainment
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

With World of Warcraft: Shadowlands approaching, fans are digging through the test servers and data mining round-ups to get a glimpse of Blizzard’s next expansion. One of the biggest draws from these previews are the early looks at new mounts, like this Night Fae leaf that players can ride on the wind.

Mounts have always been one of the biggest draws in World of Warcraft. They go in every bundle that Blizzard puts on sale, they serve as a valuable end-game reward, and they’re one of the most common requests from players. If we see a cool animal in-game, you can bet players will want to saddle it and ride it. Fans will play through old content, like 2009’s Icecrown Citadel, if it means picking up Lich King’s extremely sweet/evil undead horse. More recently, a giant brain that can contain a multitude of players within its wrinkly folds has captivated players.

But mounts can cause a big problem too, because Blizzard is trapped in an arms race with itself. It’s not enough for a mount to take its rider from Point A to Point B anymore, according to fans. It’s not even enough for a mount to be complex and detailed. There’s a fine art to making a desirable World of Warcraft mount, and Blizzard has to find that balance every time it introduces new content.

World of Warcraft: an assortment of new mounts with the 8.2 patch Image: Blizzard Entertainment

One example of this phenomenon in action is the Shadowlands pre-order mount, Ensorcelled Everwyrm. The creature looks like an adorable kids’ toy, which is great, except for the fact that fans noticed it has the same idle animation as other dragon mounts. Developers re-use content for the sake of efficiency all the time, but in this specific case, it meant that the mount would twist awkwardly as it tries to shift a leg that isn’t actually there.

Players expect bespoke mounts if they’re positioned as rewards, and that’s an especially tricky proposition depending on what race you play as. Some mounts look awkward for Tauren. Sometimes, a gnome’s hands might sit weirdly on the saddle.

The problem, players say, sometimes extends to the faction you pick. Alliance players, for example, claim that they’ve gotten too many horses and other drab mounts throughout Battle for Azeroth. That’s at least when compared to the Horde, which got vicious hyenas, big ol’ frogs, and cool dinosaurs. This dichotomy is emblematic of an ongoing concern that the Horde get cooler stuff. Anger over mounts can tie into other problems with the game’s current state.

Flying also makes matters complicated. Once flying is unlocked, many existing mounts are made redundant. It doesn’t matter how much I love my big, scuttling spider, because it can’t take to the skies to soar over mountains. Even cool mounts tend to have a limited lifespan.

As a result of these tensions, The Battle for Azeroth memes and dunks about horse mounts lasted for months on the World of Warcraft subreddit. People are still making Alliance horse-related jokes to this day, and using them as proof that the developers favor the Horde over the Alliance. It wasn’t until a Blizzcon 2018 announcement, where Blizzard offered an upcoming exclusive bumblebee mount for the Alliance, that the anger was quelled.

With the upcoming Shadowlands expansion, there are plenty of interesting mount possibilities; we’re heading to the realms of the dead, after all. Hopefully, Warcraft’s mounts can keep evolving without jumping the shark.

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