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World of Warcraft’s new soul information is a philosophical nightmare

Evil souls, double dying, and other theological issues

Afterlives: Bastion - Two angelic figures are high above a sea of roiling red energy. They throw a man into the Maw from above. 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.

In order to tease the next World of Warcraft expansion, Shadowlands, Blizzard has been airing a series of animated shorts called Afterlives. Each short covers one of the four zones and factions we’ll be dealing with in Shadowlands, and previews the prime conflict for players. Now, World of Warcraft lore is always weird, and an expansion where everyone goes to the afterlife to chase down ghosts is going to be inherently strange. But some of the information revealed in these Afterlives shorts is genuinely horrifying.

Seriously, holy shit

The core premise of Shadowlands is that everyone has a soul, and when you die, your soul is judged. From there, it’s sent to a final destination. Literally all afterlives are true and real, and all religions were correct. We’ll be seeing four of those afterlives in Shadowlands, but people can go anywhere.

Draka, Thrall’s mom and a very nice lady, died and left her husband Durotan behind. You can just die and then never see your loved ones again. That’s not even the stuff that’s really worrying.

In the most recent short, “Ardenweald,” we saw a longtime lore figure die. This is Ursoc, who we killed in the Emerald Nightmare raid during Legion. Now, as Ardenweald struggles to survive, Ursoc had to sacrifice himself. He died in the afterlife.

What? If you die in the Shadowlands, you die in real life? What happens to someone who is double dead? Every time I try to theorize how that works, I take psychic damage.

Double trouble

But at least with Ursoc, we only have to worry about one soul. In the “Bastion” short, we saw Uther the Lightbringer die at the hands of Arthas, an event that happened during Warcraft 3. We learned that Uther went to Bastion, and only returned to Azeroth to cast Arthas into super hell.

But wait. No, that’s not right. Players saw Uther during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, in the Halls of Reflection dungeon. He has a whole speech about forgiving Arthas and not wanting to cast him into super hell!

Uther the Lightbringer says: Arthas...

Uther the Lightbringer says: Alas, hero of Azeroth, you give me a greater gift than you know.

Uther the Lightbringer says: Long have I struggled to forgive the prince for his terrible transgressions.

Uther the Lightbringer says: My soul has been wracked with unbearable anxiety, dark thoughts... distancing me from the Light.

Uther the Lightbringer says: I recall clearly the gleam of pride in his eye as he stood before me, eager to defeat the enemies of the Light...

Uther the Lightbringer says: Eager to defend his people, no matter the cost.

Uther the Lightbringer says: It is this memory of Arthas that I choose to keep in my heart.

Uther the Lightbringer says: I shall always be in your debt, friend.

Uther the Lightbringer says: Thank you.

This might be a retcon, but fans think otherwise. There’s a moment in the “Bastion” short that players keep discussing. A user named dreamfisher on the Warcraft Lore subreddit writes:

When we see Uther’s soul leaving his body, while it’s still whole its color is white. When it splits, the two fragments are blue and gold. The blue fragment is swallowed by Frostmourne, while the gold one passes on to Bastion.

This might be a case where we have to ask, “Geez, Uther, how come the Arbiter lets you have two souls?” And if this happened to everyone who died via Frostmourne, it has big implications. Sylvanas Windrunner, one of our main antagonists, died via Frostmourne. There could be a good Sylvanas out there, and Azeroth got saddled with the evil twin.

All of this raises massive ethical, scientific, and theological questions that I can’t even begin to answer. What happens when a soul dies? Can you have two souls? If so, does one of them have to be evil? Or are they just misunderstood? All we can do is wait until Shadowlands and its endgame arrive.

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