After the initial release in BlizzCon (I still can’t believe I was there), I’ve been avoiding ANY information like the plague. Not reading on what happened, not reading on covenants, not reading on the lore of shadowlands… Nothing at all. Well, okay, except glancing a couple of articles from Lorekeeper.net, but nothing significant story-wise.
I watched the SL cinematic of course (several times), I read Shadows Rising [my review] and I watched the animated shorts. It’s been hard, I have to say. Both in terms of effort but also because I WANT TO KNOW! But the pre-patch has come so, well, it’s about time. It’s about time I write something and I decided to write my expectations before even checking the pre-patch. I will try to revisit this in future once or twice, in a similar way I revisited my Sylvanas article. So, shall we?
What I know
Let’s start with what I think we know:
- Sylvanas wanted to cause a lot of deaths to feed “Death” (End of Loyalist line) and succeeded
- Sylvanas became way more powerful with some new powers thanks to shenanigans she pulled.
- She defeats Bolvar and opens the way to Shadowlands (SL cinematic)
- She sees “this world as a prison” (SL cinematic)
- She sees the factions fights as a cycle of hatred (BfA Cinematic)
- Sylvanas talks a lot about letting go of earthly attachments (sounds funny, but it is what it is) and being against hope (Various sources)
- She sees the Horde as “nothing, as toy soldiers in tin plate” (Saurfang’s Mak’Gora)
- Many of the Forsaken has actually embraced the Horde (Various quests)
- Many Forsaken still feel connected to their living kin and vice versa (Before the Storm)
- Bolvar became more active, creating a formidable force no matter the cost (Legion DK Quests)
- Bolvar sees the Helm of Domination as a prison.
- There are major players outside Sargeras, Titans and Void Lords
- The workings of Shadowlands has changed (Shadows Rising)
- Bwonsamdi has been “saving” troll spirits from the Maw for a while (Shadows Rising)
- There are problems in Shadowlands due to the Maw situation
- Horde has new leadership in form of a council (Something I had expected to happen)
- There is a mean old dude called Jailor? Jailer? in Shadowlands that seems to be the partner-in-shenanigans with Sylvanas
What I think
In Shadowlands, I think the plot is pretty clear. We’re going to visit zones, work with covenants and fix stuff. What we always do. These will build up into a struggle against the Maw.
Now the fuzzy part is what Jailer wants to do. The most obvious thing would be that the souls fed into the Maw empowering him. Since he’s essentially stealing souls going to the other realms, he becomes an all-powerful lord of death himself, ruling Shadowlands.
And what about Sylvanas? Maybe the Jailer thinks she’ll be a loyal minion and maybe he thinks of betraying her at some point. Regardless, I don’t see Sylvanas as the side-kick. I don’t think she’s work so hard just to make Jailer the lord of death, provided she has free will — which I think she does.
Let’s also remember that Sylvanas moved to the other side once. When she was there, she saw darkness. That seems odd after the animated shorts and the general concept of the afterlife from what I understand — because she’s supposed to be judged first. Is the maw darkness? Honestly, I find Edge of Night (The story where Sylvanas goes to the other side) hard to speculate on because I’m not sure if they had the whole concept fleshed out by then. Maybe if it was rewritten, we’d see something different. Maybe not.
Regardless, one thing is obvious. Sylvanas has a big plan that will change something with Shadowlands. So all of this opens two paths in my head.
Path 1) Sylvanas and Jailer actually work together because of a currently unforeseeable situation. Maybe a threat to Shadowlands. Maybe they found a way to make Shadowlands work differently and they think it’s the best. Maybe Jailer thinks that the other groups are problematic because of whatever. Maybe there is something going on between these cosmic forces. Or maybe, they just struck a deal. Sylvanas saves her people from being slaves to Arbeiter’s judgement and being chewed into the Shadowlands covenant gears, and Sylvanas helps Jailer become powerful. But to be honest, this feels a bit small. Probably something bigger.
Of course, this isn’t necessarily a good path for Sylvanas. Just because she and/or Jailer think something is important or need to be done doesn’t mean it’s a good action. Sylvanas is ruthless. “We will slaughter anyone who stands in our way.” She will do anything for her ends. So this path has two different aspects with two different ends.
The first aspect is the answer to the question of “Why” and the second is “What”. Remember Stratholme. Arthas was convinced that he needed to purge the city and in all honesty, that was probably the best call. Had Arthas not intervened, Mal’ganis would have had a bigger army at his disposal. But neither Uther nor Jaina agreed with Arthas. So whatever Sylvanas/Jailer might be plotting to do and whatever the reason for that is one thing, Azerothian forces agreeing to it is another.
One might argue that the cosmic order (ie Shadowland system) shouldn’t be touched. But what if that order is corrupted or leading to issues? One might argue that cosmic beings know better. But we all remember Illidan standing up against a Naaru, a cosmic being of light.
So in this path, both Sylvanas and Jailer could turn out to be anything from the ultimate boss to unexpected allies.
Path 2) Sylvanas and Jailer “work together” because it suits them and they’ll double-cross each other at some point. Maybe Sylvanas went to the Maw, visited Shadowlands, learned that the Jailer was growing in strength and thought to keep her friends close and enemies closer. Maybe she plans to end the Jailer. Maybe she plans to replace him. Maybe she plans to rule the Shadowlands.
In this case, Jailer is guaranteed to be an enemy while Sylvanas could be a number of things. She could use us for her plot, she could sacrifice herself to make it work, she could fight with us… or she could fight us. Just because her agenda is different from the Jailer doesn’t mean it’s a good agenda for the rest of people, right?
So these are the main topics to talk about for now. I may revisit after playing the pre-patch content, or maybe after completing the first batch of quests once the expansion is out. Regardless, I’m looking very much forward to playing Shadowlands. It’s going to be an interesting expansion in terms of lore expansion.