In the Burning Crusade expansion of World of Warcraft, heroes from Azeroth travel to the war-torn planet of Draenor -- now called Outland -- to end the threat of a demonic invasion. However, the demons in question are positioned in minor enclaves in Outland, their Legion largely being locked out due to the actions of the iron-fisted dictator Illidan Stormrage. Throughout the expansion players destroy the infrastructure Illidan set up to keep the Legion out, and finally fight Illidan himself in the Black Temple.

The summary (a brutal dictator whose actions locked out dissidents, but whose actions kept hostile forces away from other locales, being removed by a group which was attacked by a portion of said dissidents) is familiar. Could there be more to this? Has anyone on the development team said if the Illidan debacle was influenced by the politics surrounding the Iraq War?

  • My bad, I thought the question was referring to WC3 for some reason. Answer deleted.
    – Steve-O
    Jan 31, 2017 at 19:48
  • This is a lot of political thought put into what - at the time - was basically a good set of loot piñatas. There's probably an answer in that, but I'll try to flesh it out more.
    – Radhil
    Jan 31, 2017 at 19:49
  • @Radhil That never sat right with me, but in hindsight it wasn't just the Black Temple where we fought Illidan -- he was the "big bad" of BC. Just for all the wrong reasons.
    – user40790
    Jan 31, 2017 at 20:06
  • I have never seen any official statement about this metaphor, and I have never noticed it.
    – IS4
    Oct 2, 2017 at 12:53
  • @IllidanS4 It was just one of those half-awake thinking moments.
    – user40790
    Oct 13, 2017 at 10:18

1 Answer 1


Blizzard did very little coordinated storytelling at all before Wrath of the Lich King, let alone the showing the kind of cohesive plot that could be taken as a political commentary or as a larger reference to a particular piece of history.

Consider first the original base World of Warcraft. Many of the dungeons and raids were completely unconnected to each other. Ahn'Qiraj had nothing to do with Naxxramas. Many of the dungeons were just the equivalent of faction headquarters, with some few exceptions (Stratholme, featuring the Scarlet Crusade vs. the Scourge). Blackrock Mountain was probably the largest coordination of dungeons and raids to form a cohesive story, and even there it was mostly "Evil up above vs. Evil Below, go beat them both up" with minor ties to the Alliance characters at best. There were many ideas in play and bits of world lore, but mostly it was story fragments for every piece of the world in play. Nothing connected.

The Burning Crusade is formed from much the same mold. Ostensibly, the Burning Legion reactivates the portal to Outland and the Alliance and Horde both march through to push them back... and other than the running battle at the portal, most of Outland isn't even occupied by the Legion. The most that can be said about the zones is that they again allow for good story fragments - fel orcs, mana-thirsty elves, orc history, draenei history... none of it connected. The dungeons, raids, and other end-game content are barely supported at all as aiding your new allies in Shattrath against Illidan's control of Outland, which is the excuse behind 2 raids (Magtheridon's Lair and Serpentshrine). Two of the raids aren't even connected to anything else storywise - Gruul, because ogres are fun to beat up, and Karazhan, the only mention that the Legion is doing anything before the end. Kael'thas has defected to the Legion and for most that isn't even made clear, since there's just demons on one side or another, until a final patch added a final raid dungeon that made the Legion the enemy again, with practically no warning. The story is only after the fact; it's otherwise just a series of one bigger boss following the last.

That's not to say that Blizzard isn't aware of how this looks later, and they've even decided to lampshade it. The latest expansion, Legion, includes a quest story line to go back and revisit Illidan's life, and it includes his defeat at the Black Temple, where he was a raid boss. Part of this is a retcon to explain how Illidan's body was preserved after he died, and part of this is to weld on story bits to show he was still supposed to be fighting the Burning Legion rather than just a dictator of Outland, so that he can be brought back as an ally in the new storyline. Your revisit of his "boss fight" however, paints players as cynical stereotypes just beating him up for their next upgrade with a lazy git AFKing through the fight for good measure, which is pretty much all the respect that Blizzard's plot had earned at the time.

Wrath is the point at which zone and dungeon stories start to follow one another and reference one another in a larger plot sequence. Before that, there's just an excuse plot for beating up bigger critters, which was the mold of many MMOs. Any grander design has been tacked on after the fact.

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    While I agree, I'd really like some WoG if possible. I'll bounty it up if you get one. :D
    – user40790
    Jan 31, 2017 at 20:47
  • @Terriblefan - yeaaaaahhhh.... not finding much. Except other people who are way snarkier about the early plot than I am. I'll keep pecking for some, update if I find.
    – Radhil
    Jan 31, 2017 at 21:07
  • (I hear they answer tweets occasionally)
    – user40790
    Jan 31, 2017 at 21:13

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