World of Warcraft: Dragonflight’s new patch sprinkles in some drama
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World of Warcraft: Dragonflight’s new patch sprinkles in some drama

Aug 18, 2023

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I, for one, am intrigued by this dragon drama

World of Warcraft has an ongoing narrative, but the main cast of accompanying characters changes over time. Players used to hang out with Jaina and Thrall, for instance, but they’ve taken a back seat as of late. With the Dragonflight expansion, players are mostly hanging out with dragons. That’s not much of a shock — it’s literally in the name — but what did come as a surprise is the story of Alexstrasza. The new Fractures in Time patch has made me interested in this longtime NPC, and I’m now eager to see her upcoming character arc.

Alexstrasza is the Aspect of the Red Dragonflight and the Dragonqueen; she’s been around since the release of Warcraft 2 in 1995. Despite her longevity, her characterization has been somewhat shallow. Players have met her before in Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm, and she’s been portrayed as an uncomplicated and heroic figure. I can describe her as benevolent, protective, and helpful, which are certainly very polite traits to have, but she’s never been one to stir the pot. She even gives up her powers in Cataclysm to help players stop Deathwing, the evil Aspect.

Dragonflight is the first expansion that actually takes a look at Alexstrasza, and recent cinematics have revealed some interesting character flaws. Players have known for a long time that Alexstrasza and the Aspects got their powers from the Titans, godlike figures of order. The Titans appointed the Aspects to be guardians over Azeroth. What players didn’t know is that some proto-drakes rejected the Titans and their evolution, and turned to the elemental forces for power instead.

These Primalists are very fun villains — and now Vyranoth the Frozenheart is my favorite based off her history with Alexstrasza. Also, thanks to this new history, Alexstrasza is less of a boring, benevolent dragon demigoddess and more of an actual character. In a cutscene from the latest patch, players learn more about Alexstrasza and Vyranoth — specifically, that they were once very close, that Alexstrasza mourned Vyranoth’s imprisonment greatly, and that it’s still a sore spot for both dragons.

Perhaps more importantly, this is the first time Alexstrasza has really acknowledged that she’s done some things that aren’t great, like aiding in the imprisonment of the Primalists and then enabling Titan indoctrination on elementalist whelps. Instead of being generically heroic and benevolent, Alexstrasza has now been painted as someone who has prioritized her powers and the peace of Azeroth above even her closest relationships. You could even call her a coward.

It’s an improvement in the writing of World of Warcraft, and it makes me optimistic about what could come next. In both Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands, characters would either disappear into the sidelines, occasionally appearing to say something vaguely heroic like “For the Shadowlands,” or behave erratically and out of character for unknown reasons.

Here, there’s some actual meat on the characters’ bones, and they make mistakes that are understandable and even relatable. Sure, I’ve never had to deal with being assigned the duty of warden of an entire planet, but I’ve definitely yielded under the demands of an authority figure or done something that I didn’t entirely agree with in order to keep the peace.

It’s especially nice to see some character development for Alexstrasza that doesn’t involve her traumatic past and the horrific tortures she endured. Previous test realm content had quests that delved into her captivity at the hands of the Dragonmaw, and it had fans concerned about Alexstrasza’s writing in this expansion. Her cutscene with Vyranoth is much more organic and interesting; it’s easy to read a deep connection between the two characters, or even to imagine a past romantic relationship between them.

Dragonflight has done well so far at presenting players with sympathetic villains and flawed heroes. I’m interested to see if Blizzard can take these arcs to a satisfying finish over the course of the remaining patches in this expansion. There are still plenty of threats to deal with on the Dragon Isles, and while some plots are resolved, others are still tantalizingly open.

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