I’ve often wondered what Outland looked like when it was a whole world — what the Black Temple looked like before it was Black, what Farahlon was like before it became Netherstorm, what Hellfire Peninsula and Shadowmoon Valley were like before they were blasted. The screenshots of a lush, vibrant Shadowmoon Valley and the glowing, jewel-like Temple of Karabor do not disappoint! The geography of Old Draenor aligns suitably well with Outland as we know it, though I’m still a little skeptical about Zangarmarsh having been a Mediterranean-like sea. It is a reasonable ecological transformation… only on a geologic timescale, rather than the human timescale there is between one Warcraft game and the next. If those massive mushrooms were originally underwater, they would have evolved to be supported by the water pressure, and thus they should have utterly collapsed when the water drained. Were the sporeloks really originally an underwater species? If so, how did they evade extinction following the ecological catastrophe? I suppose it all must have been a consequence of the same fel energy that transformed Draenei into Broken.
I wonder how the time-travel thing is going to work out for Draenei characters. Even the youngest of Draenei player characters will have been born on Draenor, for the Draenei have simply not been on Azeroth long enough for children born there grow up enough to leave home and go adventuring. A Draenei traveling to Draenor-of-the-Past could very well encounter her or himself. What would you do, when confronted with your doppelganger, someone who both is and is not you?
From a lore/story perspective, I initially had a quite a bit of difficulty wrapping my head around the concept of Warlords of Draenor. I struggled to understand how an expansion focused on preventing the history of Draenor from changing could possibly conclude with any sort of heroic, triumphant, positive outcome. As Effraeti plaintively asked,
If we go back, are we just supposed to watch Draenor work through its intended history? Do we have to see Shattrath fall? Do we have to watch the genocide of the Draenei? Do we have to witness the creation of the Broken Ones? Do we have to stand aside as the Orcs destroy Draenor all over again?
I’ve been reading a lot of Diana Wynne Jones lately. One of her favourite themes is parallel worlds. Warlords of Draenor made more sense to me if I thought of it as side-slipping into a parallel timeline, a parallel version of Old Draenor. Such a side-slip convolution has happened more than once already in Azeroth’s timeline, after all — when Krasus sent Rhonin, et al., back to the War of the Ancients, and when Nozdormu brought a small group of adventurers into the End Time of another Azeroth sacrificed to save ours.
And, indeed, now that we know a little more about the expansion, that seems to be exactly what is going on. Garrosh goes back in time with the help of an as-yet-unidentified accomplice and unites the orc clans into the Iron Horde, thus splitting off a parallel version of Old Draenor that will now continue down a divergent pantleg of the trousers of time (to borrow a metaphor from Terry Pratchett). Our goal is to help that Draenor achieve a better, brighter future than that of the Draenor of our own timeline.
Time to put on our tinfoil hats crinkle crinkle and consider what else this twisting of timelines might mean.
I haven’t seen any of the Visions of Time myself yet, but apparently they hint that Kairoz or even Nozdormu himself might be involved in something shady having to do with Garrosh’s fate at the end of the Siege of Orgrimmar. Suppose that Nozdormu is Garrosh’s accomplice, and goes off into that parallel timeline. Why might he do that?
Because knows how his life will end. As I already mentioned, at the end of Cataclysm, Nozdormu brought a group of adventurers forward in time to the achingly bleak and desolate End Time to defeat Murozond and release the binding that was preventing him from going backward in time to retrieve the Dragon Soul. By obtaining the Dragon Soul and using its power to defeat Deathwing, the Aspects and the mortal races of Azeroth together prevented Azeroth from falling to that awful fate. But if Azeroth was saved from the End Time, how were we able to visit it?
Because it wasn’t our Azeroth that died. It was/is/will be the Azeroth of the parallel timeline in which Garrosh redirects the orcish clans of Draenor and is thwarted from using them to invade Azeroth by our actions. (From what I’ve read, the Iron Horde isn’t intended to invade the Azeroth of that timeline, anyway — it is intended to come forward in time to crush and conquer the Azeroth that Garrosh just came from, our Azeroth.) An Azeroth never invaded by the orcs would not be strengthened by the orcs-versus-humans conflicts. The Burning Legion could still attack that Azeroth using the Scourge as a tool, with some other being from some other unfortunate world as the first Lich King instead of Ner’zhul. When Deathwing rises from Deepholm in that timeline, the Aspects and mortal races could be too beleagured by the Scourge to effectively stop him from wasting the world. On that Azeroth, in the timeline where Draenor remains a whole and living world, the Aspects will fail in their charge and the Old Gods will succeed in bringing to pass their End Time.
Nozdormu knows that he must fall into shadow, become Murozond, create the Infinte Dragonflight. He knows that an Azeroth must die for our Azeroth to live. And so he chooses to aid Garrosh, because it is only by splitting the timelines that his future and what is now our past (the defeat of Deathwing) can come to pass.
The Draenor of “our” timeline must die so that “our” Azeroth can live. The Draenor of the parallel timeline must live so that the Azeroth of the parallel timeline can die… and “our” Azeroth can live.