Friday, December 2, 2011

Two Sides to a Coin: Part 2 -- The Corruption Story


“Ray, when someone asks you if you are a god, you say YES!” 
--Winston Zeddemore, Ghostbusters

The racial origins of the Draenei and Sindorei are well known, but one aspect of their history bears repeating:  were it not for the Burning Legion, neither would exist in their current form.

Certainly the Legion had a hand in shaping all of the Azerothian races, but their influence is most directly felt on the Elves and Eredar.  Were it not for the Legion, the Draenei would still be Eredar.  Maybe they wouldn’t be on Argus, as Sargeras doesn’t really like people saying ‘no’ to him, but the division would never have happened.  Likewise, the Elves might not be so dominant in Azeroth as they were during the rein of Azshara –the Old Gods would have seen to that—but there would be no Queldorei were it not for the Legion and the War of the Ancients.

The temptation and corruption of an individual/race/nation is a standard tale in SFF circles, and it is used repeatedly in WoW to great effect.  You could argue that with the frequency of its use, the corruption tale is a sort of Murphy’s Law in Azeroth:  anything that can be corrupted, will be corrupted.  The Eredar were corrupted, and those who refused the Gift of Sargeras fled, renaming themselves Draenei.  On Draenor, some Draenei were corrupted by the exposure to fel energies, becoming the Broken and Lost Ones.  The Elves were also corrupted multiple times –first most of the Highborne, then the Sindorei—and each time only a fraction of the race resisted corruption.*

Now, I kind of glossed over the division between the Queldorei and the Sindorei, since that division had less to do with the direct hand of the Legion and more with so-called ‘normal’ forms of division:  racism, addiction, and political disagreements.  Some of the Queldorei were holdovers from the disagreements on High Elven isolationism after the Second War, others refused to debase themselves by allying with Illidan and harnessing fel energies, while still others were not directly exposed to Garithos’ racism.

That split aside, the Burning Legion had a direct hand in forming the two BC races as they are seen today.  The main difference between the two races is that the Draenei’s corruption happened in the distant past, while the Sindorei’s corruption is revealed over the course of the Outland questlines.

A Draenei player has a big leg up on a Blood Elf player in this discovery process because Kael’s Blood Elves are their primary focus in the starting zones.  Blood Elf players don’t even know Draenei exist until they reach the Dark Portal and see one for the first time.**  A Sindorei player, remember, has a starting zone that says “we need to get out of here” and “AAAH!! The Scourge!!”  Outland is presented to a Blood Elf player as a Shangri-la, while a Draenei player knows that things are not well in the state of Denmark.

Once a player gets to Hellfire Peninsula, the discussions of the NPCs at Falcon Watch and the Temple of Telhamat prove to be very telling.  The Sindorei are already grumbling about how Outland was supposed to be a nicer place than it’s turned out to be, while the Draenei are trying to reconnect with the Broken and warning people to avoid Falcon Watch.  There’s disillusionment and caution, yet without focus.***  In Hellfire or Zangarmarsh, you don’t see non-allied Blood Elf NPCs as the enemy –even from the Horde side—until the conclusion of the Raging Colossi quests and you discover that Kael’Thas was behind the giant crystal shard.

It’s only when a player reaches Shattrath and is presented with the story of the Scryers that the corruption tale takes off, but the way the story is presented one could easily interpret Vorenthal’s vision as referring to the Sindorei’s association with Illidan rather than the Burning Legion.  The quest lines through Terokkar, Nagrand, and almost all of Shadowmoon continue to hide Kael’Thas’ involvement with the Legion, leading a player to believe that the Legion is merely attracted to the Draenei and the Fel Orcs, with Illidan as a nice bonus.

One could make a very successful argument that the Draenei’s suspicion of the Scryers was borne from experience –not necessarily on Draenor itself, but from many years of dealing with potential enemies.  However, given the frequency of how the corruption story plays out, why the Draenei fail to see its effect in the Scryers remains puzzling.  If the Draenei are immortal as they are hinted to be, then you’d think that the older ones at the very least would recognize what is before their eyes.  In a way, this disconnect is implied in the ‘Aldor no More’ quest line in Netherstorm, where the youthful Draenei Kaylaan has become disillusioned and is unable to call upon the Light.

In Netherstorm, the Socrethar’s Seat quest chain culminates the big reveal that Kael is in league with the Legion, and the side quests associated with it flesh out that even some Sindorei who didn’t join with the Scryers are refusing to associate with Kael anymore.  You would think that at this point that the Aldor would be more accepting of the Scryers, but that had to wait for the Quel’Danas/Sunwell expansion.

Nevertheless, a corruption story is a corruption story, and although it is cloaked in the complexities of allegiances to both Illidan and (for the Sindorei from Quel’Thalas) the Horde, the fall of the Sindorei remains a high point in the Burning Crusade quest lines.  The Quel’Thalas and Scryer Sindorei have discovered the fall of their brethren at the hands of the Burning Legion, just as the Eredar experienced eons ago. 

Did the Sindorei set themselves up for it?  Sure, just as you could argue quite successfully that the Eredar did as well.  Sargeras was no slouch, and the fallen Titan knew exactly what strings to pull to get a race such as the Eredar to ally with him.  Just as with the Sindorei, most of the Eredar willingly agreed to an alliance with the Burning Legion, and from the looks of it, they don’t exactly have buyer’s remorse.





*In the interest of completeness, the Orcs were corrupted multiple times as well, first the division that caused the break by the Mag’har, and the later division by the Frostwolf clan.  However, the Orcs were redeemed at the end of Warcraft III, which is out of the scope of this analysis.

**Unless they run into an Alliance player while out and about or they invade an Alliance settlement.

*** If anything, the Apothecary in Falcon Watch is the most repulsive character in the zone for the experimentation on a captured Draenei.


EtA:  Corrected a plural issue, and replaced "that" with "than".

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