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‘Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth’ The Lore Behind Warbringers

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With the release of World of Warcraft’s latest expansion: Battle for Azeroth, Blizzard have been ramping up the game’s story for a new era of conflict between the Horde and Alliance. We’ve taken a look at the new zones, races, and gameplay in Battle for Azeroth and in our story recap we followed the timeline of events that brought Legion to a close, killed leaders, and saw cities raised to the ground. But Blizzard have also been building up characters’ internal conflicts and giving us glimpses of their lives behind the battlefront.

This lore recap takes a look at some of those characters, specifically the Warbringers cinematic series which has championed some of Warcraft’s most fearsome women: Sylvanas Windrunner, Jaina Proudmoore, and Azshara, Queen of the Naga. Here are their stories.

Spoiler warning: This article contains spoilers for Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth content.

 

Jaina Proudmoore

Jaina is one of the most powerful sorceresses in Azeroth, heir to the Kingdom of Kul Tiras, and former leader of Theramore. Jaina has long stood as a peacekeeper between the Horde and Alliance, believing that violence must be forgiven in order for peace to come to Azeroth, but her attempts have all too often fallen in vain.

Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

In Mists of Pandaria Theramore was destroyed by a mana-bomb planted by the Horde, as led by Garrosh Hellscream. The horror of the attack caused Jaina’s hair to turn white, and sent her into a spiral of self-contemplation. By Legion, that horror had turned to anger, and Jaina left the council of the Kirin Tor in protest as they welcomed the Horde into their ranks despite their open ‘betrayal’ at the Battle of Broken Shore.

The Warbringers cinematic shows us a Jaina transformed: disillusioned with peace, repentant for her past, and resolved to head into war. In it, she visits the graves of the soldiers fallen at Theramore, and with a silver pendant of Kul Tiras she pays a ferryman to lead her to the place where her father’s ship sank. The spirits of sailors follow them as they sail through the mists, until Jaina arrives at the place where her father died.

The video is beautifully illustrated, and scored with the haunting Kul Tiran song ‘Daughter of the Sea’ as sung by Jaina (Laura Bailey). The song tells of Jaina’s father, Dealin Proudmoore, Grand Admiral of Kul Tiras, and how he sailed to Theramore after the Third War to save his daughter from the Horde. But instead of finding her prisoner there, he found Jaina making peace. In his rage he demanded that she stand down, and when Jaina refused Dealin attacked the Horde whom, in his eyes, could never be trusted. Dealin was killed, and Jaina was named a betrayer in the land of Kul Tiras. The nation broke away from the Alliance, and her mother, Katherine Proudmoore, took over as Grand Admiral. In her last words to her father Jaina asked him why he didn’t listen. In the cinematic, she stands over his grave and tells her father: “I’m listening now”.

With that, Jaina raises a ghostly ship from the depths of the ocean, the same ship she sails to the Battle of Lordaeron and uses to obliterate the Forsaken forces. After Sylvanas destroys Undercity, Jaina’s resolve is clear. She tells Anduin that she will seek the aid of the Kul Tirans, and reunite their kingdom as part of the Alliance, and we see the start of this quest in the comic ‘Reunion’. Though the people of Kul Tiras have not forgotten her betrayal, Jaina is facing the ghosts of her past, and now seeks to reunite her home, and lead them in the fight against the Horde.

 

Sylvanas Windrunner

Sylvanas Windrunner is the leader of the Forsaken, and the Warchief of the Horde. She was raised alongside her sisters, Vereesa and Alleria, and led the blood elves into battle against the Burning Legion as a Ranger-General of Silvermoon. During the Third War, Sylvanas was killed by Arthas Menethil, the Lich King, who raised her as a monstrous banshee fuelled by anger and hatred.

Sylvanas fought for the Scourge as the Lich King’s puppet, but he could not hold her forever. Eventually, Sylvanas broke free, and possessing her own corpse she led an uprising. Her people called themselves the Forsaken, and banded together with the Horde to hunt down the Scourge. As their Banshee Queen, Sylvanas made her seat in the Ruins of Lordaeron, today know as Undercity, and vowed revenge for her tortured people.

Today, the Lich King lies dead in the frozen wastes, and Sylvanas seeks a new future for her race. With Sargeras defeated, Sylvanas now turns her attention towards her final enemy: the Alliance, who would see her people wiped from the face of Azeroth.

The Warbringers cinematic shows us Sylvanas at the Burning of Teldrassil, and how in her rage she has come to resemble the Lich King himself, but Blizzard have also released a comic: ‘Three Sisters’, which delves a little deeper into Sylvanas’ vulnerabilities. In the comic she meets with her sisters, Vereesa and Alleria, at their childhood home of Windrunner Spire, and the three discuss how each have changed.

Vereesa betrayed Sylvanas when last they met. After the sorrow of losing her husband, Rhonin, at the Battle of Theramore, Vereesa plotted to poison Garrosh Hellscream for the pain he had caused her. Sylvanas was eager to reunite with her sister, and offered to allow Vereesa to co-rule over the Forsaken, though secretly she plotted to kill her and see her rule as a deathless banshee, rather than let a living creature lead the Forsaken. But Vereesa’s will failed, she told Anduin of the poison, and fled the camp, leaving only a letter to Sylvanas to explain what she had done.

Alleria, meanwhile, has finally returned after years of being trapped on Argus, released after the events of Legion. She was lost on an expedition through the Dark Portal during the second war, and became trapped on Draenor alongside the Alliance hero Turalyon. Yet while Turalyon became a vessel of the Light, Alleria became a host to the Void: a power known only by the Old Gods and ancient shadows. She now leads the void elves in the name of Alliance, and used her shadow magic to fight Sylvanas at the Battle for Lordaeron.

The ‘Three Sisters’ comic shows us that Sylvanas is not so far lost that she would kill her own sisters, though she comes close. In it, each of the sisters still wears their gemstone pendants: an emerald for Alleria, a ruby for Vereesa, and a sapphire for Sylvanas, three pieces that once made up a single necklace, given to Alleria by her parents. Vereesa apologizes to Sylvanas for abandoning her in the plot to poison Garrosh Hellscream. To the sisters, Sylvanas seems not to respond, but in the final scene, we see Sylvanas leave, followed by her dark rangers. Sylvanas planned to ambush her sisters, but Vereesa’s words seem to change her mind.

Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

Sylvanas has destroyed the ancient home of the Kal’dorei, and will stop at nothing to secure her peoples’ future, but there are people yet on Azeroth who hold sway with her, or whom at least can give her pause before she desecrates her past. Sylvanas has always been ruthless, cold, and calculating, but now her methods go too far even for the Horde. It will not be long now, perhaps, before the Forsaken must choose a new leader, and change their way of ‘life’ forever.

 

Queen Azshara

Last, but not least, is one of Azeroth’s most ancient enemies. Queen Azhara was a Highborne elf, born with golden eyes and unrivaled beauty. In her younger years, she ruled over Azshara, the city named in her glory, and wielded the great Scepter of Tides, Sharas’dal. She was one of the world’s most formidable magic users, but vain and self-obsessed.

Her power attracted the attention of Sargeras, the leader of the Burning Legion, and she told him of her wish to cleanse the world of lesser races. He promised her great power if she opened a rift to his world, and thus began the first invasion of the Burning Legion, which became known as the War of the Ancients.

Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

However this battle did not go to plan, Malfurion Stormrage shattered Azshara’s portal between Azeroth and Argus, and the Well of Eternity itself exploded in the Sundering that followed. Betrayed by Sargeras, and swept up in a great wave that would destroy all of Azshara, the Queen used her magic to protect herself and her Highborne followers, as she watched the city sink into the sea. We once thought that it was Azshara’s power alone that turned her people into Naga, but the Warbringers cinematic revealed something else: the influence of an Old God.

As Azshara sinks beneath the waves, the Old God N’zoth appears before her: a Cthulhu-esque monster who ruled in the Black Empire during the very first days of Azeroth’s history. He says he will save her life if she will serve him, but Azshara is no slave. On the brink of death, she commands the Old God to raise her as a Queen, or to let her die there and then – and N’zoth, though enraged, complies.

Since that day Azshara has ruled as Queen of the Naga, rebuilding an empire beneath the waves and plotting Azeroth’s destruction. In Battle for Azeroth, Azshara’s influence is ever-growing in the kingdom of Kul Tiras, and along with Zul of the Zandalari she plots to release the Old Gods upon the world once more.

Helen Jones is a Ravenclaw graduate who likes to apparate between her homes in England and Denmark. She spends her time reading fantasy novels, climbing mountains, and loves to play story-focused and experimental indie games like The Stanley Parable or Night in the Woods. She also covers tabletop and board games over at Zatu Games, and you can follow her twitter @BarnacleDrive for updates, blogs, and pictures of mushrooms.

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Game Reviews

‘Life is Strange 2’ Episode 5 Review – “Wolves”: A Worthy Send-off

The final episode of Life is Strange 2 may take a while to get going but it does offer a solid conclusion to the Diaz brothers’ journey.

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Life is Strange 2

Life is Strange 2 hasn’t made any bones about being a political game over the course of the last year. The 5th, and final episode, “Wolves”, doesn’t just continue with this message, it doubles down, and in a big way.

Set near the Arizona-Mexico border, “Wolves” follows the Diaz brothers on the final leg of their journey. Having escaped from the cult that held Daniel up as a messianic figure in the previous episode, Sean and Daniel are camping out in a sort of pop-up town filled with outsiders like themselves.

Life is Strange 2

The location provides Life is Strange 2 with its final breath of relaxation before the story enters its high tension endgame, and it’s a much needed reprieve. Unfortunately, it does seem to go on a bit longer than the player might like, and that makes things drag a smidge.

To give you some idea of how long you’ll be spending in the village, 4 of the 6 collectibles are found here. So, yes, this starting area is the main place you’ll be spending “Wolves” in. To be clear, the area isn’t bad per se. There’s a lot to see, a scavenger hunt to go on, and a few interesting characters to speak with, including a surprise cameo from the original game. The bummer of it all is that players will be feeling the time here more laboriously simply because there isn’t much of anything happening.

Life is Strange 2

In the 2nd or 3rd episode of this story it’s perfectly fine for an extended bit of down time. Episode 3, in particular, benefited greatly from allowing you to settle into the setting and get to know a diverse and likable new group of characters. However, by the 5th episode, players will be so eager to see how things are gonna settle up, they won’t be able to get out of this area fast enough.

On the upswing, once Sean and Daniel leave the village, the story moves at a pretty solid clip to the credits. As the key art and trailer for “Wolves” might suggest, the Diaz brothers do indeed challenge the border wall in the final leg of Life is Strange 2. Where things go from there, I won’t spoil, but rest assured that Daniel will absolutely go through the crisis as you’ve trained him to do.

By this I mean, you will see the final results of your choices throughout the game, and they’re pretty impressive. With 4 possible endings, and 3 possible variations on those endings, Life is Strange 2 can ultimately play out in a variety of ways. How yours plays out will, of course, depend on the choices you’ve made and how you’ve influenced your brother throughout your journey.

Either way, though, Life is Strange 2 closes off “Wolves” with an emotionally satisfying and generally fulfilling conclusion to your journey. It might be a necessary evil that the events can’t be intense the whole way through, being that this is not an action or combat-focused game, but the fact that things take so long to get going in the final episode is a bit of a problem.

Still, fans worried that Life is Strange 2 might fail to stick the landing can rest easy. “Wolves” might not be the best, or most satisfying, episode of the series but it does what it needs to do and it does it well, particularly in the back half.

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Game Reviews

‘Yaga’ Review: A Bittersweet Fairy Tale

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Yaga Game Review

Some games feel perfectly suited to their genres, as if they fulfill every ambition that their genre could promise. On paper, Yaga from the developer Breadcrumbs Interactive, should be one of those games. This roguelike RPG is meant to bring traditional Slavic folktales to life, and its procedurally generated structure allows the game to change in every playthrough, just like how the ancient fairy tales it’s based on can change in every telling. Yaga immediately shines on a conceptual level, but as a game, the most important question remains: will this fairy tale be enjoyable to play?

From start to finish, Yaga uses the rich source material of Eastern European history and folklore to create a vibrant, fantastical world. The entire game is framed as three elderly women telling the story of Ivan, a heroic blacksmith who has been stricken with the curse of bad luck. These women spin a fanciful yarn, one in which Ivan is constantly plagued by horrors from traditional fairy tales such as the hideous One-Eyed Likho, along with more realistic foes, such as a corrupt, overbearing Tsar. The game thrives on this balance between history and fantasy. Its world is filled with peasants who face daily, universal struggles with war and agriculture, while massive ogres and goblin-like Vodyanoys haunt the surrounding wilderness. This mixture creates a strong setting that finally gives Slavic history and mythology its long-overdue representation in games.

Yaga Game Review

“Take the presentation and story together, and Yaga becomes a playable portrait of the lives and superstitions of Eastern European peasants.”

The frame story always remains the same: Ivan will always have to serve his Tsar while avoiding bad luck in every playthrough. However, beyond these core details, the old women are extremely flexible storytellers, often switching events around or changing story beats entirely. In some playthroughs, you may discover a woman raising an enormous chicken; in others, you may instead encounter a band of thieves waiting to rob you. You will frequently face important decisions to make that will dramatically impact the outcome of your quest. yes, you can always break into monster hideouts with hammers blazing to slay every creature before you; but more often than not, you are also given the opportunity to peacefully talk your way out of these toxic situations. Even more dramatically, oftentimes the game will zoom out to the old women storytellers and allow you to choose how they tell the rest of Ivan’s story. Yaga is at its best when it doubles down on this player freedom. It makes every moment engaging and allows its stories to truly come alive.

Yaga

Yaga’s writing and presentation only serve to make this world even more striking. It features a distinctly dark sense of humor – for instance, a man may ask you to push a boulder into a well behind his house, but he will neglect to tell you that he has also thrown his wife into the bottom of that well ahead of time. Much of this dialogue is even written in rhyme, enhancing the otherworldly, fairy tale atmosphere. On top of that, nearly all dialogue is fully voice acted, with most voice actors delivering some eccentrically charming performances that make the game feel as if it’s a playable Disney film. The visuals look like they’re taken straight out of a Russian children’s book of fairy tales, while the music incorporates traditional instruments and language into an electronic, hip-hop fusion soundtrack that captures the cultural heritage that Yaga focuses on while connecting it to modern culture. Take the presentation and story together, and Yaga becomes a playable portrait of the lives and superstitions of Eastern European peasants.

However, this leads to the gameplay. Quests may be randomized each time you play, but nearly every one of them takes the same general format. One character will request help, and then Ivan will have to venture out into the world to fight some demons or recover an item. Worse yet, the levels are just as randomized in their procedurally generated design, and not in a particularly clever way, either: most of them likewise follow the same formula, being little more than arenas full of enemies connected by copy-and-paste environments. Many paths in each environment lead to nothing more than pointless dead ends. The combat has a satisfyingly simple basis, with basic moves like long- and close-range attacks, roll dodging, items to use, and a variety of different weapons to equip, although his trusty old hammer is generally the best choice. However, while this simplicity makes the combat enjoyable on its own, there is very little depth to it, and the inherently repetitive design of the mission only serves to highlight how paper-thin combat can be. Most battles involve little more than hacking away at enemies until they die, which becomes increasingly repetitive by the end of the roughly ten-hour campaign.

Yaga

At the very least, the robust customization system helps add a little intrigue to the combat. As a blacksmith, Ivan is naturally gifted with the ability to craft weapons for himself to use. By scavenging parts and items from fallen enemies and treasure chests around the world, Ivan is able to create the most powerful weapons. Crafting is simple to use yet extremely ripe for experimentation, requiring only one base item and a handful of accessories to create unique new items. With dozens of components to discover and use in your forging, there are plentiful opportunities to create the best possible weapons.

“All told, Yaga achieves a bittersweet ending: it’s bitter as a game but sweet as a fairy tale.”

The crafting system would be the standout aspect of the moment-to-moment gameplay if it weren’t foiled by another one of the game’s systems: Bad Luck. Ivan has been cursed with perpetual Bad Luck, which grows constantly throughout the game – whenever something good happens, Bad Luck is sure to increase. Whenever the Bad Luck meter fills all the way, Likho will appear and strike Ivan, generally breaking one of his weapons or stealing his money.

Yaga Game Review

On paper, this mechanic makes sense, since it prohibits the player from becoming too overpowered and also fits into the folklore style off the story. In practice, however, it is an infuriating limitation on player progression and invention. It effectively punishes players for putting thought and care into their weapon crafting and character-building – at any moment it can all be washed away in bad luck, so what’s the point? Considering how enjoyable the crafting and combat systems are, it’s a shame that Bad Luck seems to exist solely to diminish the very best parts of the gameplay, leaving the game feeling like it cripples itself.

Your enjoyment of Yaga depends heavily on what experience you want out of it. If you’re looking for a deep and satisfying RPG, then it likely won’t deliver. Although it features satisfying combat and customization systems, the frustrating randomization of its level design and Bad Luck system only serve to foil these good qualities. If you are instead looking for a faithful, fleshed-out image of Slavic cultural heritage, portraying both the harsh realities of peasant life along with its fanciful folklore, then Yaga is a clear triumph thanks to its emphasis on player choice, its excellent writing, and its beautiful hand-drawn visuals and inventive soundtrack. All told, Yaga achieves a bittersweet ending: it’s bitter as a game but sweet as a fairy tale.

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‘Resident Evil 3: Nemesis’ — A New Height to Survival-Horror

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Resident Evil 3 Nemesis

If we can forget that Nemesis was a poorly designed rubber goof in the Resident Evil: Apocalypse movie, we can easily state that he is the apex predator of the series. The follow-up to Resident Evil 2 had quite a few expectations to fill and, for the most part, Resident Evil 3 delivered. While not so much a fan-favorite as RE2, there was a lot to like about RE3. The return of RE‘s Jill Valentine, some new intuitive controls, and, of course, theNemesis.

RE3 marks the first time in the series where you are limited to one character – Jill. Through this, the story is slightly more focused and straightforward – despite the plot being all about Jill trying to leave Raccoon City. RE3 director Kazuhiro Aoyama cleverly sets in pieces of RE2 to make this work as both a prequel and a sequel. If you’ve never played RE2 – shame on you – you would not be able to scout notable tie-ins such as the police station. With a large majority of the building still locked up, Marvin Branagh, the wounded police officer who helps you in the second game, is still unconscious and has yet to give anyone the keycard which unlocks the emergency security system.

resident_evil_3_psx_marvin_branagh_by_danytatu-d812bgk-768x480

Where RE3 really shines is in its latest entry of Umbrella Corps. bio-engineered tyrants called Nemesis. The hulking tank brought a new dimension to the series, invoking more cringe-inducing terror and stress than ever. As if zombies and critters jumping through windows weren’t bad enough, now you have to worry about an RPG-wielding maniac busting through a wall and chasing you around the entirety of the immediate environment – and chase is certainly brought to a whole new level indeed. It became a running joke when you would encounter a handful of zombies, but could escape unscathed by simply running into another room. Nemesis, on the other hand, will continue his pursuit no matter what room you run into. At the time, this brought a whole new level of detail in the genre. Knowing that at any given moment he will just appear and will certainly derail whatever key or plot item you’re quested to look for made Nemesis a very intense experience.

Resident Evil 3 is the pinnacle of the series and the last of old-school survival-horror.

The gameplay also takes a few different approaches in this game. There will be moments when you encounter Nemesis, or certain plot occasions where you will be prompted to make a decision. It was a great alteration to the series, as it added new layers and weight for the player. Another addition to the gameplay came in the form of control although as minute as it sounds, is having the ability to turn a full 180 degrees – yes you read that correctly. Resident Evil quintessentially coined the term survival-horror, and survival certainly predicates the genre. There will be times – if not numerous times, you will run out of ammo. When those moments used to occur, you would have to make your character turn in the slowest fashion imaginable to make a run for the door and to safety. It was those moments back then that would pull the player away from the action. With the addition of the quick-turn ability- which was actually first introduced in Capcom’ Dino Crisis game – it gave the player the chance to just cap a few zombies and dash creating more seamless and dynamic gameplay.

resident-evil-Nemesis-768x402

The level design of Resident Evil 3 is grand, if not grander than RE2. A lot of the setting and scenery take place in the open air of the city and a few other places around the vicinity. RE and RE2 mostly took place indoors, and those settings helped create unique moods especially when it is all about tight corridors adding a more claustrophobic feel. Aoyama definitely went with a bigger setting and atmosphere in the follow-up. The game takes you through a police station, a hospital, a local newspaper office, a clock tower and a factory. More often than not, though, people tend to forget the scope and grandeur of RE3. Not to mention you can only… spoiler… kill Nemesis with a Rail-Gun at the end.

Resident Evil 3 is the pinnacle of the series and the last of old-school survival-horror. It took everything that it did so well in the previous titles and made it bigger and better. Nemesis encapsulated fear and dread in ways rarely experienced at the time. The scene where he popped through a window and chased players through the police station has always remained a nostalgic moment, much like anything that comes through a window in the RE series. In fact, a bit of advice for anyone playing the first-gen of RE titles: beware of windows.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on May 16, 2016.

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