G2A News / Features / Top 10 Grey Morality Moments of Warcraft Lore
Comments sections are blazing like the branches of Taldrassil. Staunch defenders of right and justice on both sides are locked into a conflict of ideas that can only resolve in (preferably) virtual bloodshed. What else is new?
Yeah, good ol’ Blizzard knew what they were doing when there were releasing their Battle for Azeroth cinematics, and now it’s even easier to see everything wrong with the world. All the moments of the ambiguous morality are brought back into attention, as if drawn from the Book of Grudges of King Thorgrim Grudgebearer from an entirely different franchise I’m not sure I even brought up.
So how about we take a distant look at all the “bad” and “cruel” things that have been done over the long millennia of Warcraft lore, shall we? We’re certain to discover they were only evil “from a certain point of view”, as an old man once said after lying to a naive youth’s face.
Don’t @ me.
Ok, so you know how the Burning Legion is a force of destruction that rampages throughout the known universe corrupting the corruptible and killing the too stupid to convert? Yeah, those guys. The folks that are basically the root of… most “evil” that’s happened to Azeroth since forever.
But can’t we just GET where they are coming from? And I don’t mean the outer space. Sargeras did nothing wrong, his brethren Titans failed him in their complacency and clear unwillingness to deal with the ever-present threats in a decisive manner. It’s only natural ol’ Sarge had to go off the deep end and start his own army of raging lunatics. Sometimes it’s the only way to get things done. If entire civilisations lose their ways, lives, or homeworlds to the power of the Fel, that’s the price for stopping the Voidlords from consuming all.
Sargeras did nothing wrong.
There was that one battle where Sylvanas fought the literal embodiment of about everything that is wrong in the world. And, as many a commenter before, she failed, had her life drained from her, and lingered on, fuelled by pain and hatred.
This is what unenlightened wanted us to think! In truth, Arthas Menethil, the iconic blondboi or the Alliance by then turned the iconic platinumboi of the Undead showed mercy and consideration to the ally of old. Why should one of Sylvanas’ martial skill and tactical acumen fall unceremoniously on a battlefield if she could instead serve a greater purpose as a being empowered to do much more than she ever could?
And really, in the long run switching sides (from life to undeath) really worked out for her. I hear she’s fronting metal bands these days. Her concerts are to die for.
Sunreavers was a Horde-allied faction of the Blood Elves, which sounds pretty dang shady already. But they wanted to come under the protection of the neutral Kirin-Tor, because honestly, getting tangled up in a conflict that’s been going on for decades with no end in sight is a just poor judgement, however you look at it. Unfortunately, the Sunreavers fell to the unleashed arcane might of one Jaina Proudmoore, a mage of some repute. They effectively ceased to exist in Dalaran in any significant manner after that.
Which WOULD sound bad, if it wasn’t for the fact that the Sunreavers clearly failed to spot and denounce a spy for the Horde who infiltrated the support corps sent to protect Jaina’s city of Thelamore. The town was levelled by a mana bomb, and Jaina was fully in her rights to rip the Sunreaver scum from the land, no matter what her allies had to say about it. After all isn’t all of that based on “an eye for an eye” anyway?
Jaina did nothing wrong, as she clearly demonstrates in her Warbringers short by having no remorse whatsoever.
Taldrassil was a major natural monument for the Night Elves, and also their new homeland, grown in place of the Nordrassil, which got badly hurt during the kerfuffle with a guy called Archimonde, the tendril-faced. It was supposed to be the major gathering ground for the Alliance troops just prior to the Battle of Azeroth, and kind of a big thing in general, because the Elves really like their trees. Would be a shame if somebody set it on fire.
What Sylvanas has done may be construed as a war crime, and act unbelievable cruelty, betrayal of what she used to stand for in her younger days, and the ultimate Face-Heel Turn not even The ‘The Rock’ Rock could eyebrow-charm his way out of. But listen here: it was really bad for the skyline, ok? Just kind of… there, jutting out into the sky and overshadowing everything. Just terrible. Sylvanas, a seasoned traveller saw this. Besides, who knows, perhaps it’s like one of these trees that really dig growing on the ashes of their predecessors? Kind of sick, now that I think about it, but plants have no concept of cannibalism. Sylvanas would know, she was reborn as a Banshee Queen on the lifeblood of her former self too. She’s just spreading the good thing that happened to her.
Sylvanas did nothing wrong.
Eating other sentient peoples is bad. I don’t think it even needed clarifying, but better safe than sorry. Murlocs have long been the butt of the joke of many a (World of) Warcraft player for their grotesque appearance and silly vocalisations. But clearly SOME people on Azeroth need that lesson, because they decided that Murloc fin is a key ingredient for a broth. Which is just horrible and inhumane.
…on the other hand it’s just SO tasty! It must be the diet and active lifestyle that makes their body parts perfect for a nourishing, delicious soup rekindling the thirst of [-blood-]adventure in anyone who has ever tasted it. I mean, sure, killing intelligent creatures with their own culture and stuff for food seems… callous, but what are the heroes supposed to eat, if everything they get from boars they give back to a hunter who can’t be bothered to do his job?
When a horde a massive, green-skinned savage-looking beings storms your lands, this is generally a cause for alarm, unless we’re talking about Shrek. But we aren’t. The settlements of Azeroth’s people were taken completely by surprise by the sudden onslaught of rampaging orcs driven mad by the machinations of Gul’Dan and the corruption of the Fel magic. Who wouldn’t be, these bad boys can deadlift a horse and turn it into a wingless Pegasus for a short time!
But that’s just the Alliance side of the story. If you look beyond the Dark Portal, a derogatory name in its own right, you’ll see a wasteland the Orcs were trying to escape. You simply couldn’t feed a demon-rage driven family in that economy, so they were only looking for a new place to crash. It was highly unfortunate that the place was inhabited, but sometimes you need to butt heads with your neighbours a few times before you work out some acceptable compromise. In this case, it’s coming any decade now. Aaaaany decade now…
What do you do when the people of your city are falling to a strange illness that spreads fast and has very disturbing symptoms? Setting up a quarantine zone, establishing a team of dedicated researchers, and putting relief points at key points of the town seem like reasonable ideas. Murdering so many people that there’s nobody left to contract the plague is generally a bad idea. Generally.
See, this was the kind of problem prince Arthas was facing when he reached the town of Stratholme. A demonic plague was turning his people into zombies and he could do little to stop it. But the clever cookie that he was, he figured out that zombification works better on the living, so he set out not only to eliminate the already existing undead, but also minimise the risk of anybody becoming a zombie by minimising the population.
Who knows what could have happened if he decided against this course of action? People could have died!
Young Kal’ElGo’el had a little bit of a rough start in life. Born to Draka and Durotan of the Frostwolf Clan one would think the chiefling would grow among those who would respect and nurture him to become the green skinned* badass all Orcs are (except you, Gul’Dan!). But noooooo.
That would be too easy. So his parents are assassinated (by forces the canon can’t seem to agree on) sometime after passing through the Dark Portal to seek living room in Azeroth, and he’s found in his infancy by a man who’s in charge of Alliance-run internment camps for the orcish invaders. It was that man who gave Go’el his redundant name: Thrall. Which, to be fair, is kind of like calling your mixed-breed dog Mutt, but ok, don’t expect too much from a guy whose career highlights are holding people in captivity for being slightly green and tusky, and Conaning children into gladiatorial combat. He got so badass he got drawn to the Nexus with other Blizzard badasses.
On that note… we can’t say it didn’t work out just fine for Thrall in the long run, no? He got good education, some valuable combat experience necessary in this fraught with conflict world, even a friend or two. Heck, the guy even became a warchief for a spell later on. So, you know, his experiences clearly helped form the backbone of a strong and empathetic leader that he became. “This is the kind of person I don’t want to become” is a pretty good guideline after all.
*yes, untainted Orcs are brown-skinned.
History of Orcs is one of tragedy. A once noble and more or less peaceful people in commune with the primal elements were betrayed time and again before even coming to Azeroth. First their spiritual leader Ner’zhul got bamboozled by Kil’jaeden of the Burning Legion to, oh, only mass murder the Draenei people sharing the world with the orcs, an event that (rightfully so) made the elements scoff at the Orcs. After Ner’zhul was replaced by Gul’dan (the bastard!) the lost shamanistic abilities got replaced by necromancy and warlock spellcasting fuelled and fuelling the corruption, because such is the nature of Fel magic. The spineless backstabber even tricked orcs into drinking demonic blood, turning their originally brown skins green, marking the vile influences the orcs were now subject to.
But come on, guys. As we’ve all learned thanks to last decade’s shooters: brown doesn’t look good in games! With their land virtually dead and devoid of plantlife can anyone REALLY blame old Gul’dan for his desire to see a sea of green in his old age? It just works so well! And consider this: Azeroth is much greener than the hellhole orcs crawled out of, so the new colour palette is better for stealth. And when you’re a hulking beast in spiky armour you need all the help you can get if you want to stay hidden. It was tactical foresight and aesthetic considerations that guided the old warlock, not some falsely attributed malice and disdain for all that’s good and noble. And as Warlords of Draenor (trailer above) shows: when Orcs don’t get corrupted you get the most confusing MMO expansion ever.
Now for something completely different, let’s shed some light (subtle foreshadowing (subtle pun)) on something people think is good, but in fact it’s the worst thing to have ever happened.
Creation myths are some of the most popular stories in any culture. Why wouldn’t they be, they seek to provide context and reason the our very existence and foster belief in the higher powers that may or may not care about our wellbeing. Without the world being created so many wondrous events and artefacts would never have come to be. How could one see the inception of reality as something bad? Easily.
The very creation of the universe is what began the woes of the mortal (more or less) creatures of the Warcraft worlds. See, it was the non-denominational Light passing through the proto-universe that gave the contrast for the Void to form. From the inevitable clash of the two came the physical universe, including all the nice and aberrant life forms, like titans (among whom Sargeras counts), and Eredar (who in large numbers joined Sargeras’ Burning Crusade), and the Orcs (who were corrupted by Sargeras-sponsored Fel magic via Gul’Dan), and humans, who are just the worst by virtue of being the most vanilla fantasy species ever.
So if you really don’t think about it too much, it was the clash of Light and Void, White and Black, Vanilla and Chocolate, Dante Classic and nuDante, that created the dirty white and washed-out black that we nuanced people call “grey”. At the risk of sounding nihilistic: universe would have been better off if it never existed.
Voidlords are something of an… ominous presence in the Warcraft universe. It comes with the territory when you’re the literal antithesis of Light and life. Then they started planting Old Gods in places in order to corrupt indigenous people, an act of evil almost comparable to door-to-door salesmanship or evangelism in scale and definitely comparable in modus operandi. The Old Gods are responsible for turning numerous entities to the Dark Side.
But here’s the thing.
Do you know how lonely and boring it gets in the Void? It’s literally nothing! It’s like the worst kind of Sunday afternoon you’ve ever experienced every day forever. And they don’t have video games to fill the empty husks of their souls, because they have neither electricity nor, in fact, souls. In a way Old Gods are Voidlord Tinder. “Eternal darkness, no children, will travel”. And they swipe right on everything alive.
As I’ve just proved beyond any doubt, all the seemingly horrifying events that shaped the Warcraft universe are not only easily justifiable, but also usually extremely beneficial to all involved, therefore absolved of sin and to be praised to high heavens in any discussion. Similarly, all the good is only good from an extremely biased and egoistic perspective of people lacking empathy and insight. Which is a great point of view to accept when gearing up to take part in the Battle for Azeroth. The eternal fight: The grey vs. the grey. Whoever shall win? Will we ever know? Would we even notice?
And seriously, don’t @ me.
PS: if you want to read up on some of the characters essential to the Battle of Azeroth, head over HERE for a lengthy bit about Jaina, Sylvanas and the Zappyboi.