One of the biggest stories this week was the launch of Theramore's Fall, one of several new scenarios we'll see in Mists of Pandaria. Theramore's Fall was tuned for level 85 as a one-week preview of the scenario feature -- after the launch of Mists, it will become a level 90 scenario, and players will no longer be able to get the special rewards offered at level 85. That said, it's worth doing to test out the scenario feature, and to see what exactly happened to Theramore.
But there's an issue with Theramore's Fall that had players by and large confused -- a lack of any kind of introduction or context for the event. It could be cleared up by reading Tides of War, but not everyone has the time to pick up a book. Because of this, I decided to take a different route with this week's Know Your Lore, and give a brief introduction into what this scenario is, why you're in it, and the absent heroes of Theramore's Fall, who by all rights should have been included.
Please note: Today's Know Your Lore contains some spoilers for Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War. If you're looking to avoid all spoilers, you may want to come back when you're done with the book!
Theramore's Fall plays out in two parts, and the parts are in sequential order. The Horde version of the scenario comes first, and details the events leading up to the detonation of the mana bomb that is dropped on Theramore in the final cutscene of the scenario. The Alliance side picks up immediately after the bomb is dropped -- it begins with the same cutscene that the Horde side ends with.
It is good to be Horde. It is a dark time to be Horde. Either statement could be considered true, depending upon how you view the Warchief Hellscream. But if you have any words of dissent, any question of Garrosh's authority, be prepared to answer for your traitorous words. Warchief Garrosh has enlisted new advisors that now act as both confidant and thug, offering brutal consequences to any who would breathe words that might tarnish the name Hellscream.
Warchief Garrosh's plans have just begun, and in the wake of Deathwing's defeat he has proclaimed a new goal for the Horde -- the conquering not of a plot of land, but an entire continent. Hellscream intends to take the whole of Kalimdor for the Horde, while the Alliance are still struggling to regain a foothold in lands shattered by the cataclysm. His first target is not the night elves, who remain decimated by losses in Darkshore, but the Alliance port of Theramore ... a deadly opponent indeed.
All able bodies who work under the banner of the Horde were enlisted into combat for the assault. And as the Horde stormed the coast of Kalimdor, Theramore waited to receive them, not without its guardians. The Kirin Tor, answering a plea by Jaina Proudmoore, decided to take a neutral stance on the side of Theramore. While they did not aggressively stand against the Horde, they used magical wards to defend the port city. But the Kirin Tor didn't know that one of their own was working against them, sabotaging their defensive wards as the Horde hammered at Theramore's gates.
Once his treachery was discovered, the blood elf Thalen Songweaver was taken to Theramore's prison to await due punishment for his crimes. The Horde were pushed back into Dustwallow Marsh, seemingly defeated. Theramore's fate was safe, for the time being.
But you, as a hero of the Horde, must storm Theramore's shores in the dead of night. While there, you must sow chaos among the ranks of Theramore's defenders, sabotaging any hope of reinforcements or retaliation while on the way to your true task ... the rescue of Thalen Songweaver.
Although successful in your rescue, it becomes clear after your departure that there is far more going on than Warchief Hellscream has let anyone know. Flying overhead, a goblin airship armed with a giant mana bomb is bearing down on Theramore. And when the bomb drops, the city is obliterated. Any Alliance left in Theramore at the time of its destruction have surely been blown to pieces. It seems that Garrosh's plan worked from beginning to end ... but he neglected to inform anyone of what that plan truly was.
As a loyal member of the Horde, a victory is a victory, yes. But as an honorable member of the Horde, one has to ask in hushed tones ... why did Garrosh require a Horde army, if he had a mana bomb at his disposal? What of the Horde lives lost, fighting at Theramore's gates? What of those Horde who did not manage to escape the bomb's detonation? While these questions may seem important to you, they seem to matter very little to Warchief Hellscream.
Warchief Hellscream's plans for continental domination seem to have stalled, for now. But he grows far more powerful by the day, and his fear campaign of silencing any dissenters is quickly spreading like a malaise over the Horde. While some may be fervent supporters of the new Warchief, there are more and more by the day who sit in quiet corners, gather and whisper; "What honor, what glory does slaughter bring?"
The Horde have done the unthinkable, and Theramore is lost. It was known that Theramore was destined for assault. Lady Jaina Proudmoore had been warned in advance, giving her enough time to seek the aid of the Kirin Tor and the strongest fleets Stormwind had to offer. But both were little defense against the might of a mana bomb that had had its power magnified to almost infinite capacity by the Focusing Iris, a powerful artifact stolen from the blue dragonflight.
You are a traveler, taking what should be an uneventful trip on a transport ship to the quiet port town. But upon your arrival, you are greeted with the gutted remains of proud Theramore, now crawling with Horde soldiers. The tower that stood in the center of the city is now a crater teeming with unknown magical energy. By all appearances, Theramore has been utterly destroyed, with none left alive to tell the tale.
But there is one survivor standing among the wreckage. Lady Jaina Proudmoore, transformed by the magnitude of the mana bomb's blast, is attempting to remove the Focusing Iris before the Horde can recapture it and use its powers to fuel another bomb. And although her strange transformation seems to have granted her unimaginable power, she cannot remove the Focusing Iris without attuning to it first -- an impossible task amidst the attacking Horde forces.
While you may have missed the battle leading to its destruction, your purpose is clear. You must kill any and all Horde that remain in Theramore, avenge the lives of those fallen, and assist Lady Proudmoore in taking the Focusing Iris, before it once again falls into the wrong hands.
As Lady Proudmoore said, the winds of change blow fiercely. Azeroth is on the brink of war, and the Horde have clearly made the first decisive move. If the Horde were able to steal a powerful magical artifact like the Focusing Iris out from under the blue dragonflight, what else are they capable of now? What city will fall next?
While there is much more that can be said about Theramore, the basics are there in the case of both scenarios. The issue with Theramore isn't the fact that it isn't an important event. It's not even the fact that it's such a short moment in time. It's simply that Theramore had nothing to lead to it. There was no indication that anything was going on, no reason for the events that played out in the scenario. The answers to simple questions, why are we here, how did this happen, what are we doing, what will happen next, were just ... absent.
In short, the scenario simply wasn't rooted in the game world. Instead of taking a quest to complete the event, players simply queued up for the scenario via an impersonal interface. There was no indication the scenario was available, no NPC to tell players what to do, or where to go. And it's unfortunate, because the scenarios we will see in Mists of Pandaria are so good, so well thought out and planned. Scenarios are meant to be brief. They are a step between a quest and an instance, requiring a party of three instead of a party of five.
It is an absolute pity that Theramore had so little to ground it in the world, because it was such a groundbreaking event. It deserved more, especially from the Alliance side of the event. I have to reiterate -- Tides of War is an excellent book. It just hit the New York Times Bestseller list, and it completely deserved to. I really recommend that people give it a read, because there is far more in the book than the simple introductions that I have given here.
But there was so much more in the book that should have absolutely been mentioned during Theramore's Fall, and I'm going to lay it on the line for you, because characters died. Beloved characters died, and they deserve a mention, some ounce of recognition in game rather than their quiet disappearance.
If you have noticed that General Marcus Jonathan no longer awaits new players at the gates of Stormwind, it is because he lost his life in Theramore. King Varian Wrynn sent his finest to help defend Lady Proudmoore's city, which was everything Garrosh had hoped for. Hellscream wanted Varian to send his finest, because Varian's finest would arrive to their certain death.
Pained, the mysterious night elf who served as guard for Lady Jaina since vanilla, is also gone. Her story remains a mystery, one that died with her, and one we may never hear told. Lieutenant Aden, who kept close watch over the gates of Theramore is no more. General Tiris'alan, the draenei who stood tall beside A'dal in Shattrath as a leader among the Shattered Sun Offensive in Burning Crusade is now gone.
Archmage Tervosh, who led players through the chain to find the Missing Diplomat is now gone. Admiral Aubrey, leader of Northwatch Hold who managed to survive the Horde's advance and make his way to Theramore is now gone. Janene, the innkeeper in Theramore, would not leave the city and lost her life in the process. So did Guard Byron, who started the quest that led players on a path to discover the fate of Smiling Jim's family. Smiling Jim himself was not mentioned the novel, but it's doubtful he escaped the blast, unless he was evacuated.
And what is perhaps the most important from a lore standpoint -- Rhonin, leader of the Kirin Tor is no more. While opinion of him may have been polarized, Rhonin's death was a noble one. The mana bomb that the Horde put together had enough power to completely destroy the entire city. Rhonin pulled the mana bomb to himself, in Jaina's tower, because the tower had enough magical wards to dampen the blast. Rhonin essentially sacrificed himself, throwing Jaina through a portal and out of harm's way. He had his reasons for doing so, and they were good ones.
There were likely countless more not mentioned in the novel. But every single last one of these deaths, from Rhonin all the way to Janene the innkeeper, were utterly ignored in game. Their heroic deeds remain solely in a novel. And while I absolutely love the novel, I also think that these characters deserved acknowledgment in game. They warranted it. They needed it.
This is why the Alliance should be angry with the Horde. This is why the Alliance should be frothing at the mouth for Horde blood. This is why Theramore was important, and we just didn't get that with the scenario. The Alliance scenario actually differed from what occured in the book, and I'm not sure why that change was made. If the events had played out as they did in the book, the end of the Alliance scenario would have been the moment just before the bomb dropped, not the moment after.
Frankly, that's what disappoints me the most about the Alliance scenario. You'll notice the Horde introduction above has plenty of lead in, and plenty to consider after -- but the Alliance is lacking. It's not because the Alliance doesn't have plenty to think about. They absolutely do. But the scenario differed from the book in such a degree that it took away the gravity of the situation, the urgency, the grief, the sorrow.
Perhaps Blizzard was simply listening to the pleas of Alliance players, and gave them a scenario in which they could begin to fight back, instead of another situation in which they experienced a horrible loss. The Alliance have been losing the fight all over Cataclysm, and it's been an incredibly lopsided experience. But Theramore was the catalyst for action -- it was the straw that broke the camel's back. It was the situation that brought the last real peacekeeper of Azeroth to her knees, screaming for Horde blood.
That shock, that spark, was completely glossed over with the Alliance scenario. And while Theramore didn't seem to have much of an impact in game, it's there. It will be there every time you remember the song of Smiling Jim. Every time you think of Spot the dog, happily snuffling around his doghouse outside of Theramore Keep. Every time you make that journey to Stormwind and remember a hero atop a shining white steed, steadfastly guarding the city -- yet not too important to wave at you in passing, and acknowledge you were there.
Remember Theramore. The effects of its loss will be felt for years to come.
For more information on related subjects, please look at these other Know Your Lore entries:
While you don't need to have played the previous Warcraft games to enjoy World of Warcraft, a little history goes a long way toward making the game a lot more fun. Dig into even more of the lore and history behind the World of Warcraft in WoW Insider's Guide to Warcraft Lore.